At Easter Jeep Safari this year, we came across a unique-looking Jeep truck. We stopped to briefly talk to the owner, Greg Henderson, who explained to us this was “FrankenBrute,” and it was a vehicle he built at his home in Michigan. Henderson previously worked at AEV for a number of years and loves to tinker with vehicles in general. But this unique Jeep is much more than just a cool project to him and his family.
Sadly, Greg’s son Liam was the victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the vehicle was built to help raise funds to pay for his son’s medical costs while also raising awareness for Shaken Baby Syndrome. Though it is difficult to put a figure on the specific number of cases each year, Greg told us this happens to roughly 50,000 kids a year in the U.S.
On a website created for Liam, babyliam.org, the family posted a story that outlines the rush to save Liam after sustaining injuries at daycare. Liam had massive bleeding in his brain and was put into an induced coma to prevent further damage after doctors learned he had severe traumatic brain injury. Doctors were able to save Liam’s life, though he lost his vision for a time and, at seven months old, had to relearn everything as though he were a newborn.
After the Henderson family visited different doctors and specialists, Liam was able to recover much of his vision, though due to the injuries to his brain he will not be able to play sports or partake in any activities where there’s rapid acceleration or deceleration of the body, since it can easily reinjure his brain again. Contact sports or anything where he might fall are out of the picture as well.
Greg and his family are looking to promote awareness for Shaken Baby Syndrome as well as help raise funds to help pay for Liam’s life-long care he will need due to the injury he sustained as an infant. Greg may have built FrankenBrute by hand himself, but he didn’t do it all alone. A number of companies in the off-road market donated to the project, which will be auctioned off on October 11, 2014, at the Rocks and Valleys event in Michigan.
Staying true to the name, FrankenBrute features a host of unique parts, and it also blends a few different platforms in its construction.
“It’s called the FrankenBrute because I blended it with an AEV Brute, because that was the first really well done pickup truck, a 1949 Willys was the modeling, which is kind of what I designed it after, and a TJ is the main platform,” Greg said. “So it’s TJ doors, engine, windshield, grille, but I pulled a lot of design cues from a ’49 Willys, so it kind of blends those three vehicles.”
The front springs are AEV 2.5-inch JK springs, the rear feature factory four-door JK springs (since it’s the same weight as a four-door), and the shocks are from AEV and help contribute to the 1-inch lift of the vehicle. The vehicle has a host aftermarket and custom parts, with contributions from ASR Offroad, Poison Spyder Customs, Powerwelder, Rock Solid Performance (Dana 60 front and Dana 70 rear), Yukon shafts, gears and front locker, Pit Bull 37-inch Rocker Radials tires, BDS Suspension control arms, Tom Woods front and rear driveshafts, and sPOD unit, ARB air compressor, Blue Shard stitching did the hand-stitching for the Italian leather seats, Superwinch donated the winch, and every exterior light is an LED on the vehicle is from Trucklite. The bed is also removable as well, with Greg carefully crafting the light location on the side and rear of the vehicle so it remains street legal with the bed off.
While the FrankenBrute is quite an undertaking, Greg says he doesn’t plan to stop with this vehicle though.
“I’m actually going to try and do a different vehicle every year, from this point forward,” he said. “This one is 100 percent for my son and raising awareness, but from here on out I want to find another TJ that I have a sick idea for, and I’m going to donate 50 percent of the proceeds to the National Center for Shaken Babies Syndrome, which is in Utah, and the other 50 percent we’re going to find another child and donate that to the family. So I want to use my skills but not make a penny on it. I just want to raise awareness and help other people too.”
Raffle tickets for the FrankenBrute, which has an estimated value of $130,000, can be purchased for $25 on the BabyLiam.org website. Although the winner does not need to be present at the event in Michigan, the drawing will be taped live and the winner will need to be near a phone at that afternoon of October 11th because they want to speak to the winner during the event.
MORE EASTER JEEP SAFARI
Jeep Introduces 2015 Renegade at EJS