Marty Keylon of Pollock Pines, California, may have “downgraded” model years when he sold a ’93 to his son-in-law to get an ’89 YJ, but he says his new-old Jeep is “bad ass!” We won’t argue after reading about all of the cool upgrades such as the late-model Chevy 350ci V-8 TBI engine swap with a Griffin aluminum radiator, and a 700R4 automatic transmission with a Hurst shifter. The four-speed transmission is connected to a Dana 300 transfer case with twin-stick controls leading to Dana 44 axles with disc brakes in the front and rear. The axles are custom Dutchman builds with 4.56 gears, chromoly shafts, and ARBs. The 15x10-inch slotted steel wheels with 37-inch Toyo Open Country MT tires are under the custom leaf-sprung suspension with a spring-over conversion and reverse shackles up front, and a ladder bar in the rear. The Jeep also has a custom full cage, bucket seats with five-point harnesses, a Warn winch with a remote control, and electric on-board air that uses the custom front bumper as the air tank. Marty is lucky enough to live just 45 minutes from the Rubicon, so you might see him on one of the trails in the area someday.
Matthew Parga-Manasse from Fayetteville, North Carolina, tells us he’s “medicated” and from the looks of his ’10 Rubicon, the mystery remedy seems to be working. The JK rides on 18-inch XD Monster wheels with 38-inch Toyo Cross Country MT tires under a Rock Krawler 51⁄2-inch long-arm coilover suspension lift. Tom Wood’s driveshafts lead to 5.38 Superior gears and upgraded axleshafts inside the stock Dana 44 Rubicon axles that are strengthened with Poly Performance C-gussets. Matthew has installed pretty much everything in the Poison Spyder catalog to protect the JK and its occupants, along with a complete River Raider Off-Road skid plate system. The engine is stock, but has a Superchips programmer and a River Raider snorkel to keep the water out. Lighting up the trail are a 50-inch LED light bar and D2 spot lamp pods on the front bumper by Rigid Industries, which are controlled with by an sPod switch panel along with the Warn winch. The exterior has a custom color scheme with DuPont Hot Rod Black paint and an OffRoad Heroes soft top.
The Hard Stuff
Martin Schmidt of Lafayette, Colorado, told us “I prefer rocks,” like these on Spring Creek Trail, but he also built his ’04 TJ to be a multi-purpose rig. A 4.6L stroker engine with an NV231 T-case that has an Advanced Adapters RubiCrawler doubler powers the Jeep. The front and rear suspension are lifted with coils and remote-reservoir shocks by Nth Degree, and there’s a Currie Antirock sway bar and steering linkage up front. The Dana 30 front axle and Dana 44 rear axle both have 4.88 gears, 30-spline chromoly shafts, ARB lockers, Poison Spyder rock rings, and Nth Degree rock sliders. The Raceline wheels are fitted with 37-inch Goodyear MT/R tires, there’s a Warn winch on the narrow front bumper, and the rear seat has been ditched and replaced with a big lockbox. Martin’s future plans include a front hybrid axle swap and some welding classes to improve his skills since he likes to do his own work.
Less Than a Year?
Shane Fisher of Frisco, Colorado, doesn’t waste time with his Jeep projects, and this ’06 LJ that he’s owned for less than a year is proof. This is Shane’s fifth and favorite build and it already has a ton of upgrades, including a Currie 4-inch lift and steering along with control arms and track bars by JKS. A rear Detroit Locker and front Eaton Truetrac augment G2 4.88 gears inside the Dana 30 front and Dana 44 rear axles. The T-case is hooked to an Advanced Adapters slip-yoke eliminator and Tom Wood’s driveshafts. An AEV rear slider and oil pan guard, belly skidplate kit, and FXD differential guards protect the underside. Shane says his “pick ’em up truck” conversion was accomplished with a GR8Tops bulkhead and some custom downbars, along with a Bestop TJ Halftop, and some of his own custom sewing. Spidertrax spacers help the black steelies fit 35-inch Pro Comp Xtreme M/T tires. Up front there is a narrow bumper with a Smittybilt XRC8 winch and orange Delta spot lamps. A Rock Hard rollcage keeps everyone inside safe, and Bestop half doors allow Shane to enjoy the view while wheeling at spots from the Colorado Rockies to Moab, Utah.
Ryan Barnes of Junction City, Oregon, has lots of recovery equipment on his ’95 ZJ, but from the look of his truck, we guess he’s the one pulling Jeepers out of trouble. There is a 5.2L V-8 with a cold air intake and a Flowmaster exhaust, an ARB bumper, and a Warn M8000 winch with MasterPull synthetic line. Visibility is improved with 4-inch LED spots and a Total Metal Innovations rack with a 30-inch LED light bar. The ZJ has a 5-inch suspension lift thanks to Iron Rock Off Road front long-arms and a Rubicon Express Super-Flex system in the rear. Track bars and a dropped pitman arm by Iron Rock Off Road are used with JKS Bar Pin Eliminators that get rid of annoying thumps coming from the shocks. The Jeep has 4.10 gears and a Powertrax Lock-Right locker in the rear differential, and it rides on 15-inch Total Metal Innovations beadlock wheels with 33x12.50R15 BFG MTs.
4 Years In
Derek Frable of Walnutport, Pennsylvania, is into the fourth year of his ’02 WJ build, and it’s almost complete. So far, the project has a 4.0L engine with a Fastman throttle body bored out to 62mm, and the factory injectors have been replaced with units from a Ford Mustang. The Jeep has a Rusty’s Off-Road Advanced 4½-inch suspension with Clayton coil springs and Bilstein 5160 remote-reservoir shocks. The WJ has custom driveshafts from Carolina Driveline and rides on top of 17.5x8.5-inch AEV Pintler beadlocks with 31-inch Goodyear DuraTrac tires. A Matrix brush guard, front belly protection, rear bumper guard, and rock sliders were designed and custom-built by the crew at 4xGuard. For visibility, the Grand Cherokee has Halo HID headlamps and Euro-style LED tail lamps along with six KC HiLites. The roof-mounted light bar and spare tire carrier are by Kevin’s Off-Road and allow for the mounting of a Hi-Lift jack along with a pick/shovel.
Josh Moyer sent us this scenic photo of his ’00 TJ at Hard Rock off-road park in Ocala, Florida. The Jeep gets plenty of motivation from a 5.9L V-8 Magnum engine swap that spins 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich KM2 tires. The fenders have been removed to make room for the big tires, along with a 3-inch suspension lift and a 11⁄2-inch body lift for clearance. A custom-built stinger bumper that’s fitted with tow rings and a Smittybilt 10,000-pound winch protects the front end.
Christopher Mattingly of Las Vegas, Nevada, is so addicted to his Wrangler project that he worked 60 hours a week for three months to pay for his habit. He’s done all of the work himself including adding a Currie 4-inch suspension lift with adjustable control arms and track bars, Fox Racing remote-reservoir shocks, Currie Currectlync heavy-duty steering, a Currie Antirock front sway bar, a Savvy body lift, a motor mount lift, and modular aluminum skidplates. The Jeep also has a TeraLow 4:1 low range kit, a G2 Dana 44 front axle with a Detroit Locker, a G2 Dana 44 35-spline large housing rear axle with an ARB Air Locker and 4.56 gears, and Drake Off-Road headers that lead to a Magnaflow muffler. The General Grabber 33x10.50R15 tires have red letters to match the Jeep along with the Oracle Halo headlamp rings. Those, along with Smittybilt bumpers and side armor, a Gobi Ranger roof rack with a ladder, and metallic grille slats help Christopher achieve the “sick” look he desired. You can see his Jeep in action on the Rubicon Trail by going to YouTube and looking up “ThePowrJunkey.”
Robert Coombs of Northport, Maine, got pushed around by his brother-in-law, but he didn’t mind because it was the only way his ’99 TJ was getting home. While wheeling in Acadia National Park, his transmission blew, leaving Robert with only Fourth gear, but his in-law used a Super Duty to push the Jeep up every hill during a 65-mile trek back home. Along with the inevitable transmission rebuild, the 4.0L-equipped TJ has been built for summer driving and light trail use with a Zone Off Road 3-inch suspension lift in the front and rear and Runway Enduro 31-inch Mud Terrain tires.
U.S. Army Specialist Daniel McKenzie of Fort Benning, Georgia, found out why he got such a good deal on his Jeep when he discovered the front driver-side frame rail was broken. Instead of giving up on the ’90 YJ four-cylinder with 31-inch tires, Daniel bought a new frame section for less than 200 bucks. Using the help of an NCO with welding skills and some buddies, the Jeep was taken apart down to the frame, the broken rail was cut, the new piece was cut to fit, and it was welded into place. The Jeep was back on the road in just nine hours, and Daniel says that he’s confident the repair will last a long time as he builds up his project.
Damien Lee of Auburn, California, told us, “I saved every bit of cash I could get my hands on” from the ages of 18-20 to build this ’94 YJ seen peeking over the top of a boulder. Now, Damien says off-roading has become a “way of life” for him. Under the hood is 4.0L engine backed by the AX-15 transmission and an NP231 transfer case with a 4:1 low range kit. The front and rear have a 21⁄2-inch Rubicon Express Extreme Duty lift with a military wrap spring-over-axle setup. The front axle is a Dana 44 with an ARB Air Locker, and the rear axle is a Dana 60 with disc brakes, 4.88 gears, and an ARB Air Locker. Making contact with the ground are 18-inch Helo Maxx 8s in black with super-wide 38x15.50R18 Toyo Open Country MT tires.
You could say that Kenn Hanner of Clovis, California, is being methodical with the slow transformation he’s performing on his ’13 JK Freedom Edition. The build started with only 1,000 miles on the odometer. Kenn says the 3.6L Pentastar engine and automatic transmission combo returned an impressive 20.9 mpg during these test runs, and that was with the air conditioning running. Rock rails have already been added to the Commando-green project, and the next upgrades planned are a locking rear differential, 33-inch tires on 17-inch wheels with less backspacing than the stock, and steel bumpers front and rear.
First and Last
Robert Dee of Campbell, California, says this ’94 YJ is the first vehicle he ever bought, and it’s the only one he will never sell. It’s no wonder after seeing how much work he’s put into it during his first nine years of ownership. The 4.0L engine has a Firepower ignition, a 140-amp alternator from a ZJ, a WJ intake manifold, a Borla header, and an oversized tranny cooler for the power steering. The T-case is an NP231 with a JB Conversions Super Short slip-yoke eliminator with a TJ shift selector. The suspension is now spring-over with parts by Rubicon Express and Bilstein 5150 shocks. The front is the YJ Dana 30 with TJ axleshafts, TeraFlex high-steer system, and Aussie locker, while the rear is an XJ Dana 44 with an ARB and 4.11 gears to match the front. Robert has also installed plenty of junkyard parts along with a winch and 35-inch MT/R tires.
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