We almost had to steal one to build it.
It was killer; we had the ultimate buildup plan for the new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, but no Jeep to build on. DaimlerChrysler wasn't exactly giving them away -- that is, unless you manufacture tacky fiberglass wings, neon lights or tinted Lexan wing-dings to show off at the SEMA show. And no one on this staff would be buying a new rig anytime soon unless the dealer was taking a kidney as a trade-in. So while assembling our plan to steal one from the local lot, only for a "short" testdrive of course, we got a call from a friend who had just purchased one. We quickly conned him into letting us cut up his brand new ride with 250 miles on it.
This first installment covers most of the suspension. We wanted a long-arm lift not only to get plenty of twist and flex but also to get some high-speed bump-sucking travel from the rear. So we shot out a call to Rubicon Express for its Extreme-Duty long-arm kit. The Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) is virtually the same as a TJ from the transfer-case skidder forward, but the rear arms are considerably longer on the LJ. We'll show you the rest of the buildup in upcoming articles. Here's what we've done to our long Jeep so far.
With the lift mostly complete, we rolled out the rubber. We wanted an extra-strong sidewalled rockcrawling tire that looked aggressive and cool. BFGoodrich 37x12.50 Krawlers were picked for durability and extreme traction on just about any surface. Plus, the really aggressive tread scares children. For now, we mounted them on 17x9-inch aluminum wheels with 4 1/2 inches of backspacing. Of course, our real bead locks were on back order at the time.