Budget-Built YJ Conversion
When it comes to an affordable build platform it's hard to beat the '87-'95 Jeep Wrangler YJ. The sturdy little leaf-sprung Jeep's stout frame and cheap price make it a garage builder's best friend.
One of the most common conversions for the YJ is the spring-over axle conversion, or SOA for short. An SOA provides the Jeep with more ground clearance, a wider selection of springs options, and a substantial amount of lift without having to run overly arched or stiff leaf springs. Another big plus of the SOA is the ability to slide under 3/4- and 1-ton axle combos without being a metal magician.
Though there is a plethora of aftermarket spring-over and full-width axle conversion kits available for the square-eyed Wranglers, we've also seen many home-fabricated low-buck ways to get the springs over the axle. Recently we dropped by our buddy's two-car garage as he was building his own SOA and dropping in a Dana 44 and 14-bolt axle combo. Since the '91 YJ is a bit of a long-term project, he peeled the body off for a little redo, but it is in no way required for the spring-over conversion. Though steering, track bars, and driveline modifications are all part of an SOA, we will focus on the basics of getting the suspension fitted and the axles in place for this installment.
It's not too often you still hear of people using a stick welder to build their Jeeps, but for many it's all they have. We used 6011 rods and an old Lincoln 225 stick welder to burn the brackets in. Welding with a stick is definitely a dying art; but for many farmhands, a MIG or TIG is simply not an option.