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Jeep TJ Nth Degree Suspension - The Flaming Papaya

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2007 Comment (0)
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By now, just about every 'wheeler has seen enough modified TJs to last them a lifetime. But ya gotta check this one out because it's way outside of the usual TJ box.

Sprung from the fertile melon of Jim Frens, owner and chief engineer of Nth Degree Mobility, the Flaming Papaya was built by Jim's employees in their spare time at Nth Degree's headquarters in Carson City, Nevada. Its main goal is to showcase many of the company's newest products, and also to test a bunch of new ideas that will appear from Nth Degree very soon.

The Papaya's in-your-face 2004 Audi Papaya Orange paint is the first thing to catch your eye. Then you notice the unusual front fenders that blend into the full body side armor. All these pieces are now available from Nth. Next, something seems odd about the wheelbase. Yep, it's been stretched in the rear 5 inches. This modification, complete with a custom gas tank, is also now available from the company. The hood looks different, too, because it's a fiberglass piece from AEV-modified, of course, with 3 inches shortened off each side. Then you notice the bumpers, the steering, the axles, the suspension, the engine and trans amn! Everything on this TJ has been "Nth'ized," and yet much of it looks like it came from the factory.

Perhaps that factory look comes from Frens' background as a Jeep engineer whose work with Chrysler included the original TJ design. Jim explains that, through the Papaya, he wanted to show just how far one could push the factory design using as many off-the-shelf Jeep parts as possible to build the ultimate TJ.

Check out the photos and the details in the captions to find out more about this TJ's fruitful ideas. And go to www.nthdegreemobility.com to find out which of these cool parts are now available for your TJ.

Stuffing 37-inch Goodyear MT/Rs and 17-inch Walker Evans bead-lock wheels into the Flaming Papaya's wheelwells is no problem, thanks to the huge wheelwells created by Nth's High Fenders. These heavy-duty tube and steel creations feature optional LED front- and side-running/turn signal lights. The fiberglass AEV High Hood goes well with these fenders, and blends into the Nth Cowl Guards, designed to protect the tender high-curved area just in front of the windshield. The rear wheelwells are defined by the Nth Corner Guards, which center the wheelwell 5 inches rearward to match the Nth long-arm 5-inch stretched rear suspension. Tying the two ends together are Nth's Smasher Basher rocker guards, which wrap under the body mounts and sport holes for optional LED rock lights. The front bumper is an Nth QuickWinch with optional grille hoop. The QuickWinch system allows you to easily mount the winch in a cradle in the front bumper or slide it into the standard 2-inch receiver in the custom, one-off rear bumper. Note the optional LED rock lights mounted into the ends of the bumper. The winch is a Warn HS9500i tugging a Winchline.com orange synthetic rope through a Winchline.com wide-mouth fairlead. Foglights are standard Jeep issue.

Suspension and underbody armor are Nth Degree's original claim to fame, and the Flaming Papaya doesn't cut any corners is these departments. The biggest news is the now-available 5-inch suspension stretch kit, but other cool new stuff can be seen here. Check out the Light Racing Jounce Shocks fitted inside Nth 6-inch-lift front coils. This is a kit developed jointly between the two companies and it allows the front coils to be fully captured at the top mount. Shocks are Bilstein 7100 reservoir units with custom Nth-tuned digressive tuning. The fronts feature 14 inches of travel while the rears offer 12. The Papaya can max a 30-degree RTI ramp and will lift one tire 46 inches off the ground before any others join it. Helping make such killer RTI numbers are the new Nth Quick-Silver II front sway-bar disconnect links. The Papaya's steering features prototype Nth high-steer knuckles and linkage, along with a prototype TracBar that fits to a production Nth track-bar brace.

The 5-inch-wheelbase stretch kit is truly a clever piece of engineering and, when installed, looks like the factory made the Jeep that way. The kit can be retrofitted to any existing Nth Degree long-arm kit. It features longer, lower control arms, a longer Stinger, upper spring relocator brackets, and a new aluminum gas tank. The rear axle on the Papaya is a standard TJ Dana 44 unit fitted with Yukon 5.13:1 gears and a Jeep Rubicon locking diff. The axles are chromoly Superior pieces and the brakes are TJ/Rubicon discs. The skidplate under the diff is part of the Nth Stinger torque-arm assembly. Other subtle but cool features are the Shock Shifter lower shock mounts, and the LED rock lights in the Smasher Basher rocker guards. The exhaust has been modified with a Flowmaster three-chamber muffler, a PaceSetter 6-2-1 header, and 2.5-inch tubing throughout.

The 5 inches of stretch to the wheelbase really helps the TJ's stability when climbing the steep stuff. The only modification to the body involved trimming away some outer sheetmetal to define the shape of the new wheelwell. The installed Corner Guards act as a template for this trimming. Note the optional 3/16-inch steel Rub Rails over the wheelwells, which stiffen the body tub further and protect it during those gnarly notch sessions. The corner guards include a built-in relocated fuel filler hole which utilizes the stock filler assembly.

The front axle is a Dana 44 high-pinion unit. This is a factory XJ axle from Venezuela, so it's a bolt-in to the TJ. The end yokes have been gusseted and the shock mounts have been moved to the lower control-arm bolts. Gearing is 5.13:1 and the diff is a Detroit Electrac with a prototype internal actuator. Axles are Superior chromoly units with Spicer 760x U-joints. The front brakes are currently stock TJ, but a Dodge 1/2-ton kit is in the works that will utilize Dodge front hub bearings as well. Looking at the midsection of this fruit, you see a modified flat Nth Tummy Tucker that extends forward to cover the tranny and bellhousing. A 1/4-inch "cutting board" plastic sheet covers the entire Tummy Tucker for gliding over those sharp rocks. Hidden by the front diff's Nth Diff Cover Guard is an Nth Oil Pan Skid which protects the 4.5L stroker's pan. Note how the Nth Degree long-arm kit completely tucks the lower control arms up inside the framerails with nothing hanging down to snag on anything.

Fuel is pumped through the relocated stock filler into this replacement 1/8-inch-thick aluminum gas tank which features the stock 19-gallon capacity and still allows enough room for the stretched wheelbase. The stock TJ pump, sending unit, and vent connections are retained. Protection for this new tank is provided by Nth's 3/16-inch steel skidplate, which mounts to existing holes. The rear Dana 44 is protected with an Nth diff cover. The Papaya runs a D44 axle in keeping with Frens' use-as-many-Jeep-parts-as-possible theme. It should be noted, though, that this replacement gas tank and skid will also clear a Dana 60 with the stretch kit.

The underhood modifications go far beyond the color-matched valve cover. The Jeep Six is stroked to a 4.5L using a 4.2 YJ crank and rods. All other internals are stock for reliability, but a custom MAP adjuster compensates for the displacement and compression ratio change. The engine is held in place via stock motor mounts with JKS spacers. Behind this torquey mill is an AW-4 four-speed automatic taken from a Cherokee. The tranny's brain is wired for full manual control. It will start and/or stay in any gear, and the driver can lock up the converter at will. Finishing off the running gear is an NV241J Rock-Trac transfer case from a Rubicon. Tom Wood's supplied the 'shafts that take the grunt to the axles. The front 'shaft is a two-piece unit to clear the huge skidplate. Its use is possible due to the high-pinion front axle. Other cool goodies include an AEM Brute Force air intake and filter, two Optima red-top batteries and a 152-amp alternator lifted from a ZJ 5.9L. Fitting of an electric cooling fan and shroud from an '03 TJ four-cylinder, wired for full driver control for water crossings, is made possible by utilizing a low-profile XJ water pump. The Papaya sports air conditioning for visiting the relatives on tropical vacations, but a second Sanden A/C compressor has also been installed and is utilized for onboard air. It is mounted to the lower left side of the engine. A Kilby On-Board Air System works with this compressor to fill a 4.5-gallon rectangular storage tank mounted to the left of the rear driveshaft in space provided by the stretched wheelbase. Future plans call for a Premier Power Welder to be installed.

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