Custom Jeep Body

Homecoming!

Have you ever looked forward to an event (with either anticipation or trepidation) and thought it would *NEVER* arrive, only to have it sneak up on you before you were really ready for it? That happened to me during the past week, and today I’m proud (and relieved) to announce that the JeepMonster was successfully installed in my garage yesterday afternoon.

The process started Friday evening, when I arrived at R&W about 6:30 PM. Robert had invited me the previous week to come at 6, and then early Friday afternoon he said I could come sooner, but I was trying to do too many things at once and ended up being late, even for the original appointed time. Robert was quite gracious, though, and didn’t chew me out *too* badly. 🙂

I had thought there was going to be more to do, but all that happened was I loaded the tow bars into the truck and Robert winched the JeepMonster onto his trailer for transport the next morning.

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We were supposed to meet at 4Wheel Parts Saturday morning at 7, but I was asked to stop somewhere and pick up some burritos for breakfast, so I got there a little late. By the time I arrived, Robert had already offloaded the JeepMonster and his buggy and moved the truck-and-trailer out of the way.

I apparently wasn’t paying attention, because when I looked around at some point, the local classic-rock radio station, KLPX (96.1 FM), had set up for an on-site broadcast. [Robert had arranged with the 4Wheel Parts people to display the ‘Monster from 8 to noon, and the store was running a one-day sale, so it made sense to have the radio station there – I just didn’t notice when they arrived.]

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There was good attendance at the event, as evidenced by all the 4x4s clogging up – er, parked in – the parking lot.

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After the party at 4Wheel Parts, Robert reloaded both his buggy and the ‘Monster. Then he delivered the ‘Monster to my house. He, a friend of his, and I (well, he and his friend) got it off the trailer, and they helped me get it turned so I could winch it into the garage. They were (rightly) skeptical of my plan to use a 2000-lb boat winch, but I had successfully pulled my truck up the driveway and into the garage on Friday using it, so I pressed on. This picture shows a point where I had to re-rig the winch line and straps for the second phase. The boat winch doesn’t have a very long cable, so I couldn’t simply unreel enough to get from the ‘Monster to the anchor point in the house. The Jeep’s weight also taxed the winch to the point where it overheated and quit a couple of times, but it always recovered sufficiently to get over the next obstacle.

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One thing I had always been concerned about was the Jeep’s height, especially when Robert told me he had to remove the top bow to get it out of his garage with the 7′ door (his shop has a taller door, so that wasn’t an issue there). But he had reassured me several times that the Jeep would be under 7 feet tall, and by golly he was right! The next photo shows the highest part of the Jeep *just* missing the weather strip at the top of the door opening. It’s a good thing, too – otherwise, I was likely going to have to put the top down every time I went in or out of the garage. At least I don’t have to worry about that! [Plus, when it’s all done, it’ll be heavier and will presumably sit lower as a result.]

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So it’s now in my garage, more-or-less (I hope more than less!) protected from rust-producing rain and humidity while I work on it for the next however-many-months it’ll be. It doesn’t *quite* fit under my storage racks, so I’ll have to take that into consideration when I plan heavy-duty stuff like pulling the engine. But it *does* fit inside my garage! See?

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Here’s a parting shot of me sitting proudly in the JeepMonster at 4Wheel Parts on Saturday, August 13, 2016. It sure is big!

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Categories: 6wd, 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Frame, Custom Jeep Body, Jeep, JeepMonster, tandem axle, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

It Went Outside!

…Granted, it was on a very short leash and it didn’t go *far*, but it’s no longer in the R&W shop! (It’s in Robert’s other garage, both to keep it clean [ish] for the August 13 party and also to free up space for other feats of fabrication magic.)

First, though, a few final construction photos, from my visits on July 6, July 12, and July 15, and a couple that Robert sent me.

From July 6, this shows the front fender in progress, and the slider (aka rocker panel protection and footrest) mocked up in almost its final location.

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From July 12, this shows the front fender all completed. Not only is the curved panel installed, but the filler panel between the fender and the hood is welded in, too. The slider hasn’t yet been permanently mounted.

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This picture, of the passenger-side fender, shows the artistry and effort that went into its construction. There are at least 3 separate pieces of bent tube and more than 8 pieces of plate in each fender! The top curved piece had to be bent to match the curve of the hood; the tie-in to the grille (not shown here) had to be custom-formed; the multiple pieces of tube had to be sleeved, welded, and ground smooth; the various other pieces of plate needed welding and smoothing, and so on. I don’t know, and I don’t think I *want* to know, how many manhours went into each fender – but I’m sure it was a lot!

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Also from July 12, here is a shot of the cargo area. The spare tire carrier is welded to the framework that also supports the gas tank (which is hiding behind the angled plate beneath/behind the tire). The box in the foreground had to be narrowed by about a half inch (I don’t know the exact amount of narrowing required) to fit it between the fender wells, but now I have secure space for tools and parts and other stuff!

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And from July 15, here it is, ready to go outside for the VERY FIRST TIME! The tow bar is in its permanent location, but will either be replaced or modified so that it sits level when the ‘Monster is actually being towed. I hope that doesn’t happen very often!DSC03613

From the front it looks a little like The Flying Nun. The fenders only look weird from straight in front of it – if you move even just a little to one side, they come into perspective really well.

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At the “Coming-Out Party,” Robert wants to show some of his handiwork that’ll be hidden when it’s all put together, so he unbolted the tool/parts box, the gas tank, and the spare, and I brought them all home with me. The cargo bed looks HUGE without them!

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This is one of the photos Robert sent me – it’s the passenger-side fender, totally unbolted and sitting/lying on the floor. LOTS of work in this!

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Here’s a shot of the gas tank cover / spare tire carrier.

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Last, but NOT least, here is the JeepMonster outside! You can see the terrible angle that the tow bar makes; I have a 10″-rise hitch, and Robert found someone with a drop end on a tow bar, so between the two we should be able to make a solid towing connection (that I hope will never be used!).

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Some of the proportions look slightly “off” in this photo, but I think that’s because of the particular camera angle and the tree in the background. When it was in the shop, NOTHING seemed the least bit out of its proper proportion!

As noted before, the JeepMonster will be at the Tucson, AZ, 4Wheel Parts store (on Speedway) from 8 AM to noon on Saturday, August 13. If you’re anywhere nearby, please come see it in person!

Categories: 6wd, 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Frame, Custom Jeep Body, Jeep, JeepMonster, tandem axle, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The “Coming Out” Party

It’s official! Robert has declared that his work on the JeepMonster will be done by August 13, and it will actually COME OUT OF HIS SHOP (on a trailer, but still…)!

Our plan is to show it off for a few hours (8 AM to noon) at the local 4Wheel Parts store (4001 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ, USA) before bringing it to my house for the next phase of construction – you know, the part where I get to cut holes in his masterpiece for lights, steering, brakes/clutch, etc., etc., etc., and figure out where all the lines, wires, tubes, linkages, pipes, hoses, and so on will go.

If you’re in Tucson on August 13, and want to see the JeepMonster in person, this is the time to do it!

This will also be a chance for you to test your rig’s articulation, as Robert has said he’ll bring his RTI (Ramp Travel Index) ramp.

Categories: 6wd, 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Frame, Custom Jeep Body, Jeep, Jeep Frame, JeepMonster, suspension, tandem axle, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Tires! and Wheels!

And no more crutches – er, jackstands!

At least, not for a while. It’ll go back on jackstands when it’s taken apart to finish up the frame, and then again when it’s taken apart to paint everything, and who-knows-how-many other times, but right now the JeepMonster IS ON ITS OWN SIX WHEELS! Hot Dang!

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It isn’t *really* as tall as it looks (actually, this is an atrocious picture of it!), although it does top out (at the moment) at 6’9″. That gives me three inches of clearance to get through my 7-foot-tall garage door opening. It looks a lot taller than that because I squatted down to get a lower camera angle. And it’ll settle some when it gets driven, I’m sure.

It’ll also look better when the front fenders are built, but that has to wait for a couple of weeks. The CAD / laser-cutter magician where Robert gets all my pieces cut is unavailable until the end of the month, but there’s a lot that can be done in the meantime.

Take this photo, for instance. On the far side, you can see the skin panel with the door cutout, but it’s just a flat sheet of steel. The near side, by contrast, has the required top rail. This rail,  which was stamped into the original Jeep bodies at the factory, has to be built by hand for the ‘Monster. The straight sections are 1×2 steel tube, but the curves are all built out of cut and bent plate. And all that welding will be ground down to give a finished, smooth surface.

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This photo shows the back section of the ‘Monster, with just about everything complete. The top rail still has to come around the back corner of the tub to finish off that part and build some of the tailgate opening, but the “original” top bow cutout is all put together.

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This final picture gives you a *very* rough idea of where the roll cage hoops will be, relative to the inner fenderwells. The tube on the right will be the back hoop for the cabin (inside the top), while the tube on the left will be the hoop outside the top and at the front of the cargo area. The fitting in the right tube is a connector; the plan is to have a removable rollcage, and a connector at each attachment point will make it easier to take the ‘cage off for painting or whatever.

The square tube in the middle represents a bar across the back of the cabin to support the bulkhead panel that will separate the cabin from the cargo area. The rag top will also snap to this.

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So that’s the current status of the JeepMonster. I have to confess that it looks at least 5000% better than I thought it would – I really like its proportions and how it’s all coming together. Seeing it on its own wheels made me super happy yesterday! Now it’s time to start buying parts again!

 

Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Jeep Body, Jeep, JeepMonster, Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

Moving Right Along!

Not one, but TWO trips to R & W in the past nine days!

On the 31st, I made another pilgrimage to Marana to see what magic had been wrought. I was not disappointed! The cowl that I delivered a week earlier had been cut from the firewall and side panels and is now clamped to the JeepMonster; the rear wheelwells are now fully-welded, and much of the temporary bracing has been cut away. While I was there, we set the grille and hood in place, too, to see what it will look like. (I know, I know… “Pictures, or it didn’t happen!” Well, I’m happy to oblige.)

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Front to back (duh)

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The angled weld lines on the rear fenderwell outline a future storage locker (one on each side)

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It’s a lo-o-o-o-o-ong cargo area!

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The rear corners are big enough for the batteries.

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Staring vacantly into the future.

Robert gave me an assignment when I left – he asked me to bring the windshield frame on my next visit, so he could start work on the roll cage. So we agreed that I would come back on Tuesday, which I did. More progress (although some of it is hard to see):

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Overview with the windshield frame on.

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Closeup of the hand-formed cutout/inset in the rear fender. This is one of the visual cues that I insisted on; it says “Hey, y’all! This is an *OLD* Jeep!” (Later CJs, from the mid-’70s to the end of the production run, don’t have this.) Robert is an AWESOME metalworker!

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Here’s the top rail being hand-built to match the look of the originals.

So, as we move into February, and the first anniversary of Robert’s involvement with the JeepMonster approaches (he started work on this in March of last year), I have to say I’m very happy with the progress and totally blown away by the quality of his work. Whatever you want, I’m sure he’ll be able to build it for you.

Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Jeep Body, JeepMonster, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

It’s Real! … Well, almost…

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I had a lead on a straight, almost-rust-free cowl/windshield base/dashboard assembly. Kevin (the gentleman who had it) came to my house a couple of weeks ago and determined that I had enough pieces and parts that we could make a trade, so when Robert invited me last week to come to R & W on Sunday, I called Kevin and asked him if I could get the cowl on my way to Marana. He said it would be ready for me.

Sunday morning, I picked up my friend Tony and we both headed off to Kevin’s home on Tucson’s West Side. Kevin gave me this beauty:

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Knowing that I only need the curved sheetmetal on the top, and the windshield base, he asked me to ask Robert to leave untouched as much of the firewall and side panels as possible, so that he could reuse them in one or another of his restoration projects. I relayed his request to Robert.

When I got to R & W, I was amazed at the transformation. You’ll recall that the last time I was there, the passenger-side inner fender was well under way and the driver-side one was also in progress. What a difference another week makes!

Here you see the back half of the ‘Monster, with both inner fenders done and the outer flares finished on the passenger side. [NOTE: I use the word “finished” very loosely. While the fenders aren’t just tack-welded together and the flares tacked on, neither is the welding complete. Once the pieces are in place to Robert’s satisfaction, all the seams will be welded more completely, and the welds ground down to provide a finished look.]

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The next one shows the view from the front. The braces are still in place, and will be until everything is completely welded together.

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Moving around to the driver’s side, you can see that those flares are also in place.

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A lower-level shot of the passenger side shows how the shock towers fit into the wheelwells. The tandem rear axles are *almost* at full droop, but they’ll hang down a little more when the tires and wheels are added. The frame is sitting on stands right now to make sure it’s square and straight, to provide a solid structure on which to build the tub.

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Tony and I oohed and aahed over it all, of course. And after looking at the project more, I decided to skip the fuel-filler indent on the driver’s side. The effect of the visual cue (“Hey, this is an *old* Jeep!”) is no longer worth the effort and expense required to put it in. Besides, there are other cues – like the notch in the back corners for the military top bows [the CJ-5 and -6 were outgrowths of the military M38-A1], the battery cover in the cowl, and a couple of other minor touches – that probably nobody will ever notice. But I’ll know they’re there.

That evening, Robert sent me a couple of photos he had taken in the afternoon. He cut the cowl apart and placed it on the tub, and then put the grille and hood in place, too:

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There’s still a lot to do, but Robert guesstimated he might have the body ready for me to bring home sometime in March. There is still some finish work to be done on the frame before it’ll be ready.

I’m *SO* excited!

Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Jeep Body, Jeep, JeepMonster, tandem axle, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Fenderwells! … Well, fenders…

I didn’t get a chance to visit R & W last week, but Robert was kind enough to send me some shots of the work they did on the rear fenderwells (aka wheel housings, wheelhouses, or inner fenders).

In this shot you can see the back parts of both passenger-side wheel wells, as well as the front part of the front driver-side wheel well.

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Moving around to the front, you can see the wheel-well structures taking shape on both sides.

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This one shows how the individual plates are lining up for the top. The top and the inner wall will be a single piece of steel.

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Here’s a closeup of the area between the two wheels. This’ll be open from the top (with a lid) and will provide storage for things that might have to be rapidly and easily accessible, like a tow strap or winching accessories. The smaller, enclosed space at the bottom is where the angled plates meet one of the under-body supports.

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Great things are happening!

Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Jeep Body, JeepMonster, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

First Fitting – er, Sitting!

Happy New Year! The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to work taking pictures of progress on the JeepMonster!

I didn’t do a *lot* over the past month, but I did pick up a few little bits and pieces, among them the pinion guards for the front and back axles from Ballistic Fabrication (the middle axle, with the Magic Box, will get a custom guard if it needs one)

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and “new” hood hinges (new to me, anyway), courtesy of Willys Works, to replace the ones I bent when I rolled the CJ-5.

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I got a lead on a cowl-dashboard-windshield-base assembly that’s in better condition than either of the ones I have, and I may be able to trade some of my pieces/parts for it. The gentleman who has the part I want restores old CJ-5s and has four or five of them in various stages of (dis)repair. When he asked me what stuff I had, I suggested he come over and take a look when the weather dried out sufficiently that we wouldn’t drown in the rain. So I expect that to happen sometime in the next week or so. Who knows? He might want so much of my stuff that he’ll pay *me*!

I also visited R & W a couple of times – most recently, this morning. I actually sat on the ‘Monster when I was there a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot to ask Robert to take a picture, so we got that done today.

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They took the tires off so they could drop the whole thing down lower to make it easier to work on, and also to make sure that it was properly supported (and straight!) to build the body on. If you look hard, you can see part of the inner fender for the passenger side of the middle axle. The rectangular hole near the front of the skin will become a footwell vent.

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This is a little better shot; the footwell vent is more visible. The inner fenders will be built with storage boxes between the axles for things like tow straps and jumper cables. I’m still not sure where the batteries will go, but I figure there’s plenty of time to make that decision.

Here’s a shot that will give you an idea of how high it’ll be when it’s done.

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Robert hopes to have at least one, and maybe both, of the inner fenders done this week. In the meantime, I need to get the cowl/dashboard/windshield base so he’ll have it when he’s ready for it.

Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Jeep Body, JeepMonster, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Artistry in Metal…

…or “The Devil’s in the Details” – take your pick.

When I left R&W a week or so ago, I did so with a “to-do” list that included such things as finding a 90-degree brass breather fitting for the transfer case, ordering a pair of pinion guards for the front and back axles (the middle axle may or may not need protection, but if it needs some it will have to be custom-made to fit the Magic Box), and more. By the middle of the week, I had accomplished enough of the items that we set up another visit for this past Saturday.

When I arrived, I saw that not a lot of large-scale progress had been made (in other words, it wasn’t magically – and impossibly – finished), and Robert cautioned me against being disappointed. Then he showed me this:

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“This” is the transmission tunnel they have crafted for me. It’s made of steel, obviously, but it also includes a lot of effort – in both design and fabrication.

The design part can be seen in the multiple angles, both on the firewall and on the tunnel itself. Robert had shown me a rough idea of how he was planning to build the tunnel when I was there before, and I mentioned that I wanted as much foot space as possible (I have big feet and long legs, and I like to move them around when I’m driving for long periods). As a result, he modified his design to hug the transmission much more closely. With this version, I actually think I’ll have more foot space in the JeepMonster than I do in the truck!

The transition from the firewall to the tunnel is also masterful. On my previous visit, I noted that the clutch bellhousing protruded ever so slightly past the plane of the firewall into the cabin. To take care of that, Robert and crew welded several pieces together to make the transition area.

The tailpiece of the tunnel covers the transfer case where it pokes up into the cabin. The overall design gets the job done without being intrusive at all.

The fabrication effort can be seen in all the welds and bends. I don’t know how many pieces of steel it took, but this wasn’t easy to build. The welding is clean and solid, and they assured me that it would all be ground down flush with the tunnel body to make one smooth surface. Much of it had already been ground down. Not only was I impressed that they were grinding it smooth, but it also impressed me that they are confident enough in their work (as they should be!) to remove the extra weld material without compromising the strength of the unit.

Robert also showed me the jig they built to hold the floor pan / firewall while they work on it. This is so everything will be square when it’s finally welded together into one piece. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a solid unit they can clamp the panels to and it’s away from all the other stuff on the JeepMonster (drivetrain, frame crossmembers, etc.) so they can have open access wherever they need it.

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None of this comes cheap, of course, but I’m confident that the ‘Monster will be worth every penny – well, R&W’s part will be worth every penny I spend there! (I can’t make the same guarantee about my own efforts, yet. I’ll still have a lot to do when R&W finishes their work.)

Categories: 6x6, CJ-6, Custom Jeep Body, JeepMonster | Tags: | 1 Comment

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