What the Wagoneer?
These days in car culture, you should pretty much expect the unexpected as there’s always someone creating some sort of automotive build that looks like it came from an opposite world. One such builder, is Randy Weaver of Weaver Customs and in the past few years, he’s produced some insane rides that make many people scratch their heads. In all honestly, ingenuity like the work on this project is what it takes to really stand out from the crowd.
So, how did this strange ride all come together? Well, it started four years ago when Randy picked up the Wagoneer from a friend with the intention of doing something interesting to say the least. With a few other builds and customer rides coming to the forefront, this Jeep went on the backburner. In that time, Randy built a few notable rides including his brother Mack’s diesel-powered ’50 Ford F1 that was complete with a turbo system traversing through the cab and bed. Check out our Slammed Trucks of SEMA 2019 story to see this one!
Fast forward to early 2021, Randy Weaver got the itch to build something for cruising the Hot Rod Power Tour. This is a must event for Randy and his wife Sydney as they enjoy driving and hanging out with other likeminded car buffs over the five city and five-day experience. With only a mere three months before the kickoff of the tour, Randy set his sights on making the Wagoneer a lowered street beast that would look like a retro version of the modern Jeep Cherokee SRT.
Now known as the “Chief”, this vehicle was rolled into Randy’s West Jordan, Utah based shop. From there, he focused his attention on the extensive rust damage to the floor and lower areas. Equipped with mad metalworking skills, Randy decided that there was plenty of room for improvement while fixing these areas. For starters, the floor was had-fabricated and J-series Jeep truck fenders were attached for a bold new look.
Taking things even further, the front end was ditched in lieu of a bold version from a ’68 Jeep Gladiator. This took some metal messaging of the fenders and hood to complete but it resulted in a striking look. The bumpers were also removed and replaced with molded in custom pans along with a unique front splitter and side skirts, all made from 18-gauge sheet metal. Once in solid form, the body was coated in Axalta Pepper Gray and topped with a POR 15 matte clear.
Since the base vehicle is an off-road style SUV, the stock stance was pretty tall. In order to make a drastic change, the front frame clip was cut off and replaced with one from a late-model Ford Crown Victoria that was upgraded with a set of Fat Man Fabrications control arms. This also makes it easier to drive as it added disc brakes and power steering into the mix. For the rear, Randy placed in a spare Ford 9-inch rearend that’s held in place with a custom four-link suspension. Making this new suspension ride smooth yet performance like is a set of Ridetech adjustable coil-overs.
A Flair for the Dramatic
The goal was to make this ride a bit of a hot rod and Randy decided to hop it up a bit with a spare 6.0L LS engine that was sitting around in the shop. Though this was a nice addition, simply dropping in a newer engine wouldn’t suffice Randy’s flair for the dramatic.
This power plant was spiced up with a custom twin T4 turbo system that feeds the forced air through a MSD Atomic AirForce intake, all while the engine is controlled by a Holley Terminator X system and exhaust dumps through a set of Flowmaster mufflers. Behind this is a 4L80e transmission that utilizes the raw power to get this truck to high speeds with ease.
Plush and Lush
With this vehicle being a full custom project, the inside would have to follow suit. Up front, the dash was smoothed, reformed and covered in Hydes Leather. Taking care of the drivability is an Ididit steering column, Joes Racing Products wheel and Dakota Digital gauge replacement.
The front seating was upgraded with a set of modified ProCar buckets and the rear bench was salvaged from a CJ Jeep. A center console, door panels and other pieces were custom made and everything was covered in matching leather, all thanks to work by MCM Interiors and Seams Impossible. Lastly, taking care of the soundtrack for the long drives is a complete Pioneer audio system with custom subwoofer box in the rear.
Styling Meets Performance
Completing the look of the unique hauler is a set of 20x8 and 20x11 Detroit Steel Mack wheels that were finished in matte black for a distinct appearance. Matching the aggressive style is a set of 235/35ZR20 and 315/35ZR20 Nitto NT555 G2 tires. Randy chose this tire for not only its’ looks but the ultra high performance capabilities to maintain grip with the pavement. These tires play an essential role in getting this Wagoneer up to speed.
Hitting the Highway
The final piece of the puzzle on this build was the American Autowire electrical harness and Optima battery to fire this vehicle up. With everything completed on this Jeep, Randy was only able to test it out for 1.3-miles before it was loaded up on a Pilot transport headed to Norwalk, OH for the start of the Power Tour. This Wagoneer hit the ground running on the 1,000-mile cruise without skipping a beat and proving that Weaver Customs has the talent to build high-quality wild rides that can be put to the test.
Owner: Randy Weaver
Vehicle: 1975 Jeep Wagoneer the “Chief”
Engine: 6.0L LS engine / Custom twin T4 turbo system / MSD Atomic AirForce intake / Holley Terminator X engine management / Flowmaster mufflers / American Autowire electrical harness / Optima Battery
Transmission: 4L80e / TCI shifter
Suspension: Late model Ford Crown Victoria front clip / Fat Man Fabrications control arms / Custom rear four-link / Ford 9-inch rearend / Ridetech coil-overs
Tires: 235/35ZR20 and 315/35ZR20 Nitto NT555 G2
Wheels: 20x8 and 20x11 Detroit Steel Macks
Exterior: ’68 Jeep Gladiator front end / Jeep J-series truck fenders / Custom front and rear pans / Custom sheet metal front splitter and side skirts / Hand fabricated floors / Axalta Pepper Gray paint and POR 15 matte clear
Interior: ProCar bucket seats / Jeep CJ rear bench seat / Hydes Leather upholstery / Shaved and reformed dash / Dakota Digital gauges / Ididit steering column / Joes Racing Products wheel / Custom center console / custom door panels / Custom carpet / Pioneer audio system with custom subwoofer box