A I am writing this column in the midst of a wrench fest to get my Fun Buggy project finished for a major off-road trip. As such, I am trying to wrap it up after three years in the making and we're getting to "the point of a thousand little things." You may be wondering what all this has to do with your dream Scrambler project. Well, I thought it would be cool to build a vehicle from scratch. Now three years later, I know it is cool, but it is not easy and it is not cheap.
What you have to decide first is what exactly you want. If you want a Scrambler with mostly Scrambler drivetrain, then those rusted-out $5,000 Scramblers on eBay will have a bunch of good parts that you can start with, even if they need to be rebuilt. Either way your Jeep from scratch will require you to purchase every single nut, bolt, and wire, and those things add up quickly. I'm not saying don't do it. I am saying be ready for it to take a long time and cost more money than originally planned. In fact if you look at the rusted-out Scrambler and you realize that the frame may need to be replaced as well as the body and you would rather have an aftermarket drivetrain like an Atlas transfer case or a B&M automatic transmission, then starting from scratch is the way to go.
Not everyone can afford brand-new parts, and my advice on a budget-minded project is to get a vehicle that is running and build it up. When your project doesn't move under its own power for more than six months, it quickly burns up all your motivation. If you can drive it and slowly upgrade parts at the same time, you'll be amazed at how much more fun it is. Plus it's easier to spend money on a vehicle that you can actually drive-the paybacks are right there.
I know you love the Scrambler, but consider the long-wheelbase Jeep TJ Unlimited. This has all the benefits of the Scrambler-wheelbase is the same within an inch, they were only made for a few years so they might go up in value, and they are currently being ignored in the market. Plus these Jeeps are fuel-injected, were available with the locker-equipped Rubicon package, and have the classic Jeep round headlights and seven-slot grille, and the frame is way stronger than the old CJs.
However, if you set cost aside and look at value, I think building the vehicle from scratch is the way to go, simply because you will know the vehicle inside and out, and you'll have something you won't ever want to part with. It will take time and money, but you'll never forget the experience of building a vehicle from the ground up.
The guys from Superlift Suspensions (888.299.4692, www.superlift.com) would like to help you get started on your project with a set of their Superide Ten-stage velocity-sensitive shocks that continually adjust depending on terrain and vehicle speed. To keep vital axle parts protected, they are throwing in an eXtreme Ring Differential Cover Protector. Built from laser-cut 1/4-inch plate and designed to fit over the factory diff cover for additional protection, these zinc-coated protectors are available to fit most popular American trucks: Chevy, Ford, Dodge, and Jeep-including the complete Dana axle line.
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