The ’80s were a dim time, automotively speaking. We got such gems as the Chevrolet Citation, Renault Le Car, Delorean DMC-12, and Clark Griswold’s Family Truckster foisted on us and we were expected to like it. Therefore, it should be no surprise that Jeep stepped away from its decades-old tradition of CJs and bastardized the market segment with the YJ. The CJ cleared 31s stock, but the Wrangler’s lowered suspension was lucky to clear 29s. The CJ had a nice flat dashboard, but the Wrangler had a crappy plastic thing that creaked and groaned right off the showroom floor. Track bars and leaf springs? Check. Computer-controlled carburetor? Check. Harsh ride and limited articulation? Check. Square headlights? The Wrangler fun-fest continued.
Still, if you are able to look past some of the drug-addled ’80s wonderfulness, you’ll see a decent Jeep just waiting to be built. A mandrel-bent 4 x 2.5 x 0.125-inch rectangular tube frame replaced the poorly welded “C” channel frame of the AMC-era CJ. Flat, equal-length leaf springs replaced the more highly arched, dissimilar-length CJ springs. Half-steel doors made an appearance. Galvanization on the body and frame meant that it might last longer than 5 years in the rustbelt. Better steering, fuel injection, and more found its way into the Wrangler. Maybe they’re not so bad.
So here we are, 25 years after the first Wrangler came out and actually liking that bastardized non-CJ we were so angry at AMC/Chrysler for forcing on us in the first place. Today, the YJ Wrangler is typically the cheapest open-top, short-wheelbase Jeep you can buy, and with some simple modifications they can be made into trail monsters.