1993 Don-A-Vee/Leduc Grand Cherokee Vintage Racer

TrailReady

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Starting this thread to share my efforts to preserve this historical factory race Jeep. I plan to race it in a variety of events including Jeepspeed, Sonora Rally, NORRA Mexican 1000 and any other 4x4 Rally type events we might find. After racing the SC/Rambler a few times at NORRA, I began looking for a vintage Jeep race car, having been a long time Jeep enthusiast. I saw this on in the RDC classified spring of 2020. As soon as I saw I was looking at a Curt Leduc built factory Jeep race car, I made arrangements to buy it. I'll add posts and photos as I find time to share it's history from 1993 build and Baja 1000 win to present day. Anyone with direct knowledge of the car is welcome to chime in!!
 

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TrailReady

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I've enjoyed some great conversations with both Clive and Darren Skilton regarding the two 1993 Grand Cherokees that Jeep Engineering shipped to Don-A-Vee Jeep. Clive had Curt Leduc build these twins out with chromoly cages. They have a unique rear window treatment that locates the transmission coolers and parker pumper intake that makes the two Jeeps easy to identify in old photos. There's alot of gray haired guys comparing notes on the history but either both arrived with the 5.2L V8 and one was changed to a 4L upon arrival, or it was delivered that way. The intent was for one to compete in class 7 mini stock with 6 cylinder and the other in an 8 cylinder class (shown as number 866 here in 93 and 301 in 94). The red V8 car is also identifiable by the larger openings in the skid plate through the years. The action photos were found and purchased at www.tracksidephoto.com
 

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Bro_Gill

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So if I remember correctly, they were originally built to run in Stock Full and Mini Stock. At the first race, pretty much the entire class was DQ'd by Savage for rules infractions. The Jeeps were hammered for over sized wheel studs. It turned into a chitshow. I seem to remember some complaints about the bottom of the plastic front bumper valence being cut off as well. Some of the rules in these classes were stupid, like the 'must run stock dash' rule. I would love to see any pics you take of how the cage work ties into the unibody structure. Curt I am sure massaged that work into the suspension pick-up points.
 

TrailReady

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I cant find any evidence that the cars were raced in 1995. Clive says the 6 cylinder one went to Europe as a DAKAR show car. Here's what is probably a rendering for that purpose. And a photo of the car with the same livery raced by Curt Leduc in the 1997 Baja 500 race. Note his unlimited number 43 on the car! Perhaps the TT Jeep was unable to make a race and he used this one to say in points? The third photo is the same 4Liter car with what is probably early JeepSpeed concept livery around 2000 when Jeepspeed was conceived.
 

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TrailReady

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So the 4Liter car spend time as a show car, then sold to a guy in Utah that had it from 2000 to 2009 (no evidence it was raced during that time) . Meanwhile, the V8 car was either rented or purchased for Yokohama racing efforts, shown here in 1996 Baja 1000 with Ikuo Hanawa and later with an unknow Yokohama driver (now with the fiberglass fenders). According to Clive, it was with the unknown driver that the car was wrecked bad enough that after taken to Curt Leduc for repair, it was determined that the car could not be saved.
 

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jon coleman

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So if I remember correctly, they were originally built to run in Stock Full and Mini Stock. At the first race, pretty much the entire class was DQ'd by Savage for rules infractions. The Jeeps were hammered for over sized wheel studs. It turned into a chitshow. I seem to remember some complaints about the bottom of the plastic front bumper valence being cut off as well. Some of the rules in these classes were stupid, like the 'must run stock dash' rule. I would love to see any pics you take of how the cage work ties into the unibody structure. Curt I am sure massaged that work into the suspension pick-up points.
mine was built all cro mo, & yes, All pick up points visited the Chromoly massage parlor, yes TR, MORE PICS!😀
 

TrailReady

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So the V8 car is now out of the picture and the car I have is the 4Liter car. Since Clive bought the car back from Will Snitchler of Utah in 2009 it has been raced in JeepSpeed events by various drivers including Darren Skilton, Skylar Gambrell, Garett Allred and me. The car has won ALOT of JS races! When my TT couldn't be made ready for the 2020 V2R and the Jeep was sitting in the corner, untouched since we bought it a couple months prior, we're like WTH, lets race the Jeep! in a class of 5 1700 cars we won that race. I was already determined to change the Jeep into a V8 car like its long lost sister car so for 2021 we had a V8 on order and moved the car to 2700 class which allows V8, 35" tires and additional 2" of suspension travel, which was well within the limits of the cars suspension geometry and king shock package. We won 2021 Parker 425 in a class of one :( .
So that's the car history as I know it. Next I'll share the work we've done to the car while taking care to preserve the original Skilton/Leduc build. Next race for this car is the SONORA Rally.
 

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TrailReady

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We raced the Jeep the two times, having really done no meaningful prep on it. It is a blast to drive and the suspension works so good it almost defies common wisdom on how a limited car like this should respond to being pushed through the rough. My face hurt from grinning non stop!! Only complaint is so little power which lead me to the decision to make this a V8 version of the original. Second, and this goes to our lack of prep on the car, we ran both races with the water temp pegged the entire time. Either that's how the car has always run or we just could never get all the air out of the cooling system. So my racing partner John tackled the motor swap project, including a completely new cooling system, and while we had it apart we make a completely new wiring harness too. While this represents some nice upgrades, we are putting effort into preserving the original build visually. Here's some photos of that cooling work. Front and rear coolant radiators, new trans coolers in the back windows and heat exchangers for the engine oil.
 

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TrailReady

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Some motor work photos. Plated the front unibody area. Nogrady 5.9 makes 450 hp on pump gas. Upgraded to a 727 transmission.
 

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TrailReady

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Here's the car before the 2021 Parker 425. After this race we changed to a 16" wheel with TR beadlocks added to fit the larger brakes we'll need with the new motor.
 

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jon coleman

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that was my goal, put a v8 in my 1700, we built the chassis allready to go for the swap, chro mo plate EVERYWHERE, then ran out of money, someday i would love to see it with a v8,
 

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OK Larry you got me interested.
I will trace some of the history of your Grand Cherokee. It came to us at Don-A-Vee Jeep direct off the assembly line paid for by Jeep engineering. Jeep marketing would not assist. It was a 6 cyl as all the wiring harness stayed in place so all the street legal stuff and accessories would work . We removed the air.
Curt built this 6 cyl and a V8 for SCORE Stock Mini and Stock Full. They were finished just a couple of days before the 1993 Baja 1000. With zero test time we drove them on the street to Mexicali direct to tech. There were 23 entries in combined Stock Mini and Stock Full including Rod Halls Hummers and a group of Land Rovers from England. The V8 timed out but your 6 cyl won its class with a time faster than Stock Full Hummer by under a minute.
Following January1994 we went to Parker. All the stock Full and Mini guys were complaining other teams were cheating. Bill Savage said he would sort it out. He actually DQ'd every finisher as they crossed the line , so as it was happening we stopped Eric Heiden in our Grand Cherokee a couple of miles from the finish and DNF'd but he was given the win as we dodged the DQ bullet and covered the most mileage. After Savage cleaned up his requirements for the Class we raced it with success.
Not that we cheated, but we used the rules to our advantage in 1997 , when this Stock Grand Cherokee was entered as Curt's TT #43 in the Baja 500. In those days points went to the race #. Curt was racing short course back east that weekend. After the start I parked on the blvd for about 45 mins after the first left turn, and let a bunch of racers go by. John Kearney and I got it to the finish line in 5th place TT (just 5 finishers ) But it got enough points for Curt to win TT Championship that year,
In the year 2000 the Jeep was sold to Will Snithler. I think it raced in Washington / Oregon area still on the old Rancho Lightning rod shocks ( which we still have). I bought it back around 2012 when Advertised on Race Dezert and T&J Performance made it fit Jeepspeed Class 1700 with long arm kit and Bilstein 9100s. Skyler Gambrell christened it "Old Grandad" and won a bunch of Jeepspeed races.
I think it was around 2015 Brad Allred bought it. His teenage son Garrett entered the Parker 425 and got 1st Place in his first race. The Allreds made more improvements including the King Shocks that are still on it.
Now Larry has it and installed a big HP V8. I hope Old Grandad doesn't get sick and reject this transplant.
This Jeep has probably done more race miles in the USA than any other Jeep. Good luck with this historic Jeep in the future Larry. So looking forward to see it racing one more time.
 

Tom_Willis

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Was this the jeep where the night before the B1k the motor had an issue, and legend has it they basically broke into a Chrysler deal in SD, took another Cherokee right off the showroom floor, & swapped out the oem motor in the Villa Marina hotel parking lot to make the race?
 

jeepspeedcom

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Was this the jeep where the night before the B1k the motor had an issue, and legend has it they basically broke into a Chrysler deal in SD, took another Cherokee right off the showroom floor, & swapped out the oem motor in the Villa Marina hotel parking lot to make the race?
Tom. Like so many stories close but just a little different. It was the V8 driven by Ikuyou Hanawa from Japan sponsored by Yokohama.. Lost a motor prerunning the day before the race. Asked if he wanted to fix it, or swop it out ,he said CHANGE MOTO! We call Gavin Skilton at the Don-a- Vee dealership in Bellflower who showed up with new motor. Swopped in the parking lot . Not sure where he found it. I will have to ask. Ikuyou and Barrie Thompson finished just inside cut off time.
 
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