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Going Commando: V8-Powered 1973 Jeep Commando [Custom Build Out]

The life of this ’73 Jeep began in Flagstaff, Arizona, where it spent a few decades making short trips around town. 

By the looks of its frame and undercarriage, it didn’t see any off-road use back then, and certainly didn’t see much snow — there’s not a speck of rust on it. However, the engine eventually locked up, and it met the fate of far too many classic cars: It was pushed into a garage and left inoperable. 

Many years later, it got a second chance when its next owner — whose grandmother lived next door to the first owner — learned of its existence and purchased it. He brought it back to his home in Illinois and did a light restoration, installing a 4.3L V6 from a 1990 GMC Jimmy to get it back on the road. It lived on in this condition for a while longer, but eventually made its way back into hibernation in the garage for close to 25 years.

The Poison Spider rear bumper is equipped with a Warn winch, full-size spare tire, med kit, light bar, and backup camera.

The Jeep’s third owners, Tony Durbano and Troy Tertany, would completely revitalize it and ensure it never ended up relegated to a dusty garage again. 

Together, the duo formed Roamr, a partnership of overlanding enthusiasts that has built several custom Jeeps, including the 1974 J20 “Tomahawk” featured in Issue 7 of our sister publication Carnivore magazine. They decided to set up the Commando for multi-day trail runs with five passengers and an overland trailer in tow.

Compared to the original AMC straight-6 or the GM 4.3L V6 that previously resided under this hood, the 383 stroker V8 offers far more horsepower and torque.

Part availability for this model was minimal, so Tony and Troy reached out to their friends at Castle Fabrication for some custom sheetmetal work. Castle Fabrication started by cutting the stock metal roof and modifying it into a removable Bimini top. 

Next, the hood and front end were replaced with CJ-style parts for a classic look, and custom rockers and rear quarter-panels were fabricated. The interior also received a custom-built aluminum center console and dash, with an iPad Pro for navigation and a SnoMaster mini fridge that doubles as an armrest. 

Castle Fabrication made the center console and dashboard from scratch, with an iPad Pro front and center. The dash also contains a Rugged Radio and controls for the Vintage Air A/C system.

Poison Spider bumpers and Metalcloak fenders were installed, and the whole body was finished in durable FDE Rhino Liner. Atop the roof, there’s a Rhino Rack for extra gear storage and a row of JW Speaker auxiliary lights. 

The old 4.3L V6 was pulled out and replaced with a much more potent BluePrint 383 stroker V8, paired with a 700R4 transmission and Advanced Adapters transfer case. Power is sent through Teraflex Tera60 axles, and a Teraflex big brake kit helps bring the 17-inch TR Beadlock wheels and 40-inch Nitto tires to a stop safely. 

These 40-inch Nitto tires and beadlock wheels allow the Commando to tackle some seriously challenging trails.

A Teraflex long-arm suspension kit intended for a newer Jeep JK was modified to fit this application. Castle Fabrication also built a custom 31-gallon aluminum fuel tank behind the rear seats, with one third inside the cabin and the remainder beneath the floor. This provides increased range for multi-day adventures.

Tony and Troy wanted to take the Commando out on the trail with their family members, so a pair of PRP bucket seats were installed up front, along with a three-person PRP bench seat in the rear. A Rugged Radios mobile radio unit offers intercom communication between the driver and front passenger without forcing them to shout over the noise of the V8, mud tires, and wind. It also provides an option for emergency comms in areas without cellular reception. 

One side of the trailer includes mounting points for a RotoPax water jug, Maxtrax recovery boards, first aid kit, and pressurized Road Shower.

The Vintage Air A/C system, Dakota Digital gauge cluster, JL Audio stereo, and various USB and 12V power ports throughout the cab make this old Jeep feel more modern. Two SwitchPros controllers include a total of 16 switches for the auxiliary power system, lights, console fridge, and other accessories.

The build was christened “Slantback 6” after the combination of CJ-6 styling and the Commando’s slantback rear end. Custom-cut metal badges with this name are attached to the fenders and dash, and the same method was used to make raised Roamr logos for each door panel. 

Roamr uses the Commando to tow this Freespirit trailer with a rooftop tent, awning, water tank, refrigerator, LED lighting, and recovery tools.

Since its unveiling at the SEMA Show in 2018, Tony and Troy have used the Slantback 6 frequently. It’s no trailer queen — like Roamr’s other creations, this Jeep spends most of its time on the trails. 

1973 Jeep Commando

  • Drivetrain: BluePrint Engines 383ci V8, TH700R4 automatic transmission, Advanced Adapters Atlas transfer case, Teraflex Tera60 axles with Teraflex big brakes, custom Castle Fabrication 31-gallon aluminum fuel tank
  • Suspension: Custom-modified Teraflex Suspension Jeep JK long arm kit with Falcon shocks
  • Wheels & Tires: 17-inch TR Beadlock wheels, 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler M/T tires
  • Body Modifications: Poison Spider front and rear bumpers with spare tire carrier, Omix-ADA Jeep CJ grille and hood, Metalcloak fenders, Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform roof rack; custom Castle Fabrication rockers, belly pan, and rear quarter-panels; body finished in Rhino Lining matched to the FDE color of an AR-15 Hexmag
  • Electronics: JW Speaker headlights, Metalcloak taillights, JW Speaker light bar, Warn 70th Anniversary M8274 front winch and 9.0Rc rear winch, Rugged Radios Race Mobile unit with driver/passenger intercom system, Genesis dual battery system with Odyssey batteries, dual Switch Pros control panels
  • Interior: PRP Enduro Elite Recliner seats, custom Castle Fabrication aluminum dash and center console with built-in iPad Pro and SnoMaster refrigerator, Dakota Digital gauge cluster, Vintage Air A/C system, JL Audio stereo system, Outer Limit Supply med kit
  • Trailer: Freespirit Recreation Overlander trailer, Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform and Batwing Compact awning, Freespirit High Country 80-inch rooftop tent, dual Odyssey batteries, KC Hilites Flex LED lights, dual propane tanks, slide-out SnoMaster fridge with kitchenette, Leitner Designs GearPod XL, RoadShower, Power Tank air tank, Maxtrax mini recovery boards, and RotoPax water tank
  • Owners: Tony Durbano & Troy Tertany
  • Instagram: @roamrlife

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