As of this morning I am the proud owner of a 1976 Jeep Cherokee Chief which I have affectionately named the “WarWagon” due to it's appearance – which is something akin to a Road Warrior movie.
This is a 360 cubic inch V8 powered monster with about two feet of ground clearance and about two tons of curb weight. Over the next few months I will carefully craft this beast into what amounts to my “escape pod”.
My goal with this fine example of 30-year old off-road technology is to have a serious vehicle capable of going places mere mortals can't – then taking lots of pictures of said places, or maybe camping there and hiking around a bit – or simply having an “out of town” adventure.
The down-side to owning what amounts to a full bodied tractor like this is many fold: It gets about 10 miles to the gallon, requires the best gas one can find to keep from self-destructing, and holds about 25 gallons of it… I put $50 in it this morning on empty and that got me a bit less than half a tank.
Eventually the WarWagon will have two 25 gallon tanks for a 500 mile range, plus two 5 gallon jerrycans for those weekend 'outback' trips.
Other planned modifications include an on board air system so that the tires can be deflated for better traction on boulders, then re-inflated for better handling on maintained roads. There will be a surplus BLM GPS unit in the vehicle, a full radio bay, about 5000 watts of lights, a 2500 watt inverter for things like camera chargers, a full roll cage, 5 point harnesses, a safari rack on the roof to hold two full spare wheels (and assorted coolers and whatnot), a 9000 pound winch, Iridium phone, and many other items designed to make this the ultimate “way the hell out there” vehicle.
Drive line wise the plan is to replace the 360 with a 401, then add an electronic ignition system, 4-core radiator, oil and transmission coolers, 24V battery system with an alternator from a Kenworth and a 24V to 12V solid state regulator and isolator system. The WarWagon already has a T-18 4 speed with the granny first gear, a Dana 20 transfer case with a 2.72:1 low range, Dana 44 differentials with 3.73:1 gears in front and back, and BF Goodrich 33″ 'rough terrain' tires.
All that up there, for the non-initiated, simply means it will *almost* climb the side of a building.
I have some body work to do… Much like the old Wagoneers I've had in the past, the WarWagon is no exception in needing the wheel wells replaced. This means buying another wire welder, a lot of sheet tin, and making new wheel tubs. I also need to replace the entire dash – the instrument panel works but the rest of the dash is trashed – I'll probably craft a new dash by hand. I'll also have to fab some seat mounts for the back so I can put two more bucket seats in it… These had a bench seat in them when they were made, but it's missing in the WarWagon and buckets with 5-point harnesses are much, much better than a bench for what I plan to do. That and I plan to have more than one other passenger on occasion.
So, there you have it. This will probably be my new hobby for the foreseeable future and if you need me for something I'll probably be in the garage tinkering with my personal Frankenstein's monster. 🙂