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2006 Jeep KJ Liberty CRD: The 400 Pound-Foot Diesel Jeep

Posted in Jp Dirt N Drive: 2018 on May 25, 2018
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We saw all kinds on the 2018 Jp Dirt ‘N Drive presented by Jeep. Wranglers of all generations, XJs, ZJs, round fender and flat fender CJs, and even an XK and KJ were among the 100 Jeeps that joined us for our four-day adventure leading to Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Kenneth and April Firgerlos brought their 2006 Jeep KJ Liberty CRD nicknamed “Grumpy.” They purchased it in 2009 with 45,000 miles on the odometer, and began using it as a daily driver and weekend wheeler until 2014 and 100,000 more miles later when the KJ was retired from full-time duty by a new Jeep Wrangler.

It didn’t take too long after parking the Liberty before Kenneth began the rebuild. Built, rebuilt, and modified a few times over the years since 2009, the Jeep KJ has a nicely put together custom suspension system, beefed up and fully locked front and rear axles, and a tuned and turbocharged diesel that puts out 400 ft/lbs of torque and 220 horsepower. The “little engine that could” impressed everyone who saw it during the 2018 Jp Dirt ‘N Drive presented by Jeep.

A pressure test early in the engine rebuild found a crack behind the valve seat on cylinder three, so a new head was sourced from with gaskets and ARP studs. New e-Techno glow plugs and the Weeks Stage 1 and Stage 2 Kits (intake elbow, EGR delete, coolant bypass) were acquired from Sasquatch Motorsports. Kenneth recently added a Green Diesel Engineering (GDE) Turbo Kit (custom tune, improved Garrett turbocharger, and custom downpipe to the cat). The Liberty’s 545RFE transmission runs a low-stall SunCoast Diesel billet torque converter, and was rebuilt with heavy-duty internals at Parker Transmission of Parker, Colorado.

Kenneth told us, “it’s still IFS, but not much below the body is stock anymore.” Tom Woods’ SYE kit inhabits this Liberty's NP242 Select-Trac transfer case; and Tom Woods double-cardan driveshafts deliver the power to the 4.10-geared JBA Dana 30 IFS front and Chrysler 8.25 rear axles. Using JBA Adjust-a-Struts with Fox remote reservoir shocks, JBA 4-inch CRD springs, and lots of trial and error, a sturdy yet complaint suspension system was created for the Liberty. The 265/75R16 Dick Cepek Fun Country tires frame a set of 16-inch TJ Rubicon wheels.

The almost hidden Sasquatch Motorsports battery tray is one of our favorite features on this KJ. It’s designed to accept a much larger Group 64 battery, and provides a mounting point for a Webasto diesel fueled heater (good for those CRD owners in cold climates). Kenneth modified the tray to accept the ARB compressor where the heater would have gone.

Over time, Kenneth, learned the value of aftermarket skid plates on his Wrangler, and was determined to keep the Liberty's sheet metal intact too. A set of 4xGuard skids for the tender portions of the Liberty’s front (front, engine, and transmission) were added. Skid Row Offroad skid plates cover the transfer case and gas tank.

The Firgerlos’ 2006 Jeep KJ Liberty CRD caught our attention because, well, we just don’t see many Liberty’s on the trail built to be capable of handling it. The suspension and undercarriage modifications were modest yet effective, but it soon became obvious this was much more than your average upgraded Liberty. Its 2.8L inline-four cylinder VM Motori i2006 common-rail-diesel had been hot-rodded to put out muscle car power.

Vehicle: 2006 Jeep KJ Liberty CRD
Engine: VM Motori 2.8L I-4 turbodiesel
Transmission: Chrysler 545RFE automatic
Transfer Case: NP 242
Suspension: 4-inch JBA coilover kit, Fox remote reservoir shocks
Axles: Dana 30 IFS, JBA steel IFS center section, 4.10 ARB Air Locker (front); Chrysler 8.25, 4.10 ARB Air Locker (rear)
Tires: Dick Cepek Fun Country 265/75/R16
Wheels: 16-inch TJ Moab wheels

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