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2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ Unlimited - Austin's Unlimited

Posted in Features on October 1, 2009
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A time-honored American father/son tradition is building a vehicle for the kid to drive when he gets his license. Traditionally, the project vehicle is a total basket case or at least rough around the edges.

Not so with the Sager family. Daddy Bob - a 4x4 industry veteran whose rsum includes counter jobs at long ago shops Dick Cepek and Off-Road General Store - picked up a clean, barely-used cream-puff from a real Orange County housewife, who drove it to the Crystal Cathedral on Sundays (or something like that). This low-mileage 2004 TJ Unlimited (LJ) was nearly showroom-pristine.

Backtracking a bit, Sager's son, Austin, is a hot-foot BMX racer. For the rare weekends when father and son are both at home, Bob wanted a vehicle project to give Austin sweat-equity in something he'd drive once he got his license. Bob is now Superlift's regional sales rep, so this father/son LJ also serves as a West Coast demo vehicle for the long-arm system. Keeping with the current trend of biggest-possible tires with least amount of lift for street-ability, Bob decided on a Superlift 4-inch kit instead of the 6-inch system. He ultimately fit 37s in the fenderwells.

Jay Parodi of Tri-County Gear in Pomona, California, helped Bob install the kit. The Superlift system uses a multi-piece bellypan assembly to protect the geartrain and also to serve as mounting points for the internally-swiveling Rockrunner link arms. The job requires drilling and sleeving several holes through the framerails: Superlift frame brackets support a two-piece pan setup, which allows the 3/16-inch-thick transmission crossmember piece to remain in place if the beefy 1/4-inch-thick outer plate needs to be removed for fluid changes and routine drivetrain servicing. Bob opted for the nearly flush Flat Pan Kit from Superlift's Black Diamond division. This pan is profiled for maximum ground clearance but tucks the transmission up tight. Instead of modifying the floorpan, Bob installed a Daystar 1-inch body lift to get the proper clearance.

The Superlift kit's other main feature is its eight swiveling Rockrunner arms. They're contoured to allow full steering, complete driveshaft clearance, and good ground clearance. The internally-threaded design uses OE-style steel/rubber and urethane eye bushings instead of Heim ends. By combining threaded DOM tubing with traditional ends, the arms don't bind/limit articulation - which isn't always the case with Heim ends. (Superlift engineers tested a huge-articulation three-link front system, but it ate bushings.) The four-link Rockrunner setup went into production as a best-of-all-worlds combination of off-road travel/articulation, on-road predictability (the swiveling arms permit caster to be accurately dialed in), and component durability. For shocks, Superlift SSR monotubes with remote reservoirs got the nod. Other suspension details include rear threaded-style swaybar disconnects, custom Tri-County Gear rear swaybar mounts, front Currie Antirock swaybars, Superlift adjustable track bars, and Bulletproof braided-steel brake hoses.

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After the main kit was on, Mel Wade at Off-Road Evolution installed a Black Diamond Rear Coil Correction Kit. This eliminates the forward-leaning stance of the rear coils, restoring spring rate, ride height and suspension travel because the springs no longer push the axle rearward during droop. This also makes weight transfer more predictable during hill climbs, limiting that endo feeling.

Next, Bob shoehorned in BFG 37s with some help from Gen-Right. The company's Hi-Fender kit uses steel tube fenders to increase wheel-well clearance. It also offers Stealth LED marker lights as well as re-mounting brackets for the components formerly attached to the OE inner fenders. For cost-effectiveness, the OE hood is trimmed to create the extra clearance.

Gen-Right finished the Hi-Fender makeover with its rear 3-inch-flared tube fenders and rear corner guards, tying the two together with rocker guards. Bob liked the Gen-Right look so much that he added a Boulder Series rear bumper/tire carrier, a front Stubby bumper, and a 31.5-gallon Crawler Enduro aluminum gas tank with skid plate.

To visually match the fenders, Bob and Austin installed Bestop Element tube doors. Other Bestop additions include a bikini top, entry guards, billet fuel door and dash overlay. Knowing that the Jeep would be at shows and runs, Bob had the doors, fenders, and other components powdercoated in the OE silver by Kelly at Specialized Coatings in Huntington Beach, California. Final exterior additions are a Warn 9.5ti winch, Hella H4 headlights, a pair of 140-watt KC SlimLite driving lights, and a 48-inch Hi-Lift X-Treme jack with a Daystar isolator.

Interior upgrades improve comfort and functionality. MasterCraft Rubicon seats give great support for long days on the trail. To keep personal effects safe and secure, the Sagers installed a Tuffy Series II full center console. A Daystar dash panel helps organize small items, and the Jeep also got trick Daystar vent switches to activate the lockers. A Powertank CO2 tank is mounted to the cage as a portable onboard air source.

Power was also bumped up to better turn the 37-inch BFG Krawlers on Mickey Thompson-based OMF scalloped beadlocks. Bob and Austin added an AEM intake with an Edge Trail Jammer engine module and high-flow throttle body. A Magnaflow cat-back improves breathing on the back end. To add a few more horses, Bob is investigating the recently released Superchips Flashpaq Jeep tuner, which also recalibrates the speedometer for the big tires.

Before debuting the Wrangler at TDS 2009, Bob knew he'd need to upgrade the axles. Up front, Off-Road Evolution swapped in a Dynatrac Mopar JK Pro Rock 44, which has fatter shafts than standard Dana 44s as well as an electric locker. Chromoly Currie steering linkage was also added. In the rear, Tri-County Gear beefed up the Dana 44 with Alloy USA shafts, 5.13 gears, an ARB Air Locker and a Dynatrac cover.

Now that the Unlimited is finished, Bob and Austin are looking for another father/son vehicle project. A 2010 Dodge Ram HD is a possibility.

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Year/Make/Model: 2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ Unlimited
Owner/Hometown: Austin Sager/Huntington Beach, CA
Engine: 4.0L I-6
Induction: MPI
Transmission: 42RLE 4-speed automatic
Transfer case/low-range ratio: NVG231/2.72:1
Front end: Dynatrac Mopar JK Pro Rock 44
Rear end: Dana 44, Alloy USA shafts, ARB Air Locker, Dynatrac cover
Ring and Pinion: 5.13
Suspension: Superlift 4-inch long-arm kit, Black Diamond rear coil correction kit, Superlift SSR remote-reservoir shocks, Currie Antirock swaybars
Tires: 37x12.50R17 BF Goodrich Krawler T/A
Wheels: 17x9 Mickey Thompson Classic II with OMF scalloped beadlocks w/Rock Domes, Spidertrax spacers

PhotosView Slideshow

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