Typical car owners trade in their vehicle for a newer model, but not Brody Zink. After wheeling an XJ Cherokee for a few years, the Nevada firefighter set his sights on a full-size Jeep Wagoneer. "I saw this thing for sale on Facebook and went to check it out," Brody recalls. "I made a deal with the seller, but then I got called off to a fire shortly thereafter. When I got back he told me it was sold, and I was heartbroken."
Little did Brody know that his girlfriend, MacKenzie, and her father had bought the Wagoneer for him and were keeping it as a surprise.
Living close to the Rubicon, Brody wanted to get the Wagoneer out on the trail in a hurry rather than spending years and thousands of dollars on his dream vehicle. MacKenzie's father Kurt already had a built Jeep, and Brody's father Greg had recently bought a J truck, so they were all eager to go wheeling together. Brody says, "My dad is a racecar guy, but he knows how to put things together regardless of whether they are used on the track or the trail."
Brody and his father slung 1-ton axles from a Super Duty under the Wagoneer and cut to fit 40-inch Pro Comp Xtreme MT2s. Revolution gears and ARB Air Lockers were added to the axles, and Kurt designed and built custom bumpers and rock sliders for the Wagoneer. After that the only thing that was left to do was for the group to hit the trail.
Other than some minor rock rash on the passenger door in Big Sluice, the initial trip to the Rubicon went flawlessly, but that doesn't mean Brody has no more upgrades planned for his Wagoneer. After helping his father fit coilovers on the J truck, Brody plans to add more horsepower and lower transfer case gearing to his Wagoneer.
The Wagoneer came with a 360 engine, but it had a spun rod bearing when Brody Zink got the Jeep. He swapped in an AMC 304 to get out on the trail without breaking the bank. Down the road he plans to rebuild the 360, or perhaps swap in an LS engine.
The interior is like a time machine back to the 1980s, with burgundy carpet and lots of fake woodgrain. The transmission shifter for the TF727 is on the column and the NP229 transfer case is vacuum operated, but both still functions. The only upgrades inside are a Grant steering wheel and a Pioneer stereo.
The front axle is a Dana 60 from a 1997 Super Duty that was already set up for leaf springs. The axle has been upgraded with 5.13 Revolution gears and an ARB Air Locker. Steering on these ball joint axles is more complicated than a kingpin Dana 60 due to the knuckle design, but Brody added a passenger-side knuckle from Off Road Unlimited to put the drag link above the leaf springs. A Synergy tie rod for a JK was modified and used with a PSC hydraulic ram and a high-flow steering pump.
Brody's girlfriend, MacKenzi,e comes from a wheeling family. Her father Kurt Huntoon has a four-door JK on Currie Rock Jock axles. He also owns Protofab, an industrial service millwright contractor and fabrication facility in Reno, so it was no big deal for Kurt to help Brody make the custom bumpers and sliders for his Wagoneer.
The front suspension consists of factory leaf springs on RuffStuff Specialties spring hangers to outboard the springs and match the width of the front axle. With the shackles in the front, the axle gets farther from the firewall as the suspension compresses. The shackle-forward configuration also eliminates the need for an expensive long slip front driveline. The 14-inch-travel, 2 1/2-inch-diameter Radflo remote reservoir shocks on RuffStuff mounts control the axle movement.
Rather than just use box tubing, Brody formed sliders out of plate steel, and they match the body lines of the Wagoneer perfectly. The sliders are also smooth so they don't get caught on obstacles, and they stick out just far enough to protect the body without being a hindrance on the trail.
The rear axle is a Sterling 10.5 that came out of the same Super Duty as the front axle. That means the width and 8-on-170mm bolt pattern match between the two, and it came as a full floater with disc brakes so all Brody had to add was 5.13 Revolution gears and an ARB Air Locker. The rear suspension uses 56-inch Chevy leaf springs and 12-inch-travel, 2 1/2-inch-diameter Radflo remote reservoir shocks. Without punching the shocks through the floor of the tub, there isn't much uptravel, but the tires would rub the sheetmetal if you tried to stuff then more anyway. Low slung with lots of droop works great at low speeds on the trail.
1987 Jeep Wagoneer
Engine: 304ci V-8
Transmission: TF727 3-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NP229
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 5.13 Revolution gears and ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Sterling 10.5 with 5.13 Revolution gears and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Relocated factory springs and Radflo 14-inch-travel shocks (front); factory springs and Radflo 12-inch-travel shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50R17 Pro Comp Xtreme MT2s on 17x9 Method NV wheels
Steering: PSC hydraulic assist ram and high-flow pump, Off Road Unlimited knuckle, Synergy JK tie rod
Lighting: Diode Dynamics 10-inch LED light bars
Other Stuff: Custom Protofab bumpers and rock sliders, Smittybilt X20 10k winch