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"Return to Dirt" Tour Creates Itch to 'Wheel
Q: Thanks for the great magazine. I have been getting issue from friends while in Afghanistan (as a Department of Defense civilian working alongside our military) and have really enjoyed your style and great articles. While the only off-roading I get to do is in a MRAP [Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle] and not nearly as much fun as Jeeps, reading about [Jeeps] is almost as good!
The "Return to Dirt Tour" has got me planning my first trip when I get back! I was wondering what kind of mods/equipment the Jeep Comanche in the article was running. I am curious if a basic Rubicon Wrangler (hopefully an LJ!) will be able to easily/safely navigate the mentioned trails.
A: Kyle, we're pleased you're enjoying 4Wheel Drive Magazine. The "Return to Dirt Tour" (May and June 2012 issues) was a two-part series written by Mark Werkmeister, a long-time 4WD freelancer. His Jeep Comanche is somewhat mildly built by some standards, but it is purpose-built for the types of trails he likes to run. It's equipped with a Dana 44 frontend, fit with an Eaton ELocker, Yukon Gear & Axle 4.10:1 ring-and-pinion gears, Superior Axle & Gear inner axle shafts, and a Warn 5-on-5-1/2 hub conversion. The rear Dana 44 is also fit with a locker as well as Superior axle shafts and 4.10 gears. A Rubicon Express 5.5-inch Super-Flex short arm lift system and JKS track bar and bracket are in place to clear LT285/75R16 (33-inch) Mickey Thompson ATZ tires mounted on 16x8 Mickey Thompson Classic II wheels. The steering system also has been upgraded with a Teraflex high-steer system that uses an aluminum tie rod and drag link.
An '03-to-'06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon would be a great choice for tackling terrain similar to that shown in the "Return to Dirt Tour" articles. You might consider installing a mild lift (a 3.5- to 4.5-inch kit will clear 33s). You can use wheel spacers if you want to retain the factory wheels. I would also recommend installing the Currectlync heavy-duty tie-rod and drag-link system from Currie Enterprises and a set of JKS Manufacturing sway bar quick disconnects. Skidplates, a winch, and a winch bumper are also typically good investments. With the above-mentioned parts in place, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon will have no problems tackling a wide variety of terrains. 'Wheel on.
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