Solid trail Jeeps are always a fun find. Such was the case when we ran across Todd Lamb’s 1987 Wrangler Laredo. The YJ was picked up from a used car lot many years ago, and Todd set about morphing it into a venerable rig he could use to explore the Arizona backcountry. Given that he’s owned a Jeep or two in the past, with his first vehicle being an M38A1, Todd had a good idea where he was headed when he started the buildup.
The 1987 Jeep YJ has been trail-prepped with lift in a simple and proven manner. Up front, 21⁄2-inch Pro Comp leaf packs were used in spring-over configuration with a shackle reversal. The rear also follows with 21⁄2-inch Pro Comps in spring-over as well, enhanced with a shackled traction bar helping to tame axle wrap under hard acceleration. Each corner is damped with one Rancho 9000 shock. Wheelbase is 941⁄2 inches.
Steering chores were addressed by moving the factory steering box forward using a Parts Mike heavy-duty mount. From there, crossover steering was implemented using a threaded chromoly draglink and tie rod with GM 1-ton tie-rod ends.
Not happy with the overall power of the factory six-cylinder engine, Todd had Campbell Enterprises in Gilbert, Arizona, install a GM Vortec 350ci V-8
back during his early days of ownership. The fuel-injected engine remains mostly stock, save for the addition of headers and an Airaid intake. A large Ron Davis aluminum radiator ensures the Jeep runs cool, even on the hottest days in the desert. The torquey V-8 spins into a GM 700R4 four-speed auto that is followed by an Atlas II with a 3.8:1 low-range gearing.
When it came time to consider axles on the Jeep, Todd knew he wanted to step up to something he could confidently use out on remote trails that would also stand up to the V-8 power. The stock axles came out, and a pair of Currie Enterprises Ford 9-inch axles were bolted in place. The front is stuffed with 4.10 gears and a Detroit Locker. Reid Racing Dana 44 knuckles support 6-lug Dana 44 brakes and hubs from a full-size Chevy. The rear axle is also complimented with 4.10 gears and a Detroit. Here, Moser 31-spline chromoly shafts turn 6-lug flanges inside Moser 11-inch drum brake assemblies. The axles connect to the Atlas II with a custom-length front driveshaft and double-cardan rear driveshaft, populated with 1330-series joints.
With a stout drivetrain in place, Todd chose 37x12.5R17 BFG KM2 tires to get him down the trail. He wrapped these around a set of 17x9-inch TrailReady beadlocks so he could air down for maximum traction.
Body and Interior
Safety and comfort were addressed in the interior with Mastercraft Baja RS reclining seats. Additional passengers get to ride in a matching Mastercraft rear bench seat. Line-X bedliner was used in the tub for insulation and sound deadening. Phil at Body Techs in Phoenix, Arizona, shot the bright orange hue on the hard-top’s body using House of Color Tangelo paint.
Todd’s son, Tanner, owns Lamb Fab in Gilbert, Arizona. That’s convenient, as Tanner completed a 6-point rollcage in the YJ, along with a set of custom-fabricated rock sliders that tie into the body mounts and tub. Warn bumpers are used front and rear, and a Warn 8000 pound winch sits in place up front should extraction needs arise.
Good, Bad, and What It’s For
Todd has owned Jeeps for a long time and had a clear vision of what he wanted in this rig. He didn’t go over the top with huge lift or excessive hardware. He planned well and chose a drivetrain to support 37-inch tires to build a solid, trail-worthy Jeep that is still comfortable on the highway. Sure, we can appreciate newer coil-sprung suspensions for their comfort and maximum tuneability, but we can also appreciate a quality leaf-sprung rig sensibly built for road and trail.
Why I Wrote This Feature
In a sea of wannabees in late-model Jeeps and plenty of clapped-out older ones, it’s cool to find the occasional clean build that’s put together thoughtfully with quality components and used for what Jeeps are meant for-- trails.
- Jay Kopycinski
|1987 Jeep Wrangler Laredo|
|Engine:||1996 GM Vortec V-8|
|Transfer Case:||Atlas II|
|Suspension:||2.5-inch ProComp lift springs hung over the axles (front and rear)|
|Axles:||Currie Enterprises 9-inch (front and rear)|
|Wheels:||17x9 TrailReady beadlocks|
|Tires:||37x12.5R17 BFG KM2|
|Built For:||Exploring Arizona trails while still being comfortable on the highway getting there|