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1987 Jeep YJ Wrangler - Black & Tan

Posted in Features on January 9, 2007
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Kevin Hawkins' little green "Frog," a '48 CJ-2A that's been modified to the hilt, is well known in four-wheeling circles. His new flatfender, a '51 that's been built around a late-model Jeep and tube frame, is built for the rockcrawling competitions and extreme four-wheeling. Neither one of these Jeeps are street-legal.

Kevin likes to do all kinds of four-wheeling. He hasn't limited himself to extreme rockcrawling, but his vehicles have. If he wants to drive down to Moab from Salt Lake, he needs his truck and trailer, too. If he wants to head down to Canyonlands, or somewhere else to explore, the truck and trailer come along, and then have to be left somewhere that Kevin can ultimately return to. This makes one-way trips impossible. It was time to do something else.

That something else turned out to be an '87 Jeep YJ Wrangler that Kevin remodeled from the ground up. He ordered Currie high-pinion 9s front and rear, both equipped with Detroit Lockers and 4.56 gears, and, up front, Warn hubs, hardened axles, Chevrolet truck knuckles, and disc brakes. The rearend was ordered with Ford Explorer disc brakes.

He started by reinforcing the frame to accept his suspension design. That design uses National leaf springs front and rear. Up front, Kevin fabricated his own shackle reversal, with the front mounts tight against the frame for better clearance. When ordering the frontend from Currie, he had them adjust the caster angle to work with this. The front springs are spring-over-axle, again for better ground clearance. In back, Kevin mounted the 5-inch-longer leaf springs outside of the frame and above the frame's bottom line. This helps with stability and gets rid of that pesky rear spring hanger that hangs up YJ owners all the time. The rear springs are spring under, to negate spring wrap on steep climbs. Rancho RS 9000s painted black were installed at each corner.

For motive power, Kevin chose to mount a 350ci V-8 from a late-model Chevrolet 1/2-ton pickup in the YJ frame using motor mounts from M.O.R.E. He installed a throttle body and harness from Howell Engine Developments. To keep things cool, Kevin chose a Be Cool aluminum radiator and a transmission cooler from Earl's. Interestingly, when Kevin ran the YJ the first few times, it ran too hot. He thought this was strange because the Be Cool radiator is a quality product, so he started trying things. He found that by using a smaller heater hose orifice (a GM part), the water flow was slowed down. This allowed the super-efficient Be Cool radiator to do its job. A K&N air filter and stainless steel exhaust system, including mufflers from B&B Fabrication, handle breathing chores.

A 700-R4 automatic was bolted up behind the V-8. Behind that, an Advance Adapters Atlas transfer case with a 3.8 Low-range was installed. Kevin put a Chrysler output shaft in the 700-R4 so he could eliminate the spud shaft and use the small adapter to keep his rear driveshaft longer. This worked great, but Kevin found that he could order an Atlas with the Chevrolet output shaft directly from Advance Adapters. This would have been easier, but he used what he had. The Atlas was rotated so nothing hung below the framerails.

Kevin is known for his quality fabrication work, so it's no surprise that his own Jeep would be a showpiece. He raised the 20-gallon Jeep fuel tank 1 inch and installed a GM fuel pump inside it. A custom aluminum skidplate protects the tank. A 1/4-inch aluminum skidplate protects the whole centersection of the Jeep and is completely flat, making those steep breakovers easy. Kevin also fabricated custom front and rear bumpers and stainless steel rocker guards. To protect himself and others in the Jeep, he built a custom halo-style rollcage. TJ flares help clear the 35x12.50R15LT Goodyear Wrangler MTRs, which are mounted on 15x8-inch alloy wheels with Champion bead locks.

Inside, long trips are kept comfortable and safe with leather seats from FloFit and RCI Racing seatbelts. An Art Carr tranny shifter keeps Kevin in control. Kevin likes the factory top, so he kept the hardware and purchased a Replace-A-Top from Bestop, with tinted rear windows. The Bestop top installs using the factory hardware, just like OEM. A soft top isn't too secure when it comes to valuables, so a Tuffy YJ glovebox was bolted in. Up in front of the grille, which was powdercoated by Powder Works, a Warn 9500i waits to handle pulling duties.

Kevin realized his goal of building a true dual-purpose Jeep. He can take on the toughest trails, yet still drive on the street. Also, it gets cold in Utah during the winter, and Kevin reports that the heater in the YJ works great.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown: Kevin Hawkins/
Salt Lake City, Utah
Make/model: ’87 Jeep YJ Wrangler
Engine: 350ci Chevrolet V-8
Induction: Howell TBI
Transmission: 700-R4 automatic
Transfer case: Atlas/3.8:1
Frontend: Currie high-pinion 9
with a Detroit Locker
Rearend: Currie high-pinion 9
with a Detroit Locker
Ring-and-pinion: 4.56:1
Suspension: Custom National
springs, Rancho RS
{{{9000}}} shocks
Tires/wheels: 15x8-inch alloy wheels
with Champion bead
locks/35x12.50 Goodyear
Wrangler MTRs

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