Morris Hansen's Wrangler is well known in four-wheeling circles. After all, wedging a V-10 from a Dodge Ram pickup into a YJ is not an easy proposition. Needless to say, getting it to run correctly after the installation has occupied many hours of Morris' time. The installation is dialed in now, though, and Morris is reaping the benefits of all that horsepower and torque.
The 488ci V-10 was taken from a '95 Dodge Ram donor truck. Morris put together his own custom wiring harness using all-weather connectors. While the transmission that came with the truck was used first, Morris later opted for a custom 727 three-speed automatic in a special case that bolts directly to the V-10 without an adapter. This case was found in a corner of Walker Evan's shop. The new transmission is shorter and is much smaller overall than the OEM unit.
This allowed Morris plenty of room to install an Atlas II Highlander transfer case from Advance Adapters. The special Currie case allowed it to be rotated up an additional 12 degrees. This allowed the use of a custom crossmember that's separate from the skidplate and only protrudes 1-1/2 inches below the framerails. To keep the tranny cool, B&M tranny coolers with Perma Cool fans were installed. A Centech electronic fan controller that senses temperature from the temp gauge controls the fans. To keep the V-10 running cool in any situation, a Ron Davis two-core aluminum radiator was bolted in; it works very well, allowing the V-10 to run cool on the hottest days.
In its first post-swap incarnation, the YJ sported leaf springs front and rear. Morris tried springs from many manufacturers, mixing, matching, and augmenting the packs so they could handle the added weight of the V-10. Nothing worked well. Morris didn't give up, though. He just wanted a suspension that was worthy of the cutting-edge powertrain. Ultimately, he decided to go with coilovers from Sway-A-Way up front, along with Currie J-Arm lower links. For the rear, he contacted National Spring and had the company build custom 6-1/2-inch lift leaf spring packs.
Because he was changing suspensions, Morris decided this would be a good time to upgrade and go with new front and rearends as well. Currie Enterprises built a new front housing using a Tera 60R third member, 1-ton Dana 60 outer knuckles, hardened axles, Wilwood dual-piston disc brakes, 4.88 gears, and a Detroit Locker. The rear is a Currie shaved reverse Dana 60 housing that sports 4.88 gears, a Detroit Locker, 35-spline axles, and Currie rear disc brakes. Upon receiving the front and rearends, Morris went to work installing the bracketry for his custom three-link control arm design up front and the Currie adjustable leaf spring clamp in back. Frame mounts for control arms, leaf springs, and shackles were all moved up to provide more clearance in the rocks. A Navajo brake booster from Off Again ensures the disk brakes are up to any task.
After many years of fighting with the YJ's suspension, Morris is happy to report the Sway-A-Way coilovers and National rear leaf springs work! He played with getting the correct spring rates for the coilovers and hit it right on. An added benefit of the coilovers is that they are height-adjustable, making small attitude changes easy. The National springs are supple, even with 6-1/2 inches of lift, and they are holding up very well. All of the previous springs sagged immediately after being installed.
Tommy Lee supplied the power steering box, pump, and the steering ram that's attached to the backside of the front axle housing. A custom steering box brace keeps everything under control and attached to the frame. A cooler and filter from an '01 Ford F250 keep the power steering fluid cool. A custom 3/8-inch-wall, 1-3/8-inch tube tie-rod and drag link feature Heim joint rod ends and are super strong for stressful rock outings.
The interior was upgraded with a set of Beard RS seats with adjustable headrests and lumbar support. The Beard seats also came with custom bracketry that makes them a bolt-in proposition in the Wrangler. A Tuffy center console keeps small things secure in the open Jeep. Morris replaced every factory gauge with VDO instruments, an improvement he says he's still glad he did. He also installed the overhead compass/temperature console from the Dodge Ram donor vehicle in the custom rollcage. A Steel Horse carpet kit was installed, but not before Morris used substantial heat insulation on the floor of the tub to reduce interior temperatures from the engine and exhaust.
The Wrangler is painted Dodge Viper Metallic Blue. TJ flares were installed to make room for larger tires and wheels, which are currently Goodyear Wrangler MTRs mounted on 15x10-inch Center Line alloy wheels with Champion Beadlocks. A Warn XD900i winch was mounted on a Currie Rock Crawler II front bumper. Off Your Rocker corners, custom stainless rocker guards, and a Currie Rock Crawler rear bumper keep rocks at bay. All the body mounts were raised 1-1/2 inches to keep them away from rocks.
Morris' new YJ is a powerful and competent high-tech Jeep. After years of minute adjustments, the Wrangler is one of the finest you'll find in the backcountry. The V-10 has been sweet for some time now, but the new front and rearends and the suspension really raised the bar for this potent performer.