Don’t get us wrong, we’re pretty big fans of custom trucks that are new, shiny, and polished to a shine so bright it hurts, but there’s something to be said about the less than beautiful trucks out there, too. We’re talking about the Jeeps and trucks that will get you through just about anything but wouldn’t even be invited to watch the beauty pageant, let alone win it.
Dings, dents, missing paint, and improvised pieces all come together to make something that’s more than the sum of its parts. Pair these less-than-perfect pieces together with a solid engine and transmission as well as some killer underbody parts and what you’ve got is a ride that’s beautiful to you and will drive up a wall if you want it to.
This is the case with a very special Jeep owned by an interesting guy that goes by Jimmy. Back in the late 80s Jimmy built himself a Jeep that was far from pretty but had the power and traction to go anywhere and do just about anything. So why would someone make a mud brown jeep in the time of big and flashy trucks that were covered in chrome? Well there’s actually a good story behind it.
The Ugly Jeep
Jimmy started out with his Jeep in Sweden. At the time off-roading was mostly illegal so anyone wanting to partake in the sport would have to do so in a less-than-legal kind of way. Because of this, Jimmy basically camouflaged his Jeep so that when it was parked it was basically invisible. From bumpers to rims to the dashboard, everything was dark and hard to see.
This, paired with some quick getaways by local authorities as he was off-roading gave the paint and body a uniquely beautiful look that while different tha most everything else at the time, was amazing in its own right.
So what is the Ugly Jeep? Well, Jimmy started out with a 1951 Jeep CJ3a and upgraded from there. The Jeep today is very different than it was when it showed up in the September 1989 issue of Four Wheeler magazine. He is still using the upgrade engine from then however, but other than that little upgrades over the years have made it into an even better working and looking Jeep.
The Ugly Jeep starts out with a lightweight aluminum Range Rover 215 V8 topped with a holly carb. The engine is mated to a 3-speed T-90 transmission and a Spicer 18 transfer case. The Jeep currently runs 5:38 gears with Detroit Lockers and Dana 44 axles, which are slightly larger than what the Jeep originally was upgraded to.
Today, the power meets the dirt with 35” Pitbull tires on lightweight centerline wheels. An interesting suspension choice is the leaf spring over front axle setup using Rancho leafs. Speaking of the undercarriage, everything on this Jeep is up high, including the high-tucked steering. This is great for the trail to avoid hangups, but was originally done for the mud bogging the Jeep once did.
There’s a Warn 8274 winch for when things go bad or get a little too tough, but with the low range this Jeep has, it’s a safe bet the winch isn’t used too often.
How’d We Find This?
So how did we end up finding a dinged up Jeep from the 50’s with a bad paint job? Well, the same way the original writer in the 1989 issue of Four Wheeler did, by looking around.
Our tip-off came from Fred Williams over at Dirt Every Day on the Motor Trend channel. Fred saw this Jeep when he was just a kid in school, and as he says in the video below, he fell in love with it and it changed his outlook on off-roading forever. We’ve all had that feeling and “ah-ha!” moment before, so it’s great to see someone else’s moment, and even better, to see him check out the Ugly Jeep in person more than 20 years later.