Having the strongest frame of the short wheel-base, open-top Jeep lineup, the Wrangler YJ is a popular choice for project builds. As a result, there are lots of ways to build a Jeep Wrangler YJ and not a whole lot of ways to get it wrong. There are just a few ways, however, to get it absolutely dead-on correct. Dave Seger, owner of Dave's Customs Unlimited (DCU) in Fruita, Colorado, did just that with his LS-1-equipped, leaf-sprung front, and four-linked rear 1991 YJ.
Dave began his YJ build by stripping it to the frame and cutting off most of the factory frame brackets. Once the frame was clean Dave and the DCU crew began to determine placement of a Chevy LS-1 V-8 mated to a DCU-modified TF999 auto trans and an Atlas transfer case. A M.O.R.E. 1-inch body lift was used to raise the body so only minimal tunnel and firewall modifications were necessary.
With the drivetrain components located, DCU went on to hang the front and rear axles. A Dana 60 truck axle was acquired and set up with Dutchman Motosports chromoly axle shafts, Poly Performance drive flanges, 5.13 Sierra Gear & Axle ring-and-pinion, an Eaton Detroit Locker, and a DCU diff cover. The Dana 60 was hung from the frame using a DCU full-width axle kit and a set of Alcan Spring leaf spring packs. DCU front shock towers were welded to the frame rails and a set of RadFlo 12-inch-travel remote reservoir shocks were installed. For the rear, Dave cleaned and rebuilt a Dana 70 truck axle and installed 5.13 Sierra gears, a Detroit Locker, and Dutchman chromoly axle shafts, also adding DCU rear disc brake brackets and rear disc brakes. The Dana 70 was then set up beneath the YJ using a DCU four-link bracket kit along with DCU control arms and rod ends. DCU coil spring and bumpstop brackets and universal shock towers were welded to the frame and a set of coil springs and a set of RadFlo 14-inch-travel remote reservoir shocks were installed. With all in place the YJ received a set of 40-inch Goodyear MTR with Kevlar tires mounted on 17x9.5 Raceline Monster Diamond beadlock wheels.
While the frame, drivetrain, and suspension were coming together the DCU team also completed body work on the tub and installed a set of DCU Comp Corners body armor at the rear before applying multiple coats of blue paint and lining the interior of the tub. The tub was then placed back on the frame and a family-style rollcage was fabricated, along with seat mounts for the front and rear. DCU built a custom dash and steering column and installed a set of custom PRP race seats; buckets up front and a double-bucket in the rear. Crow harnesses secure all passengers.
A blue, paint-matched fiberglass hood and fender combo from Campbell Enterprises was installed over the LS-1, and a DCU stubby-style bumper and 9,000-pound Superwinch EPi9.0 winch wrapped with synthetic line was applied to the front of the YJ. An aluminum fuel tank was installed behind the rear seat and plumbed to the LS-1 V-8 using braided fuel line and aluminum AN fittings from Earl's Performance Plumbing. A-1 Muffler in Grand Junction, Colorado, routed the exhaust using 3-inch pipe to a Flowmaster muffler and exit point. To finish the build a DCU heavy-duty, dual-diaphragm power brake booster and high-pressure master cylinder were installed and hard brake lines and Kevlar brake hose from Crown Performance were routed.
Dave's YJ went under the knife for a frame-off restoration, and two months later he ended up with a trail-capable 'crawler constructed using primarily in-house parts. Whatever parts he didn't have on the shelf ready for sale at the time he created exclusively for the YJ build and now stocks at DCU. Built right, built tough. It's the YJ way. It's the right way.
Vehicle: 1991 Jeep Wrangler YJ
Owner: Dave Seger
Hometown: Fruita, Colorado
Engine: Chevy LS-1
Transfer Case: Atlas
Low Range Ratio: 4.3:1
Front End: Dana 60
Rear End: Dana 70
Ring and Pinion: 5.13 Sierra Gear & Axle
Front Differential: Eaton Detroit Locker
Rear Differential: Eaton Detroit Locker
Suspension: Alcan leaf spring front with 12-inch-travel Radflo shocks, DCU four-link/coil spring rear with 14-inch-travel Radflo shocks
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Goodyear MTR with Kevlar
Wheels: 17x9.5 Raceline Monster Diamond Competition Beadlocks
Backspacing: 4 inches