Vintage Jeep gets the treatment

Resto-mod projects revive old-school 4WDs


Looking for something a little different? How about a Jeep Scrambler like the one Nancy Reagan gave to husband Ronald (yes, that Ronald) Reagan to use on their ranch outside of Santa Barbara in California. Or a Cummins Turbodiese­l powered classic Jeep Honcho?

The USA’s prolific resto-mod industry is pouring out some incredible vehicles these days, revitalisi­ng the iconic rigs that did the tough, dirty, hard jobs that defined the post-war economic boom over there.

So what did New Zealand 4WDers miss out on while they were exploring the forests and high country of New Zealand in Land Rovers and Land Cruisers? They missed Jeep’s part in the whole 4WD/ overlandin­g boom.

The Jeep brand was at the heart of it all, civilian versions of the original military models fuelling Americans’ passion for the outdoors. Very few of those civilian (CJ-series) Jeeps came into this country, mostly as private imports.

There was, however, a move to bring officially-sanctioned J20s to this country – with right hand drive. What’s a J20? A full-sized pickup, built mostly with sixcylinde­r engines. In the 1970s and 1980s Jeep branched out to produce these big pickups for the man (and woman) on the land.

A handful of these came to Auckland as cab-chassis units, and had locally made well-side decks built on. Moderately popular with private users, many were put to ‘authority’ uses: ambulances, fire engines, airport crash tenders.

The Honcho was a limited-edition dress-up run of J10s and J20s endowed with a tad more macho. Limited? Just 1,260 were built. Despite its short model life, the Honcho configurat­ion had that strong ‘cowboy’ vibe and was a popular model for Jeep.

The new Legacy Classic Trucks

Honcho brings this tradition into modern performanc­e terms. An old-school J-series pickup is fitted with a rugged 2.8-liter Cummins Turbodiese­l mated to an eight-speed automatic transmissi­on that vastly improves the truck’s power and overall drivabilit­y in modern roadgoing conditions.

The engine produces a still fairly modest 121kW (161bhp) and a more useful 420Nm (310lb-ft) of torque. It has an Atlas transfer case with a low range of 3:1.

The resto-Honcho rides on 35-inch Toyo tires and Method bead-lock wheels.

Legacy went for a Deep Blue paint shade. During the 1200-hour restoratio­n was completely upgraded with new leather Recaro seats and square-weave floor mats. A super-premium Bluetooth stereo, brand-new aircon and USB charging ports to provide modern comforts to go with the classic feel of the truck. A wooden steering wheel and modern Dakota Digital gauges finish off the interior design.

The resto-Honcho is for sale for a price ‘north of USD $150,000’.

In North America, Jeep dealers are also getting in on the act, creating Honcho tribute trucks based on the new Gladiator. Featuring the full Honcho decal pack, off-road steel wheels and all-modern mechanical­s, the Jeep versions are selling for upwards of USD$70,000.

But any local Lotto winner who loves that 1980s retro look – and who has $150,000 US dollars sloshing around in a bank account – would surely rather have the original.

There are just two J20s for sale in

New Zealand at the moment. One is an unfinished project that is being reborn with a modern 5.7-litre Hemi V8, for $26,000. The other is an original fire tender (registrati­on number NZ5579) for sale in running order with 38,000 miles on the clock (not km) for just $23,000.

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