Kevin Hawkins is reviving a 2001 TJ Wrangler that was originally Currie Enterprises’ Rocky Road competition Jeep. Kevin had the Wrangler and parts in his shop for years, planning to revive the Jeep with a new body, frame, and using some of the parts that had survived the competitions. We got involved and Kevin started back in on the stalled project.
While Rocky Road sported Currie’s trademark red paint, the replacement body is TJ yellow. The Jeep looks fine in either color. Kevin trussed the rear Currie Ford 9-inch and replaced the high-pinion third member with a new one loaded with 4.56 Yukon gears and an Eaton Detroit Locker. The original 9-inch frontend had found its way onto another of Kevin’s Jeeps, so a new Currie hybrid high-pinion Ford 9-inch with 1-ton knuckles was built for the Rocky Road. JK Wrangler brakes were installed at all four corners, necessitating a switch to 17-inch wheels.
The suspension is a combination of Currie coils and Kevin Hawkins’ custom aluminum long control arms. He triangulated the upper rears to delete the track bar. Shocks haven’t been chosen yet. Savvy aluminum front and rear bumpers and rocker guards are being powdercoated as this is being written and a Warn 9.5xp winch is waiting to be installed on the Savvy front bumper. Bestop’s new TJ top that’s a little better than the one they supplied the factory is already on the Jeep. It’s almost ready to drive and is looking good.
The TJ Wrangler is smaller, lighter, and simpler to work on than the JK Wrangler. Most of the electronic nannies that infest the JK didn’t exist in the 2001 model year, making the TJ a pleasure to work on. Being nanny-free ensures there won’t be any electronic gremlins to deal with on the Jeep’s shakedown cruise.
That being said, there are some surprising positives to the JK Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. Jeeps keep getting better. Better, that is, in quality control. The JK is a higher quality vehicle than older Jeeps. The 2014 JK is a better Jeep than the ’07 JKs. Little things like heat shields where there were none on earlier Wranglers to much better interior quality make brand-new Wranglers and Wrangler Unlimiteds more reliable and less prone to failure, as long as project builders remember that the more they modify the new Jeeps, the more electronic issues will arise.
I’m so impressed with the new JK, Dakota Customs procured a 2014 JK Unlimited Rubicon X and are building it as a dual sport Jeep. The Rubicon X is similar to the 2013 Rubicon 10th Anniversary model, sans the red leather seating. It comes from the factory with the regular Rubicon’s front and rear Tru Lok electric lockers, NVG241OR transfer case, and SmartBar electronic swaybar. The Rubicon X adds a front steel bumper with removable “wings,” a rear steel bumper, and a vented hood. It also includes as standard interior appointments like Uconnect and heated leather seats.
Dan McKeag at Dakota Customs and I are going to show how good the new Jeeps are by addressing only those things that need to be addressed to build a simple, clean, backcountry exploring Jeep. A bolt-on AEV 3.5-inch suspension system will raise the Jeep enough to run 35-inch tires on AEV Pintler wheels. A Warn 9.5cti-s winch will be installed in the OE Rubicon X bumper. The OE X rear bumper will be retained and an AEV tire carrier will be added, along with AEV’s Fuel Caddy for backcountry peace of mind. The OE 4.10 gearing and lockers will stay, but we will beef up the frontend with Synergy gussets, sleeves, sector shaft brace, and RCV axles. An otherwise simple build has to address the weak JK frontend, no matter what else is or isn’t planned.
There will be some interior modifications, such as communication equipment, an Olympic Jeepers Sleeper so the Unlimited can double as an RV in the wild, and -- probably nothing else.
That will be it. This Jeep should work well on the pavement and when tackling mild to fairly difficult trails. Whether it works or not, you’ll be the first to know.
I think it will work.