You may have noticed that the May '06 issues of Off-Road and Four Wheeler contained the same Land Rover feature written by Harry Wagner. This wasn't a feeble attempt by us to cheat our readers, nor did Harry submit the story to two magazines simultaneously, hoping for a double paycheck. It was all my fault.
About a year and a half ago, Harry submitted the Land Rover feature to us. It kept getting bumped because of space issues, so he asked if he could send it to Four Wheeler. I told him that would be fine. Jump ahead about a year. As I was laying out the May issue, I found this great Land Rover feature. You guessed it - it was the feature I had said Harry could send to Four Wheeler a year before. Since I had completely forgotten about the whole deal, I put it in the magazine. Unfortunately for us, Douglas McColloch at Four Wheeler decided to run this radical Rover in the May issue of his magazine too. He, of course, knew nothing about the situation.
You know the rest of the story. Out the feature came in the same month in both magazines, much to my embarrassment. So blame me, not Douglas or Harry. With that out of the way, let's move on to a different topic entirely.
I've just returned from Easter Safari in Moab, Utah, where I was able to get a really good look at Jeep's new '07 JK Wrangler. Jeep enthusiasts have been talking about the new '07 Wrangler, and much of the talk has been negative. Comments ranging from the new V-6 (it's not a new V-6, only a new application) not having enough power or torque to the gas tank location making the Jeep impossible to modify can be heard and read almost anywhere people are discussing Jeeps.
I'm going on record here to say that the '07 Jeep Wrangler will be the most competent off-road Jeep ever built as it rolls off the showroom floor in Rubicon trim. With it's body-on-frame construction (100-percent stronger!), electric, magnetic lockers in its Dana 44 front and rearends (32-spline axles in back), longer control arms, 32-inch BFG Mud-Terrain T/As, removable "Flenders" (integrated fenders and flares), three-piece hardtop that looks clean and modern, and even a windshield that still folds down, the new Rubicon Wrangler is a very competent off-road vehicle. The 3.8 V-6 has more horsepower and torque than the venerable 4.0L straight-six it replaces, albeit at higher rpm, but that problem's nothing that can't be solved with lower gearing in the differentials. As an aside, ring-and-pinion manufacturers should start working on 4.56, 4.88, and 5.13 gears for the new 44s right away. There'll be a big market for them soon!
Even the non-Rubicon, entry-level Wranglers get improvements. The new NVG241 transfer case gets a fixed output just like its NVG241OR big brother. Say goodbye to a slip-yoke on the T-case! The entry-level Dana 35 rearend is now a non-C-clip captive bearing style. It sports bigger pinion bearings, axleshafts, and stronger tubes.
The gas tank's been moved amidships, running down the righthand side. It does make triangulated upper rear control arms impossible to do, and it also hangs down about an inch under the frame and includes a wimpy skidplate. To me, it looks like a 1-inch body lift; modified tank brackets that lift the tank 1 inch and a heavier skidplate are just the ticket here. For those who want to 86 their rear Panhard rod, a fuel cell may be needed in another location.
The control arms are longer and actually angle slightly up from the frame to the axle. With the big fender openings front and rear, it looks like 37s could fit with a mild 3- or 4-inch suspension system. The control arms with a 4-inch lift would only have a mild downward angle; 33s will fit with no modification.
I like the new JK, and you're going to like it too, once the "it-isn't-like-my-old-Jeep" hysteria passes. Aftermarket companies and fabricators will have a field day with this vehicle, and I'm sure that within the next year we'll be seeing very nice, modified '07 Wranglers in the dirt. Starting about August, we'll be seeing lots of stock '07 Wranglers being driven by people who love their new Jeep in places stockers feared to tread before.Happy off-roading!