1972 Dodge Challenger on an M1009 CUCV military frame is YES

The subject of this post is cause for celebration, not reason to ask “But why?” We don’t know why this random Craigslist seller chose to marry the body of a 1972 Dodge Challenger with the frame and axles from a 1987 Chevrolet M1009 military vehicle. We’re here to appreciate it, thanks to The Drive, and maybe spend some time after dinner considering whether to buy it. Now that we’re on the same page, an owner in Tucson wants to rid his garage — or his Bullet Farm — of what appears to be an exceptionally well built conversion. Starting from the bottom, the M1009 CUCV, for Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle or “Cuckvee,” emerged from a program turning K5 Blazers into supply rigs that were meant to support hardcore hardware like the AM General Humvee. The M1009 got GM’s 6.2-liter Detroit Diesel V8, a TH400 transmission, an NP-208 chain-driven transfer case, a 10-bolt rear axle and 3.08 gears. Produced from 1983 to 1987, they returned “less than desirable” results in the field and the military unloaded them.

Not much of that remains for this build. The diesel got dropped, replaced by a 5.7-liter GM gasser with a four-barrel carb and long-tube headers, shifting though a 4L80E automatic transmission attached to a U.S. Shift Quick 1 transmission controller in the cabin. The seller doesn’t mention output, but if it’s a more recent Chevy 350 then it’ll certainly provide a healthy bump over the maximum 160 horsepower from the diesel, especially running through a custom Flowmaster dual exhaust. An NP-205 two-speed transfer case switches between 2H, 4L, and 4H. The Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear axles feature lockers and 3.52 gearing in back. Skyjacker Black Max provides the suspension to keep the 37-inch BFG KM2 on the pavement or the dirt. About 11,000 miles ago the owner rebuilt and upgraded the drivetrain, installing new accessories like a high-rise intake, four-core radiator, new alternator and Holley fuel pump.

Losing the K5 body for an E-body Challenger cap means losing M1009 features like the rifle rack and gas can mounts. But you gain style, something real hard to find on a vehicle stout enough to back you up when you tell the crew, “I’ve been to hell and I’m going back.” As part of that rebuild a few miles back, the minimalist interior got all new panels, dash and custom gauges, headliner, seats, and a Sony audio system with Alpine amps, a sub, and Kenwood speakers. Compromised vision out the back is partly restored with a back-up camera and a rear-facing LED light. As for the cosmetics, the listing says, “The body and paint on this car are clean and straight with only minor issues (as any 45 year old car would have) but is definitely a show stopper.”

The owner says he put $45,000 into the build, with receipts to prove it, and is asking $29,000. That’s a reduced price we’re told, but the number is $1,000 more than when the car showed up on Craigslist in the San Francisco Bay area two years ago with 7,300 fewer miles. This could be the same owner, in fact, since the Tucson listing says the car is in the Bay Area. 

Nevertheless, even for $29,000, where could you get a turnkey build with all the right components for that money? There are tons of cheap M1009 parts on eBay, but a decent frame is going to cost at least $5,000, and good lucking finding a donor Challenger body for less than frightening money. This is the American muscle version of the Porsche-911-based RS Syberia that was built on a Humvee chassis; it’s not as shiny as the Porsche, but it’s just as cool for a fraction of the price. And as another scribe wrote when the Challenger got put on the front lawn in 2017, “Listen, there will be racing after the world ends. You need to be prepared.”

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