Teenagers and their parents don’t always have a lot of common ground. People try to blame the current generation, but it has been a phase of life for as long as parents made rules and kids had to follow them. Fortunately Jake Garfinkle and his father have always been able to find common ground through four-wheeling. His father has been into Jeeps since college and currently drives a TJ Wrangler. It only made sense that Garfinkle would follow in his dad’s footsteps. He got a four-cylinder YJ when he was 17. That was seven years ago, and they Jeep has seen a lot of changes since.
"Teenagers don’t always get along with their parents"
First Garfinkle put a Dana 44 and Ford 8.8 under the Jeep and did a spring-over lift to fit 37-inch tires. Then the engine came out, and one thing led to another. Garfinkle had been doing all of the work himself with the help of family and friends, but that changed last year when he joined the Air Force and trained to be a crew chief for Lockheed C-130s. During the eight months that Garfinkle spent at Lackland AFB, Sheppard AFB, and Little Rock AFB, Samco Fabrication in Reno, Nevada, built a completely custom suspension for the YJ to complement the V-8 engine, 1-ton axles, and 42-inch tires that this once little YJ acquired over the past seven years.
Now that he is back from training, Garfinkle and his father don’t have a problem finding something to talk about. Typically, it is decided where they are going wheeling next.
Up front, the Dana 30 was replaced with a Dana 44 that was later ditched for a high-pinion Dana 60 from a Ford F-350. Behind the Solid Industries diff cover, 5.38 gears are wrapped around a Detroit Locker.
The front suspension uses a radius-arm design that provides ample flex and excellent stability. Samco Fabrication built the arms out of 2x0.250-wall DOM tubing and capped them with X Axis sealed flex joints from Specialty Products. Note how the arms are bent to maximize the turning radius for better maneuverability on the trail.
No leaf springs to be found here. This YJ rides on 14-inch-travel Fox remote-reservoir, internal-bypass coilover shocks at all four corners. A Specialty Products JounceShock is used at each corner to prevent harsh suspension bottoming at speed.
Power comes from a 305ci small-block Chevy mated to a TH700R4 transmission and an Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case with a 3.8:1 low range. The Jeep originally had a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that Jake Garfinkle pulled and was going to replace with a six-cylinder, but his brother-in-law made him a deal on the 305 that he could not pass up.
A FAST fuel injection system controls the TPI 5.0L V-8 that is out of an Camaro. Garfinkle started with the factory computer and harness but could never get it to run reliably. He reports that the FAST system solved all of his issues, and he appreciates the ability to monitor functions like oil pressure, coolant temperature, and more with the handheld controller.
The MetalCloak front fenders use aluminum inner fenders that provide a convenient place to mount relays and accessories. A Ford E-350 master cylinder moves enough fluid for the huge calipers on the 1-ton axles and provide a firm pedal.
The rear suspension uses a triangulated four-link that ties into an Artec truss. The lower links are made from 2x0.250-wall DOM tubing and fitted with Specialty Products X Axis joints, while the uppers are made from 0.120-wall DOM since they are not subject to the same impacts as the lower links. Specialty Products JounceShocks and Fox 14-inch-travel coilovers round out the rear suspension.
Out back, a 14-bolt is fitted with an Artec truss and disc brakes. Between the Solid Industries diff cover and Artec pinion guard, a spool with 5.38 gears is bathed in gear oil. Garfinkle’s buddy Terry Owens helped him set up the gears and shave the bottom of the housing for more ground clearance. Note how the Fox 14-inch-travel coilovers are mounted rather low to prevent them from needing to punch through the Jeep’s tub. Putting the lower mounts all the way out by the tires provides stability and keeps the coilovers from getting hung up on rocks.
Garfinkle ran 37-inch Pit Bull Rockers back when his Jeep had a four-cylinder and leaf springs and was pleased with them, so when it came time to step up he chose 42-inch Pit Bull Rockers on Black Rock rims fitted with DIY beadlock rings.
After the wheelbase was stretched to 105 inches, this Jeep has no problem climbing dry falls and shelves. Garfinkle even turned around and dropped off of this ledge with no drama.
1991 Jeep Wrangler YJ
TH700R4 4-speed automatic
Advance Adapters Atlas II
Dana 60 with 5.38 gears and Detroit Locker
14-bolt with 5.38 gears and spool
Springs & Such:
Fox internal bypass coilovers, JounceShocks, and Samco Fabrication radius arms (front); Fox coilovers, JounceShocks, triangulated 4-link (rear)
Tires & Wheels:
42x15-17LT Pit Bull Rockers on 17x10 Black Rock wheels with DIY beadlocks
Hydraulic assist with PSC steering box, ram, pump, and reservoir; M.O.R.E. steering box brace
Warn XD9000i winch, FAST fuel injection controller, MetalCloak front fenders, Blue Torch Fab rocker guards, Blue Torch Fab comp cut corners, Poison Spyder Customs rollcage, RCI fuel cell