It wasn't so long ago when our '01 Jeep Wrangler TJ was just another Solar Yellow Wrangler running around town in its factory form. However, after putting a few thousand miles on the odometer, both on-road and on-trail, it began a subtle transformation that would take years to complete. The first mod was a set of Warrior steel corners to cover up a dent received in the parking lot of our office building. The parts trickled in after that, culminating to an all-out cut-and-weld conversion using a Brute kit from AEV. We haven't shut the door on this project just yet. It took a set of 40-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires to reach its latest "finished" form.
Stuffing the 40x13.50R17 tires beneath the Brute was as easily done as said. A 5.5-inch Extreme Duty long-arm suspension from Rubicon Express had been installed five years prior, and along with a 1-inch body lift, was already clearing a set of 37-inch tires. Adding to that a coil-over shock kit from Poly Performance permitted fitment of 14-inch travel Sway-A-Way RaceRunner 2.0-inch remote reservoir coilover shocks up front and a set of 12-inch travel units in the rear. Both front and rear coil-over shocks were fitted with Eibach coil springs and paired with 4-inch stroke hydraulic bumpstops. Once the 40-inch tires were mounted on a set of 17x10 Allied beadlocks, they were mounted on the vehicle to check fender clearance. Although they did fit on the first try, we decided to raise the vehicle ride height a bit for some extra clearance by adjusting the coil-spring position on the shock body.
The Brute has actually been sturdy enough to handle 40-inch tires for some time. It received a set of Dynatrac ProRock 60 axles back when 35-inch tires were considered "big." The Dynatrac axles were fit with 35-spline axleshafts, 4.88 gears, and ARB Air Lockers, front and rear, and also included Dynatrac's heavy-duty steering knuckles, tie rod, and drag link. The steering system also received a ram-assist from AGR, which is a great aid in controlling the heftier 40-inch tires. A relocated track bar from Tri County Gear is another upgrade that assists in vehicle control with the 40-inch tires in place.
With the 40-inch Goodyear MT/Rs mounted on the Brute, we traveled to the California desert to give it a go. Aired down to about 10 psi, the tires performed remarkably well through sand washes and graded roads and even ably tackled rock obstacles. Where smaller tires would fall into a gap between the rocks and rely on additional engine power to lunge its way out, the 40-inch tires roll right over the gaps. Even if the gaps were big enough for the tire to fit into it, the taller stature of the 40 would keep the Brute more stably positioned, so it could use its lower gearing to crawl out of the gap without having to hit the skinny pedal. The higher ride height wasn't an issue either. The Brute held its ground on side hill and off-camber obstacles with skill. Rather than leaning over the whole vehicle, the extra few inches of rubber and long-travel shocks kept the rig rolling steady.
Far from being "done" by any means, 4WD&SU's Brute will continue as our parts guinea pig through the years as we come across innovative products that can make it better. We've only broken a few parts to date, so it will be interesting to see if the set of 40-inch tires will push it over the edge. Only time and lots of wear and tear will reveal its true capability. And luckily, we have the time to wear and tear on it quite a bit.