Home » This Mighty Custom Jeep FC Is One Of The Coolest Overland Camping Rigs You’ll Ever See

This Mighty Custom Jeep FC Is One Of The Coolest Overland Camping Rigs You’ll Ever See

Mighty Jeep Fc Ts
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If you’re the kind of person who likes taking long journeys by off-road vehicle, you’re probably well aware that the overlanding world is full of wild custom builds, parts, and mammoth expedition vehicles. I’m continually surprised by the sheer scale of the overlanding industry. Many overlanding vehicles are built on awesome Toyotas, Jeeps, and even Fords, but I think I’ve found one of the coolest ones out there. This 1962 Jeep FC-170 build maintains the truck’s incredible looks but adds in some clever gear. It even has sealed-beam LED headlights!

If you go to the Los Angeles Auto Show this year, you’ll find a rather large display of custom overland vehicles. Most of them are things you’ve seen before, from the Easter Jeep Safari Grand Wagoneer to all sorts of trucks wearing roof tents on them. Overlanding, the activity of taking a long journey in a 4×4 with camping mixed in, has grown in popularity. It’s hardly a new thing, either, as people were “overlanding” decades before that term was even invented.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I was about to leave the overlanding area of the LA Auto Show before one vehicle stopped me in my tracks. This 1962 Jeep F-170 build sticks out in a crowd of roof tents, and it drew me in, oil leaks and all.

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Now, I won’t say this is the best overland vehicle or even a good one, because I haven’t driven it yet. However, its cool factor cannot be denied. The Jeep gathers a crowd on the show floor and when I showed people pictures of it, I heard expletives of appreciation. So, I’m definitely not alone.

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The Mighty FC

Admittedly, I’m not much of a Jeep person. Sure, I loved driving David’s clean XJ, but I didn’t find myself desiring to add one to my fleet. Really, few Jeeps really get my motor running. The exception to this, aside from Jeep’s weird diesels, is the Forward-Control. Oh yes, a cute cabover is an express lane to my heart.

1956 Jeep Fc 150 01
Jeep

The Jeep FC is a piece of history and I’ll let Jeep explain why:

In a bold departure from previous designs, Willys Motors unveiled its highly-maneuverable Forward-Control (FC) series of Jeep four-wheel drive trucks. These highly maneuverable workhorses featured a unique cab-over-engine design gave them a hoodless, flat-nose appearance. While its “cab forward” styling had little in common with traditional Jeep vehicle body design, the FC-150 was actually built on top of the existing CJ-5 chassis.

“More cargo space! On less wheelbase! And goes ‘anyplace’!” chirped FC ads of the time. And indeed, with the FC-150/170, workers and farmers had a vehicle that could go virtually anywhere (due to its eighteen-foot turning radius) while also hauling a load. The FCs were remarkably convenient trucks—their unusually low beds making them easy to load and unload—that enjoyed popularity in foreign markets.

Essentially work trucks – the cab-over-engine Jeep vehicles came in two models: an 81-inch wheelbase FC-150 with a four-cylinder F-head engine, and the 103.5 inch wheelbase for the FC-170 with a six-cylinder L-head engine. Both models included pickup, stake bed, chassis & cab, and assorted special editions including the clever FC-150 railway track inspection vehicle.

1956 Jeep Fc 150 03
Jeep

Something Jeep doesn’t say in its retrospective is that the FC was designed by none other than celebrated industrial designer Brooks Stevens. If you’re not aware of Stevens’ work, I’ll give you a handful of examples. Stevens is the mind behind many 1950s appliances as well as the designer behind the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, the Jeep Wagoneer, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha observation cars, and even an RV! Stevens was inspired by cabover heavy trucks and brought the design down to a smaller scale. As Jeep notes, this rode on a new body, but a familiar CJ-5 chassis.

Reportedly, one of Willys’ goals for the FC was to create a truck where the vehicle’s curb weight to payload ratio was 1-to-1. In other words, the FC is basically just a giant loading tray plus a cab. I sat in David’s FCs before he sold them and the cabs reminded me of sitting behind the controls of an old bus. The FC was born during a time of experimentation at Willys.

The FC-150 was introduced in 1956, featuring an 81-inch wheelbase, a 78-inch box, and up to 1,727 pounds of payload. Willys advertised a tight turning radius and said the FC’s cabover design allowed for 200 percent better visibility than the typical truck. Power came from a 134.2 cubic inch F-Head Hurricane four making 75 HP.

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2018 Jeep History 1950s Pillar J (1)
Jeep

A year later, Jeep released the FC-170. Built on a modified utility wagon chassis, the FC-170 was longer with a 103.5-inch wheelbase, wider, and carried a hefty 3,510 pounds in its bed. Willys met its goal of creating a truck with a payload matching its curb weight. Power comes from a 226.2 cubic inch Super Hurricane L-Head six rated at 105 HP and 190 lb-ft torque. The FC-170 also maintained a great turning radius, hooking in at 21 feet. To illustrate how tight this is, a 2008 Smart Fortwo has a turning radius of 14.3 feet!

This Jeep FC-170

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A Jeep FC-170 is already a great truck in stock form, but I like how builders 1st Gear Off-Road and Roy Wallace upgraded and modernized one for the job of overlanding. The completed build made its debut at the SEMA show, but now it’s here in Los Angeles, where it’s captivated this writer.

The folks at RealTruck say Wallace constructed this truck to be an off-road racing support truck. To achieve that, the factory engine was lifted out and a 5.3-liter LS V8 was dropped down into its place. That fires power through a 6L80 transmission to a 14-bolt differential in the rear and a Dana 60 in front. With power taken care of, the truck put on Raceline wheels and a bunch of parts from RealTruck’s expansive catalog.

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The truck wears a lot of custom one-off parts, from its Raceline wheels to its suspension, tires, and Summit Expedition Trucks aluminum flatbed, its aluminum box, Rugged Ridge bumpers, and more. There are a lot of Rugged ridge parts in this build, including bushings, snorkel, off-road jack mount, gas can, recovery kit, and even these sweet headlights.

From a distance, these headlights look like sealed beams but look closely, these things are LEDs! It’s a clever design and I’d love to see more of this with classic cars and motorcycles. Modern stuff can ruin a vintage look, but these lights look the part.

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The truck appears to be able to write checks it can cash. In addition to the aforementioned mods, the truck also has a roof rack a Warn winch, and custom hubs. There appears to be some decent protection underneath, though, the engine does seem a bit exposed. That chunky V8 was leaking oil out onto the floor, too! A Hinterlands Industries roof tent caps off the build.

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It gets even more awesome as this isn’t even Wallace’s only FC build. He has another four-door Jeep M-677 out there, too. Again, I’m not sure this is the ultimate overland build. But you know what? I bet driving this Jeep is a ball. It probably turns a ton of heads on the road as well. I’d love to see this beast off-road, or perhaps even drive it?

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(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)

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Ninefeet
Ninefeet
7 months ago

OK, it’s almost as cute as an UNIMOG !
Right on time for Christmas… the perfect vehicule for Santa

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago

I like this, it’s cool and different in a sea of SEMA builds that are neither.

That front bumper is awful though, it is an impressively poor fit for the 1962 cab.

Matt S
Matt S
7 months ago

This is kind of a Jeep of Theseus situation here. Other than the sheet metal of the cab, what’s left of the original 1962 FC in all of that?

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt S

Maybe some chassis. Maybe.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
7 months ago

Is it really an FC without a hand throttle and a plastic jug tied to a stick acting as your gas tank?

Erik Hancock
Erik Hancock
7 months ago

Call me crazy, but when I zoom in on that photo showing the oil leak, does it look to anyone else like the drain plug is just straight up missing? Might they have drained the oil for the show and then someone just forgot to replace it?

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hancock

Seems like the back bottom of the oil pan looks a little wonky.

Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
7 months ago

Now I want to convert my ’74 CJ5 to an FC

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago

To anyone who dares to climb out of that rooftop tent in the middle of the night to take a piss I give you my fondest of old show biz axioms…
Break a leg!

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
7 months ago

That’s really the problem with all roof top tents.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
7 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

Yup. The older I get the less high up I find myself willing to climb stuff.
As a teenager you could put a chainsaw in my hands and lift me up in the bucket of a backhoe to trim trees.
In my forties I try to refrain from getting anywhere close to the top rung of a ladder when cleaning out my gutters.

Last edited 7 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
7 months ago

I’m with you. I have a Stihl leaf blower with a big extension tube to clean my gutters from the ground. Sure, I get leaves and crap raining down on top of me, but I’ll take that to climbing on the ladder these days (also in my 40’s).

Ophidia
Ophidia
7 months ago

Just needs a little Velcro-covered hole in the side to stick your wiener out of in the middle of the night. The skeeters might still get it, though.

MrLM002
MrLM002
7 months ago

Jeep needs to make a new FC that is BOF with solid axles front and rear like the original.

Cab forward FTW!

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
7 months ago
Is Travis
Is Travis
7 months ago

Cool factor runs heavy on this, very heavy. That thing is exceptionally bad-ass.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
7 months ago

For those of you that love the FC but can’t acquire one for whatever reason, Matchbox and Hot Wheels have released 1:64 scale versions this year, which can be had for a couple of bucks each. The HW verision is a modded rig set up for serious off-roading, while the Matchbox version has a tipper bed and is stock. Both are very nicely detailed, jus sayin…

_ Carlos the Model Car Guy

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
7 months ago

Matchbox still gets me.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

FCs rule! Love to find one of these that hasn’t been sacrificed to ferric oxide. Like to stick a small Cummins turbo diesel in a FC 150. All the joys of driving a bus without the 40-foot tail. Thanks for the great write up!

Last edited 7 months ago by Canopysaurus
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

R2.8?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Yes

Lardo
Lardo
7 months ago

The driving position in a cab over is fantastic.Visibility, turning radius, etc. The only issue for me is the on the road comfort. You are sitting on the axel. Off road even more, it’s not gonna be smooth. So the real deal. I’m a poser. Really wanted a Mitsu Fuso. Got a Ford Transit instead and love it. Pseudo COE, front wheels turn almost 90 degrees. Smaller turning radius the F150 by 2 ft., easy-ish to park.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
7 months ago
Reply to  Lardo

The Transits drive very well and they’re quick with the Ecoboost V6!

Silent But Deadly
Silent But Deadly
7 months ago

Arguably, this Jeep was one of the inspirations for the 101 Forward Control Land Rover. Though at least LR went straight to the V8 for its power…

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
7 months ago

How in the hell is one supposed to get in and out of that tent. Giant 12′ ladder? High wire specialist?

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
7 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

Ladder from the overhang down to the bed. Or if that compartment behind the cab has a means of egress from inside, a short ladder and a trapdoor in in the top of the compartment/bottom of the tent platform.

MegaVan
MegaVan
7 months ago

The plastic mirrors are an interesting change. I’d have to see it in person to judge if they work well.

This is a rare “non-deluxe” version. No quarter window. Nearly all the models sold have that extra window – I like the appearance without it.

Seems like the M676, M678, or M679 (rarer cousins to the M677) would check all your boxes. Quirky diesel Jeep truck/van.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
7 months ago
Reply to  MegaVan

The mirrors are the same as the ones on a Jeep TJ that I had. So they’re still a (modern) Jeep part which adds some legitimacy.

I like that they didn’t mess up the interior — kept it simple; no extra dash padding or “styling”; instruments kept to a very normal collection of dials. Small screens for GPS and offroad systems are pretty normal additions for off-roading but they’re not taking over here.

All in all, it’s kind of like what might have been if Jeep had kept building the FC series — sort of an “American Unimog”.

MegaVan
MegaVan
7 months ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

Thanks for the TJ reference. Makes sense.

When I was pulling together parts for a build on one of these I was struggling with what mirrors to use because I had 4 doors with 4 different types of mirrors and, while not classy, these are at least functional.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago

Other than missing a skid plate under that chunky cast oil pan, this thing looks built to actually perform off-road. I like it a lot better than the multitude of over-the-top gimick-ey builds I see everywhere. States confidently, ‘Yeah, we can climb that’, instead of shouting, ‘I’m Instagramming: watch me do Technical Stuff on a Trail!! Oo, look: a drone dock!’

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