Posts Tagged ‘Full Size Jeep’

This is my new truck.


I admit it is a little rough around the edges, but remember, it is a fully functioning ¾ ton J-truck; a 1979 J20, to be exact. That means I have a Dana 60 rear, and a Dana 44 front. I have eight lug wheels, and plenty of room to work with.

What have we done to the truck? Well, that is something you will have to go to the J20 Build blog for. This blog here is for the hot rod, and this is just my reasoning for procrastinating – one of them.


Maybe you were unaware of this, but the J10 was not my first run in with a Full Size Jeep. My first full size was an ’84 Wagoneer. I bought it off a father/son that had lost interest. That was sometime in 2012, actually it was in August. You will find out shortly why I just remembered that.

Anyhow, my Waggy was a basket case full of fun. Power everything, plush leather seats, carpet interior… except that the carpet interior was all rolled up and thrown in the back, and the plush leather seats needed re-upholstering. The power everything worked, and even though it got me nine miles to the gallon, I loved that ginormous grocery getter.


It was a love that was to be short lived. Not but thirty days after I purchased the Wagoneer, did some broad rear end me on the freeway off ramp. She was doing 40mph, I was doing stopped. The good thing about being in that beastly vehicle is both Jaiden and I were unharmed. My truck on the other hand, was now nine inches shorter. She hit me so hard that the factory welds on the radiator broke, causing it to fly into the engine fan. Right there I had a salvage vehicle; I could not drive it off the site, so it had to be towed. Upon further inspection, I found cracks half way through my frame at the firewall.


Seeing as someone else was at fault there, insurance took over the dealings with. I actually made money when I bought the truck back. I had it towed to a friend’s house where it stayed for about 18 months before I cannibalized it for the hot rod. I let him scrap the remains in order to compensate for my storage fees. I took the drive train and axles, and he took the rest to the scrap yard.

It was that very Jeep that led me to know Tad, and then Jerry; I met Rick because of it too.

Now that you know I have had two Full Size Jeeps totaled by women, and that my son Jaiden was involved in both of those accidents – you may be wondering why I would be so interested in getting another one, and why Jaiden would be so excited to help me build it. Well, again the answer is simple – they are just that effin’ cool!

. . .

Back to the now, I continued my search for another J-truck and I had a specific set of guidelines to follow this time. Knowing these rules will also help make sense to why I did not mind talking two separate men out of selling their trucks.

These rules, set in their precedence were as follows:

Rule 1: The next truck has to be a ¾ ton and it must run

Rule 2: The next truck has to be 1980 or older (in ’81 they removed the windshield brow from the truck)

Rule 3: I would prefer if the next truck were pre-emission – that means I needed a truck made before 1968

My perfect truck would have been a ’74-80 with a pre-’68 title, and since that gets into grey areas with the paper police, I was probably not going to find one of those in my price range. But otherwise, that was it, just three rules. And, when you actually got down to it, I really only needed to follow Rule #1. You see, back to Arizona emissions law, I can transplant any engine newer than the body year of the vehicle, and a ¾ ton is a valid recipient of a diesel transplant. Seeing as the J-truck ceased production in 1988 and Cummins did not start putting a diesel into a pickup until 1989, no matter what year ¾ ton truck I got, I was legal to swap.

I continued on my search for another truck, and I found plenty of J-trucks in my price range. I was hoping to spend less than $3000 for one, I would have spent up to $4000, but I refused to spend more than $5000 for a truck. You see, I had $5000 set aside for a truck, and the less it cost me to get it home, the more I had to spend on it later. The problem with all of these J-trucks in my price range was I kept finding ½ ton pickups. That does me no good. (Refer to rule #1)

I almost gave up my search for a Jeep truck and actually started looking for Chevys and diesel Rams. I went to look at a few, even test drove some, but nothing was really what I needed. That was because I needed a Jeep truck. I nearly gave up on the truck search all together, when I came across an ad on the Craigslist.

1979 J20 4×4

I checked it out. It was a flatbed, which is not something that I was for or against; it was not even a consideration of mine. I asked Adam when the latest/earliest that I could come to see the truck and he told me that he got home at 18:00, and that any time between 04-06:00 was fine to look at it. I told him that I would be there around 05:00 the following day to come check it out. He obliged and so it was set up that I would meet him the following morning to look at his truck. I asked him the normal questions, and it all seemed legit. I test drove it, and it drove better than my J10 did, as there was no road shimmy above 55 mph. The manual transmission shifted fine through all of the gears, and the brakes worked like they were supposed to. So, I was looking at a truck that started, stopped and steered like it was supposed to, let’s see what I can get this for.

I asked Adam what his bottom dollar was. He replied by telling me there was a buyer from New Mexico that was going to buy it, sight unseen, for asking price. $2800 it is! We made arrangements to get it to my house, and it so happened that he was going to my side of town the same day I was to come home, September 11. He trailered it to my house and I met him with cash in hand.

Baby, I am so sorry. We are okay, but I rolled your truck and it is not. We are okay, but please do not be mad at me.

That was the message I got one night. I called her up and ensured that she and my son were, indeed, safe and we tried to figure out what could be done about all of this. I had her send me some photos of the truck, and it was not pretty.


So, what did we end up doing with it? Yeah, that is kind of a sore subject.

The wrecking yard wanted $500, plus $40 a day since the accident, if I wanted it back. I was not going to pay over $1000 to tow a truck to someone else’s house, when I spent but $3000 to drive it to mine. They can keep it. What I did not know about, was the fact that I had to turn over my title. I soon got a letter from the state telling me that I was going to have to pay $500 for an abandoned vehicle fee. Well, I sure as hell was not about to pay money to have my truck totaled, so I spoke with the Motor Vehicle Department and they informed me that if the wrecking yard would oblige, I could simply turn over my title to them and not pay the $500 fee.

So, I called up the wrecking yard, and they said they would be happy to receive the title and that they would cease advances on the abandoned vehicle. Great! But there is one more thing; I had to pay for the initial tow – $150. So they got me anyway! I paid the $150 and left my truck there. I was allowed to get only my personal property that was detached, meaning that if I had to unplug, unscrew, unbolt or unwire anything, it was off limits. Well, there goes my Grant Classic GT steering wheel. I loved that steering wheel.

I had not realized how much I needed a truck, until I had one and lost it. Every single one of my plans hinged on having that truck. I was going to camp with the boy and the dog. I was going to move some motors around. I had an axle to get and another one to deliver to a welder. I had so many plans, yet none of them got done.

Insurance was not going to help out because I only had liability on the truck and this was a one vehicle accident with no outside influence to blame. My wife was driving down the road, following the flow of traffic, and the truck got a little squirrely. She corrected, over corrected, over corrected again, and ended up on the incoming shoulder… upside down.

It was up to me to get another truck, and I vowed that I would. I immediately started looking again for another J-truck. I found one in Flagstaff and called the guy on it (Hey Matt!). It was basically my truck, one year older, but otherwise the same. His was a brown J10, but it still looked the same, and he had done everything I wanted to do to mine, down to the Rhino Grille conversion. I spoke with him and told him my story; I told him what I had planned for my next truck. I got him so amped up again about the whole Jeep truck thing, that he decided if I was not going to buy it, he would not sell it. I thought it over throughout the night, and I decided that I would not be buying his truck. I figured that, because I have to emission it, I would have to undo everything he did to the engine, and that just made no sense.

I found another truck in Redding, CA and spoke with Brett, the owner. I went through the same thing with him, telling him my story, and all of my aspirations for my new truck. Again, I ended up practically talking a guy out of selling his truck. But you know what, I do not really mind. I know that these are not simply guys with Jeeps, but these are Jeep guys. These guys were not in a bind and forced to sell, they had only lost the spark to build these pickups into what they deserve to be. Now, both of them are building on their respective trucks. I hope to one day give you an update on both of these guys so you can see what other things are possible with a Full Size Jeep.

Okay, I can already hear you crying to me, “Why did you call it Project: Copperhead when it is clearly not copper?!”

The answer to that question is simple; I wanted to paint it copper. I had all of these plans for this truck and all of that changed so quickly. Twice.

The first time plans changed for the J-truck was when I went camping with the ARIZONAK5.COM club. Before that, I still had plans to make this into a four door. I found that while camping with these die hard Chevy guys, I was getting a lot of compliments, even more than I had ever thought possible.

That got me thinking that I have myself a nice truck right here, and why not make it into a really nice truck? So, my plans went from making a family four wheeler to making a show truck. Well, not exactly a spit-shined-numbers-matching-trophy-winning show truck, but something that was nice; something that I would not be embarrassed to drive to a car show. Something that looked really good when my wife was driving it.

I started thinking of all new ideas to get my truck running well, and looking great. One of the early ideas I came up with was to convert it over to diesel. My idea was to transplant a 6bt Cummins 12 valve turbo diesel, but I found out rather quickly, that was not to be with this truck. As I was told, per Arizona emissions law, a half ton pickup cannot be the recipient of a diesel engine.

One might think this was the second plan change for the truck, but that will come up soon enough.

I continued on with my search to beautify the beast. I started out with a face lift and tried many different ways to work the front end.

I began with a simple KC HiLites addition.


Although it looked better, I still had to deal with square lights in a Jeep.

I then swapped out the lights for Chevy circles.


Ah, that’s right! I almost forgot that I got tagged while camping. The AZK5 guys got me good! But that is okay, I have never really been one for superiority complexes. After all, I am a Jeep guy. I don’t do it because it is the best, I do it because – really, how many of these things do you see on the road?

Anyhow, not happy with just the bare radiator look, I tried some other new styles.

The Rhino/Muscle Grille Hybrid:


Although it was interesting, it was not the finished look I was going for.

I had finally decided I would go with the simple, yet always effective Razor grille. I acquired a grille from Jerry, the man I got the truck from, and I started working different angles. I wanted to see what we could do here:


In my quest to change over to proper circle lights, I had found out that those KC HiLites fit perfectly in the pie pan holes on either side of the radiator. So, I stuck the lights in there and I hooked them up to the ignition so they would turn on with the key:


I had also found out that, although Chevy lights worked in a pinch, CJ7 headlights were almost direct bolt in for new circle lights on the Full Size Jeep. I was now pretty pleased with myself and my new look.

I had a hitch in February, and came back in March. I did some more work to the truck, little things here and there, mostly engine tune ups and whatnot; I also put on some 33” tires. I left for a hitch in April, and that first weekend away, I got a message from my wife.

I got back home in February and went to pick up my tools.  I made Jaiden come with me, as I had a surprise for him. We managed to get all of my tools picked up, with the exception of one package – Jaiden’s toolbox. I had bought him a roll away toolbox to have for himself, and it was the last package to be received. We finally got his tools figured out and we set for home. I spent the next few days cataloging and organizing my tools.

Shortly after all of this, I picked up the 12 bolt rear end for the hot rod, and also got a Chevy small block 400.

Wait, let me clarify – I paid for my axle and engine. That is right, I will be rocking a 400/400 in this thing!

I also made a few calls to some cam shaft companies:

Me: “Hi, I have a bit of a project, and I need a cam…”

XXX Cam Company: “Great! What do you have, and what are you looking to do with it?”

Me: “Well, that is just the thing. I really do not need a bunch of horsepower here; I just need it to sound the part.”

Them: (disappointedly) “Yeah. Okay, well…”

Me: “Look, I am the last person to think I would ever hear those words come out of my mouth, but I have a very light project and a Chevy 400… Do you have the interweb at your fingertips?”

Them: “Yeah. Why?”

Me: “Good. Look up ‘flat rod jeep’.”

I hear typing… “Oh! I see. That thing is bad ass! Now I get it! Yeah, we can help you with that!”

I have yet to purchase anything for the Chevy 400, or the 12 bolt rear end, but I did buy them. I will be working with all of that very soon here. I also found another welder that is excited about doing a project that you do not see every day – the Dana 44 drop axle. I cannot weld it at my house because I do not trust 110v MIG welding on a front axle; so, I have been looking for someone to weld me up with an arc welder. I have found a few shops that are willing to do it, but I am getting quotes in the thousand dollar range, and well, that sort of contradicts the meaning of “budget build”. If it really comes down to it, I will take it to one of them, but I am trying really hard on keeping this thing on the cheap.

The hot rod lay stagnant due to needing some key parts for it, mainly axles. The Drop Dana had not been built, and we still had much to do with the Chevy 400. So, I turned my attention to other things – piratey things. We continued to build on the Pirate Ship because there was a deadline. We had to get it done before the first weekend of April, and there was still so much to get done.

In the midst of my tools frenzy and such, I made time to pick up a new (to me) truck! I got myself a 1980 J10.

80 J 10 [2] 006-20141216-14354723_180 J 10 [2] 004-20141216-143540652

Now, I do not really believe in a Jeep with square headlights, and that was my next task to tackle. I had to see what it would take to convert this guy over to a proper set of eyes. Unfortunately, that meant that the hot rod was going to be put onto the back burner… temporarily. So I told myself.