My first car was a 1977 Jeep CJ-7, and it is still the vehicle I’m fondest of. It was a real workhorse. It had the 5.0 AMC 304 V8 in it, and it was tough as nails. Growing up in the south, modifying my Jeep to handle the Georgia clay and mountain trails became a way of life. What started out with simply replacing the leaf spring shackles to accommodate bigger tires ended up becoming a total overhaul of just about everything. Through lots of trial and error and the use of a friend’s family repair shop, I did everything you could think of. The front axle was upgraded to a Dana 44, and the rear was replaced with a Dana 60 and both were eventually outfitted with lockers. I ended up doing a spring-over-axel conversion which made room for some huge rubber, and I trimmed the fenders to allow for some serious wheel travel. It was awesome… impractical looking back at it, but awesome.
I took that thing everywhere, even when it no longer acted as my daily driver. It almost became a challenge to get it stuck. We’d load it up with camping gear and a cooler full of cold beverages and take it through creeks, mountains, and miles of mud and it never slowed down. Sure, there were dents and battle wounds all over it, but all that did was give it character. It became a friend of mine, more or less.
As is the case with many of these hobbies, the cost of maintaining the thing just began to be too much. First it was the CV joint and driveshaft, then the transmission and eventually the engine needed to be rebuilt. I had to part ways with my old friend.
I still toy with the idea of finding an old CJ and starting a new project, but with a family and a job that requires too much time, I don’t know when I could find the time to invest in it again. Lately I’ve been into the R/C game. My son and I have built kit cars, trucks, boats and planes, and just recently he sent me some links to offroad R/C Jeeps and trucks. Watching these videos kicked the nostalgia into high gear (or 4-low gear).
These R/C Jeeps are so close to the real thing it is unbelievable. You can customize just about everything. You can change the axels to handle huge mud tires. They make replacement leaf and coil springs that keep those tires grounded on tough passes. You can get them gas-powered motors or fully electric. Some guys are even putting winches on the front. These R/C beasts will climb rocks, power through mud and take water up to the windshield. I think it could be the best way to combine my two hobbies, and probably for a good bit cheaper than building out a full Jeep.
Through my research, I think that I could build my scale R/C Jeep for under $500 and it should handle just about anything I throw at it. I have really been impressed from what I’ve seen out of the pre-built 1/10 scale R/C Jeep Wranglers from Poison Spyder Customs, and will probably use a lot of the same or similar components that they use. They build theirs with a current body style, however, and I want to rebuild the Jeep of my youth… complete with the weird copper-ish paint job… there’s one just like it in the first video below. Whenever the better half lets this happen, I will also let her know that I’ve been secretly building an off-road track in the back corner of our yard… we will see how well that goes over. She’s still giving me a hard time about buying a Big Green Egg without letting her know.
Check out some of the videos below, and let us know what you think of these awesome off-road R/C Jeeps.