The Jeep CJ66 was originally rolled out at the aftermarket spectacular called SEMA, but this thing is no trailer queen. Jeep let us take the CJ out for some loops in beautiful Moab, Utah, to see what this franken-Jeep is truly made of.
And what it’s made of is three different generation Jeeps, all rolled into one special concept. The chassis and underpinnings come from a Jeep TJ, the body is a from a 1966 CJ Universal Tuxedo Park model and many of the parts, including suspension bits and lights, are from a new JK Wrangler.
A two-inch lift kit takes the CJ66 up and over the rocks, while the concept fenders accommodate the big 35-inch tires and look tough. A set of 10th Anniversary Wrangler JK Rubicon Bumpers front and rear complete the clean appearance.
The beauty of the CJ66 is that the style screams nostalgia, while the actual working parts have the confidence of a modern vehicle.
Climbing into the CJ66 isn’t exactly easy with its high ride height, but once you’re in, custom Viper seats hug you like you’re ready to race in Baja. A chopped windshield offers a great classic look (although my six-foot-two frame had me looking straight at the top edge of the window), while the minimalist interior stays true to the CJs of 1966.
Under the hood is a 5.7-liter Hemi crate engine, making about 383 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque. The Jeep engineers did an especially good job of dialing this engine in, which revs up nice and smooth and pulls strong, exhibiting a throaty growl in the process. Rowing through the six gears is effortless, helped by buttery smooth clutch action that made shifting a pleasure.
Out on the trails, this CJ66 project felt capable, and best of all, it felt compact because it’s based on a small TJ frame, especially after driving the larger JKs all morning. With modern Jeep suspension underneath, nothing we could throw at the CJ was slowing it down, while the BF-Goodrich KM2 tires grabbed the rocks and no lack of pulling power. And thanks to 17-inch beadlock wheels from Jeep Performance Parts, you don’t have to worry about losing a tire.
Another handy addition to this beautiful Jeep build is a two-way air system, allowing you to air down for the trails from the cab and then add the air back in once it’s time to hit the road.
This CJ66 project build blends classic Jeep styling with new-age Jeep parts, making it capable and reliable. And for something that seems so cobbled together, this Jeep drives like a turn-key Wrangler from the factory.