J8 MILSPEC To Become Available in USA
By John Stewart

In Egypt, there's an assembly plant that builds military Jeeps for foreign governments. The plant can assemble about 5000 units a year, using stampings shipped from the USA, for military-specification Jeep vehicles, which are known as the J8.

The J8 resembles a pared-down, strictly business version of the CJ-8, otherwise known as the Scrambler. Like the Scrambler, the J8 is a big Jeep. It has a long wheelbase at 116 inches and a turning circle of about 40 feet. However, it's more rugged than the Scrambler ever was, with heavy-duty Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear axles equipped with Dodge Ram brakes. The frame has been heavily reinforced and fitted with leaf springs to enable a 2550-pound payload capacity and a 3500-pound tow rating. Military-specific equipment includes tow loops rated for helicopter transport, remote-mounted batteries, and an air filter capable of dealing with a five-hour, zero-visibility dust storm.

Hardcore enthusiasts have always appreciated military vehicles because of their rugged capability and purposeful design. However, because of domestic emissions regulations, the J8 can only be sold overseas. That is, until now. Approximately 150 J8s will be made available as kit cars by a company called American Expedition Vehicles as the AEV J8 MILSPEC.

The AEV J8 will be sold as a component rolling chassis for off-road use only, without an engine or transmission. It will be up to the customer to obtain an appropriate powertrain; the chassis can be ordered with complete wiring harness and mounting setup for either a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi or a 2.8-liter VM Motori turbodiesel, similar to the one that appeared in the Jeep Liberty, backed by either a Chrysler 5-45 automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. The transfer case will be a Jeep Command-Trac with 2.72 low range.

Electrical systems can be either straight 12-volt, or a 12/24-volt switchable system with the VM Motori diesel. The complete rolling chassis will be delivered painted in either Desert Sand or Military Green, with a choice of two- or four-door body styles. The rolling chassis includes all the military qualities of the actual J8, plus upholstery, full instrumentation, heavy-duty suspension and axles, exhaust system, wheels and tires, plus ABS and air-conditioning. AEV does not supply the powertrain, but AEV CEO Dave Harriton advises that there are a number of AEV dealers who can supply and install the engine. "The engine installation is not all that difficult," he says, because the chassis comes completely prewired. "We've got our installation times down to about eight hours for the 5.7-liter Hemi."

Harriton indicates that the AEV rolling chassis will cost about $42,000 depending on options and that buyers should expect to pay another $8000 for the powertrain installation, to make a complete running vehicle. It will be up to the owner to register the vehicle on his own. In some states, such as California, an emissions exemption would have to be purchased. In other states, the process could be much simpler, particularly in the case of the Hemi, which is a modern engine that meets emissions requirements in 50 states.