Revisiting the Hazel Flattie After 15 years on the Trail
Back to Square One
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.