If you ask Dan Elkins a question about his '92 Jeep Wrangler YJ, you better be prepared for a long answer. Not that the Palm Desert, California, resident is overly verbose; it's just that he's one of the proudest Jeep owners we've ever met. Starting from scratch with his YJ, Dan had the opportunity to oversee every step of its transformation. As a result, he knows it inside and out like no other. When problems arise, Dan solves them. When parts break, Dan replaces them. Even during those times when he was pulling his hair out and asking what he'd gotten himself into, he was never too far from solving the dilemma.
Upon settling into a vehicle buildup, knowing exactly what you want to build is quite beneficial. While many might spend weeks mulling over exotic suspension designs, tire size, and drivetrain and axle combos, Dan knew from the start what he wanted. Axles were his first venture into the buildup. A trip to Currie Enterprises produced a set of high-pinion 9-inch assemblies complete with Detroit Lockers, 4.56 gears, Warn locking hubs, and Chevy 1/2-ton and Wildwood disc brake setups. The front assembly also received some extra girth in the form of CTM U-joints and Warn chrome-moly axleshafts. The basic leaf-spring suspension design was deemed worthy enough to suit his needs, and 2-1/2-inch Skyjacker Softride lift springs were installed in a spring-over configuration on greasable shackles. Bilstein 7100-series and Rancho RS9000 shock absorbers took on dampening duties, while a front Currie Antirock antisway bar and a rear Tri County Gear antiwrap bar addresses handling and axle wrap issues. Once riding high, Dan topped the YJ off with a set of 37x12.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawler T/As mounted to 17x8-inch Weld wheels. An AGR ram-assist steering system helps with navigating the hefty meats.
Leading up the rear Tom Wood's CV driveshaft, an Atlas II 4.3 transfer case is mated to an Art Carr 700R4 transmission. A '96 5.7L LT1 V-8 resides under the hood and is equipped with ceramic-coated Edelbrock headers and aluminum heads. To effectively maintain optimum operating temperatures, Dan installed a BeCool aluminum radiator and a heavy-duty GM mechanical cooling fan. Inside the cab, Dan had Tri County Gear outfit his YJ with a full rollcage, then went on to stuff the dash with Auto Meter gauges and a factory A/C system. Corbeau Targa seats were also installed, along with a Tuffy security console. Moving to the exterior, Dan equipped his rig with Currie bumpers, with the front housing a Warn 9,500ti winch. A Tri County Gear belly skidplate was installed to ward off rock damage, as were rocker skids. Dan also replaced the stock fender flares with Jeep TJ units.
Not overbuilding his rig proved to be the most difficult task in the Jeep's construction. "It's easy to get caught up in the rockcrawling thing, you know," Dan offered. "Forty-inch tires, Dana 60s, more wheelbase -- you have to draw the line somewhere. This is my ideal of an awesome all-around Jeep that's street legal and lots of fun to drive. And it works well everywhere, from Moab to the Hammer trails." Although Dan built his rig with his own hands, he still credits his father for handing down the familial mechanical skills, as well as Jason Bunch of Tri County Gear and John Currie of Currie Enterprises for their advice and expertise. But it was still Dan on top of and under the rig every weekend that brought this YJ to fruition. With lots of time and lots of attention to detail, he succeeded in creating a trail-worthy 4x4 that he isn't afraid to talk about.
•Vehicle: '92 Jeep Wrangler YJ
•Owner/hometown: Dan Elkins/Palm Desert, California
•Engine: '96 5.7L LT1 350 V-8
•Induction: Sequential port
•Transmission: Art Carr 700R4
•Transfer case: Atlas II 4.3
•Frontend: Currie 9-inch with Detroit Locker
•Rearend: Currie 9-inch with Detroit Locker
•Suspension: 2-1/2-inch Skyjacker springs, Bilstein shocks
•Wheels/tires: 17x8-inch Welds /37x12.50R17 BFG Krawler T/A KX