At first glance it may seem like someone dropped a blue paint bomb on Larry McRae's '93 YJ. Look again, and yup - someone did drop a paint bomb on it. While some paint their rigs because they are tired of the old paint or just looking for something a bit different, Larry's YJ got a new coat out of necessity after his Jeep rolled backward down a nice hill. A few nights of work and a few beers later, it had a new tub and a shiny new paint job, and it was back on its wheels (dirty side down).
Chassis And Drivetrain
Under the hood of Larry McRae's big blue beast is the factory 4.0L motor. Albeit heavy, it's a good all-around motor. The engine compartment is dressed up with the usual goodies. An aftermarket K&N intake lets the motor breathe, and the Mike Leach TJ performance header provides a bit more go juice. The TJ header routes the exhaust in front of the oil pan like the '02-current TJ does. The factory air conditioner was converted into an onboard air system to inflate tires and run air tools. An Optima RedTop battery makes sure the Jeep starts, and those foil burritos on top of the motor make sure Larry doesn't get hungry.
Behind the 4.0L is the factory AX-15 five-speed transmission. While Larry used to be a manual guy, he says that after driv-ing a lazy-guy automatic in competition, he will drop an auto in his Jeep when the AX-15 dies. He also plans to swap in an all-aluminum LS-1 V-8 in the near future.
Connected to his JE Reel 1350 driveshafts is an Atlas II 4.3:1 transfer case. The case runs 32-spline front and rear output shafts, so Larry always gets where he wants to go - just not in a hurry. The body above the Atlas was cut out so the transfer case could be pushed up flat with the framerails. A flat 11/44-inch-thick aluminum skidplate protects the underside, and a thin piece of stainless steel covers the aluminum to make the skidplate a bit more slippery and durable.
On the other side of the driveshafts sits a pair of Rock Jock aluminum high-pinion 60s with chromoly tubes. The shock and spring perches are all TIG-welded on to make these beauties a work of art. The front axle runs the Ford-style ball joint outers with aluminum Currie knuckles. Turning the front tires are Superior 4340 chromoly axleshafts held together by CTM U-joints. Both ends feature 5.13 gears and Detroit Lockers; Wilwood disc brakes work to stop the Jeep. The front axle is completed with a Howe Performance hydraulic ram-assist kit, which includes a new pump, reservoir, box, ram, and hydraulic lines. The tie rod and ram are mounted on Currie high-steer arms above and behind the axle, out of the way of trail obstacles.
The front suspension consists of a spring-over lift using a combination of Rancho '74-and-up Jeep Wagoneer (PN RS44044) and Superlift springs. The Ranchos were used for the offset center pin and the Superlifts for ride height and flex. The front suspension also features 14-inch Bilstein 7100 reservoir shocks mounted on custom shock hoops. The rear suspension consists of Alcan Toyota Land Cruiser springs with an offset center pin for added wheelbase. The front leaf-spring hangers are recessed into the frame so they are less likely to get caught up on the rocks. A pair of Bilstein 5100 shocks and Trail Sport traction bars complete the rear suspension.
Body And Interior
Back in 2004 a paint bomb went off inside Larry's Jeep. When the overspray cloud settled, there stood a very blue Jeep. Other than the blue paint, the interior sports Bestop TrailMax seats, a custom (roll-tested) DOM rollcage, and a Campbell 22-gallon aluminum fuel cell that fits behind the rear seat. An All Pro rear bumper and a Trail Sport front bumper are fitted at either end, and a Warn HS9500i winch is perfect for saving Larry's butt.
Wheels And Tires
It must be hard to have a few sets of rims and tires to choose from. Should we go with the 39.5x13.50-17 Krawlers partially filled with water on OMF 17x9 bead locks or the 37x12.50-17 Krawlers on polished Walker Evans 17x9 bead locks? Decisions, decisions. Heavy rocks dictate the use of the bigger meats for extra clearance. The partially water-filled tires effectively lower the center of gravity of Larry's Jeep and improve traction.
Good, Bad & What's It For?
The drivetrain on this rig is stout from the Atlas to the 60s. It was built not to break. For a daily driver it's a bit rough, but a bit stiffer suspension is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it flexes on the trail. Like many spring-over Jeeps, Larry's YJ sits rather tall, but the water-weighted 39.5-inch Krawlers help keep the Jeep stable. While this may be cool on the rocks, it's harder on the drivetrain components and downright scary on the street. The aluminum skidplate coated in stainless is a cool idea, but another option that Larry may explore is Delrin. Delrin is a hard, lightweight, slick plastic that would allow the Jeep to slide over rocks easier.
What We Think
It's hard to stop staring at those Rock Jock 60s. When we shot the Jeep it was only running 37s, but the drivetrain could easily handle pretty much any tire on the market. We are just waiting for the stock motor to die so Larry can sling a new LS-1 in there. And Larry, stick with some version of a manual tranny, would ya?
Transfer Case:Atlas II with 4.3:1 low
Suspension:Spring-over with a combination of lift springs
Axles:Currie aluminum Rock Jock 60s (front and rear)
Wheels:Polished Walker Evans 17x9 bead locks (for the 37s), OMF 17x9 bead locks (for the 39.5s)
Tires:37x12.50-17 BFGoodrich Krawlers (for camping), 39.5x13.50-17 BFGoodrich Krawlers (for Johnson Valley rocks)
Built For:Family four-wheeling, camping and weekend trail runs