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1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ - On The Road Again

Posted in Features on January 18, 2007
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A perfectionist of sorts, Al Wolford of Providence, Utah, can never leave well enough alone. He also knows no bounds when it comes to the impossible. Take his '97 Jeep TJ for example. A victim of a highway rollover, the TJ was purchased as a total loss and trailered into Al's shop, Wolford Collision Repair. Having owned a '78 CJ-7 and a '79 Chevy Blazer, Al had a soft spot for the totaled TJ and took it upon himself to see that the Jeep would 'wheel again. Consider it a challenge from the 4x4 gods, but Al wasn't about to let this one go without a fight.

Since the TJ's physical condition was in need of the most TLC and since bodywork was Al's specialty, he set out to reconstruct what was left of it. Once the shop had smoothed all of the panels back to their stock form, replacing those that were damaged beyond recognition, Wolford Collision Repair coated the now straight TJ with multiple layers of Sherwin Williams Green. After that, it was off to Mount Logan Off Road in Logan, Utah, for a bevy of aftermarket and custom accoutrements.

The first order of business for the now green TJ was enough flex in its stature to tuck a set of 37x12.50 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R meats beneath the fenders. The Mount Logan crew accomplished this goal by way of 8-inch Skyjacker coil springs and custom control arms and track bars, and addressed related steering issues using a Currie Anti-Rock Sway Bar setup. To ensure that the hefty tires would still turn under pressure, an AGR power steering box and pump were installed, along with a power steering cooler to maintain acceptable operating temperatures. The remainder of the suspension came in the form of Rancho RS 9000 shocks in each corner.

Since Al intended to tackle some pretty tough trails in his born-again TJ, drivetrain strength was a major issue. Mount Logan remedied this by way of a reverse-cut, full-float Dana 60 in the rear, stuffed with 4.10 gears and an ARB Air Locker and topped with disc brakes and Warn Premium Hubs. Similar treatment was applied to the front Dana 44, which also received 4.10s and an ARB, in addition to 3/4-ton U-joints and Moser Heavy-Duty axleshafts. Both units were built by Advanced 4WD in Salt Lake City. Channeling power to the front and rear via custom long-travel drivelines by Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts in Ogden, Utah, an Atlas T-case with a 4.3:1 Low range is mated to the stock three-speed auto tranny outfitted with an external oil filter and an extra-deep oil pan.

With every other aspect of Al's TJ built to the hilt, he wasn't about to install some scrub motor with below-average output. Staying with the Jeep tried-and-true 4.0L inline-six that the TJ came equipped with, Al upped the ante with a modified throttle body from Turbo City, MAP and timing sensors, a K&N filter, a Turbo City High Flow air tube, and a Flowmaster 2-1/2-inch exhaust. He topped off the engine bay with a four-core radiator and computerized idle control.

With everything rolling and running to the nines, Al had Mount Logan finish the exterior with front and rear custom bumpers with a Ramsey Platinum 9500 winch in front. Rock Slide Engineering in Logan designed the rocker panels, and Wolford Collision Repair installed the wide TJ fender flares. Moving to the interior, Mount Logan finished it to perfection installing a M.O.R.E. front cage kit, a Garman GPS III, a Cobra remote mount CB, and Auto Meter tranny and temperature gauges.

Some might call Al Wolford the white knight of the proverbial kingdom that is his '97 TJ. He came, he saw, and he took a chance on a less-than-likely rebuild candidate, a total loss left for dead. But that's what rebuilds are all about - making something from nothing and making it better than you could've imagined it might ever be. Luckily for this little Jeep, Al was willing to fight the good fight. And luckily for Al, he gets to reap the rewards.

Owner/hometown: Al Wolford/
Providence, Utah
Make/model: ’97 Jeep TJ
Engine: ’97 4.0L inline-six
Induction: TBI
Transmission: Three-speed auto
Transfer case: Atlas 4.3
Frontend: Dana 44, ARB
Rearend: Reverse-cut
Dana 60, ARB
Ring-and-pinion: 4.10
Suspension: Skyjacker 8-inch,
custom control arms
and track bar
Tires/wheels: 37x12.50R15 Goodyear
{{{Wrangler}}} MT/R/15x10
{{{Eagle}}} 589 with
Champion bead locks

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