We've been saying it over and over - simple is better. Larry Dittmann, owner of Showcar Kustoms in Hurricane, Utah, proves that with his restored 1990 Jeep Wrangler YJ.
Because he spends a few months in Baja California every year, Larry wanted a vehicle that could explore the beaches and backcountry of the Baja Peninsula without strain. He needed a simple Jeep that was easy to repair with resources found south of the border.
The 1990 YJ he found had no rust, but had bad paint and numerous other things wrong with it. Larry went to work. The first thing he did was replace the venerable 258 inline I-6 with a fresh 302 Ford V-8. An Edelbrock Performer four-bbl carburetor works well and is easy to adjust or repair if necessary. Advance Adapters supplied motor mounts and their excellent aluminum radiator to keep the 302 cool in the hot Baja sun. An Advance Adapters adapter mates an AX-15 five-speed manual to the Ford F-150 bellhousing.
The Wrangler came with 31x10.50R15LT Cooper Discoverer Radial LT tires mounted on 15x7 Jeep five-spoke alloy wheels. Larry saw no need to change these, but the front springs had sagged, causing the tires to rub. He made a few calls and found some derelict YJ leaf packs, disassembled his old packs and, with trial and error, built front leaf packs that raised the Jeep 1 inch in the front. The rear YJ leaf springs were fine, so they were retained.
The Dana 30 frontend's vacuum disconnect had failed. While easily repaired, Larry chose to replace it with a 4x4 Posi-Lok cable disconnect. After engaging the transfer case, a 1-inch pull of the 4x4 Posi-Lok cable connects the right front axle to the intermediate shaft using the shift collar and fork. These work very well and are simple and reliable. The OE Dana 35 rearend is the YJ's only remaining weak point.
For the past 20 years, Larry has been painting projects for us. His work is flawless and probably too good for us, as rock rash and backcountry pinstriping aren't the best for show-quality finishes. Since he owns Showcar Kustoms, he wanted his Jeep to sport a great paint job. It does. The white pearl paint with black accents looks very nice. As they came on the YJ when it was purchased, we don't know the brand, but the tubular bumpers and rocker guards were painted metallic blue.
The YJ's interior was in good shape, except it was missing a passenger seat and the driver's seat was ripped. Bestop's new TrailMax II Pro seats are built for the rigors of Jeeping and are very comfortable. The light gray seats are vinyl fabric for easy maintenance and match the interior well.
The Kustom YJ is very simple. It was built to be reliable and easy to repair, should the untoward happen in the Baja backcountry. It's Kustom!
Vehicle: 1990 Jeep Wrangler YJ
Owner: Larry Dittmann
Hometown: Hurricane, Utah
Engine: Ford 302 V-8
Induction: Edelbrock Performer four-bbl
Transmission: Jeep AX-15 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: NP231
Low Range Ratio: 2.72:1
Front End: Dana 30 w/4x4 Posi-Lok disconnect
Rear End: Dana 35
Ring And Pinion: 3.73:1
Front Differential: Open
Rear Differential: Track-Loc limited slip
Suspension: Custom 1-inch lift front leaf springs, stock rear leaf packs
Tires: 31x10.50R15LT Cooper Discoverer Radial LT
Wheels: 15x7 Jeep Wrangler alloy