We have all been to restaurants that advertise themselves as providing a style of food they refer to as home-cooked. But what does that mean? Simple, nutritious, filling, fresh ingredients, made from scratch, or just like mom (or dad) did it? All of the above? What does this have to do with Jeeps? Well, hold your horses, partner. We’re getting to that.
We think it means that most, if not all, of the work was done yourself. Sure, some of us would rather have an expert rebuild a tranny, T-case, engine, or do the wiring job (because we can’t all be experts in every field), and it’s not about fabricating from scratch every single piece. However, there is a certain joy and level of pride when you’ve done all or almost all of the assembly.
That’s the case with this ’98 Jeep TJ owned by Adrian and Sheilah Dorame. We bumped into them during the 2016 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep and then caught up with them again later on the Moab Rim Trail during the 2016 Easter Jeep Safari to get all the details on this Flame Red TJ. Adrian and his brother, Rocky, performed all the labor, and you could see the pride beaming like a lighthouse beacon from the guys when we spoke with them.
Power/DrivetrainFor purposes of reliability, the 4.0L I-6 was retained and the innards left alone. However, a K&N cold-air intake and Flowmaster 2 1/2-inch custom exhaust were added to the motor, and a Spall electric fan augments the stock radiator. The factory 32RH three-speed auto tranny and NP231 T-case back the engine up and send power through a pair of Six States Distributors custom driveshafts to the Nitro 4.88 gear-equipped and Eaton ELocker-filled ’08 Jeep Rubicon Dana 44s that replaced the factory axles.
A TeraFlex slip-yoke eliminator kit was installed, Synergy Manufacturing brackets helped get the rear axle set just right, and G2 chromoly axleshafts beef up the rear axle. The front axle got RCV CV-style axleshafts, and both logs retained the JK Rubicon disc brakes. M.O.R.E. motor mounts hike the 4.0L up an inch, and a TeraFlex T-case linkage and Synergy Manufacturing tranny mount helped with the T-case’s upward move.
Suspension/UnderbellyA 5-inch Rubicon Express Extreme Duty kit with a tri-link rear setup form the base of the new suspension. The coil springs from the Rubicon Express kit and Fox 2.0 shocks were used up front, but the rear got a pair of 4-inch Eibach coils and Bilstein 5100 shocks, TrailGear limiting straps are at all four corners.
The differences in shocks and springs were a decision made for ride quality, and the heavier nose due to the engine. A full belly skidplate protects the TJ’s guts, and a skidplated GenRight Crawler fuel tank is tucked up between the rear rails. A Currie Antirock system steadies the frontend, and custom DOM steering bars, combined with a PSC hydraulic ram assist, maintain directional control over a set of 38x14.50R17 Goodyear MTR tires mounted to 17x8.5 Raceline Monster beadlock wheels.
Interior/ExteriorA pair of heated (hey, it gets cold out there) Baja seats from Mastercraft keep driver and co-driver comfy at all times, and a GenRight sport cage surrounds the cockpit. The Sony sound system plays trail tunes through a 12-inch subwoofer, 3x5-inch coaxials, and a pair of boat-tower speakers.
Body armor begins with custom bumpers front and rear, a custom winch mount (cradling an 8,000-pound capacity winch), custom-bent DOM stinger/lightguard, and a custom DOM loop down below to protect the PSC steering pump. Two Rigid Industries four-LED pods straddling the winch, and two Lightforce spots at the A-pillars, provide full-coverage trail illumination. Warrior rock sliders and unpainted-and-polished aluminum GenRight fenders and rear body armor panels complete the TJ’s shielding.
A well-seasoned off-roader who helps as a tail-gunner on some of the Easter Jeep Safari runs, Adrian offered a bit of advice that came from building his Jeep: “Make a game plan for your build. Ask those with experience for advice, and research and read reviews on parts before purchase. Also, understand that you will never be finished.” He also added (with a laugh) that the easiest part of the build was “watching my brother weld.”
HARD FACTS:Vehicle: ’98 Jeep TJ Wrangler
Engine: 4.0L I-6, K&N cold-air intake, Flowmaster custom exhaust
Transmission: 32RH 3-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NP 231
Suspension: Rubicon Express 5-inch suspension lift kit, Rubicon Express 5-inch kit coils and Fox 2.0 shocks in front, and Eibach 4-inch lift coils and Bilstein 5100 shocks in rear
Axles: (front) JK Rubicon Dana 44, 4.88 Nitro gears, Eaton ELocker, RCV CV-style ’shafts; (rear) JK Rubicon Dana 44, 4.88 Nitro gears, Eaton ELocker, G2 chromoly ’shafts
Wheels: Raceline 17x8.5 Monster beadlock
Tires: Goodyear 38x14.50R17 MTR