Frequently Flogged YJ
Most of the time, the guy who comes up to an obstacle and gives it too much gas is a guy who is new to wheeling, and hasn't yet learned about how lower speed means more control and fewer broken parts. That guy is not Mike DePalma.
It isn't that Mike is new to wheeling, or doesn't understand. He understands the whole slower-means-more-control-thing. It just bores him to no end, and he has a lot more fun wheeling when he can get into the skinny pedal. Maybe it is our affinity for train wrecks, but there is something about a guy who understands slow speed control and chooses to do the exact opposite.
We keep expecting a spectacular rollover or at least some exploded drivetrain parts. He'll always clear the obstacle, so far without damage, but if you blink you'll miss it. We think he pulls it off because he knows when to get out of the throttle.
Even though the fancy airbrushed paint might lead you to believe that this is a $100,000 '88 Wrangler, such is not the case. Under the fancy skin is a relatively simple, homebuilt Jeep that takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Chassis And Driveline
The stock YJ frame and body are about the only parts left from when this Jeep rolled off the line in '88. The stock leaf springs were tossed in the scrap heap and replaced with a TnT Customs High Clearance Y-Link Coil Conversion and high-clearance belly pan. The front springs are from Pro Comp, while the rears are Old Man Emu units with damping provided courtesy of Rubicon Express shocks. This all works out to about 5 1/2 inches of lift and longer control arms provide a wheelbase stretch to about 98 inches.
The front high-pinion Dana 44 axle was yanked from a '73 Ford F-150 and was trussed with a TnT Customs truss that allowed the axle to be bolted in like any TJ frontend would. Then it was stuffed with 4.56 gears, an ARB Air Locker, and the Ford brakes got rebuilt and reinstalled. Out back, a Ford 8.8 from a '90 F-150 got tapped for abuse reception. It too got a TnT Customs truss to accept the triangulated 4-link rear suspension of the coil conversion kit; then it was packed with 4.56 gears and a spool. Long braided stainless steel brake lines get the brake fluid to the axles and handle the droop that the coil conversion offers.
Locomotion comes from a '75 AMC 360 V-8 that ended up needing custom home-built mounts that located the engine 1 inch up and 1 inch forward of where the adapter mounts put it. It needed to move for clearance between the transmission and the high-clearance belly pan while running no body lift. TRW pistons, a Comp Cams camshaft, an Edlebrock Performer Intake Manifold, and a Holley 600cfm carburetor give the engine a kick like it never had from the factory. Redline Performance and Muffler in Loveland, Colorado built the custom 2 1/2-inch exhaust to clear the link suspension and the stock distributor and ignition ignite the mixture with help of an Accel Super Coil. A two-row aluminum radiator keeps the engine cool under any circumstances.
An '88 TorqueFlite 999 automatic transmission with a 2.72:1 First gear takes everything the V-8 can dish out and a two-row B&M Supercooler helps keep the heat under control. From there, power flows into the NP231 that the Jeep came with, which was modified with a slip yoke eliminator. From there, power is transferred to the axles with a pair of owner-built driveshafts that still have the stock 1310 size U-joints in them.
A 37-inch set of Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires wrapped around Eagle aluminum rims with 3 1/2 inches of backspacing gets the power to the ground and they only rub the rear inner fenderwell under full articulation.