Our two-month project took 11 months but is finally just about finished. Like all projects, especially backyard projects, things took a little longer than expected with daily schedules getting in the way.
In case you're just joining us, Project Old School is a '91 Jeep YJ Wrangler we built retaining its "old-school" leaf-spring-under-axle suspension. The Jeep was built in the backyard and garage of our neighbor, Eric Maughan, just as they used to be in the "old" days. We installed a new 5.7 MPI Hemi crate engine from Mopar Performance, Advance Adapters' 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission and Atlas transfer case, Tom Wood's driveshafts, Currie Iron Jock 60 front and rearends, Currie front and rear bumpers, Deaver supple leaf springs, 36-inch Interco Irok tires on Mickey Thompson Classic II wheels with OMF beadlocks, a gas tank from Gen-Right, Master Power brakes, PSC power steering with hydraulic assist, Ford Grabber Blue paint by Elden Dattage Towing & Auto Repair, and more parts than we can count from 4 Wheel Drive Hardware that made our Project Old School YJ better than it was new.
Even with the Hemi, we wondered whether we would have enough power off-idle to spin the 36-inch Iroks that actually measure larger than most 37-inch tires and as large as some 38s. The 727 TorqueFlite has a 2.45 First gear, and we had only put 5.13 gears in the diffs. Our worries were unfounded. With the 1,800-rpm stall-speed torque converter, we can spin the big tires at will and, in fact, have to modulate the brakes a bit when trying to finesse at crawling speeds in the dirt. The Hemi provides instant throttle response and gobs of torque right off idle.
The rest of the YJ works as we hoped. The Deaver springs are soft and allow plenty of articulation, the Master Power power brakes afford plenty of stopping power, and the PSC ram-assist power steering allows us to use one finger to steer, even in the rocks. The Advance Adapters aluminum radiator and fan combo keeps the Hemi cool even on the hottest desert summer days. The Wrangler is even better than we thought it would be when we started this project.
4 Wheel Drive Hardware was our one-stop shop for parts to make our tired Jeep new again. Weatherstripping, a heater motor, interior pieces, seats, even front fenders and a windshield frame were a phone call away and made our restoration go smoothly. The only thing that didn't go smoothly was trying to figure out what torque converter, flexplate, and starter to use (see "Project Old School," part two, July '07). Now that we know what works, that's not a problem anymore and yes, we would DEFINITELY use the 5.7 MPI Hemi crate engine in another project. Project Old School is an unqualified success!