As I sat at work in my company vehicle at the airport on Thanksgiving, I picked up the January '07 issue and found one rig in the article titled "Perfect 10" that I just couldn't agree with you guys more on. George Kane's ZJ is an awesome rig-flat out beautiful. The engineering that went into that thing was top notch. Grands are still somewhat rare on the trails. I have mine and have invested many hours, busted knuckles, and many broken parts, but I have yet to dent a body panel.
Some of the thought that went into George's ZJ got my brain going. I like most every aspect of that Jeep. While still overkill in my book, due to the cost of many things done to it (full cage, 9-inch rearend, bypass shocks, and so on), seeing pictures of that Jeep always leaves me wanting more. I have built my ZJ up from a two-wheel-drive grocery-chaser/CJ-5 hauler, to a lifted, locked, 33-inch, off-road rolling fun machine. Seeing ZJs like George's keeps my blood pumping and keeps me attached to your mag. There are many, many modded ZJs out there now, so I hope to continue seeing more of them in the future. Nice choice on George's rig. I couldn't have imagined a top-10 list without it.
Ray City, Georgia
It was a cool Jeep. The owner, George Kane, recently sent us an e-mail informing us that the Grand Runner was wrecked a few months ago in Stoddard Valley, California. Apparently, it was in an off-road accident and hit by an uninsured race car. The front axlehousing looked broken in two and there was some body damage done as well. George says you can keep up with the rebuild at www.offroadevolution.com, which may include a V-8 and other upgrades. Hopefully, he'll get it up and running again soon.
The salesperson at a local Jeep dealership told me of a new 4.0L V-6 producing 255 hp for the new Wrangler. It will not be available until the fall of 2007. Have you heard anything?
The engine you've mentioned is already out. It's currently found in the Dodge Nitro R/T. It shares the same architecture as the Jeep 3.8L V-6. Will it find its way into the Wrangler? Maybe, maybe not. But I can tell you that your dealer doesn't know for sure, and he will, in fact, be the last to find out.
I've reserved judgment on the new JK chassis until I could see one in the flesh. I'm afraid my initial concerns were well founded. The new vehicle is too large for the more narrow trails I encounter above tree line here in Colorado. My '97 TJ has taken me over numerous passes and to the top of some 14,000-foot passes, and it was even scary-wide on some of the narrow ledges that wind their way above 2,000-foot drop-offs. Also, many of the narrower trails through the timber will scrape up a TJ. Midsize and fullsize rigs dare not take many of those trails.
The four-door JK is about the size of an H3, which is too big for the types of trails described above. Also, the National Forest Service installs anti-erosion dams along the trails, which a stock TJ on 30s can barely get over; the four-door JK will most surely high-center on these berms.
It seems the Trail Rated engineers did not bother to come up here to try out their new wonder Jeeps. But that's OK. They just made my TJ an instant classic, and it will hold its value much better than before. Yes, I acknowledge that the JK has some much-improved hardware, but all the gold plating in the world will not make up for rolling off the edge of Webster Pass and falling 1,500 feet into the valley below. Your insistence on writing ad copy for Jeep is a very transparent attempt to mollify loyal customers into accepting what they know is not in their best interest. The JK is probably better on-road than a TJ, but that's not the primary mission of a Jeep. I think Jeep has taken a wrong turn trying to convert a very successful, narrowly focused niche vehicle and make into all things for all people.