This 2005 Jeep Wrangler TJ Unlimited (commonly referred to as an LJ) was one of our favorites among the 100 Jeeps that attended the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive Presented by Jeep. Why, you ask? The list is long, but here goes. Its real beauty becomes evident upon a second, longer look. There are hidden treasures. The powertrain delivers torque and dependability. It sits on 1-ton axles. While considerably upgraded, the Jeep’s build is subtle. It’s not about flash; it’s about form and function.
The 4.0L inline-six sports a Banks cold-air intake, a high-flow exhaust system, and 1/2-inch-lift motor mounts that help hike the engine up and out of the way. The factory auto trans and an NP231 transfer case modified with a slip-yoke eliminator pass power through custom driveshafts to the axles. Up front sits a Ford high-pinion Dana 60 with F-350 outers. A Dana 60 with a Ballistic Shave Kit and Moser ’shafts carries the rear. Both axles have 5.13 gears and electric lockers. Cooper Discoverer STT Pro 37x13.50R17 tires are stuck to Raceline 17-inch beadlocks.
Suspension augmentation included a 2-inch spring lift, a 1-inch body lift, and a wheelbase stretch to 109 inches. The frame was notched, and custom mounts were created for the extra-long rear shocks. A PSC hydraulic-assist system improved steering control over the huge tires. Skidplates for the hydraulic ram and the steering box were added. Remote coolers with thermostatically controlled fans for the steering and transmission fluids help keep both working efficiently.
Like we said, one of the things that we really liked about this Jeep was the low-key but super-functional build. The gas tank was moved rearward (to match the wheelbase stretch), and a custom skidplate protects it. The JcrOffroad front bumper holds a Warn Zeon 10S winch, a single Rigid LED lightbar covers auxiliary nighttime illumination needs, and a Warn rear bumper was modified with custom tubular corner cages. Inside was where things got really interesting though. If you were wondering where the spare 37-inch tire was stowed: A custom-built stand-up spare tire mount was fabricated and bolted directly into the Jeep tub’s driver-side wheelwell.
It also happens to be owned by Jp Dirt ’N Drive returnees Chase and Rhonda Davenport, who again drove (in their ’05 Wrangler LJ this time) all the way from North Carolina to join us on our annual three-day invitational overland trek with 100 Jeeps to Moab, Utah, for Easter Jeep Safari. Chase and Rhonda are the hardy adventurers who, during the previous year, flipped their Jeep XJ (well, Chase did—Rhonda was outside shooting video) on a major obstacle during the second day of the trip. Amazingly, and thankfully, a cracked radiator, bent hood, wrinkled front fenders, and jangled nerves were the worst of it. After a night of repairs, they showed up the next day ready to go, with a ratchet strap holding the hood in place. That’s the Jeepin’ spirit.
Hard FactsVehicle: 2005 Jeep Wrangler TJ Unlimited (LJ)
Engine: 4.0L inline-six
Transmission: 42RLE four-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NP231 w/ 2.72 low range
Suspension: 2-inch coil and 1-inch body lift
Axles: Ford high-pinion Dana 60 w/ F-350 outers (front); Dana 60 w/ Ballisitic Shave Kit (rear); 5.13 gears and electric lockers in both axles
Wheels: Raceline 17-inch beadlock
Tires: 37x13.50R17 Cooper Discoverer STT Pro