Easter Jeep Safari almost always sees a classic concept hit the red rocks of Moab. What if you want to go real-life Jeep classic, year-round? Head south to another set of rocks in Texas Hill Country, where Vigilante 4×4 would be happy to set you up. The shop specializes in the Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer, Cherokee, and J-Truck, restoring examples to better-than-new or restomodding them with new drivetrains and interiors. This 1966 J20 Gladiator Custom demonstrates the latter technique, its 57-year-old Empire Blue and off-white sheetmetal wrapping new internals from front to back. That includes the rails, swapped for Vigilante’s reengineered frame.
Even if the original came with AMC’s 5.2-liter “Vigilante” V8, that engine’s 140 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque wouldn’t compare to the new truck’s 485 hp and 475 lb-ft from a 6.4-liter Hemi SRT-8. Power runs from there through a heavy-duty Tremec six-speed manual gearbox in this case, or customers can opt for a four-speed automatic. Further upgrades like the Dana 44 axle in front and Dana 60 in back, the four-link suspension with Eibach springs and Fox 2.0 dampers, and the 17-inch wheels hiding Baer six-piston calipers help an old girl keep her BFG A/T contact patches in contact with the ground.
LED lighting fills the original headlight apertures. The stylized, CNC’d chrome and enamel badging around the body might be the easiest tell that there’s more going on than a new set of wheels.
The interior treatment makes it look like the stock instrument panel’s been refreshed. That is only partly true. The modern running gear and Fox steering damper make turning easier than it used to be, so the steering wheel is slightly smaller diameter, at 15 inches, with a CNC’d aluminum Vigilante logo in the hub. Vigilante created gauges that present original-looking faces connected to modern wiring and electronic controls for more accurate readings. The manual window crank actually controls power windows that go with power door locks. There’s no radio unit, a Bluetooth receiver sending signals from a connected device through a JL Audio amp to the discrete speakers. The clock, however, is a new-old-stock analog original. The tan leather and Alcantara, and woven German floor covering look like they could have come from the period as well.
Vigilante says it’s ready to create more Gladiator Customs according to customer wishes, including the ability to put a Hellcat engine under the hood. The builds start at $295,000.