For some, bright colors come from a need to be noticed no matter what. Others choose loud hues as a crowning touch, a way to compliment the hard work and innovation that lies under the glowing skin.
John Haynes’s 1970 Jeepster falls squarely into the latter category, starting with the very selection of the vehicle itself. Haynes, of Victorville, California, traded a custom self-built V-twin motorcycle for the Jeepster. The Jeepster wasn’t stock, but John had a list of additional modifications in mind that, once completed, would make the rig even more off-road worthy than it already was. Two years of modifying, tuning, and tweaking resulted in the iteration we saw at the 2011 Cal 4 Wheel Hi-Desert Roundup.
A 3/4-ton GM pickup donated...
A 3/4-ton GM pickup donated its front and rear axles to the Haynes Jeepster project. The front is a 3/4-ton Dana 44 that features eight-lug hubs, stronger spindles, and bigger brakes compared to a standard 1/2-ton Dana 44. John doesn’t like stopping to turn the manual hubs, but does enjoy the traction provided by the Detroit Locker. The donor truck was spring-over, so the Jeepster was converted to run the same configuration.
Hard work and innovation are always welcome, but life is easier when you’re starting off with a modification-friendly canvas. Since the Kaiser-built Jeepster came to life in 1970, it’s old enough to not be hassled with biennial emissions testing. As such, engine choices and modifications are unshackled. Next, the Jeepster is a C101 model, meaning it’s got a 101-inch wheelbase from the factory. Owners of TJ and YJ Wranglers know this wheelbase works well and routinely stretch their wheelbases to be at (or near) this length. The Jeepster’s got a real frame underneath the body: a solid foundation to build on. Finally, it’s got an open top so things are easy to reach.
Instead of four-cylinder Hurricane or Dauntless V-6 factory power, there’s an AMC 360 under the hood these days. The 360’s stock carburetor has long vanished, replaced by a Retrotek Powerjection III EFI system. The fuel-injected 360 feeds into a Turbo 400 transmission and finally into a Dana 20 transfer case. The front driveshaft turns a 3/4-ton Dana 44 front axle, while the rear ’shaft spins a full-floating Dana 60. With this drivetrain and 37-inch Interco IROK’s gripping terra firma, John’s trail options are as wide open as the top of the Jeepster.
A Saginaw steering box combined...
A Saginaw steering box combined with an AGR Rock Ram is a proven combination of trail-worthy parts.
“My wife and I have had so much fun and so many adventures with this Jeep,” Haynes informs. “We take it out regularly to enjoy the great outdoors.” A recent trail trip was running the Mojave Road. When John and his wife Roxanne got to Soda Dry Lake, it wasn’t exactly dry. Most trail rigs are well-advised to bypass the Soda Dry Lake section if it’s not living up to its name. Haynes decided to press on. “We had a blast crossing the lake,” he related. “The Jeep proved to me it can handle the mud as well as the rocks.”
Take a closer look at this unmistakably orange Jeepster. We think you’ll agree that the ideas are as bright as the paint.
|Vehicle: || 1970 Jeepster Commando C101|
|Owner/Hometown: || John Haynes/Victorville, California|
|Engine: || AMC 360 V-8|
|Induction: || Retrotek Powerjection III self-learning EFI|
|Transmission: || Turbo 400 three-speed automatic|
|Transfer case/low range ratio: || Dana 20/4:1|
|Front end: || 3/4-ton Dana 44 |
|Rear end: || Full-floating Dana 60|
|Ring and Pinion: || 4.56|
|Front Differential: || Eaton Detroit Locker|
|Rear Differential: || Eaton Detroit Locker|
|Suspension: || Owner-built spring over front, owner-built three-link rear with Fox air shocks|
|Tires: || 37x14R16 Interco IROK|
|Wheels: || 16x8 American Racing Outlaw II|
The big news, though, is the...
The big news, though, is the custom double-sheared pitman arm and the stout workmanship behind the steering box mount.
When you build like this you...
When you build like this you get to enjoy the trail from the front seats instead of under the vehicle, arms covered in grease and power steering fluid.
Many builders choose to link...
Many builders choose to link one end of their rig, leaving the other on traditional leaf springs for simplicity and stability. So it is here. Using a full-floating Dana 60 as a base, John linked the rear suspension using straight lower links and an upper wishbone.
Fox air shocks punch through...
Fox air shocks punch through the floor and control eighteen inches of wheel travel. A pair of limit straps protects the shocks when they’re fully extended. Like the front axle, there’s a Detroit Locker under the diff cover.
If you’re going to use a one-piece...
If you’re going to use a one-piece front clip you’re better off incorporating a pair of hinges, as four-pin lift-off front ends are often a headache to use in the field. Under the hinged one-piece you can see that the roll cage extends forward through the firewall, making the ‘cage capable of chassis reinforcement as well as rollover protection. That’s a swapped-in AMC 360 cooled by a Northern aluminum radiator.
If you plan to replace your...
If you plan to replace your mechanical fan with an electric model, take a couple of notes here before getting started. First, puller fans are more effective than pusher fans. If you have enough space behind the radiator, use a puller fan. Next, note that the radiator’s backside is covered with a fan shroud which forces all the air to go through the radiator and through the fan. No shroud usually equals poor cooling. Finally, note that the radiator and fan are both sturdily mounted. There’s a thin strip of foam rubber above and below the radiator to protect the end tanks from metal-to-metal abrasion.
Retrotek’s Powerjection III...
Retrotek’s Powerjection III EFI system offers an easy way to replace an outdated carburetor with self-learning fuel injection. All the required sensors are placed in the throttle body, making the installation simple and the wiring harness compact.
An Optima red top battery...
An Optima red top battery is a proven choice for off-road use. The tube to which the shock is mounted ties into both the top and the side of the frame rail, reducing flex and adding strength. The leaf springs bolt into custom front and rear mounts that sit wider than the stock springs did.
The Dana 20 transfer case...
The Dana 20 transfer case rests on a custom crossmember and is equipped with 4-to-1 low range gears.
The stock rear wheel wells...
The stock rear wheel wells were deleted in favor of custom aluminum creations that add plenty of tire clearance. Note the way that the rollcage goes around the rig’s edges for unobtrusive protection. The rear seat often carries cargo, but can carry two passengers when called on.
The ’cage is built for protection,...
The ’cage is built for protection, but has been designed to be easy to live with. Ingress and egress are uninhibited. Overhead, panels of expanded metal provide a little solar diffusion and prevent the Jeepster from sinking into soft terrain should it go rubber-side-up.
The fiberglass front clip...
The fiberglass front clip is made by Trailer Products and perfectly flows with the body’s original lines. The stock headlights look real but are in fact decals. If you want to use stock headlights, you can cut the fiberglass and custom install them, but it’s easier to go with a pair of bumper-mounted lights the way Haynes did. The black stripe on the hood reduces glare when the four overhead lights are put to use. Bright orange paint was the perfect crowning touch.