For about two years now a project has been slowly forming in my head to build my version of the ultimate adventure truck. I knew it would be based on a Jeep TJ platform for that trucks adaptability and off road capability along with its simple, repairable design and wealth of cheap parts. However I wanted the flexibility of an open bed pickup for small loads as well as the ability to load bikes and gear low where they’re not getting smacked off trees on the way in to adventure. So pretty early in the design process I knew I’d be building a custom top and roll cage to create the ultra short bed Jeep pickup that isn’t currently available on the market. The bed would have a hard tonneau top and truck logistics racking to make it easy to add or remove cargo baskets, spare fuel tanks for the way-back country, and two bike racks. And just to make it stand out a little more while eliminating Jeep’s rust prone fenders, I’m going to cut the stock fenders off entirely in favour of some perfectly round fenders more often seen on tractor trailers. With some creative trimming it’ll give the truck a design nod towards the classic Kaiser and Power Wagon.
Inside there will be a nearly completely customized dash. This is not only to make room for the extra electronics, lights, power, and recovery equipment, but also my custom head unit. Instead of a conventional radio I’ll be repurposing an android tablet. Besides the required mp3 player this will also put navigation, a full set of guages and diagnostics, and a copy of the service manual within easy reach at all times.
I purchased the truck that all this is going into back in the fall – but as you can see from the photo above it needed a little work.
The previous owner got their license on a Thursday, picked up a freshly certified truck on a Friday, and had spun it into a tree on wet pavement before the end of the work week. Inexperienced drivers and short wheelbase vehicles can be dangerous it seems. For me, however, here was a Jeep Sahara with the upgraded drivetrain that had been freshly gone over and certified and only needed some body work. It just so happens I already had another TJ, the one I was originally going to build on, with a good body that needed some undercarriage work. A match made in heaven it would seem. The first purchase was dirt cheap and had a good body on it, but was a bone stock '99 with the 2.5L, the 30RH 3 speed auto, and D30/35 combo - so it clearly needed some attention underneath. The Sahara of course came with the 4L, nv3550 5 speed, and D30/44 axles along with a frame that's in a little better shape to boot. Of course, living in the salt belt, better is a pretty relative term.
After a couple weekends of ripping and stripping in my spare time I had the truck down to a near bare frame – just where I wanted to start.
As it looks today the rear end is even more bare. But it’s the perfect time to go over the frame and clean it up to be worry free for years to come. As well as an amazing time for some undercarriage upgrades. I have a shiny new MBRP exhaust kit as well as a 3-1/4″ Rough Country lift and 1″ Daystar body lift for the truck. The goal is to put some more air between me and the ground for when the trail disappears but not so much as to hurt on road drive ability or need major component upgrades. I also the Rough Country X-Flex control arms to milk more articulation and control out of my truck.
Up to this point however the project has been nothing but destruction and spending on parts. That’s where this weekend was key. At long last I finished the process of destruction and put a fresh coat of paint on the rear axle finally beginning the process of creation.
Not many jeepers can say that their axles are so clean that they shine grey under a photo flash instead of black…but now I am one of them. The beauty of this being a second vehicle means I can take the time putting it together.