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T-Jay Miller-Bilt: 1997 Jeep Wrangler

Rear Side Shot
Christian Hazel
| Brand Manager, Four Wheeler
Posted November 1, 2010

All Wrangler For Off Road

Sometimes we're a bit self-serving here at Jp magazine. It seems that if we're not bilking old ladies out of their bingo money we're talking friends into buying Jeeps they didn't know they needed so we don't have to. Jay and Ricki Miller's '97 TJ is a good example. Jay, a long-time friend, was gently persuaded into purchasing the then-fresh Wrangler shortly after Cappa took the reigns as Editor of Jp magazine sometime back in '00. You see, magazine folk are generally dirt poor and bad with money. So when it was determined a good Wrangler was needed on which the magazine could test parts, nobody on staff could afford to buy one. Thankfully, Jay is wiser with a dollar than we and infinitely more skilled with a wrench. He bought the TJ and over the course of the next 10 years treated it to countless build iterations, many off-the-shelf and custom-fabricated components, and a whole lot of real-world off-road testing. The culmination of all that effort is the Creamsicle-colored off-road machine you see here. Is it finished? Not by a long-shot. But JKs are getting pretty popular and the last time we checked our bank account we couldn't afford one of those. Hey, Jay....

Most Wrangler aficionados will notice certain key items missing from the factory frame. Foremost of which are the stock suspension mounts including the coil, shock, and control arm brackets. Jay ditched those long ago in favor of his (as we call it) Miller-Bilt front and rear three-link suspensions. Up front, a pair of long, burly lower links were fabbed up using 11/2-inch, 0.120-wall tubing sleeved with 13/4-inch, 0.120-wall tubing. The 0.250-wall links were capped with Johnny Joints at both ends and hooked to the frame side with custom brackets. A single upper control arm built from 13/4-inch, 0.188-wall DOM also sports dual Johnny Joints and allows better flex with less potential for binding than a four-link. Out back, similarly-stout lower links were built with 13/4-inch 0.250-wall tubing and treated to a high-clearance bend before getting capped with Johnny Joints at the axle end and M.O.R.E. Boulder Bushings at the frame end. The Boulder Bushings keep the bent links from flopping side-to-side as the suspension articulates. A custom wishbone upper link was built out of 13/4-inch, 0.188-wall DOM and treated to a Johnny Joint on the axle and Boulder Bushings at the frame.

At each corner resides a GenRight Off Road coilover shock mount. The mounts support a quartet of Walker Evans Racing 16-way-adjustable coilover shocks. Jay runs 12-inch travel shocks in the front and 10-inchers in the rear. Eibach coils hold up the armored body to the tune of 150lb-over-400lb springs in the front and 225lb-over-400lb springs in the rear. The resulting suspension gives the Jeep roughly a 3.5-inch lift over stock and, thanks to the rear shock's steep mounting angle of roughly 34-degrees, front and rear axles flex about the same.

To make it all go down the road without changing lanes by itself or rolling on the trail, Jay employed a pair of Currie Enterprises Antirocks with modified arms to clear his frame and suspension components. The antisway bars offer a great deal of stability on and off the trail without impeding flex to any large degree. To point the Jeep in the right direction, Jay built his own track bar and drag link with 13/8-inch, 0.188-wall tubing and rod ends. A PSC Motorsports heavy-duty tie rod/drag link kit was used to build the 13/8-inch, 0.250-wall tie rod assembly with large 1-ton GM ends which gets shoved side-to-side via a PSC Motorsports full hydro-assist steering setup including the company's steering gear, pump, remote-mounted reservoir, lines, hoses, and fittings.

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