Justin Walker has been interested in all things mechanical his entire life. That enthusiasm for anything that moves led Walker, from Evanston, Wyoming, enthusiastically into 4x4s when he was in high school, and eventually on to the building and extensive modification of what began as a 1992 Jeep YJ along with the help of his father Richard.
Built is his father’s shop with additional assistance from Justin’s cousin Michael, the project came together quickly. From start to finish, the Jeep, some of which is coated in Flame Red and Black paint and nicknamed Moon Dog, was completely torn down and put back together in just three weeks.
Walker told us, “we had to make around 100 trips to the local NAPA store for parts that we needed and some we didn’t. They knew us by name and had given us a discount on all our parts by the time we were done.”
The project, seen here in photos and in the video above, began from the ground up. The body was stripped clean, and an Artec Industries frame kit used to beef up the back half of the stock frame. That extra strength helped support the custom 4-link rear suspension Walker created using GenRight mounts and Currie Enterprises Johnny Joints. For the front end, the crew also fabricated a custom 3-link suspension system. One-inch GenRight body-lift mounts were also used in the rebuild equation.
Out back, a pair of FOX dual-rate coil-over remote reservoir shocks using Viper/Eibach 150/200-pound springs control damping; and twin FOX dual-rate coil-overs in front feature Viper/Eibach 150/225-pound springs. Coil-over hoops from Ballistic provide a high mount for the tall front shocks; custom mounts Walker built on the axles secure the bottoms.
A 1985 Chevy Dana 60 front axle that was made even more solid with the addition of an Artec truss, 35-spline axle shafts and Warn locking hubs is hung from the front suspension. Walker’s highly modified Jeep sports a 14-Bolt rear axle from a 1982 Chevy truck that’s been equipped with a Ballistic truss, aluminum hubs, an upgraded output shaft, and a Ballistic disc brake conversion with Chevy 1500 rotors.
A line-lock and pressure adjuster for the rear brakes acts as a parking brake; and is mounted on the tranny gear shift lever. The front axle is equipped with a 5.13 spool, the rear harbors a 5.13 Detroit Locker; both are from East Coast Gear Supply.
Rubber Meets Rock
Some aggressive rubber sits at the end of these Herculean axles. Securely wrapped around 17-inch wheels with beadlocks from A to Z Customs Rock Rings are 39.5×13.5-17LT Interco Super Swamper IROKs. The wheels have four inches of backspacing in front, and three inches in rear.
To help turn these might meats, Walker beefed up the already huge custom steering-link system with a M.O.R.E. one-inch offset heavy duty bracket for the factory steering box to help it handle the job. Other chassis mod’s included wedging a 18-gallon fuel cell from Boyd’s Fuel Tanks behind the rear bench seat.
The interior, although Spartan, is just enough to make the Jeep comfortable and trail-worthy. Courbeau seats and Mastercraft five-point harness keep Walker and his wife April snug and safe. The Bluetorch Fab roll cage helps keep them and backseat occupants in a safety zone in case of the unmentionable. And while Justin is busy negotiating obstacles with both hands on the 13-inch Grant GT steering wheel, April can spot the right path to good tunes through the Pioneer system in the Walker’s Jeep.
While it’s easy to see this vehicle is more truck underneath than Jeep, not much of the body was left alone. The trademark front grille still signals its heritage from afar. However, the stock bumpers were replaced with far sturdier front and rear custom items that the Walker’s created. A Blue Torch Fab brushguard surrounds the Jeep’s nose, framing the radiator and the Warn winch mounted to the custom bumper below
All four wheel wheels were cut back, then the fronts were modified using Blue Torch Fab tube fenders. The rear fenders are beefed-up with a set from TNT Customs. And the Walker’s set about building custom rock rails for the Jeep to keep the rig’s lower edges from becoming bashed to bits.
As to the rest of the drivetrain, Walker dropped in a NP241 (2.7:1 low-range ratio) transfer case with a passenger-side drop from a 1988 Dodge 2500 pickup. Out of that rotate custom drive shafts built by Six States with Spicer 1350 U-joints.
For now the Jeep is running a stock manual tranny, and the trusty and reliable 4.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine that was recently rebuilt with a new header and intake manifold. And as you can plainly see by the photos, the Jeep can get up and climb steep inclines with no trouble at all.
We found Justin Walker in Stage 1 of his build plan. As we were writing this story, we heard back from him that the rig is back in the shop and Stage 2 is in progress. The anti-sway bars have been installed, and the rest of the body has been made ready for paint–these guys work quickly!
They have also begun pulling the 4.0 engine to make ready for the transplant of the 5.3-liter Chevy V8, TH400 and NP250 to completely re-power the Jeep. The entire Walker family is again involved, and that’s what makes this project so much fun for Justin.
Justin explained, “My father works away from home most of the year. He got off work three weeks before this year’s Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. We worked every day and weekend on the project, and finished on the first Sunday of Safari, then left that day for Moab.
“Now that we are home from Safari, we have started working on his Jeep too, and by next year we will have all the powertrain upgrades done on mine as well.”
Stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme. We will keep track of the Walkers and their projects as they progress, so you can see the final results of Justin’s V8 swap and how the rest of the Walker family’s rides turn out. Also keep your eyes open for our complete coverage of the 2014 Easter Jeep Safari!