There are really only two reasons why you might not know anything about Daystar’s Hemi-powered and tracked Jeep FC-170: You either didn’t make it to last year’s annual Las Vegas SEMA show or you’ve shunned civilization and the internet for a life of hermitage. The rest of us know about the off-road component maker’s resurrection of the seldom used much less remembered Forward Control.
Jeep’s 1958 FC-170 probably isn’t the first thing you’d consider building for the automotive aftermarket’s largest yearly gathering, of which millions of eyeballs have access to, but you’re not Daystar CEO Mark Turner, who’s got eight years of experience showcasing at the event. So much experience, it turns out, that Turner’s done the unconventional on more than one occasion, debuting the likes of a lifted Smart car and a JK Jeep flipped onto its roof right in the middle of his booth.
The Forward Control—which is really just Jeep-speak for cab-forward—commands your attention, but not in the sensational sort of way you’d expect from an off-road-equipped sub-micro-car or the top dog of a company’s own 4X4 plucked and plopped onto its topside. Start anyplace you’d like; it’s all impressive. Underneath the cab—because there is no hood—sits a late-model, 5.7L Hemi V8, which replaces the original ruins of an inline six-cylinder that sends torque not to a measly set of wheels and tires but to an assemblage of tracks (for SEMA, at least), together capable of slithering and grappling over just about anything.
Even the subtleties become obvious if you stare long enough, like the reworked and raised wood-lined bed that had to be made from scratch because, well, it turns out that the spare parts market for 57-year-old Forward Control body panels isn’t really a thing. “The bed was so rusted that it had to be replaced,” Turner says. “So our own sales guy, Terry Young, hand-built every part of the bed.” Details also lie in the custom-etched rear glass, outlining the many organizations that joined the build. Nothing epitomizes a more symbiotic relationship between a bunch of companies than permanently marking up the back of a freshly painted and restored classic. “It’s the little touches that make it over-the-top,” Turner points out.
It isn’t the etched glass or the tracks alone (which, by the way, can be bolted on and unbolted about as easily as a set of rims) that make Daystar’s FC so special, though. It isn’t the Hemi either, or even the white-on-green color scheme. It’s the Daystar sales guy who did the body work, the R&D technician who led the engine program, and nearly all of the rest of the staff who traded up their office chairs and keyboards here and there for a wrench or a sanding block. It’s no surprise that they choose to, either, especially after Turner explains that it was his employees who convinced him to keep the time-honored Jeep and build it up in the first place. “I bought the FC at a high-end auto auction,” he says. “I wanted to update it just for myself, but after a few weeks in I realized that it should be parted out.” Daystar employees disagreed, and a little more than six months later, the company’s FC gripped and clawed its way into the convention center exhibit hall and across the carpet.
Turner’s FC escaped being relegated to the parts-bin classifieds because of the good people of Daystar, but they’re just as responsible for everything it turned out to be. “Most of our employees helped a day here and a day there,” he says. “It really was a team build.” And for those things that the team wasn’t able to handle, Daystar’s trusted partners made happen, like Brent Ramsey who laid the custom paint with only a week to spare, and MagnaFlow who provided the universal muffler, piping, and exhaust cut-out that Turner and company would turn into a bolt-on system.
“The FC is my personal truck that I bought as something for me to drive around,” he explains. “But once so many employees became a part of it, I had to bring it to SEMA to show what our people can do.” Ask Turner what the company plans on using it for next and his answer is really pretty simple: “I’m driving it!”
Words by Aaron Bonk