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Overland Vehicle Outfitters

Armor and Recovery

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I'll admit it...  custom fabrication is not my strong suit.  I lack the specialized equipment and the experience to claim otherwise.  But give me a cut-off wheel, a grinder, a power saw, and a MIG welder and I can produce some decent basic fabrication.  Which is a good thing, because when it comes to bumpers, rocker protection, tire carriers, and skidplates for 70 year old vehicles, there's not much in the way of off-the-shelf options!  Rather than trying to start from scratch, I decided to find the parts that met my needs and adapt them to fit my frame. 


I wanted a basic bumper design that would fit the quasi-military look of the flatfender, but would have the durability and recovery points I needed.  In short order I came across Smittybilt SRC Classic front and rear bumpers with D-ring recovery points.  The rear bumper also includes a swing-away tire carrier for mounting the spare.  In addition, since the tire carrier design is popular, there are several companies that make mounting brackets for Jerry cans and Hi-Lift jacks.  

The front bumper design is dead simple but has a classic look that suits the flatfender.  It's a one piece welded design made from  from 3/16" cold rolled steel plate for strength, and it's covered in a two-stage textured powdercoat with a 5 year warranty.   The rear bumper is made from 1/4" steel plate for additional strength to handle the tire carrier, and comes with the same powdercoat treatment.  The tire carrier incorporates a heavy-duty latch mechanism to keep the tire secure, and a stout pivot with integral grease fitting to keep it swinging smoothly.  The bumper also has a Class III-rated receiver hitch built in.  


The biggest issue to address with mounting the front bumper was the frame width.  The early CJ frame is several inches narrower than the later frame, so I needed to "widen" the frame mounting points to accommodate the bumper mounting dimensions.  Using some angle brackets, cut to size, I welded and bolted them to the outside of the frame horn, then drilled them to align with the bumper mounting holes.   

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With the front bumper securely mounted, I turned my attention to the winch mount.  While ordering the bumpers, I had also ordered a Smittybilt raised winch mounting plate.  Made of 1/4" steel plate, this beefy winch mount is made to work with aftermarket Wrangler bumpers, so it was also too wide for the frame.  I used 1/4" angle iron bolted to the outside of the frame with Grade 8 hardware, with holes drilled using the winch plate mounting holes as a template.  This simple but sturdy mounting solution looked as if it was made for the flattie, and the winch plate acted as an additional crossmember, strengthening the front frame horns.   


The choice of recovery winch was easy - I had a Superwinch EPi9.0 winch on hand that I had removed from a prior CJ.  I liked it so much I saved it specifically for this project.  Superwinch has been making high quality electric winches for decades and serves consumer, commercial, and military markets.  The EPi9.0 is a 9,000 lb. capacity winch with a 12V series-wound, 4.6 HP electric motor, planetary gear set, automatic load holding brake, sliding ring gear clutch, and 125' of 21/64" diameter wire rope.  It has a roller fairlead and a sealed, integrated solenoid housing. 

For installation of the rear bumper, I left the OEM rear crossmember/bumper in place, but cut a few inches off of each side to allow the new bumper to fit over it.  The early CJs used a triangulated brace that ran from the outer frame rails to the center of the bumper, and this was where the early hitch was mounted.  Rather than cut this out and start fresh, I utilized it as a base for installing the bumper.  


After drilling out the mounting holes in the original bumper, the Smittybilt unit bolted right up to it.  Due to the weight of the bumper, tire carrier, and 32" wheel and tire combo, I wanted to add some additional bracing.  I used two galvanized 1/8" steel braces running from the bottom of the frame rails to the outboard lower mounting holes of the new bumper.  I also drilled and tapped two holes in the center top of the new bumper, and used two more galvanized braces to secure the center to the original crossmember.  This should add the rigidity and strength I'm looking for.  

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With the front and rear bumpers in place and the winch securely mounted to the new winch plate, I turned my attention to the rocker panels.  The Jeep has a relatively short wheelbase at 81 inches, and the 2.5" suspension lift and 32" tires result in a very respectable break-over angle.  So while I'm not overly concerned about rocker protection (like I am with my wife's Wrangler Unlimited JK), I do want to protect the fiberglass body from damage.  I also needed something that can serve as a step for getting in and out.  


I chose 2" square, 3/16" wall tubing to construct a set of rocker guards that would also serve as steps.  It's a very basic design with two supports running horizontally from the frame to the rocker/step area.  I welded the tubing together, and then welded each support to a large piece of 1/4" steel plate which I bolted to the frame.  The supports on each side are not identical, needing to be individually spaced to clear existing holes or components.  There is enough clearance between the body and the rocker guards to be easily accessible as steps.  They stick out several inches past the body to provide additional protection, but not past the outer edge of the tires so as not to get hung up on trail obstacles.  I plan to install tread tape to the top of the step area for slip protection. 

One note on the tire carrier:  since the rear bumper and tire carrier are made to fit a YJ/TJ Wrangler, my CJ wheel wouldn't mount to the carrier.  I purchased a wheel spacer (visible in the image to the right) that also provided for conversion from the 5 on 4.5" Wrangler bolt pattern to the 5 on 5.5" CJ bolt pattern.  This allowed me to mount my spare tire and wheel without issue. 


In addition to mounting a Jerry can to the swing-out tire carrier, I also plan to mount a Firestik CB antenna to the bumper or tire carrier. 

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