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1998 Jeep Wrangler TJ Built From Scratch

Posted in Features on September 6, 2018
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Given our busy work schedules, kids’ activities, spousal duties, and other chores, most of us struggle to find time to change the oil in the family 4x4, much less build an entire 4x4 from scratch. But Medford, Oregon, resident Richard Yeamans is dedicated to his afterhours craft time. It just so happens that a 1998 Wrangler became the object of his late-night project obsession. While the rest of us were busy wasting a few hours every night watching TV or trolling the internet for the latest viral video from Kim Kardashian, Yeamans set to work on his Jeep, pecking away at it bit by bit until it became the capable trail rig you see here.

Of course, Yeamans didn’t take the easy route and start with a running and driving Jeep, or even a rolling Jeep for that matter. His project began with the rescue of a 1998 TJ body tub that had been abandoned in a field. Once the body was brought home, Yeamans set to work on the body tub. It was stretched 8 inches, and the rear tub rails were raised 2 inches to allow for larger wheelwells. This was key in getting the low-slung center of gravity he wanted while maintaining enough room for larger tires and adequate suspension travel. The entire body was smoothed and hosed in 2010 Camaro synergy green by Erin Peters. From there, Yeamans busied himself with the DOM tubular chassis, custom link suspensions front and rear, and LS1 engine swap.

We were surprised and somewhat ashamed that we can’t compete with what Yeamans accomplished in a mere 350 hours of build time working alone. So the next time you find yourself wasting several hours a week behind an LED screen, maybe rethink how you could better spend your time to end up with a 4,250-pound off-road toy like this one.

The front of Richard Yeamans’ 1998 TJ is suspended by a custom triangulated four-link with 14-inch-travel, 2 1/2-inch-diameter FOA coilover shocks and 2.0-inch-diameter FOA hydraulic bumpstops with 2 1/2 inches of travel. It also features a trimmed hood, a custom tubular front bumper and grille guard, and copious amounts of tire clearance to fit the sticky 42-inch Maxxis Trepador tires on 17x8 TrailReady wheels. Other front end features include a 10,000-pound Smittybilt winch and two clevis recovery points.
Out back a 21-gallon RCI aluminum fuel cell and a Coleman Machine 1 1/4-inch, 48-spline hollow sway bar are integrated into the chassis behind the custom tubular bumper. The rear triangulated four-link suspension is supported by 16-inch-travel, 2 1/2-inch-diameter FOA coilover shocks and 2.0-inch-diameter FOA hydraulic bumpstops with 2 1/2 inches of travel.
The interior is of Yeamans’ 1998 TJ is Spartan. A sun-bleached factory dash houses AutoMeter Phantom gauges and a fake, hand-drawn speedometer. The driver and passenger are supported by Corbeau suspension seats and held in place with four-point harnesses. A 1.75x0.120-wall DOM cage protects the occupants, and a Sidewinder shifter operates the transmission.
The custom homebuilt Ford 9-inch front axle is stuffed with 6.50 gears, Yukon 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, and a 35-spline Yukon Grizzly Locker. Wilwood disc brakes do the stopping. A massive bolt-on skidplate protects the Surplus Center 2.5x8-inch double-ended steering ram.
The triangulated four-link bars feature Ruff Stuff Specialties rod ends. Limit straps control the axle movement. Both front and rear driveshafts are made from 3x0.083-wall tubing for durability. The driveshaft ends are capped with 1350 U-joints and U-bolt-style yokes.
The rear homebuilt Ford 9-inch has the same 6.50 axle gears, Yukon Grizzly locker, and Wilwood disc brakes as the front axle; however, it features full-floating Dutchman axleshafts. The back of the rear 9-inch is fully trussed for bend resistance during high-speed romps. A single 3-inch exhaust sounds off through a Hooker Aero Chamber muffler.
Under the hood you’ll find a GM 5.7L LS1 V-8 pumping out 450 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque thanks to the Comp Cams Torquer V2 cam, MSD ignition wires, shorty headers, and an LSX Specialties wiring harness. Power is spun into a GM TH400 transmission loaded with a shift kit and a 2,800-stall torque converter, which is backed up with an NV241C transfer case with 32-spline outputs and 1350 yokes. A two-row Northern aluminum double-pass radiator and a B&M transmission cooler keep the rotating assemblies at the proper temperatures, while an Optima RedTop battery electrifies the Jeep.
The 8-inch tub stretch allows for a longer wheelbase, which is better for climbing, while the 2-inch raised tub rails make more room for bigger wheelwells to clear the 42-inch meats without lifting the Jeep to the moon. A small Corbeau bench seat is mounted just in front of the fuel cell. Liquid Audio speaker boxes loaded with Kicker speakers provide the tunes via a Pioneer CD head unit.
The entire frame is made from 1.75x0.120-wall DOM tube. The design allows the suspension to compress much more than the traditional factory frame so that a low center of gravity can be retained without sacrificing uptravel. Both the front and rear wheel openings have been heavily massaged to fit the 42-inch rubber. Up front, this even included trimming the hood.
At the heart of the custom DOM tube frame is a Goat Built universal subframe. It provides a smooth flat belly pan and offers solid mounting locations for the triangulated four-link front and rear suspensions. The rocker guards are made from 1.75x0.188-wall DOM tube for more dent resistance in the damage-prone area.

Tech Specs

1998 Jeep TJ Wrangler
>Drivetrain
Engine: Chevy 5.7L LS1 V-8 with Comp Cams Torquer V2 cam
Transmission: GM TH400 3-speed automatic with shift kit and 2,800-stall torque converter
Transfer Case: NV241C with 32-spline outputs and 1350 yokes
Front Axle: Ford 9-inch with 6.50 gears, Yukon 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, 35-spline Yukon Grizzly Locker, and Wilwood disc brakes
Rear Axle: Full-floating Ford 9-inch with 6.50 gears, 35-spline Dutchman axleshafts, 35-spline Yukon Grizzly Locker, and Wilwood disc brakes
>Suspension
Springs & Such: Triangulated 4-link front and rear, 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 14-inch-travel FOA coilover shocks and 2.0-inch-diameter FOA air bumps (front); 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 16-inch-travel FOA coilover shocks and 2.0-inch-diameter FOA air bumps (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 42x14.50-17 Maxxis Trepador Competition (sticky compound) on 17x8 TrailReady beadlock wheels
Steering: Full hydraulic with PSC pump and reservoir and 2 1/2x8-inch Surplus Center DA double rod steering ram
Lighting: LED headlights
Other Stuff: Corbeau suspension seats, AutoMeter Phantom gauges, Smittybilt 10,000-pound winch, Goat Built universal subframe, full tube chassis, extended body and wheelbase, 21-gallon RCI fuel cell

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