As of early 2009, the wolf has been taken off the endangered list in Montana. This may be due to the increasing numbers of gray wolves in the mountains over the past 30 years, or may be due to the frequent sightings of John Goering's CJ-3B in the mountains over the past 30 years. John lives on a ranch near Saddle Peak, at the base of the Bridger Range, where he's been driving and improving this same Chevy-powered high hood since the 1970's. -- Derek Redmond
North Meadow Creek in the Tobacco Root Mountains is probably my most favorite close-by area, about 40 miles from home. The Jeep road portion is only about 5 miles but it takes 2-3 hours. You can walk it faster than you can drive it. I'm not sure you could get a stock 3B in there anymore -- there's more rock every year. Thanks to Marge Levine for taking this photo with the dogs.
On this summer 2010 trip I parked the Jeep in front of the mountains (300K JPEG) at Upper Twin Lake. Neither peak in the background has been named (sort of hard to believe), but the snow covered one in back is 9970 ft. in elevation. The shot where I'm in the water (250K JPEG) is at Lower Twin Lake -- the same two peaks are in the background.
I bought this 1955 CJ-3B in 1972 from a local machine shop (Midwest Welding) in Bozeman, MT, where it still resides. It had 26K on it at the time but the body was in rough shape due at least in part to the shop putting very heavy items in the bed (the positions of the frame rails and cross member were very clearly evident without looking under the vehicle). There are not too many of those original parts left now.
The grille is one of the few remaining original parts, modified slightly to clear the Corvette sector box, and covered with Rhino bed liner (140K JPEG) as the winch cable was scratching up the steel.
Here's the rolling chassis in 1975. At the time, I was using a 1970 350 LT-1 engine and a Chevy truck radiator, neither of which were very successful off road. Both drive shafts are built from 3/4-ton Dana/Spicer parts, and the front incorporates a double carden joint.
I went with a glass body because of both the physical damage and rust on the original. The only glass bodies I could find at the time were 2A/3A bodies so the one I purchased was a low hood version that came as a kit with separate pieces for the floor pan, outside body shell, and firewall (12-inches-to-the-foot scale plastic car kit.)
The cowl was cut off the shell and a 4.5-inch splice added, backed by 14-gauge aluminum perforated "U" sections which covered the inside all the way from the door openings to the firewall. These were all laminated in with glass matt and true epoxy resin. A similar splice was made in the firewall, along with an additional 1.5-inch indentation for additional distributor clearance, as I knew from the start that power would be by Chevrolet. This is what it looked like in 1979.
The floor pan was recessed 1.5 inches into the body to clear a steel square tube "subframe" which the seat brackets, exhaust skid plates (170K JPEG) and rock slides bolt to.
A somewhat gerrymandered steel cross brace runs along the bottom of the dash and is bolted to the rear legs of the aluminum "U" sections. It mounts the drop for the steering column (Flaming River tilt unit), main heater, and swing pedal assembly support.
This is the installed right-side muffler skid plate and steel rock rail along the edge of the body. The latter is bolted through to the steel subframe and the fender brace/step is an integral part of it. I duplicated the original step in plate steel. The vent line is from the York compressor unloader valve.
There's also a main transmission/transfer case skid plate (150K JPEG) and I'm still using the oil pan skid plate I installed in 1975 (60K JPEG), but it does have an extension to protect the oil temp sender now.
The current engine is a 381 cid Chevy. Heads are Edelbrock Performer RPM 70cc aluminum units running Pro Comp aluminum rocker arms (140K JPEG). The engine is balanced and "blueprinted." The ignition is all Mallory, with the ProFlo2 controlling the distributor. Fuel injection is the most recent addition.
The radiator is a National 2-row aluminum cross flow with aluminum inlet ducting and fan shroud, which also covers a 12-pass Rapid Cool engine oil cooler mounted under the radiator. A 19.25 inch mechanical fan covers both within the snug-fitting shroud.
The steering (100K JPEG) is built around a Corvette sector box, control valve, and hydraulic assist cylinder. As with the rest of the machine, it was an exercise in evolution. As originally put together, it was manual and you had to be real careful not to get any digits inside the spokes of the steering wheel. The PS went on about a year later using an old Eaton pump adapted for a remote reservoir. It now uses a Sweet pump, 1-quart Zinga hydraulic filter, and a red CSI reservoir (on the right in the photo) which is the "catch can" for the main reservoir, allowing expansion but maintaining the main reservoir in full condition. A four-pass cooler (140K JPEG) is mounted in front of the radiator. The system holds about 1 gallon of hydraulic fluid.
A sheet of 1/4-inch marine plywood was laminated under the bed area and was extended into the rear of the rear wheel wells. The remainder of the rear wheel wells was enclosed with 16 gauge aluminum and covered with matt and resin. Access doors (90K JPEG) were cut in the vertical side of the wheel wells rather than the tops (as on the MB/GPW) to minimize water infiltration.
The battery was relocated to the area under the floor behind the driver's seat (no place left for it under the hood) and a hinged lid fabricated that closes with an aviation panel latch.
The interior is pretty Spartan. There is no carpet, but I did panel the interior sides and filled the area between the panels (covered fiberglass) and body with urethane foam to help keep it warm and cut some of the noise (wasn't too effective for the latter).
The under-seat toolbox was constructed of 1/8-inch aluminum. The dash panel and glove box door (90K JPEG) are anodized 1/8-inch aluminum. The glove box was constructed by enclosing the entire right side of the dash to the firewall.
There are two heaters (this is a Montana rig). The main one is centered under the dash and is from a Nissan. An auxiliary heater (160K JPEG) was constructed to fit under the driver's seat (former fuel tank location). It utilizes a J20 Jeep core and a Honda blower unit. It made a huge difference, even with the leaky soft top. The main heater is usually devoted entirely to the defrost system (ducted up the center of the dash and into the enclosed windshield frame, similar to a CJ-5).
The fuel filler cover is a modified CSI for Chevy/GMC's and covers a Shaw Aero Devices o-ring style gravity cap and Summit tip-over valve assembly. The fuel filler neck housing (90K JPEG) mounts both the rear axle vent and tip-over valve.
There are other sort-of-unique things, such as the aluminum mirror assemblies, all of which were made over the 36 years I have owned the vehicle. When I need something, I usually just make it.
I have deep admiration (and sympathy) for all those restoring a Jeep to original stock condition, and would feel very guilty committing the modification sin to anything with good restoration potential (such as the '69 CJ-5 I have). That said, and even though I am 64, I would have a very difficult time living with 75 HP and 114 ft. lbs. torque, let alone the stock steering and brakes.
What I wanted was a spunky daily driver with good road manners (well, as good as they are going to get with an 80-inch wheelbase and 15 inches under the skid plate) and good off-road ability. I think it is getting pretty close. Here I am, headed to the Tobacco Root Mountains in 1992 for a little fishing and skiing.
Thanks to John for the story and photos. If you're in the mountains of Montana, keep an ear open for the howl of that Chevy small block. -- Derek Redmond
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