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1998 Jeep Wrangler TJ - Grunt

Pete Trasborg
| Brand Manager, Jp
Posted June 1, 2010

Diesel-Powered TJ

We find most of our features on the trail, but every once in a while we run across a Jeep in an odd location that catches our eye for some reason. Sure, the parking lot of the Spanish Trail Arena where the vendors set up for the show at the end of Moab Easter Jeep Safari might not sound that weird, but when you figure that there are hundreds of Jeeps in the parking lot that we hardly even look at, this TJ stood out.

With a low stance, big tires, and fresh Impact Orange paint, it is little wonder it stood out. So Trasborg pulled his normal crawl-around-and-under-the-Jeep routine, hoping he wouldn't get shot if the owner came out and found him. It didn't take too long to see the custom fuel tank and Dana 60s, but when he saw that there was a Cummins 4BT under the hood rather than a Chevy small-block, he was hooked.

A business card left in the windshield resulted in a call from the owner, John Reidenbach. About 15 minutes later, we found out about the combination of Dodge Ram, Ford, and owner-built parts that make it possible, so we quickly set up a time to go wheeling and check out this Jeep some more.

The stock TJ frame was cut in the front and stretched to accommodate moving the front axle eight inches forward, but the rear was merely cleared of all the stock suspension brackets. Both front and rear were plated where the holes and mounts for the stock upper control arms used to be to provide stronger mounts for the new links. An owner-built engine cage/radiator mount/shock mount locates some 14-inch Fox coilovers up front, while the same coilovers hang from some Gen-Right coilover buckets out back.

Up front, a three-link with panhard rod locates the front axle with a Currie Antirock bar for sway control, and a double-triangulated four-link pushes the rear axle back about four inches with all the links using Johnny Joints at every end. The flat belly skid is home-built, protects the rear link mounts, and is lined with UHMW polyethylene to more easily slide off rocks. The aluminum fuel tank and matching steel skidplate are also owner-built and designed to clear the rear axle and maximize fuel capacity at the same time.

It all starts with the swapped-in Cummins 4BT four-cylinder diesel. Instead of the huge water-filled mounts that held the engine in the donor vehicle, John moved the stock 4.0L motor mounts to locate the Cummins. He then bolted it to an NV4500 out of a diesel Dodge Ram using the flywheel, clutch, starter, and adapter out of the Dodge to bolt it together. A 3.8:1 Atlas II handles reduction chores and sends power on to the axles through High-Angle Driveline driveshafts.

The front Dana 60 was nabbed out of a Ford and narrowed 41/4 inches and stuffed with an ARB Air Locker. Out back, a Currie Iron Jock centersection was tubed locally and the ends of the tubes have flanges to accept Ford Dana 60 spindles, hubs and brakes. The Ox Locker in the rear is pneumatically activated by the ARB compressor and both axles received 4.56 gears to keep the diesel engine rpms down low while turning the 40-inch Goodyears. With no provision to run a vacuum booster, a hydroboost setup off a '91 Chevy P30 van was used to provide plenty of line pressure.

Body and Interior
The stock TJ tub was modified to allow enough uptravel for the rear links. Then it was pulled off the frame and painted Impact Orange. Homemade rear flares adorn the Gen-Right Crusher corners while a Smittybilt rear bumper and ORO Light Dots finish off the rear. Up front, the high-line tube fenders were built by John with the hood cut to match and the grille tilted forward from the stock location. The front bumper is a Blue Torch Fab piece but the grille hoop is a homemade unit.


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