A TJ Of A Different Color
We have a love-hate relationship with '97-'06 TJ Wranglers. On one hand, we commend Jeep for building such a simple, capable vehicle that responds so well to aftermarket modifications. On the other hand, we get a little tired of seeing every Joe Schmoe with 33-inch-tall tires and six-months of seat time thinking that he is the greatest wheeler to come along since Hazel had a full head of hair. That's why we like Dave Trappett.
Dave has owned his '98 TJ since it was new, but despite years of wheeling experience he is still humble and courteous on the trail. Like most of us, he started out with 31-inch tires, then 32s, then 35s and a Rubicon Express long arm suspension. Dave wheeled his Wrangler all over New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah in this configuration before he took the plunge and decided to modify his Wrangler far beyond the "average" TJ.
Chassis And Driveline
The stock 4.0L engine and TF999 three-speed automatic transmission are still in the same spot as when they left Toledo. However, they have been mated to an Advance Adapters Atlas transfer case with a 4.3 Low-range. When Dave decided to take his Jeep to the next level he started with a pair of Dana 60 axles from a '79 Ford F-350. The front high-pinion Dana 60 was fitted with an ARB Air Locker, 5.38 Yukon gears, Alloy USA 35-spline chromoly inner and outer axles, Longfield 300m U-joints, Warn drive flanges, and the first set of Dedenbear (now Reid Racing) knuckles for a Ford application. The rear axle was similarly decked out with 5.38 Superior gears, an ARB Air Locker, Yukon full-floating 35-spline chromoly axles, and disc brakes using Ruff Stuff Specialties brackets. The ARB air lines and the brake lines are all plumbed with steel braided hose and AN fittings. "Once you know how to make the lines yourself they are very reasonably priced" Trappett commented. The 1-ton axles allow Dave to run 42-inch Super Swamper TSLs on 15x10 TrailReady beadlock wheels without leaving a trail of broken drivetrain parts in his wake.
In order to fit the tires, the front axle was pushed forward 4 inches. This would have created interference between the steering components, but the stock steering box was ditched for a PSC orbital valve and double-ended hydraulic ram that connects to ATOR steering arms. The front suspension cycles through 16-inch-travel 2-inch-diameter remote reservoir Sway-A-Way RaceRunner coilovers fitted with Eibach and Hypercoil springs which are mounted on Blue Torch Fab frame mounts. The coilovers work in conjunction with a three-link suspension with 2-inch solid 7075-T6 aluminum lower links capped with 1.25-inch QA1 rod ends. Trick billet aluminum clamps from KRC hold spare stub shafts where they are easily accessible should they be needed. The upper link is constructed from 1 1/2-inch, 0.375-wall DOM tubing and 1 1/4-inch Evolution Machine rod ends. It connects to a modified Rubicon Express belly pan at the frame end and then to a Blue Torch Fab truss on the middle of the axle.
The rear suspension also uses a three-link design and pushes the rear axle 7 inches back. The rear third of the frame was replaced with Blue Torch Fab frame rails to allow more uptravel with the relocated axle location. The lower links are 35-inches long and constructed of the same material as the front lowers. The upper link connects to a crossmember on the frame and a Blue Torch truss on top of the Dana 60. The rear axle is damped by 14-inch-travel, 2-inch-diameter remote reservoir Sway-A-Way RaceRunner coilovers and Hypercoil 185 lb/in over Eibach 400 lb/in coil springs mounted on custom shock hoops.