While checking out AutoTrader online, I spotted an interesting 2005 TJ Unlimited at West Motors in Preston, Idaho. Its Carfax was clean and showed that its one owner had changed the oil and serviced it every 2,500-3,000 miles. After some negotiation, it became mine. I immediately ordered Currie RockJock 60 front and rear ends built with 5.38 Sierra gears and a Detroit Locker up front and an ARB Air Locker in the rear (more on this in an upcoming issue). While waiting for the axles to arrive, I decided to install some interior products and armor.
The Unlimited came with the base AM/FM/CD head unit and four speakers. The sound was anemic and the head unit couldn't receive Sirius Satellite Radio, my backcountry friend. I decided to immediately upgrade. Since 1975, I have ordered products from Crutchfield for both my vehicles and my home. A few years ago, I ordered a complete surround system for the house we had just purchased. It arrived as promised, but one of the surround speakers had a bad driver out of the box. Crutchfield sent a new speaker before I returned the original! Crutchfield has a history of customer support that's phenomenal. I knew I could count on Crutchfield to have everything needed to improve the Unlimited's environment. "Everything needed" not only means the head unit, speakers, and amplifier. Crutchfield sends along vehicle-specific installation kits that have all adapter wires, patch cords, and bracketry to make stereo installation very easy, even for neophytes.
I chose to use an Alpine CDA-9886 CD receiver. Its strong internal amp delivers powerful output, and you can shape the sound with Bass Engine sound controls including a two-band parametric equalizer and a low-pass filter for the subwoofer. The stereo also features a high-pass filter that keeps the TJ's full-range speakers clear by eliminating the low bass they can't handle.
The two-line BioLite display delivers text that's easy to read anywhere in the Jeep. Alpine's included iPod cable lets you connect your iPod and use the Percentage Search function to find your favorite songs fast - just tap the radio preset buttons to jump quickly through sections of your playlist. You'll also find a built-in USB input ready for your thumb drives or USB-equipped music players (except iPod). Since I don't have an iPod or another music player, none of this matters to me. What matters is that I could get the SiriusConnect SC-C1 with Alpine interface that allows satellite radio to be controlled through the Alpine head unit.
The 4x6-inch dash speakers were replaced with Infinity Reference 6422cf 4x6-inch 2-way speakers and XTC foam speaker baffles. In the sound bar, the stock 5.25-inch speakers were replaced with Alpine SPS-600 6.5-inch/6.75-inch two-way speakers. There's room for these larger speakers there and they sound much better than stock. Since the OE system didn't include one, the TJ needed a subwoofer. JL Audio has a reputation for high quality audio products that sound great. I chose a JL Audio 10W1v2-4 10-inch, 4-ohm component subwoofer and was going to have an enclosure built. To power the subwoofer, a JL Audio G Series G4500 80Wx4 amplifier was chosen. Two channels power the 6.5s in the sound bar and the other two channels are bridged to power the subwoofer. The Alpine head unit powers the 4x6-inch speakers in the dash.
The beadlock incident has made me less dexterous and unable to do detail work with my hands, plus I can't kneel well with the bad knee. I decided to enlist the help of Lynn's Audio Video in North Logan, Utah. Lance and the crew at Lynn's had performed installations on other 4x4s we had featured, so I knew they knew Jeeps and the problems associated with getting good sound in their strange acoustic environment. Once I arrived, Lance had the dash apart and the OE head unit out in no time. I knew this was going to be good.
The 10-inch JL Audio subwoofer proved to be an issue. I didn't want to lose cargo space, but a custom enclosure would take away needed room. Lance suggested a false floor in the rear, but that would also reduce cargo space. I like the JK Wrangler factory subwoofer. It doesn't take up much room and still allows the use of a subwoofer in the Jeep. I talked a friend out of his, as he had gone another direction with his sound system and wasn't using it. While my 10-inch subwoofer wouldn't fit in the JK's 8-inch enclosure, a JL Audio low-profile 8W1v2-4 8-inch subwoofer would. Replacing the really cheesy factory paper-coned sub with the quality JL Audio component really makes a difference. Lance was able to mount the subwoofer in the back, letting me retain needed cargo space. The JL Audio amplifier mounted neatly under the rear seat.
For the interior, 4 Wheel Drive Hardware supplied Bestop factory seat covers. The Bestop covers are my favorite. They're strong and made of denim vinyl, so are easy to clean. A few years back, these seatcovers weren't fitting too well and were hard to install. Evidently, improvements were made, as these slipped right on and fit fine. Four Wheel Drive Hardware also supplied a pair of LED tail lights that are direct replacements for the OE units.
Mount Logan Off-Road will be doing the major portion of the build. While waiting for the Currie Rock Jocks to arrive, the Mount Logan crew installed their front bumper with a Warn 9500 HP PowerPlant winch, their rocker guards that deflect rocks and look great, and a Currie Enterprises spare carrier rear bumper with Tail Bonez that wrap around and protect the body. The Currie spare carrier was designed by yours truly and Wayne Hanson. It's been interesting over the years to see it copied so many times in so many ways. A Currie 1-inch body lift was installed, as well as JKS Manufacturing's 1-inch budget motor mounts. The JKS mounts raise the factory mounts 1-inch, letting us keep the vibration-damping OE rubber.
Next time, we'll be getting into the suspension and axle installation. For now, it's very nice to drive my goofy-looking stocker around listening to a sound system that's anything but.
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