We have often believed that Jeep years should be thought of in dog years. After all, a couple years of wrenching and wheeling can drastically change the look of your Jeep. Take Chris King’s ’06 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, for example. Having owned it for more than eight years, the Jeep’s evolution has been steady and well thought out.
Over that time, it has served as a daily driver, trail toy, and pizza delivery vehicle, of all things. While the former Marine and now full-time lumberjack has officially transitioned the LJ from daily driver into dedicated wheeler, this doesn’t mean he’s afraid to drive it to and from the trail and back home. We caught up with the North Carolina resident in Uwharrie National Forest to get a closer look at his twist on one of the most sought-after Wranglers.
Despite only being available for three years, the ’04-’06 Wrangler Unlimited remains one of the most desired wheeling platforms. This is largely due to the additional 10 inches of wheelbase it gained over the standard TJ Wrangler. While the added length helps tremendously with stability, it can be challenging when attempting to maintain a lower amount of lift.
Concerned that an off-the-shelf long-arm kit would create ground clearance issues with his modest suspension lift goals, King worked with the crew at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, to achieve a unique link setup. This custom control arm kit would combine JK-length 0.250-wall control arms with heavy-duty high-clearance brackets from EVO Manufacturing. The front axle uses a four-link with track bar to keep it centered, while out back the track bar was ditched in favor of triangulated upper control arms. Lift coils of the 2.5-inch variety keep the overall height down, while a Currie Antirock front sway bar adds stability on- and off-road.
To dial it all in, four Bilstein 5100 series shocks handle damping, while a 1.25-inch body lift provides a touch of extra clearance. Since the Jeep spends a fair amount of time in the rocks, it was outfitted with a high-clearance bellypan and engine skidplate system from Under Cover Fabworks. To ensure the fuel tank could take a beating, a Savvy aluminum skidplate was added.
Spending a lot of its time as a daily driver, King didn’t want to go too crazy modifying the stock 4.0L engine. Aside from a Banks cold-air intake, the original inline-six engine remains largely untouched. Bolted to the back of the block is a 42RLE automatic transmission that has been upgraded by ATS Diesel. It feeds an NP231 transfer case, which has a slip-yoke eliminator.
If King’s Wrangler looks much wider than stock, that’s mostly thanks to the G2 Axle & Gear 44 series axles. These were originally designed for an ’07-’17 Wrangler JK, so they were built with a 65-inch WMS. The high-pinion front uses G2 chromoly axleshafts and 5.13 gears. The tie rod is from Synergy Manufacturing, while the drag link was custom-made to work with the LJ’s stock steering gear.
Out back, a low-pinion G2 44 gets a serving of chromoly axleshafts and matching 5.13 gears. Both axles carry ARB Air Lockers and are spun by Tom Wood’s custom driveshafts. Power gets to the ground through a set of 37x12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers wrapped around 17-inch KMC Enduro beadlocks. Since these wheels were originally used on the LJ’s stock axles, King installed a set of wheel adapters to convert from the JK 5-on-5 bolt pattern that the G2 axles were built with.
Body and Interior
Helping the 37s have all the room they need to fully cycle is a custom highline conversion using Smittybilt front fenders up front and GenRight highline fenders out back. The Motobilt front bumper holds a Warn 9500 series winch that has been paired with 100 feet of Custom Splice rope and a Factor 55 FlatLink. Adding a bit of extra clearance to the rockers are EVO Manufacturing boatside rocker guards, while the stock rear bumper has been replaced with a GenRight crossmember plate. To increase nighttime visibility, the stock headlamps were swapped out for a more powerful LED set from High Beam Offroad, and a lightbar from Seward Offroad was secured on the bumper.
Occupant protection was just as important, so King turned to the guys at Low Range 4x4 once again to make him a custom ’cage. In addition to enhanced rollover security, King’s LJ has Corbeau XRS front seats and a Corbeau Baja rear bench. Each suspension seat is paired with PRP harnesses. For trail days when the top is better left on, a Bestop Trektop does a fine job of keeping everyone out of the elements.
Why This Jeep?
Low, wide, and long might not sound like a recipe for success off-road, but for this LJ, it’s a nearly perfect formula. We like that it’s not wildly overbuilt and how well it works on the trail. While the LJ was only offered for a few short years, King’s build continues to showcase why it remains as one of the most desirable build platforms.
Hard FactsVehicle: ’06 Jeep Wrangler TJ Unlimited (LJ)
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transfer Case: NP231
Suspension: Custom links w/2.5-in coils, Bilstein 5100 shocks
Axles: G2 Axle & Gear 44, ARB Air Lockers, 5.13 gears
Wheels: 17x8 KMC XD22 Enduro beadlocks
Tires: 37x12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers