It is a little unsettling to watch your vehicle pull away, loaded on a car hauler semi trailer, when that vehicle will be your “home” for the next two or three years. That’s right, last night, we finally loaded our Jeep onto a truck bound for Bruiser Conversions in Clearwater, FL. The process to arrange shipment to get the Jeep to Florida was not as straightforward as we had anticipated. We began with the process of putting the transport up for bid online, accepting a bid, and then getting a truck dispatched to pick up the Jeep. This was the first of many disappointments, who knew that shipping a car across the country would be such an adventure! We met the first driver in an empty parking lot not far from home, so he would have space to load the Jeep only to have him tell us, upon seeing the Jeep, that it was too tall with our roof rack and awning! The broker went looking for another truck, and we didn’t hear anything for over a week. We realized that in order to meet our deadline for delivery, we may have to drive the Jeep to Bruiser. Finally, on the day before we had to make a decision, they found another truck. The dispatcher put them in contact with me, and they couldn’t take the Jeep with the awning. Hours later, another driver was lined up and good to go, only to back out the next day, as he had filled his truck in Seattle! Now, within hours of our deadline, a truck was found that could handle the height of our Jeep! We met him at 9:45 PM, in the same abandoned parking lot to load the Jeep, and he didn’t see a problem with the height. This driver didn’t quite understand why we were only too happy to stick around and watch him load and tie down the Jeep, in the rain and cold of a December night. We had eagerly, and sometimes frustratedly, awaited this day for nearly six months. Now that it is on its way to Bruiser’s shop, we are at a bit of a loss. The empty spot in the driveway seems gigantic, but the excitement of what it is going to become is nearly unbearable. Having seen a similar Jeep, with the same engine, we know what to expect, mostly. This one will be ours though, and that makes it special, at least to us.
Many have asked why we would send our precious Jeep all the way to Florida, from Oregon, saying “isn’t there someone closer to home that can put that engine in it?” In short, no. While many shops offer the installation of Chrysler Hemi or General Motors LS V8 gasoline engines, Bruiser Conversions is the only shop that has proven they can make an all mechanical (not electronic or computer controlled) Diesel engine into a Jeep JK Wrangler. For those outside the Jeep Geek circle, the JK Wrangler is the first Wrangler offered as a 4-door, and also the first fully computer controlled Wrangler. To get the sophisticated control computers (it has 8!) to “see” a Diesel engine whose only electrical needs are to the starter, is not an easy task. My exhaustive online and off-road industry search all pointed to Bruiser as not only the sole shop offering diesel conversions for the JK Wrangler, but also the only shop that industry insiders recommended for such an undertaking. Other shops and Diesel engines may be capable of working with the JK Wrangler, but Bruiser is the only shop I found that has Jeeps on the road with a Diesel engine in them.
Others have asked why we need diesel. Here, in The States, diesel can be difficult to find, and gasoline is plentiful. In developing nations, such as most of Africa, diesel is much easier to find, everything from trains to tractors, trucks to electrical generators, ferry boats to construction equipment all burn diesel. Some have suggested that we could do our whole trip on gasoline (petrol overseas) and they may be right. Everyone that I hear of doing similar trips through Africa are in diesel powered vehicles, and for that reason, we will use diesel too. Diesel has other advantages too, such as better fuel economy and higher torque output. The engine we will get, the Cummins 4BT, puts out double the torque of the stock gasoline engine. It is also shown to be a tough, dependable engine, with most conscientiously driven examples getting over 500,000 trouble free miles with no more than oil changes. All in all, diesel is not only more available than gasoline in Africa, the engine is more suited to our trip, pulling a trailer, and more dependable than the stock engine.
Invariably, people get around to asking why go to the expense of putting a diesel in a Jeep, and wouldn’t it be cheaper just to buy something in Africa. In the short run, it would be cheaper to go buy something in Africa. Then, we would have to sell it at the end of the trip, which means trying to sell a South African registered vehicle somewhere in Europe as we would not get to bring it home due to US import regulations. On top of that, we will be required to get a Carnet du Passeges, essentially a passport of our car. That requires 250% of the blue book value of the base vehicle to be put into escrow. We cannot get around this, many African countries require a Carnet to get the vehicle into the country, as a guarantee that should we sell the vehicle, they will get their import tax. Vehicles in South Africa are expensive, and to get a truck in South Africa that makes the Carnet affordable, we were looking at 15 to 20 year old vehicles in who-knows-what mechanical condition. The blue book value of our Jeep is half what we would pay for the previously detailed South African vehicle. As the topper, if we convert this Jeep to diesel, and bring it home, we spend less on replacing vehicle when we return after the trip. In the long run, given all the above criteria, it was about a push to convert our Jeep and take it on the journey.
That is, in a nutshell, where we stand now. The Jeep is on its way to the only shop we have found that has proven they can seamlessly convert it to run on diesel. We chose this shop after much research, all pointing us to the fact that they are the only shop that has a proven method for such undertakings. We chose diesel for its availability on our trip, as well as performance and reliability improvements to the Jeep. And we chose to modify and ship our Jeep to Africa because the long term costs are similar to buying something in South Africa, and we have the piece of mind knowing that we get to bring it home and continue our adventures in a vehicle we know. Now, we wait to get the call to go to Bruiser’s shop in Florida so we can pick up the Jeep, and drive it back here to Oregon as a shake down trip, where we will get to know it in its new form, make sure that anything not completed is found within reach of knowledgable mechanical support, and visit family, friends, and sponsors along the way, prior to shipping to South Africa.
Watch the page on this website labeled “Snort” to see details of the build, and updates as the Jeep transforms into an expedition ready powerhouse.