Some Jeeps just have that look, even if they are sitting still. You know, that look that makes you want to know more about them. How it came together, how it works, what is was built for, and so forth. Well, when we saw a photo of Lew Lively’s Jeep for the first time, we just had to know more.
Built primarily by Moab 4x4 Outpost (M4O) for the Florida resident to keep in Moab most of the year, we knew it would have a lot of trick and near one-off parts on it. We say near one-off because while M4O has been making a bunch of these parts and using these tricks for a long time, the company isn’t quite ready to go from Jeep building to parts manufacturing.
We got the original email with the pictures and the spec sheet about two months after Easter Jeep Safari, and we weren’t planning any other trips back to Moab in 2012. And, we aren’t just going to run a feature on someone’s say-so, so it was with some misgiving that we had to beg off running the Jeep in our pages.
Then Trasborg cobbled together his road trip of the Midwest, contacted M4O to see if the Jeep was still around, and managed to get some time with it. We were able to see firsthand that it performs as bad-ass as it looks, and we are happy to be able to show you some of the cool build tricks in our pages.
A good plan from the beginning
This Jeep was built after Lew rolled his old TJ. He wanted something that could hang with the buggies but was still a Jeep. The ’06 Wrangler frame was the base of that build and is largely intact from the front of the Jeep to the rear of the door openings. Well, largely intact, aside from the 3-inch stretch in front of the boatside rockers that contributes to the 107-inch wheelbase. Aft of the door openings, the factory frame was more of a problem than a solution, so it was tossed in favor of some custom tube work. The belly skid is nothing short of epic, covering from the rear of the T-case, the transmission, and the engine oil pan, all tied into either the frame or the rollcage for the ultimate in bashability. Up front a PSC ram is pushed around by a PSC pump and steering box, and a Warn Powerplant winch is protected by the intricate tube work—but more on that later.
The suspension hanging off that frame is an M4O M1-LT 4-inch-lift long-arm suspension with fully boxed control arms. At each corner you will find a Fox 2.0 coilover providing damping with Eibach springs providing the elevation. Out back, a Currie Enterprises Antirock sway bar teams with a front air-actuated ORO SwayLoc to control the body roll and sidehill stability. The front suspension resembles a TJ’s setup in as much as it features four control arms and a track bar. The similarities end there. Out back, a dual-triangulated four-link locates the rear axle with the addition of unique high-clearance lower control arms.
What red-blooded male American doesn’t want a V-8 powered Corvette? The problem is most of us are way too deep into our Jeeps to be able to enjoy a Vette as well. Well, with a 6.0L V-8 out of an ’05 LS2 Vette, Lew has the best of both worlds. The internals of the engine were left alone for reliability but it was capped with a K&N air filter and a custom M4O-built 21⁄2 into 3-inch exhaust routed all the way to the back of the Jeep. Turn Key Powertrain fuel line adapters team up with a Mallory fuel pressure regulator and a remote oil filter adapter to get the 400hp/400lb-ft beast of a mill between the framerails. A Ford Taurus electric fan pulls the air through an aluminum radiator to keep things cool.
Backing that red-meat-eating engine is the relatively mundane ’86 TH700R4 rowed by an Art Carr gated shifter. We say mundane because the shift points, ratios, and torque converter were all left alone. But what isn’t mundane is the cool (no pun intended) cooler. Rather than an air-to-water cooler, this slushbox is cooled by a Ron Davis Racing water-to-water intercooler mounted under the hood to one of the tubes of the ’cage. Water-to-water is more efficient than air-to-water and does a much better job of keeping the transmission cool than even a physically larger air-to-water, and there is no thought needed as to airflow.
From there, an Advance Adapters package mates the TH700R4 to the 4.3:1 Atlas II T-case and it feeds front and rear Dynatrac ProRock Dana 60s through 1350-jointed drivelines. With both front and rear axles stuffed with 4.88 gears and ARB Air Lockers they are near twins. The matching front and rear brakes, sourced from a 1⁄2-ton-rated GMC pickup, don’t dispel the twin motif either. The power to bring this whole schebang to a stop is thanks to a ’76 Cadillac Eldorado master cylinder, and that is smacked around by a hydroboost booster. And this Jeep needs it, too, with those big and heavy 40-inch Trepadors on Walker Evans wheels to bring to a halt.
Body and Interior
Let’s start this section off by talking about the obvious elephant in the room: that chrome-looking tub. It isn’t the color that we really like, but the fact that it is an Aqualu aluminum tub means it will likely outlast most of the rest of this Jeep, and we are all about that. The tailgate doubles as tool and fluids storage, with an extra toolbox between there and the Summit Racing fuel cell mounted behind the front seats. Meanwhile the hood is a 4 Wheelers Supply Rock Crawler high-clearance hood, and you’ll find a YJ grille up front rounding off the Jeep look. The rockers of the aluminum tub aren’t quite what they once were with a custom M4O boatside rocker conversion performed to raise the under-door ground clearance
We had a hard time keeping the rollcage in this section like we normally would. From the tubed-out rear frame section tied right into the ’cage, to the rear shock mounts, to the integral suspension and body mounts up front, the ’cage is as much an exterior or chassis feature as interior. But that said, the Corbeau Baja JP seats are mounted to it, and the 0.134-wall, 1.75-inch-diameter tube makes up most of the interior, so here it is. Other interior amenities include a quasi-custom M4O dashboard stuffed with a marine Sony head unit, AutoMeter Ultra Lite 2 gauges, and a bevy of waterproof Carlington switches.
A Grant steering wheel tops off the tilt column while a Flex-A-Lite Mojave heater resides under the dash next to a sPOD electric control box that puts relays and fuses in one convenient location. The rear upper shock mounts should be mentioned in the chassis section as well, but the most interesting part of the through-tub sandwich-mount is the part welded to the ’cage just behind the rear seats. Next to the passenger’s seat a spare driveshaft can be found, and between the two front seats is an M4O-built center console that holds a Currie Enterprises EZ Tire Deflator and whatever else Lew brings along. Just behind the center console you can see the JL Audio 10-inch subwoofer in the M4O box. What you can’t see is that the sub is bracketed by a pair of 6x9s, one on either side.
Good, Bad, and What It’s For
Let’s start with the bad news, like many just-finished Jeeps there were still some bugs to work out. In fact, these photos were taken in Colorado during our second photo shoot due to some fuel delivery problems during the first. Beyond teething issues, we end up nitpicking. We aren’t a big fan of the bent drag link. It is heavy-wall and has a heavy Mohawk through it, and we understand the reasons behind it, but we still don’t endorse bent steering linkages. We also wonder if the Warn Powerplant couldn’t have been sunk into the frame more, as it blocks a lot of the radiator. The good on this Jeep is easy: It is well thought out and well executed. Unlike so many Jeeps we see, and even our own Jeeps, this wasn’t the product of years of trial and error. There was a good plan from the beginning, which was well carried out and resulted in a Jeep that works very well.
Vehicle: 2006 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: 6.0L Chevy V-8
Transfer Case: 4.3:1 Atlas II
Suspension: five-link (front); four-link (rear)
Axles: Dynatrac ProRock 60 (front and rear)
Wheels: 17x9 Walker Evans beadlock
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Maxxis Trepador
Built For: Buggy-like performance in a Jeep-like package
Why I Wrote This Feature
It is really rare to see a Jeep that looks good, performs even better, and doesn’t have a ton of extraneous stuff bolted onto it. Sure, this thing has a heater and a stereo, but they were both planned into the build, fit very well, and make the wheeling experience that much nicer. The Jeep is basically point-and-shoot and might even be a little overbuilt for most of the trails in Moab, Utah. But with a Corvette V-8, an aluminum body that will never rust, and a great rollcage that doubles as suspension mounts, what isn’t to like? Plus, it’s got a YJ grille, and that just isn’t something you see much of anymore.