Johnny Cash’s car in “One Piece at a Time” is built from parts he snuck out of a Cadillac plant. The Jeep CJ66 has a somewhat similar story, as it is constructed of a combination of different CJ and Wrangler pieces, and just like the Man in Black’s ride this Wrangler is definitely one of a kind.
Using a Wrangler TJ frame, a 1966 CJ body and a host of of JK parts, the CJ66 sounds like some crazy off-road Franken-monster, but it’s actually a brilliant blend of modern and vintage Jeep parts. The CJ66 was first unveiled at last year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas, but unlike just about every other custom build at SEMA we actually got to take this one for a spin.
The CJ66 helped usher in one of Mopar’s new crate engines at last year’s SEMA Show. The CJ66 is all business under the hood with its 345 Hemi crate engine, and the 5.7L V8 is rated to produce 383 hp and 425 lb.-ft. of torque. The Jeep and Mopar teams then upped the ante by adding a Mopar cold-air intake and Mopar cat-back exhaust. We definitely love that the CJ66 shuns a modern automatic transmission in favor of six-speed manual trans.
Driving the CJ66 is a whole lot of fun. What probably impressed us most is just how smooth the HEMI feels coming out of first gear – it doesn’t surge and it’s very easy to drive despite its massive power. Compared to the JK concepts we drove in Moab, the CJ66 just feels more nimble thanks to its narrow TJ frame, and its stability and solid feel on the trail is thanks in part to the beefy Mopar Dana 44 crate axles sitting underneath.
The two-inch lift kit and 35-inch BFGoodrich KM2 mud-terrain tires help gain additional ground clearance for easily overcoming obstacles. Oversized concept fender flares are fitted on the Franken-Jeep, and that, combined with 10th Anniversary Wrangler JK Rubicon Bumpers front and rear, help accommodate the big mud tires. There’s no need to worry about the KM2s easily popping a bead either thanks to the Jeep Performance Parts 17-inch beadlock wheels. Speaking of tires, we really dig the two-way air system to get the bigger tires inflated for highway travel in a hurry. Added trail protection comes in the form of JPP skid plates and front bumper plates and concept JPP rock rails.
The windshield gets a small haircut on the CJ66, as the Jeep crew chopped two inches off the top. To give the cab a performance feel that complements the HEMI engine, Jeep fitted aggressive Viper seats inside that are lifted off the floor thanks to concept seat risers. The custom-built roll cage on the CJ66 is mandril-bent to match the windshield surround, and a bikini top netting provides a just enough shade to escape the sun.
Considering the upper half is based on a CJ, the modern hood is a concept part, and the headlamps are borrowed from a JK. Mopar LED amber fog lamps and a Mopar Warn winch are also fitted up front.
Overall, the CJ66 is just a truly great concept that we’d love the chance to drive everyday. It’s a beastly Franken-Jeep that seamlessly blends both old and new Jeep pieces to create a truly one-of-a-kind Wrangler. It also leaves us both excited and wanting for the Mopar crate engines, because we really hope Mopar can make them available for modern Wranglers in the near future and not just vintage restorations.
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