We're YJ fans around here. There's no other Jeep model that's so well suited for buying and building and `wheeling. Even though the TJ is becoming more and more affordable to purchase as the JK era progresses, the YJ still holds the ace as the Wrangler with the most bang for the buck.
Aftermarket support for the YJ is superb. Suspension systems run the gamut from replacement leaf packs to complete systems that ditch the leaf springs in favor of links and coilover shocks. Aftermarket tops range from minimalist bikini sunshades to full replacement fiberglass hard tops. Engine swaps have been perfected for the YJ, allowing the use of Ford or Chevy V-8 power in a package that looks like it rolled off of the Toledo assembly line that way. We could sing more praises, but you get the point.
Matt Mancinetti of Sierra Madre, California, knows exactly what we're talking about. He sought out a four-cylinder YJ for its low purchase price, and then proceeded to build it into the formidable trail machine on these pages. Matt sought out a four-cylinder YJ for its low purchase price because "It gives me a good excuse to make it into an eight-cylinder," he offered.
When we saw the "WDL Jeep" at the Hi-Desert Roundup, we could tell that someone had put eons of time and effort into the rig. Forty-two inch IROK's were only the beginning. Those IROK's attach to one-ton axles, which are suspended using custom four-link front and rear suspension systems. A full interior 'cage protects the occupants, while a Lowrance GPS and a Cobra CB keep Matt and his wife connected with other 'wheelers during trail rides in the So Cal area. It turns out that the owner himself was the one who'd put the time and effort into the bumper-to-bumper custom work.
With 1-ton axles, links and coilovers, a full 'cage, and 42-inch IROK's, there's only one piece needed to complete this puzzle. Matt is still running around on the original four-cylinder engine. Plans are in the works to yank the OEM drive train and replace it with a Chevy 350/Turbo 400/ Atlas II combo.
Get a good look at the front of this Jeep. As soon as the V-8 is in place you might never see the grille again. As we said, it's not what a YJ is, it's what a YJ can become.