A Homebuilt LJ that Tackles Swamp and Slickrock
J.P. Pritchard is one of those jack-of-all-trades, Renaissance men. A bona fide modern-millennium MacGyver, he makes things work: everything from OTR big rigs to 4x4s to diving gear. (J.P. is a PADI-certified diving instructor and co-owner of a dive shop, Bayou Divers, in West Monroe, Louisiana.)
When he isn’t teaching or hosting dives, J.P. is a wrench-for-hire. He also has an auto dealer’s license and operates a used-car lot on his property. In his spare time, J.P. is a special-guest technician in Superlift’s R&D department; he also holds a commercial driver’s license and sometimes pilots Superlift’s big rig to events. J.P. also happens to be one of the nicest guys around.
His daily-driven street/trail machine is a 2005 TJ Rubicon Unlimited (LJ). He bought the vehicle new and did nearly all of the modifications himself.
To keep the Jeep streetable, J.P. limited himself to four inches of suspension lift. He was working in Superlift’s R&D department when the company’s TJ long-arm kit was designed, so J.P. “took one for the team” and volunteered his personal rig for some long-term durability testing. He and Jeff Marzula installed the kit and all available options in Superlift’s spacious, well-appointed, and usually humid shop.
To keep J.P. and other technicians happy, Superlift designed the kit with a two-piece center skidpan: the inner pan supports the transmission so that a jack isn’t required to support the powertrain when dropping the outer plate for routine servicing. Also, the kit’s Rockrunner link arms are engineered for proper geometry while maximizing ground clearance and steering radius. These arms feature a threaded two-piece design, so they articulate more than arms that have Heim ends. Their greasable swivel joints are noise-free and don’t have to be rebuilt or replaced down the road (unless they’re damaged from serious blunt-force traumas). Finally, the arms’ threaded ends allow front caster to be accurately dialed in, and extended-length ends are available for up to three inches of wheelbase stretch.
Suspension/undercarriage options begin with a Superlift 1-inch body lift. This makes room for prototype 5-inch-lift coil springs from Superlift’s Black Diamond division. J.P. also installed the Black Diamond Rear Coil Correction. This kit repositions the rear springs upright instead of at the OE canted-forward stance (which is okay for stock-height springs). The benefit is primarily during hill-climbing: the correction kit keeps the rear axle centered under the Jeep during suspension travel and maintains a consistent spring rate. Other Superlift options are SSR remote-reservoir shocks and eXtreme Rings zinc-plated diff-cover protectors.
Stacking suspension and body lifts allows J.P. to run 36-inch tires. He’s had LT315/70R17 Mickey Thompson Baja MTZs on 17x9 MT Classic IIs. For Moab, 36x13.50R17 Interco IROKs on 17x9 Eagle Alloy Series 137s got the nod. Jackson Gear (Jackson, Mississippi) supplied 4.56 gears for the Dana 44s, and Bushwacker flares keep the treads covered for streetability.