Project Low Buck, a '79 J20 For Trails, Mud, Rocks and Even the Street.
Project Low Buck, A '79 J-20 Short Cuts
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By: John Nutter - 12/2000

Project Low Buck, a '79 J-20 For Trails, Rocks, Mud and Even the Street.

Photo by: John Nutter
Yes, that really is moss growing on the mud that's lodged in the rust holes.
Photo by: John Nutter
There is no angle that will make this truck look pretty.
Photo by: John Nutter
There's no moss on the driver's side, leading me to conclude that this side of the truck faced South for the last few years.
Photo by: John Nutter
I'm not sure, but I may be able to improve upon this bed design.
Photo by: John Nutter
The mud was pretty much everywhere on this truck.
Photo by: John Nutter
I found the air cleaner behind the pasenger's seat.

Dave Niles of Ken's 4x4 mentioned that he heard of a Jeep pickup for $100. He thought it was a 3/4 ton and was also pretty sure that it had a 4 speed. Better yet, he wasn't interested in buying it. I didn't have enough room for the truck and I had two other projects lined up, but I got the phone number of the truck's owner and made the call anyways. It was a '79 J-20 and it had a 4 speed, 360 and a bad clutch. It used to be his daily driver and after that is was his mud truck, but it had been sitting for a couple of years and now he just wanted it out of his yard. Don't bother bringing a battery or gas becuase he'd push it onto the trailer with his Bobcat. $100 cash was fine, and it did have a clear title. Isn't that how all projects should start?

The body on the truck was as bad as I had imagined, but it did come from the factory with the right hardware. The front axle is an 8 lug Dana 44 with 3/4 ton brakes, the rear is a full floating Dana 60, the motor is an AMC 360, the transmission is a wide ratio T-18 and the transfercase is a Dana 20.

When I arrived home I put a battery in it poured some gas in the tank and a little down the carb and cranked it. After a few minutes of messing around with the carb and making sure it had spark, oil, and coolant, the truck actually started... And smoked... And was really loud. It did actually move under it's own power though, stopping for a few photos on it's way to the back garage. The clutch was pretty bad, I had to get a run at a not very steep five foot high hill and it barley crawled up the 3" step into the garage.

My goal for this truck is simple: Build a vehicle that works well on forest trails, rocks, and mud but is still capable of a comfortable and safe commute to work on busy freeways - with the least cash outlay possible.

One of the first mods will probably be the addition of a second transfer case. I want to go to dual cases so I can have the option of a 4:1 low for rocks and a 2:1 low for forest trails. The second transfer case will likley be a divorced Dana 24 from an early '70s Ford. I'll need a left hand drop front axle to match the transfercase, so a Ford high pinion Dana 44 from a '78 or '79 F250 will probably be shortened to fit the J-20 inner shafts and installed. Of course that axle is set up for spring over, so I'll do the SOA conversion while I'm installing it. The front springs look pretty sad, so they'll be replaced with some packs from the Wagoneer I've been salvaging. The sick 360 will be relaced with a slightly healthier one from the same Wagoneer as well. The doors and most of the front clip will come from that Wagoneer too. I may even get ambitous and install the air conditioning from the Wagoneer.

Did I mention that the J-20 wheel base is way too long and the rear overhang is horrendous even with the frame rails torched off behind the rear spring hangers? Shortening the wheel base is a foregone conclusion at this point and I'm giving some serious thought to a four link rear suspension with quarter elliptical springs made from a couple of sets of stock J-truck rear springs. When all that is done I'll probably turn my attention to the cab and body work, possibly cutting off the rockers and replacing them with heavy wall square tubing. An in-cab roll cage would be great too, but it's so far down the road that I'm not even really thinking about it yet.

At least I can 4 wheel Project DIY while I work on Low Buck.

Update 4/15/02

Project Low Buck has been sold to make room for yet other projects.

Contacts Related Links
  • Ken's 4x4, new and used 4x4 parts, 4x4 service and custom fabrication
    Dept ORN
    15415 St Francis Blvd N.W.
    Ramsey Mn 55303
    Phone 763-421-4070

    A good source for Full Sized Jeep information is \u000B Wagoneers.Com

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