While plenty of project vehicles have roots on Craigslist, it’s not very often an OEM build starts that way. Yet that’s the case with the righteously bad-ass rig you see here, a 1968 Kaiser Jeep M-715 plucked from the Carolinas by Jeep designer Chris Piscitelli and almost completely overhauled from a Vietnam-era military mule into the star of the 2019 Moab Easter Jeep Safari.
While the shape and general layout of the truck is familiar to anyone who’s seen an M-715, very little of the vintage example went untouched. One of those elements is the windshield, but the surround was chopped by 3.5 inches and a custom soft top was created to fit the lower greenhouse. The bed was tossed in favor of a new six-foot box fabricated from aluminum and outfitted with “Gin” and “Tonic” jerry cans, water-jet-cut panels, and strips of red oak lining the floor to bring a bit of richness. The taillamps now have LED innards, while on the sides the rocker panels have been replaced with rock rails and NA Mazda Miata door handles are used on the tops of the doors.
All front body panels are formed from carbon fiber; the brushed-metal look is a vinyl wrap chosen to match the bed. The grille of the M-715 is more upright than it seems, so in order to get the sharknose look he desired, Piscitelli canted its top edge forward by an additional 1.5 inches or so. Finally, the headlamps are Rigid LED bars installed in a Gladiator Rubicon bumper and the original headlight buckets now house high-intensity KC off-road lights.
Those lights sit just ahead of a Hellcrate V-8, the off-the-shelf version of the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 of Hellcat fame, making more than 700 horsepower and hooked to an automatic transmission. The Five-Quarter—the name is a reference to the M-715’s 1¼-ton payload rating—sits on the refurbished original frame, but its overall length is shorter, the wheelbase is increased slightly, and the axles are wider by two or so inches. Those pieces, by the way, are Dynatrac ProRock lockers—a 60 up front and an 80 at the rear—with 4.88 gears; they’re painted gold and the top of the rear diff has a sticker with Yukon Cornelius from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stop-motion special slapped on top.
The interior has been as thoroughly reworked as the outside, with Piscitelli citing the P-51 Mustang as an influence on its red lighting and green paint color. The steering wheel is a custom piece with a vintage center, while the seats are JL Wrangler units wrapped in distressed leather and modified without headrests for a super-cool lowback look. The dashboard and door inners have been perforated with the same water-jet technique used on the bed, and the M-715’s light switch now actuates the lockers. The original data plaques are screwed to the center console, which incorporates an 8-71 supercharger casing as the housing for the transfer-case and transmission levers. Just aft of the cab is the original passthrough used to hold stretchers; it’s now serving as the Five Quarter’s glovebox.
Thoroughly reimagined and painstakingly considered, the Five-Quarter immediately joins the Mighty FC and J-12 concepts from 2012 and the Wagoneer Roadtrip from 2018 among our absolute favorites among Jeep’s Easter Safari builds. A sort of hot-rod counterpart to the more traditional 2018 Crew Chief 715, it’s a script-flipped take on a piece of Jeep heritage that still pays proper respect to truck on which it’s based. That truck, by the way, topped out at 43 mph when Piscitelli first took it for a spin; something tells us the Five Quarter can go a hell of a lot faster than that. A lucky few will get to confirm this when the truck heads to Moab for the 2019 Safari.