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1997 Jeep TJ Brute Suspension - Project Teal-J II Brute

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 2008
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With Teal Brute's new-found ability to soak up bumps, Feature Editor Robin Stover catches a little air at Pismo State Beach.

By now, most of you have probably noticed how our Teal-J project has been reborn into a trick AEV Brute Pickup. Fortunately for those of you who are saving up, the folks at AEV still offer the Brute conversion directly via or through well-known mail-order catalog Quadratec. We could go on and on about how the Brute Pickup conversion makes any plain-Jane TJ extraordinary, but this time our subject is suspension. It just so happens the guys from DC Customs of Ukiah, California, know a thing or two about setting up suspensions. And after they performed our Brute conversion, we asked if they could help fine-tune Teal's underpinnings for real-world moderate-speed trail use. The shop's owner, Dustin Chernoh, agreed to take on the project. Dustin convinced us that a larger tire would help flatten out bumps as well as make the rig look more grown-up. We agreed with his logic and concluded that a larger tire would also address a couple of Brute-specific shortcomings.

For instance, on 37-inch tires a steep break-over or sheer drop-off required some very tactful driving to avoid snags. Don't get us wrong, climbing steep ledges that might have normally made us think twice are now a cakewalk in the longer configuration. All in all, we've deduced that a slightly larger tire would in fact restore Teal to the point-and-shoot machine she once was (prior to this story, Teal rode on 37x13.50-17s). However, installing larger tires is not a simple bolt-on affair. Usually, larger meats mean more stress to drivetrain components, not to mention the stereotypical noise and ride harshness associated with aggressive treads. Bigger tires almost always require more lift and, at the very least, stronger steering and braking components. Luckily for us, Teal Brute already has 1-ton axles and a hydro-assist steering system to relieve a lot of steering stress. So basically all we needed was a little elevation change, new gears, and a suitable tire. Like many of our readers, we wanted a tire with good street manners, yet we also require durability for rocky trails. The wheels we wanted to run were 17s, so our tire choices got even slimmer. In the end, we went with the proven Goodyear MT/R in a 40-inch variant. Read along as we highlight what was necessary to stuff 40s under Teal, while at the same time improving suspension performance for higher-speed maneuvers.

PhotosView Slideshow
PhotosView Slideshow

13. Taller tires require lower gearing. So we decided to install 5.13:1 gears to help bring Teal's off-the-line acceleration back to normal. And yes, we did consider the decrease in strength associated with such a low numerical ratio. Our logic is this: with Prorock 60s front and rear, plus an automatic transmission, we don't expect to have gear failure with 40-inch tires. We'll see how it goes. Everyone knows that heavier tires rob power-there's no getting around that-but with proper gearing, you can usually find a good balance between a low highway cruising rpm and acceptable acceleration. These gears came from our friends at Randy's Ring & Pinion.

PhotosView Slideshow

We couldn't be more pleased with the aftermath. Two big thumbs up for ACOS Pros by JKS and Walker Evans Racing shocks. Together, they provided us with enough room to clear 40-inch rubber, and the ability to maintain control over nasty roller whoops like the ones found at Pismo State Beach. Harsh bottoming-out events are now a thing of the past, thanks to the sweet hydraulic bumpstops. On the highway, the Walker shocks provided more than enough adjustability to smooth out everything from bone-jarring expansion joints to pot holes. The 40-inch MT/Rs are definitely one of the smoothest running large-diameter tires we've ever tested. They are very quiet on pavement and, thanks to the added sidewall height, they actually provide additional damping over big bumps at lower air pressure. Ground clearance increased by about 1.5 inches, and breakover and departure angles got better too. Now all we need are some heavy-duty rock rails, and Teal Brute will be ready to take on anything.


JKS Manufacturing
Alliance, NE 69301
Walker Evans Racing
Riverside, CA 92516
DC Customs
Randy's Ring & Pinion
Everett, WA 98204

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