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2003 Jeep Wrangler TJ - Flight of the TJ

Posted in Features on October 1, 2007 Comment (0)
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2003 Jeep Wrangler TJ - Flight of the TJ

Like sequels to a successful film, Jeepspeed's lineup has expanded to include several additional Jeep models. Have you got an old J10 pickup that's begging to get flogged in the dirt? Jeepspeed's got a class for that. Has the new-car smell long since wafted away from your Grand Cherokee, making it ripe for a rebirth as a racer? Jeepspeed's got a class for that too. Finally, if you've got a TJ Wrangler that's begging to go faster, you'll find a newly built home for it in the Jeepspeed series.

Originally conceived to include '84-'01 XJ Cherokees, Jeepspeed's popularity has steadily grown through the years, with turnouts of 20 or more Jeepspeed entries at a given race. Rather than holding its own series, or piggybacking onto one racing series exclusively, Jeepspeed skips and jumps from one promoter to another. MDR, SCORE, and Best In The Desert are all home to a Jeepspeed round or two during the year. Indeed, Jeepspeed's schedule might be called "the best of desert racing" and brings to life Jeepspeed's motto of "A Jeep owner's club for racing, rallying, and adventure." About 2.4 million XJs were built between '84 and '01. They're easy to come by and economical to purchase, so why add to the fold? Two reasons come quickly to mind. First, the XJ's unibody construction tends to fatigue and crack when subjected to desert pounding, even with the addition of a rollcage. Second, owners of other Jeep models wanted in on the fun!

T&J Performance Center has been in the thick of the Jeepspeed world from the beginning. Owned by brothers Mike and Tom Barnett, T&J Performance has put its Jeepspeed experience to good use. The lessons learned on the racecourse translate directly into trailworthy performance parts. T&J's own lineup of Barnett Performance products is desert-bred and can help your Jeep survive off-road whether you're in the Mojave, Baja, or your own backyard.

The flying TJ on these pages is the first of its type to be built for Jeepspeed competition. A stretched wheelbase added stability that's as helpful in Moab as it is in the Mojave. King shocks, Rubicon Express suspension arms, and a Currie heavy-duty steering linkage are all tied together by a Barnett Performance Products SCORE-legal rollcage. Thirty-three-inch BFG Baja T/As are wrapped around American Racing alloy wheels. There's a longer list of mods that we'll get to in the photo captions, and each product makes this Jeep a better off-road contender. The best part? This TJ is still street-legal. All too often, sequels tend to tarnish that which went before. Not this time. Jeepspeed's new rules and classes are sure to turn a classic into an ever-growing saga.

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Out in FrontSince both ends of a vehicle must work together for overall performance, the front suspension is no less important than the rear. Rubicon Express was chosen for the front, joined by a pair of 3-inch King smoothies and a pair of King bumpstops. The RE front suspension kit converts the front four-link to a radius-arm configuration, which is both simpler and more rugged than a four-link by virtue of fewer moving parts. Steering was strengthened using a Currie heavy-duty linkage, and stability was gained via a Currie Antirock sway bar. A Precision Gear 4.88 ring-and-pinion set lives inside the stock Dana 30 housing, which was externally fortified by a Barnett Performance Products differential cover and a Barnett axle-gusset kit. The upper shock mounts are also Barnett items and delete the factory stem-mount style for a more conventional (and tougher) eye mount.

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Hindquarters The TJ's stock 93-inch wheelbase is downright sketchy at high speed, so T&J stretched it to the class limit of 102. The frame was notched for a relocated coil bucket, and a Rubicon Express LJ long-arm kit brings the rear axle into the desired location. The Rubicon Express Tri-Link upper control arms locate the rear axle laterally without using the stock Panhard bar. A Currie Antirock sway bar keeps the chassis stable through the corners. King bumpstops reside inside the Rubicon Express coil springs and carefully control the final 4 inches of compression travel. The rear axlehousing is a stock Dana 35, but the guts have been upgraded with 4.88 Precision Gear gears and an Alloy USA Super 35 axleshaft kit. Barnett Performance Products created a custom gusset kit for the Dana 35 housing. Not shown is a Currie tailshaft conversion kit at the rear transfer-case output.

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Race-ReadyT&J Performance Center has streamlined this build into a complete package. Imagine showing up at T&J with a stock TJ Wrangler and driving away with a vehicle that's ready to race or to tackle the trails with competence that's galaxies beyond the scope of a stocker. Turnkey packages start at $19,950 (not including the vehicle, which you must supply). For details, give T&J Performance Center a call at (714) 633-0991.

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Sources

Currie Enterprises
Corona, CA 92880
714-528-6957
http://www.currieenterprises.com
Rubicon Express
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
877-367-7824
www.rubiconexpress.com
T&J Performance Center
Orance, CA
714-633-0991
www.tandjperformance.com
King Shock Technology
www.kingshocks.com

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