Benjamin Bendetti, of Santa Clarita, California, designed his ’01 Jeep TJ to “go camping anywhere,” and he’s spent about $40,000 in upgrades. To get him to “the most remote places possible,” the TJ has a TeraFlex 4:1 transfer case pushing power to 4.88 gears inside Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear axles which have ARB air lockers and drilled, slotted disc brakes. The suspension uses a 51⁄2-inch Rubicon Express Extreme Duty long-arm lift with Bilstein 5150 front shocks and Blistein 7200 rear shocks. BFGoodrich KM2 tires and a Warn winch make sure Ben is able to get to campsites in places such as the High Sierras, Calico Ghost Town, and Death Valley, where his custom-built rear cabinet with ARB fridge and slide-out camping table make this Jeep a home away from home. What he does out there, stays out there.
After getting fed up with an unreliable carburetor and gas pouring out of the gas cap on high angle crawls, Brandon Hoag of Glens Falls, New York, converted his ’46 CJ-2A to run on propane. He wanted his 67-year-old Willys to look original, but be able to go down the same trails as new Jeeps, or even further, which took some extra work. The radiator and battery had to be relocated to fit the steering from a ’94 YJ without cutting the grille, and the original T-90a transmission and Spicer 18 T-case have been rebuilt, along with tons of other hidden upgrades for reliability. The suspension uses 5-inch-lift springs with 1-inch shackles attached to a Dana 30 front and a Dana 44 narrow-track rear axle with 5.38 gears and a rear locker, and it rides on Mickey Thompson Classic wheels with 32x12.50-inch Super Swampers. Everything cost Brandon just $11,800 since he got the axles for free and traded a ’60s tractor for the Jeep itself. Some custom rust along with the modern parts keep the Willys looking classic while it performs like a champ alongside the new kids on the trails.
The ’81 Jeep CJ-7 driven by Steve Niemann of Placerville, California, has some serious motivation in the form of 5.9L Dodge Magnum V-8 under the hood. It’s backed by a NV4500 transmission connected to a Dana 300 T-case with a 4:1 low. There’s a 5-inch lift courtesy of a spring-over setup using YJ springs and Rancho RS9000 shocks in the front and rear on top of a Dana 44 front and Ford 9-inch rear axle. ARB lockers and 4.88 gears can be found at both ends and the 16-inch Centerline wheels are fitted with 38-inch Nitto Mud Grappler tires. Steve says his CJ is used for all types of wheeling and he really enjoys taking it on the Rubicon Trail and working with Jeepers Jamboree.
This wild neon green MJ started as an XJ that was reincarnated after being totaled and becoming a donor Jeep. Jeremy Adkins of Dingess, West Virginia, is proud to say that his ’92 Comanche pickup was built, not bought, with help from his friend Dee Dee Marcum. This Jersey barrier-climbing monster gets 81⁄2-inches of lift from a Rusty’s front long arm kit and a rear spring pack, and rides on 33x12.50-15 Boggers on 15-inch Mickey Thompson wheels. The 4.0L I-6 engine sends power through an AW4 transmission and 231J transfer case with a SYE into a Dana 30 front axle with an OX locker and a Dana 35 rear axle with a Richmond Lock-Right. The heavy-duty front bumper sports a mean-looking stinger, a winch, and high-output lights that compliment the lighting mounted to the large rollbar in the bed.
Betty the Four-Banger
Jason Abrams of Alexandria, Louisiana, named his ’93 YJ Black Betty, and this little lady packs a punch on the trails, even though she’s powered by just four cylinders under the hood. With just 2.5 liters of displacement, the engine is able to put power to the ground through 4.88 Yukon gears and 35x12.50-inch Mastercraft Courser MT tires. Lift is achieved with a spring-over and Skyjacker shocks, while protection comes from blacked-out diamond plate corners and rocker panels. In case Betty gets in over her head, there are KC spot lamps for visibility and a 9,000-pound Ramsey winch to pull her to safety.
The Jeeper Awakens
After driving some Fords, and even a Honda, (to save gas, like that’s an excuse), Jonathon Williams says “the Jeeper inside” awakened. A trip with his dad in a ’77 CJ-5, along with his brother’s ’05 TJ, helped Jonathon see the light as to how capable even stock Jeeps can be. Now he’s running a ’10 JK Unlimited with a 21⁄2-inch Mopar lift, Rusty’s Off-Road front bumper, a custom-built rear bumper, Delta HID light bar on the hood, rock lights inside the wheelwells, and 35x12.50R17 BFGoodrich KM2 tires mounted on Dick Cepek DC-1 wheels.
Andrew Thompson says his ’94 Cherokee Country edition “may not be the nicest one out there, but it sure does get a lot of looks.” We think it’s pretty nice with its 81⁄2-inch Rusty’s Off-Road springs and Rough Country drop brackets that ride above 36x12.50 Super Swamper TSL tires on beadlocks. Not to mention the professional-looking homemade bumpers and roof rack. Andrew says the truck isn’t done, and he has plans to add custom taillights, sliders, and a long-arm suspension setup, new gears, and lockers.
Separated at Birth?
Joshua James of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, thinks it’s “destiny” that he ended up with an XJ that was built the same month and year that he was born. His ’89 Jeep Cherokee was his first vehicle and received lots of custom fabrication thanks to the work of Joshua and his father. Custom-made parts include shock extensions at all four corners, homemade diff guards, a light bar, front bumper, tire carrier, and skidplates for the lower control arms and the transmission. The XJ is lifted with 3-inch Rusty’s Off-Road HD coils up front and Chevy add-a-leafs out back, and the axles have an Aussie Locker in the front and a Lock-Right locker in the rear. The quarter panels have been trimmed to make sure the freebie LT235/85R16 Uniroyal Laredo tires are the first things to make contact with obstacles on the trails in the hills of Southwest Pennsylvania.
Just because Paul Mayes lives in California doesn’t mean he’s afraid of the snow. In fact, the Morgan Hill resident says he pulled three minivans and two pickups out of the snow in just two days while a blizzard dropped two feet of snow on Bear Valley last Christmas. Paul’s ’12 JK is not just a recovery vehicle, it was actually built to tackle the Rubicon and lots of other trails in the Sierra Nevada. His Jeep is equipped with a roof rack, PIAA lights, a front bumper that protects the corners while providing a home for a winch and more lights, along with a Hi-Lift jack and a 41⁄2-inch lift over 35-inch Pro Comp tires.
Red Hot Swede
This former fire department Jeep may be more than 60 years old, but Christian Harrison of Lysekil, Sweden, has plenty of ideas for his all red low-mileage ’50 Willys. The 134ci flathead engine and T-90 transmission are stock, but the Spicer 18 T-case has already been modified with a Toro overdrive using a custom air shifter mounted to the gearshift. Christian’s plans for future modifications include hot-rodding the original engine or replacing it, (and slapping a turbo or supercharger onto whatever’s under the hood), a propane or natural gas conversion, 11-inch brakes to go inside the CJ wheels and 31x10.50-inch BFGs, a rollbar, seatbelts, and lockers front and rear.
Curtis Brown of Aurora, Colorado, says his friend Eric likes this ’07 Rubicon so much that he’s saving all of his money to build another one just like it, and we can see why. The JK is designed to wheel all over the best trails in the West including places in New Mexico, Colorado, and locations in Utah, like the one seen in the photo here taken in Pritchett Canyon outside Moab. The Rubicon is fitted with an Nth Degree lift, TeraFlex long-arm upgrade, AEV ram air, a muffler relocation that tucks it up between the framerails, Rugged Ridge bumpers, a Warn winch, 35-inch Goodyear tires, and 5.13 gears. It’s no wonder why he’s started a trend with his buddy.
Brad Hoyt of Edgewood, Washington, says “it comes in very handy” having first gear straight up from reverse in his short wheelbase ’54 CJ-3B, and we can guess what he means by that. Behind the highly polished fender wells is a 225ci Buick odd-fire engine with custom HEI connected to a T-150 transmission and a Spicer 18 T-case with a Warn overdrive. There are custom-built Dana 44 axles with 5.38 gears and ARB air lockers in both the front and rear. Lift is achieved with front and rear suspension that uses custom Alcan springs and Rancho adjustable shocks over 33x12.50-inch Toyo Open Country M/T tires. Other upgrades include a Warn winch, PIAA lights, Warn locking hubs, and Mastercraft Baja RS seats to keep everyone strapped in during off-road antics.
MBZ OM617 I-6 TDI YJ – OK?
Nathan Koch of Newville, Pennsylvania, says he’s been in love with Jeeps since 1978, when his mechanical mentor introduced him to a ’41 Willys that was being restored. Then, in 1986, he fell in love with diesels when he met his father-in-law’s ’82 Mercedes-Benz 300SD. His ’95 YJ that you see here has an MBZ OM617 turbodiesel under the hood that makes 123hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. The Jeep rides on a 4-inch Rough Country suspension lift and 33-inch Mud Terrain tires, and has the benefit of improved fuel mileage over the stock gasser. Nathan likes his homebrew engine swap so much that three years ago he started building kits to help other people build their own diesel Jeeps that get up to 31 miles per gallon.
Customized by Nature
Zach Mashek of Denver, Colorado, is constantly improving his ’98 XJ and getting some help from Mother Nature. He says the upgrades started with a Rubicon Express long-arm kit. Since then, he’s improved the Cherokee with a high-pinion Dana 30 up front with an ARB locker, a Chrysler 8.25-inch rear axle with a Detroit locker, 4.56 gears, a roof-mounted spare, and 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Kevlar tires. In addition to homemade bumpers and sliders, and bare fenders for clearance, Zach says his Jeep has custom sheetmetal thanks to various rocks on trails such as Golden Spike in Moab (pictured here).
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