A stock rig is like a blank canvas, full of potential yet daunting at the same time. Where's the best place to start? Dave Ospina of Covina, California, presented this "dilemma" to Tri-County Gear's Jason Bunch. Drawing on decades of experience building and driving Jeeps, Jason had a definite answer: "Let's start in the middle."
In the middle of almost every YJ you'll find an NP 231 transfer case, which is a decent 'case that benefits from prevalent aftermarket support. What could be better than a well-built NP 231? An Atlas 4sp. Most transfer cases offer a high-range ratio and a single low-range ratio. The Atlas 4sp gives its owner the option of 4-hi and the choice of not one, but three low-range ratios. This array of low-range ratios means you can shift into an ideal ratio for mud, mild trail work, and creepy-crawly hardcore obstacles. This versatility adds up to a rig that's adaptable to almost any trail situation.
Dave's '93 YJ emerged from its first trip to Tri-County Gear as a sleeper; it had the mighty Atlas between the framerails, but was otherwise stock. It was time for a trail test, Cougar Buttes style. Tri-County doesn't stop at turning wrenches; customers get to 'wheel with the shop staff. At Cougar Buttes, Jason pointed Dave and his YJ at the first of many steep climbs. Dave's wife, Rayna, was sitting shotgun and she decided she didn't want to be along for a rollover ride; she made a quick exit and put some distance between herself and the Jeep. Jason was reassuring. "As long as you listen to me, you'll get through this," he offered. He then proceeded to successfully spot Dave and the YJ up over the climb and through the rest of the trail run. If Dave's driving and Jason's spotting were supporting actors, the Atlas 4sp was the show-stealer; its ultra-deep gearing brought a new level of capability on board.
Like a pebble tossed into a calm lake, the Atlas had a ripple effect that radiated into every corner of Dave's Jeep. After the Cougar Buttes trip, Dave decided to unlock the rest of the YJ's potential, Tri-County style. Instead of doing a little here and a little there, Dave was able to swing the transformation in one fell swoop. Just over a year later the YJ was equipped with new axles, coilover suspension, new rolling stock, a roll cage, body armor, a winch, and trail-worthy bumpers. We were on hand for the freshly-built YJ's first trip back in the dirt.
With the rest of the YJ now on par with the transfer case, Dave had a whole new level of trail prowess to explore. True to form, Jason Bunch was there for guidance and spotting.
There are several ways to build a Jeep, and Tri-County can work with just about any budget and taste. Dave Ospina's YJ is an example of what can happen if you start your build at the epicenter.
Vehicle: 1993 Jeep YJ Wrangler
Owner: Dave Ospina
Hometown: Covina, California
Engine: Jeep 4.0L inline-six
Induction: Stock EFI with Airaid intake
Transmission: Stock three-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Atlas 4sp
Low Range Ratios: 2.72:1, 3.8:1, and 10.3:1
Front End: Tri-County Gear Dana 44 with ARB Air Locker, 4.10 gears, TEN Factory axle shafts, Warn locking hubs
Rear End: Tri-County Gear Dana 60 with Currie RockJock centersection, ARB Air Locker, 4.10 gears, and TEN Factory axleshafts
Suspension: Black Diamond coilover conversion, Walker Evans 12-inch stroke coilover shocks, stock-style front bump stops, Light Racing Jounce Shock rear bump stops
Tires: 37x12.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawlers
Wheels: 17x9.5 Walker Evans Beadlocks
Backspacing: 4 inches