1. home
  2. project vehicles
  3. Revisiting the Hazel Flattie After 15 years on the Trail

Revisiting the Hazel Flattie After 15 years on the Trail

Back to Square One

Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

This 1953 DJ-3A was never technically a project vehicle for 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, although I did purchase it in late 2000 when I was technical editor here. I promptly tore it apart, boxing the frame and hanging YJ springs atop Currie 9-inch axles. Then I let it sit for just over a year.

In 2002 I moved over to Jp magazine and dove back into the flattie build, finishing it in the fall of 2003. I used a “Shortstar” LX5 3.5L GM DOHC V-6 mated to an SM420 with a 60-degree 2.8L V-6 bellhousing out of a junkyard Camaro. The T-case was a Spicer 18 built from a Dana 20 case and a genuine Warn overdrive. The low-pinion Ford 9-inch axles had 5.83 gears with a spool in the rear and a Detroit Locker in the front. I got tired of snapping my traction bar and/or brackets so I swapped out the stock YJ rear springs to a spring-under setup using 4 1/2-inch Rubicon Express packs. Then, after chucking the guts from the Spicer 18 for a second time, I installed a Dana 300 with front and rear 32-spline JB Conversion output shafts (jbconversions.com). When I did the Dana 300 swap I also swapped the rear axle for a centered Currie housing with a TrueHi 9 centersection running 5.38 gears on a 35-spline spool. I swapped the front gears to match and have been wheeling it like that ever since.

However, a few things about the Jeep as it sits have always bothered me. For one, I had to mount the triple Wilwood master cylinders so high on the firewall to clear the big LX5 engine that I had to run remote reservoirs. The brake fluid-spec rubber hose that came with the Wilwood kit wasn’t long enough, so I used fuel-injection hose, figuring I’d swap to the correct flex hose from Wilwood later (wilwood.com). That never happened, and the parts store line I bought recently failed, sending paint-stripping brake fluid all over my dash and floor. I need to swap out the brake reservoir hoses with the correct Wilwood stuff and flush the brake system.

Also, while I love the durability of the Dana 300, I miss the Overdrive of the Spicer 18. Not being able to drive this Jeep for very long distances is a bummer, so I’ll be swapping in a Spicer 18 built by Herm the Overdrive Guy along with an ATV Mfg Overdrive (atvmfg.com) and swapping the rear housing and shafts to accommodate the offset T-case.

Finally, when I did the fuel system I simply stuck an RCI 15-gallon fuel cell in the rear of the tub and built a fuel system out of braided AN line and an external fuel pump. Nowadays the higher Ethanol content of gasoline has been eating the braided hose, which springs leaks. And I do want to be able to run a rear seat in this sucker, so I’m talking with Aqualu (aqualu.com) about building a custom aluminum fuel tank that will fit under the rear of the Jeep and then I’ll use a GM in-tank pump and GM factory-spec lines that will survive long-term better with 15 percent Ethanol fuel.