Reader's Jeeps: Mike Hirst's '83 CJ-8 Scrambler
Mike Hirst's '83 CJ-8 Scrambler Short Cuts
Mike Hirst playing in his 83 Scrambler

Mike Hirst playing in his 83 Scrambler

Owner: Mike Hirst
Vehicle: CJ-8, Scrambler
Year: 1983
Location: Utah
Favorite Trails: Hells Revenge, Cliff Hanger, Metal Masher, Steel Bender, Fins & Things, Golden Spike, Gold Bar Rim, Poison Spider, and other trails in Moab, Utah.
Worst Stuck: That would be the time I was wheeling by myself and managed to lay it on it's side. Even worse, I had pinned my arm between the door and ground with nothing close by to dig it out. I was trapped and gas was leaking out. The anemic horn did little to bring help. After 30 minutes or so, help finally arrived from a nearby picnic area. Lesson learned, don't wheel by yourself.

Cliff Hanger
Cliff Hanger
Golden Crack on Golden Spike
Golden Crack
on Golden Spike
Gold Bar Rim
Gold Bar Rim
Launching Pad
Launching Pad
GoldenStairs
Golden Spike
Porcupine Rim
Porcupine Rim

Mechanical:

  • AMC 401 with Howell TBI fuel injection
  • Dana 300 transfer case
  • NV4500 5 Speed manual transmission - granny low & overdrive
  • Front Dana 44, ARB, Cadillac disk brakes
  • Rear Dana 60, ARB, Cadillac disk brakes
  • 4.56 ring & pinion gears
  • 35x12.50x15 tires on aluminum mod wheels
  • Optima Red Top battery
  • Autometer guages
  • K&N air filter
  • Ramsey Platinum 9500 winch

Suspension:

  • Alcan 4" suspension lift, 1" body lift
  • braided steel brake lines

Body:

  • Black paint
  • Custom 22 gallon fuel tank with skid plate
  • 4" fender flairs (to comply with the law)
  • Kayline full size top with roll up sides
  • Hard and soft doors
  • Tomken rock sliders
  • Custom rear bumper, w/receiver and spare tire mount
  • Custom front bumper- w/ integrated winch mount, tow hooks

Interior:

  • Super seats
  • Steel Horse rear seat
  • Tuffy lock box
  • CB

Future Plans:

  • Shackle reversal
  • Full roll cage
  • Modify rear bumper for better departure angle
  • Who knows

Wheeling:

I started 4-wheeling about 10 years ago as part of my photography hobby. For many years I drove an Isuzu Trooper and it served me well, but did suffer with the lack of traction control. When it came time to say goodbye to the Trooper, I wanted a vehicle that would fill that gap. I thought that the Land Rover Discovery II would be perfect because it came with a nice list of goodies including, what I thought, was the neatest traction control system available. It was definitely a great improvement over the Trooper.

I started wheeling with a group of friends from work up in the local canyons when one day my eyes were opened. A friend (Terry Patten) with an old Bronco worth about $2000 went with us and out climbed me up a pile of loose mine tailings. I couldn't believe it. Sure he had more aggressive tires, but I had this cool high tech Rover traction control system. How could this be happening? That was the day I learned about "lockers". A few months later, we all went on a trip to Moab. Terry took us on the "Poison Spider" and "Hells Revenge" trails. He was climbing hills I didn't believe possible. I was soon hooked on the hard-core stuff but I couldn't bear to keep bashing up the Discovery, I needed something more bullet proof.

I wanted something I could do harder trails with, and didn't want to make an expensive mistake if I could help it. I also knew I had a lot to learn (still do but getting there). I wanted a longer wheelbase than the typical jeeps I was familiar with because I liked the Discovery's 100-inch wheelbase. I seriously considered an older Bronco but felt the smaller ones were over priced and the newer ones were too big. I also knew I wanted a solid axle up front and something with plenty of room to haul my photo buddies and equipment into the hills as well. Eventually I learned about the Jeep Scrambler and started a countrywide search for one. I found out they were pricey too but the "Jeep thing" had taken over my mind and things started to get out of control.

I lucked out and found a Scrambler locally that seemed built to the degree I was fantasizing about. The builder wanted a lot for it but I realized I would be getting it for a lot less than he had into it. He had suffered an unfortunate accident and needed some cash for medical bills. His misfortune became my lucky find. He had done a pretty good job building it, but hadn't had the opportunity to work out the quirks. I have been debugging it and adding my own touches ever since. It came with an AMC 401, Dana 44 and 60 axles built with 4:56 gears, ARB lockers, disk brakes, and an NV4500 transmission. As with any used vehicle, and especially Jeeps, there were some things that had to be fixed like the brakes, steering, and exhaust had to be installed, but the important stuff was there.

It also came with a full hard top but the first attempt at installing it convinced me it had to go. It was too heavy for extreme wheeling and too hard to take on and off. To solve that I installed a Kayline soft-top designed with sides and back that can be rolled up. I love it. Although it came with 35-inch tires, the suspension only accommodated 33 inch. I added a 1-inch body lift to help compensate, but didn't like lifting it more than necessary. I came to the conclusion that keeping the center of gravity as low as possible was important after I laid it on its side in the foothills near my home. Since I've owned it I also added a skid plate under the after market, 22 gallon gas tank because it sticks down a bit, and added 2-5 gallon Jerry cans to carry extra gas for long trips. I've also installed a Steel Horse rear seat and a Tuffy lock box with a CB radio inside. Most recent additions include a Ramsey Platinum 9500 winch and Tomken rock slides for even more hard-core trails.

Gold Bar Rim Up the Golden Stairs
Gold Bar Rim The Golden Stairs

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