Go ahead and add a Jeep J20 Pioneer to the list of vehicles you’ve never seen ripping up a dragstrip. Well, that is, until now.
Salem, Oregon chassis builder Brandon Keim, with the assistance of brother Tanner, is in the midst of transforming his grandfather’s Jeep into a street-legal and Outlaw 10.5-style racer, with all the trimmings of a high-end drag racing machine.
“My grandfather bought this truck new and it was used on his farm. Then it sat for about 20 years in a barn before I bought it from him as my first vehicle. I kind of just started working on it from there,” Brandon explains. “Obviously it was four-wheel-drive before and just had an AMC 360 small-block for power, and that’s how I drove it in high school.”
Beyond his primary intent to promote his business, Keim Race Cars, Brandon says the J20 represented an opportunity to break the mold.
“I love muscles cars and hot rods of all kinds, and just like every other guy I grew up around all of them. But I hated to see a ’69 Camaro, a ’70 Chevelle, a ’68 Fastback … it was the same car over and over that people were doing, so I really wanted to be different,” he says. “I thought to myself, ‘pretty much everyone I talked to has never even heard of a Jeep pickup, so if I make this into a racecar, people are really going to have no idea what the hell it is.’ ”
The build has been nine years in the making, with the construction of a complete chrome-moly tube chassis matched with a wide assortment of parts sourced from Tim McAmis Race Cars. A unique body style to say the least, Keim was without access to lightweight replacement body panels for the truck, and as such it’s retained the factory steel from nose to tail. In an effort to bring the fighting weight down, he’s utilized carbon fiber rather liberally, from the floors and transmission tunnel to the wheel tubs and door panels.
Keim acquired a TRE-built, 632 cubic-inch nitrous engine for power, which is backed by a Lenco four-speed and a clutch. Strange Engineering components were utilized throughout, from the double-adjustable coilover shocks on all four corners to the Ultra third member assembly and axles.
“The racing scene is a lot different out here in Oregon; it’s a lot of bracket racing. There’s some Outlaw 10.5-style stuff that I’m going to run it in, along with any grudge racing that we can find. It just seems ridiculous to me spend so much money on a car and make so much power just to go bracket racing, just to race the clock.
“I probably won’t race it all that often. It’s really designed for advertisement for my business. It will be raced and it will be out there for people to see it, but we won’t be chasing any points series or anything. We just want to go have some fun with it, that’s my goal.”
Keim also intends to license and insure it upon completion for street use, commenting that it wouldn’t be out of the question to take it out for a cruise it on a sunny afternoon to “piss of the neighbors, if you will.”
Brandon thanked Steve Tepper at Performance Racing Equipment and Mike Barton at Tim McAmis Race Cars for their role and support in the build.