When going to any off-road event, there is always that one rig that catches your attention. Maybe it’s because of the color. Maybe you’re into old iron with the classic styling and all-steel construction. For others, it’s about seeing the latest technology incorporated into the newest body style. For us, it’s all of the above. We love to see anything that is restored or things that are breaking new ground. While attending the recent 2018 Jeep Fest in Toledo, Ohio we saw a lot of pretty cool rigs. Some were fully outfitted show rigs with just about every upgrade available that can be bolted onto a Wrangler. Others were fabricated tube buggies with only a slim resemblance to the original Jeep bodies.
Toledo has been the site of the Jeep assembly plant since the Willys Overland Company first developed the vehicle that would eventually become the Jeep Wrangler. From August 10-12, off-road-centric companies, food trucks, and Jeeps from all time frames descended on Toledo to sell their products, display new ones, meet like-minded enthusiasts, and celebrate the history and legacy of the vehicle that defined the off road industry post World War II.
Festival activities included a 1,600-participant Jeep parade. Also on display were products from major aftermarket companies including Dana, Rancho, Skyjacker, and multiple others in vendor row. Event participants could enjoy food from local food trucks, participate in a raffle to win a 2018 Jeep Wrangler, listen to local bands on the stage, let the kids hang out in the kids zone, or marvel at the stunning collection of vintage, modern, and rare Jeeps at the car show area.
Amongst all of the events and happenings at this year’s Jeep Fest we saw one rig that really stood out to us. This particular vehicle embodied the kind of old-school design and modern functional upgrades that tend to catch our eye. The vehicle is a 1982 Jeep Scrambler CJ-8 and while that in and of itself makes it a bit rare, we were really focused on the condition and attention to detail presented in its build. While we walked around checking out other rigs at the event, we kept coming back to this one as being a standout, so we went on over and introduced ourselves to its owner and builder, Ted Willing. Ted works in Washington and does amazing things with computers. However, when he has the time, he also loves to build projects and enjoy them.
After the initial introductions, Ted was quick to point out that he has had a lot of help along the way. Ted admits that much of the build was completed using items from Craigslist, mainly because he wanted to keep things as original as possible while doing some personalization and upgrading. In fact, he had to take a trip from his home in southern Maryland, all the way out to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to acquire the Scrambler tub. The frame was also purchased from a private entity off of Craigslist, and eventually Ted had all of the components he needed to create the build you see here.
Ted told us that he built the Scrambler to be a show-and-go-style vehicle. He said, “The thing is, it’s strong enough to handle any of the courses that people build, but I don’t like rockcrawling because I don’t want to damage the body. The body is so pristine with no rust; I just don’t want to damage it. I’m not going to break anything underneath and the track is wide enough that even in deep mud it tends to just throw things away and not into the body.”
While Ted did admit that there wasn’t anything in the Jeep Fest obstacle course large enough to really create a problem for him, he did enjoy having the chance to get out and show off what he has spent so much time and work on.
We asked Ted about his past experience in fabrication, and he had an answer that struck a chord with us. Ted said, “I was a computer programmer and then a facility manager for the Supreme Court of the United States. I currently work on Capitol Hill at the Library of Congress. I learned how to do all of this when I took my first Jeep to get an oil change when I was sixteen and they charged me $19 to change the oil. Then I put sixteen-inch wagon wheels on it and took it back for another oil change and they charged me $29. They said it was ‘modified.’” You could read the amusement in his eyes as he laughed aloud when he told the story. “So, I didn’t know any better, but I watched the guy do it and I thought to myself that I am at least that smart. So, I did it myself from then on and I learned how to do the things that I needed done by watching others who already knew how to do it.”
Ted is a pretty soft-spoken guy. During our interview with him he never came across as brash or boastful but in the next instant, he said something that kind of stuck with us. He said, “You can spend a lot of money on a lot of parts, screwing it up a lot of times, before you equal the cost of a guy who already knows what he’s doing. That’s my whole concept.” How many of us subscribe to just that kind of thought process. It’s just like that old adage about teaching some guy how to fish rather than just handing over one. We love wrenching on our rigs and since you’re reading this we bet you do, too.
Ted is particularly proud of his custom roll out storage in the rear, original dash pad with custom dash, original roll bar, as well as the AMC engine, frame, and tub. Ted eagerly admits that, “I wanted it to be pretty stock but things got kind of away from that from the frame down”. In the end he has a build that is tough as nails, rare enough to be interesting, and clean enough to catch your eye regardless of whether you like show rigs or functional ones.