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Project Glacier Cold Beer - a '67 Jeepster Commando

Opiebennett

XJ_Ranger
Joined
Aug 19, 2020
Member Number
2750
Messages
474
Loc
Port Orchard, WA
If you dont know me, I used to post as XJ_Ranger on a lot of the forums, and I got into wheeling in high school, when I had a 2wd ford Ranger and an XJ at the same time. The ranger got sold, the XJ got the fate of so many others that people on these fourms had - cut some off, add some more on, end up with a lot of expensive buggy parts and a smashed tin can of a uni-body. In 2017 I recycled finished my pro-mod car "The Banquet Buggy" (The Banquet - Those Guys Rod and Customs FTH-2 Pro-Mod car) and have had some success running in the Pro-Mod class at Supercrawl and the west coast WeRock series in 2018 and 2019. While chasing buggies and competition is awesome, I found that I've missed the nimble street legal (ish) camping vehicle.


I followed along as Toby and XXX traction built the Ugly Duckling (if links back to old country are allowed - Ugly Duckling Commando Build) and then saw Tribe4x4's version for Levi Shirley "The Sleepster", which can be found on Instagram.

The idea of a more modern drivetrain in some classic sheetmetal makes me smile.
I decided In 2018, I was window shopping on craigslist, and found this one. It was a non-runner, advertized for $2000. I had just bought a new to me house, was drawing up plans for my 36x48 shop, and had just taken on building a buggy for my friend Phil (see 4 Low Magazine issues 33 and 35 "Dude thats a nice rig", but decided to take a look at it anyhow.

I was impressed at how complete it was - all the badges, all the chrome I wanted, dash only modified for a modern radio. I thought about it for a bit, then decided to grab it, even though it was further down in the projects list, and a little over the price I wanted to spend. I knew I'd spend too much on ebay to collect missing trim pieces, so I grabbed it.

After I got it home (purists and restoration guys... stop reading now) I started looking around more. It had axles from a '72 (upgraded to a Dana 27 front and 44 rear), a clean factory power steering installation ('67 wouldnt have power steering), a BOP TH400 swap, also well done, the Buick 225 was hot-rodded with an Offenhauser intake manifold and valve covers, a matching 4 barrel Carter made in USA carburetor, HEI from a Buick car, an aftermarket fuel tank made completely from 3/16" steel, and some red dust boot Rancho RS5000's. A custom (well finished) high lift mount and some high back seats with head rests made their way to the interior. It had the classic aftermarket swing out tire carrier at some point, but only the brackets remain. A complete service history, old school magazine advertisements, parts interchange info for all the non-factory parts included. If you built up a commando in 1978, this is how you would have built it. It was really rad.

I started shopping for another chassis, thinking that I probably owed it to this car to get it running in current form and keep it as cool as it was...

The shop got built, Phil's buggy "Stella" got built, finished and delivered, I acquired a 1960 scout 80 as additional yard art, COVID happened... My girlfriend became my fiance, then my wife...

On our honeymoon, (initially Hawaii, but COVID closed Hawaii, then changed plans to go to Crater Lake, OR, and Oregon was on fire in September of 2020, so we switched plans and headed to Kalispell, MT with the race trailer) we borrowed our long time friends LJ to drive fire roads and check out the area. We had such a blast, I knew I needed to get on the commando project and have a vehicle of ours to drive with a bikini top down the highway and explore random roads on the map with no fear of ground clearance.

While discussing my plans with my wife regarding us being a two commando family... (and a Pro-Mod, and a Dodge 2500 Tow rig, and a race trailer with living quarters, and a jeep Comanche daily driver [build thread here: George - NAXJA Forums -::- North American XJ Association], and a '95 ZJ I bought and took on one trip (need to sell that one)... She sent me the meme in this post, and told me no more...

So I decided that I'd get going on the car I bought, for the reason I bought it.

I want it to be daily driver reliable, modern enough, ride nice, stop good, be able to drive to a mountain lake, throw up a tent, camp the night. I also want it to be WeRock Stock Mod legal. I also want it to be SCORE Class 3 legal, and someday I hope to chase NORRA or otherwise have a great time cruising Baja.

The paint code tag indicated it was code "395" which indicates "Glacier White" and being as we went to Glacier National Park on our honeymoon, thats why its named "Glacier Cold Beer".

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Along the way, I moved it into the shop, finished working on the other buggy and used it as a storage shelf.

A few beers in one night at Those Guys Rod and Customs, and I struck up a deal to buy a project car from Pat. This was a recycled buggy from Team Those Gal's (Crystal and Krissy) YJ they ran in stock mod in 2007-2008, that Pat had started on an ultra4 style, pro-mod legal flat fender in his spare time at the shop. Here is the build thread for that chassis. This is a spoiler here - it never got finished. http://www.pnwjeep.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=24694

But! It had narrow OG Spidertrax axles (that were featured in CRAWL when Pat built them for the YJ), trail ready beadlocks, brand new (just 10 year old) Pit Bull Rockers, 14" Radflo piggy back coilovers, trailing arms, a chevy 350, TH400, Atlas, PRP seats, a huge fuel cell, and custom flat-fender tins. I sold of a bunch of the parts including the chassis (I wish I had kept the air bumps and the Atlas), and was left with:

Spidertrax 3" tube front axle, spidertrax knuckles, 5 on 5.5 unit bearings, spidertrax steering arms, brake hats/rotors, willwood brakes, Yukon LP 9" 3rd member, 4.88's, detroit, Spidertrax 4340 shafts, and Longfield 300M u-joints, and spidertrax drive slugs.
Spidertrax 3" tube rear axle, spidertrax unit bearing cups, 5 on 5.5 unit bearings, spidertrax brake hats / rotors, willwood brakes, Yukon LP 9" 3rd, 4.88's, detroit, Spidertrax 4340 double splined shafts, spidertrax drive slugs.
Radflo 14" piggyback reservoir coilovers (4ea) with enough springs to equip 2 of the shocks.
PRP custom high-back seats (which I traded to a buddy)
Trail-Ready 17" 5 on 5.5 beadlocks
37x12.5r17 Pitbull Rocker Radials (which i later sold)
Misc sway-bar arms, some communications equipment, some winchline and extensions.

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Damn... makes me glad i kept scrolling on this "new to me" forum now seeing this build thread. This'll be fun to watch, always have enjoyed seeing your projects progress. Keep the updates coming!!!

----Probably about a month after we drug home D. Robinsons rig, you threw Pat's chassis up for sale... I can honestly say I was 2 seconds from making another Kitsap county trip to pick up that one. I'm happy with what I got though, and if i remember correctly that chassis you had sold pretty quick for good reason.
 
Damn... makes me glad i kept scrolling on this "new to me" forum now seeing this build thread. This'll be fun to watch, always have enjoyed seeing your projects progress. Keep the updates coming!!!

----Probably about a month after we drug home D. Robinsons rig, you threw Pat's chassis up for sale... I can honestly say I was 2 seconds from making another Kitsap county trip to pick up that one. I'm happy with what I got though, and if i remember correctly that chassis you had sold pretty quick for good reason.

Yeah Rob! its been good to follow along on your progress - even if it is some times building roads on the property instead of building buggies. Maybe you ought to make a build thread!

Also, thanks for the 904 parts! Tory offered to let me store them until one of us needed them.
 
If you are ready enough to do a build thread, I’d bet you got at least four hours of work done on this over the weekend.

Thank Phil, I have gotten a little time to work on this.


I went back and forth on engine and transmission options. The LS swap was appealing, because they are plentiful, parts are everywhere, and there are a ton of folks who have well documented it. I liked the idea of keeping it a V6 (partially because the badges would still be correct), and even owned an older 4.3L spider injector Vortec engine for a minute.

I secretly wanted a direct injected 4.3L LV3 engine, and was watching car-part.com for a bit, looking for one close enough to me. Adding up all the pieces (the parts yards yank the oil pan, exhaust manifolds, some accessories, have to buy the harness separately and PCM, then the 6L80 to go with it...) it was looking like an expensive option for an unknown engine. Knowing the timeline for this build, by the time I'm ready to start the engine, the 30 day parts yard warranty was going to be up.

One night, surfing some internet thing, I stumbled across MARS auto-parts and engine swaps, in Ohio. After a few days of hand wringing and a phone call to ensure they were a legitimate enough company to answer the phone, I ordered a kit, and wired them $4500 for their swap kit. I figured it would cost about the same, but I'd at least be able to fire it up on the pallet and rev it a few times before shutting it off for 6+ months.

https://lsswap.parts/product/lv3-swap-kit-4-3l-turnkey-swap-kit/

I'm anxiously waiting for a shipping update, probably Christmas time.
 
Continuing to salvage parts and swap my way to what I wanted, I decided that the 37's were bigger than I wanted to run, partly because I didnt want to cut the rear fenders enough to fit them. I'd like to keep the factory body lines, just move them. Some measuring, and I decided that 35's were the right combination for what I was looking for.

Sold the Pitbulls (my ad on Facebook got filtered, I guess because someone thought I was selling a dog...)

I'd initally thought I'd give the BFG KM3s or KO2s a try, having owned a set of GoodYear Kevlars in the past. Price, availability, and the desire to deviate a little further, and the growing momentum of good reviews drove me to the Milestar Patagonia's.

I was able to sell the pit bulls for the same cost as the mile stars delivered to my door, so I'll call that a win.

315/70r17... yeah, they are metric, whatever.

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started to strip parts off the car to get ready for the new drivetrain.

Engine coming out with the trans and t-case... grill, fenders, out of the way.

I noted a cool 5/16" thick lever arm mounted to the back of the passenger side head with a shock mounted to the frame on it. This 225 must have been a torque monster!

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Started on the interior... some daylight in the passenger floor board and passenger side of the tailgate hinge area, but otherwise, in very pleased.

Also a cool much older style hi-lift jack, and mounting location. I think I'll put that back in when I'm done.

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The price of used parts is... well... that they are not new.

The part out buggy i bought had been towed over a mountain pass in the winter, on an open trailer. This salt spayed everything, including the wheels.

Some scotch bright to start, then mothers when polish got them back where I wanted them. Still not perfect, but not new price either.

Also pictured is the receiver hitch, with DLS 12-6-81 scribed in weld filler on the bottom. 12ea 7/16" bolts held this guy in place. A few slag inclusions in the welds, but otherwise a well fabricated piece. Kinda cool. Hopefully some other jeepster owner will want it.

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Continuing on...

Ordered new beadlock bolts and valve stems from Trail Ready, they sell kits. I've not been a believer in the bolt stretching or concern, and have re-used bolts on beadlock for my Pro-Mod a few times, but I don't drive that 75mph, and these bolts were corroded and discolored when they came out.

I was a tad disappointed in the $15 shipping for such a small box to go just across WA, but all the parts were there.

I did like the newer valve stems had smaller OD rubber washers, because the stems i took out had crushed oddly where the inside of the wheel wasn't counter-bored.

I didn't like how chinesium the new valve stems felt. Installed the first one per the directions, seated the bread, and the valve core wouldn't seal. Tried tightening, then re-seating it, tried to remove it, but had to file the ID of the stem so the core could come out. Got the core out, and it was bent at the tip.

Installed a valve core from the old stems and sealed up. The other 3 were fine, except one needs a little tap to re-seat when you remove the tire chuck.

All in all not a big deal, just a little... disappointing for brand new parts.

But, all 4 tires mounted, and other than the fuel tank, I think I've removed almost all the parts I intend to at this point.

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Knocked off all the brackets and tabs on the front of the frame to make room for the new drivetrain when it arrives. Left the motor mounts for now, because I like how they mount to 3 sides of the frame. They probably wont work, but it was enough of an excuse to stop breathing cut off wheel dust for now. Same excuse for the front shackle hangers, they might work for a front sway bar, but probably not.

Stripped the rest of the interior, pleasantly surprised with the condition of the tub. Plenty of drilled holes where previous owners had mounted stuff, and at least 2 different sets of holes for soft top snaps... but ill fill all those in. Tub has the COVID in the passenger rear corner where the tailgate leaked, and in the passenger floor board, where the seam hits the firewall - otherwise, should be good to go.

Chucked the rear spider9 in there, with tires on, and got a feel for how much to cut. Turns out, a lot.

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Do some layout (passenger side first, because you'll know every mistake you made, and if you figure it out on the passenger side, you do better on the driver, which is the side I end up on more), chug a silver bullet with blue mountains, then dig in with a cut off wheel into the otherwise pristine 57 year old sheet metal.

Clamp it back on there to take a look at it and decide what to do next

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Turns out the answer to that question is, cut out the rocker that hangs way the fawk down there, and prep it to weld in some 2x4x.120. Yes this gets rid of the angle the factory body had, but I think its a good compromise between keeping the look and gaining clearance.

Also ended up cutting more on the back flare, which will need another filler panel, but makes the lines fit better.

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"If you don't know how to get where you want to be from where you are, you need to keep cutting"

Treated the drivers side to the same, but ran out of cutting wheels to do the rocker today, and small clamps, so...

Need to jack the rear axle up and evaluate more, now that it has room on both sides before making the filler plates.

Also tossed the front spider9 in there to see what packaging up there looks like.

Front axle won't be able to go forward much, with the steering box.
Trying to decide if I want to cut the wheel wells and move the rear half of it back... which would gain wheelbase...

Currently keeping the factory 101" seems like the limit, without moving the rear wheel tubs or the steering box and the amount sheet metal i desire to keep.

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"If you don't know how to get where you want to be from where you are, you need to keep cutting"

Treated the drivers side to the same, but ran out of cutting wheels to do the rocker today, and small clamps, so...

Need to jack the rear axle up and evaluate more, now that it has room on both sides before making the filler plates.

Also tossed the front spider9 in there to see what packaging up there looks like.

Front axle won't be able to go forward much, with the steering box.
Trying to decide if I want to cut the wheel wells and move the rear half of it back... which would gain wheelbase...

Currently keeping the factory 101" seems like the limit, without moving the rear wheel tubs or the steering box and the amount sheet metal i desire to keep.

Move the rear axle back a lot of sheet metal hanging back there.
 
Move the rear axle back a lot of sheet metal hanging back there.

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Honestly, I kinda like the sheet metal back there. It's distinctly NOT a CJ-7.


Spent some time thinking about steering and packaging the ram, tie rod, drag link, and track bar. Going to be tight to get it all in there.

If this is ride height, (about 74" to the top of the top), the rear has about 8" of up travel, but I'm only getting 5.5" in the front right now, which, is limited by the axle housing hitting the frame... (obviously need to change the track bar mount configuration).
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In other news, it looks like there is a ton of room for the front shocks to live under the hood.
 
I noticed that I was down in the shop a few nights swing performing small, non-picture worthy things on the Commando, and drinking Coors light. Oddly, the next day after each one of those nights, the work alarm going off wasn't not appreciated, nor was the headache.

I figured it was the light beer, but just incase, I switched projects too. Finished getting this HYD-Mech S-20 going. Its been a long project that I probably should t have started. It was the definition of riding hard and putting away wet...

I swapped the 3 phase motor for a single phase, and in changing the wiring for the contactor, noted that the contactor was bypassed in favor of a toggle switch, with no circuit protection. At some point the wiring for the coolant pump disappeared. The hydraulic down feed had been disassembled and was missing more than one seal. Judging by the grooves in the frame, the saw was operated without the hydraulic down feed in place. Rebuilt the down feed cylinder. The motor belt tensioner to the reduction gear toggle clamp was bent, got a new one.
The drive wheel was apparently removed and dropped, breaking off this flange.
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This broken off piece is enough that the blade tracks over and makes quite a bang when the flange re-engages, which assuredly would reduce blade life. I welded some of the most ugly, oxidized, porous material on there and used the 4.5" angle grinder to "notch" the material. It rides smooth -enough- now. (No pics of the worst weld I've ever ever made)

Saw cuts good. I restored the wiring for the coolant pump and have a coolant pump and use of the contactor (and overload protection) but I'll take suggestions on the type of coolant to run. Water based might evaporate in between uses or become a bacteria (and therefore blood poisoning) factory.

Overall, after addressing all those issues, I'm pleased, and with the new blade (13'6" long!!) it seems to cut well.

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And, just incase it was the light beer, and not the project I was working on, I switched back to the tan cans, Coors Original.

So far so good.
 
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Back on the Commando, Coors in hand -
I'd thought I'd taken enough parts off, by decided to remove the tail lights to prevent damage. Only 1 stud of 6 broke, so ill call that a win.

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Prepared the fender flares, cut the flange off, with the theory that using the TIG machine and welding them to the flat sheet metal should help control distortion, as opposed to trying to keep the flange and butt weld it to a well cut side panel.

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Struggled with coming up a mental idea of how to mesh the moved up flares and the rear corners of the tub. The features in the corner are rounded in 2 directions, and kinda cool... hmm...

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Cutting, fitting, measuring...

At first I was really concerned about how to make both sides match, but some words of wisdom eventually overcame me. "You can't look at both sides at the same time".

I decided to start alignment at the back, because that is where the corner i can't figure out is. Shown in the photos is idea revision 6... but i think it ought to work.

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After fully welding, and bondo, it should smooth out and keep the rounded in 2 directions feature i kinda liked. I'll also trim the rear of the body to expose the entire frame, so I can build a bumper, with swing out tire carrier.

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Once I had the rear most portion of the flare figured, I clamped the rest into place, then built filler panels for the gaps....

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Next steps are to tack them all together, un-clamp them from the car, weld the flares together, clean the paint off the car, and then weld it all to the car.

Then do the other side...
 
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Following along, looking forward to seeing this come together. :smokin:
 
... (passenger side first, because you'll know every mistake you made, and if you figure it out on the passenger side, you do better on the driver, which is the side I end up on more)

I really should have listened to myself... progressed the drivers side. Went back and forth in my head a lot on what to do about the 1" wide super mud holder space i was going to make with the flare and the side of the body in the way I was going to assemble it.

Ultimately I decided to cut a 1" wide strip of 18ga and tack weld that to the side of the body to block as much of the space as possible, to eventually seam seal it on both sides.

I also decided to get rid of as much material as possible, so that void area would be as small as possible.

Unfortunately, I cut more that I should have to execute my plan the way I had intended, so I had to make a few adjustments.

I'll have to make Nora drive more often, so I can look at the passenger side, which is sure to come out better...

Also have been struggling with a few ideas on capping the rockers after cutting out the passenger side, but I think i have a plan for that now. I initially intended to use 2x4x.120 box tube in there, welded to the body, to act as a slider, but I did that on my XJ in like 2007? And the thinner sheet metal body just crumpled around the box tube, and I don't want this to see the same fate. The logical answer is to weld outriggers from the box tube to the frame, but that makes them one piece, and I intend to remove the body later in this build to clean up some of the frame and re-paint it.
Anyhow, tonight I intend to try and make a 16ga version of the rocker, that is higher clearance and wont have the sloped in angle. Then make some sliders under it.

"One piece at a time"

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