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2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited - All the Right Stuff

Posted in Features on November 1, 2008 Comment (0)
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With many years of wheeling a fullsize 4x4 truck under his belt, Jim McGean of Huntington Beach, California, was eager to try out a somewhat more nimble rig. The Jeep's ability to fit into places the truck was too big to go was a huge selling point that made the '04 Wrangler Unlimited the perfect vehicle for his needs. With its 103.4-inch wheelbase, the Unlimited offers a truck-esque load-carrying ability for extended off-road adventures and can still flex its way through narrow canyons without rocks pinstriping both sides.

Jim McGean of Huntington Beach, California, built his '04 Jeep Unlimited for navigating tight trails and exploring backcountry. The rig is nimble enough to tackle narrow canyons, and the extended wheelbase creates ample storage space for multiday trips. A Safari Gard front bumper houses a Warn 9.5xp winch, and Poison Spyder Customs tube fenders help make way for the 37x12.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawlers on Walker Evans Racing beadlock wheels.

Jim has been tackling trails in one 4WD vehicle or another for 31 years. For the last 15 or so years as the founder and president of Dynatrac in Huntington Beach, he has been helping others tackle trails as well. Dynatrac manufactures some of the stoutest axle assemblies on the market, including its Trail Series Dana 44 and 60 units and its widely recognized ProRock 60, which has been turning competitive rockcrawlers into champions since its 2002 release. Since Jim's goal with his Jeep Unlimited was to attack tight, rock-strewn trails that he wouldn't attempt in his truck, he installed a set of the venerable ProRock 60 assemblies. Both the front and rear ProRock 60s offer more ground clearance than a Dana 44 and are built for abuse, using 40-spline axleshafts, 5.38 gears, and Detroit lockers. The front ProRock 60 is equipped with additional Dynatrac creations, such as the DynaLoc locking hubs, a Stub-Hub conversion kit, and a high-clearance crossover steering system.

The ProRock axles were installed along with a Rubicon Express Extreme Duty 5.5-inch long-arm suspension system. The RE kit features heavy-duty 4130 chrome-moly control arms and is paired with a set of Dynatrac SST shocks to clear 37x12.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawlers on 17x8 Walker Evans Racing beadlock wheels. Under the hood, the 4.0L I-6 mill and 42RLE four-speed auto transmission remain bone-stock and have served dutifully, but both are on borrowed time as far as Jim is concerned. If he were to start over from scratch, Jim says he would have installed a V8 Hemi and 545RFE five-speed auto trans during the initial build, since these days he finds himself too busy to take on such a conversion. Although, with the recent upgrade to 40-spline axleshafts, there may be a good chance he's planning on finding the time.

In order to avoid any torn or dented sheetmetal, Jim installed Poison Spyder Customs front tube fenders, rocker guards, and corner guards. Unlike the stock sheetmetal, these components can take a lot of abuse and still maintain a good appearance. The front and rear bumpers were also replaced with stouter components - the front receiving a Safari Gard winch bumper and the rear a Safari Gard bumper/tire carrier. The front bumper houses a Warn 9.5xp winch and the factory foglamps. The rear bumper supports a 37-inch spare tire and a Hi-Lift jack.

The interior of the Wrangler Unlimited offers all of the factory creature comforts with a few more thrown in for good measure. Wet Okole seat covers provide water and mildew resistance and keep the stock seats looking good. Also inside is a Dynatrac StowEdge cargo barrier and tie-down system. The StowEdge system was designed for Jim's personal needs in his personal vehicle, but once the first unit was in place and he realized how well it worked, he decided to offer it to the public. The StowEdge is still his favorite element of the vehicle since he can keep gear handy and under control, even on tough trails. The StowEdge also allows Jim to bring his best friend along for the ride by creating a flat deck area where his dog can better maintain footing if standing or have a nice spot to relax when laying down. Jim says that the StowEdge actually handles his gear almost as good as his pickup and is a great aid during his wheeling excursions to Death Valley, California, and various Nevada locales.

Jim hasn't permanently switched from a truck guy to a Jeep guy since he still gets behind the wheel of his fullsize Ford from time to time, but he's definitely made the switch for trail use. The functionality of his Jeep Unlimited allows him to pack for an extended adventure while maintaining trail capability for truly go-anywhere wheeling.

Specifications
Year/Make/Model: '04 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Owner/Hometown: Jim McGeanHuntington Beach, CA
Engine: 4.0L I-6
Transmission: 42RLE
Transfer Case/Low-Range Ratio: NP231J/2.72:1
Frontend: Dynatrac ProRock 60, 40-spline axles, DynaLoc locking hubs, Dynatrac Stub-Hub
Rearend: Dynatrac ProRock 60, 40-spline axles, DynaLoc locking hubs, Dynatrac Stub-Hub
Ring-and-pinion: 5.38
Front Differential: Detroit locker
Rear Differential: Detroit locker
Suspension: Rubicon Express 5.5-inch long-arm, Dynatrac SST shocks
Tires/Wheels: 37x12.50R17 BFG Krawlers/17x8 Walker Evans Racing beadlocks
Estimated Value: $45,000

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