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The Jp Project Jeeps: Before-And-After Staff Builds

Upgraded 1997 Jeep Wrangler Sport
Christian Hazel
| Brand Manager, Four Wheeler
Posted May 1, 2012
Contributors: Pete Trasborg

Livin' In The Projects

It’s one of the numerous things that separates Jp magazine from the others. Unlike many of the project rigs built by our sister publications, we don’t do buildups for industry shows or one-time trail rides. Really, who in their right mind takes the torch to a brand-new $50,000 truck adds another $50,000 in parts and labor onto it, and then destroys it on the trail? Not you, that’s who! Which is why many of Jp’s staff-owned, staff-driven, staff-wheeled projects resonate so loudly with you readers.

Do you have a favorite Jp magazine project Jeep? Was it Hazel’s roached ’68 J2000 or Trasborg’s cute wittle ’67 Jeepster? Or maybe you’re a new reader and didn’t realize the staff has built so many Jeeps in the past ten years that we can’t fit them all in this story—or include any of those built by former Editor, John Cappa. For no other reason than “Why not?”, here’s a rundown of some of our former and current staff-owned project rigs from the past decade.

Project Steal-J
Hazel bought the skunked ’97 for cheap with a blown rear axle. After scoring a replacement rear for $50, he used it as a daily driver while it was built into a mild-mannered weekend warrior and long-range cruiser. When the factory 32RH got unhappy it was replaced with a TCI-built TH700R4 and the NV231 swallowed a TeraFlex Extreme Short Shaft kit. A pair of CV shafts from Tom Wood turned the mix on a pair of G2-prepped TJ Rubicon axles. Other than the Pro Comp 2-inch coil lift and MX-6 shocks, exterior niceties included Kilby Trail Boss rockers and a front bumper to hold the Superwinch EP 9.0 winch and a M.O.R.E. rear bumper with tire carrier. A two-piece Bestop hardtop covered the Mastercraft Baja RS seats. The thing got 17 mpg and was reliable as a hammer.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: ’97 Jeep Wrangler Sport
Engine: 4.0L w/ Edge Trail Jammer system
Transmission: GM TH700R4
T-case: NV231
Axles: TJ Rubicon Dana 44 (front and rear)
Suspension: 2-inch Pro Comp w/ JKS upper & lower control arms (front and rear)
Wheels: 16x8 TJ Rubicon Moab
Tires: 265/75R16 BFG A-T
Other: 4.56 gears, ARB Air Lockers (front and rear); 30-spline G2 alloy shafts (front); 33-spline G2 alloy shafts (rear); Currie Currectlync steering; Novak aluminum radiator; Advance Adapters CPS relocation kit; Lokar shifter.
Best Mod: BFG A-T tires & Rubicon wheels
Worst Mod: TH700R4 – converter stall too low and tranny sapped perceived power.

Project Big Mini (aka YJ on 40s)
Originally destined to replace Trasborg’s other YJ, it soon became a project all its own. Fitting a TJ top led to squeezing 40-inch tires under the sheetmetal, which morphed into a V-8 swap performed in our office underground parking garage. Pretty soon, he did a paint job in a weekend in the garage using all mail order Summit Racing paint and equipment and then we slung a 4L60E and four-speed Atlas under it on custom homemade mounts in the driveway. Once it’s finished, this Jeep is going to be a driver, not a trailer queen—able to drive to just about any trail, run the trail, and drive back home afterwards.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: ’93 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: GM 350ci LT-1 V-8
Transmission: Level 10-built 4L60E
T-case: Four-speed Atlas
Axles: Dana 44 (front); Ford 9 inch (rear)
Suspension: Homemade custom junkyard spring-under leaf packs with M.O.R.E. front shackle reversal and boomerang shackles
Wheels: 17x9 Trailready HD17 beadlock
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R
Other: 5.13 gears, Trutracs (front and rear); TJ half doors; TJ factory ’cage; custom dash; custom center console; CJ tailgate; full size spare on GenRight tire carrier; GenRight Off Road Hi-Tube fenders (front and rear), rocker guards; Painless Performance wiring harness.
Best Mod: 40-inch tires
Worst Mod: LT-1 – many stop-gap oddities between Gen 0/Gen I small-block and modern Gen III/Gen IV engines.
Future Plans: Finish the interior with a full ’cage and seats, wire it, wider axles under it for those 40s, and wheel it.

Project Mini (aka Wrecking Yard YJ, aka Turbo YJ)
Trasborg got it in 2002, way before joining the Jp magazine crew. He drove it cross-country to California when hired by Jp, and it has been around ever since. Article highlights include a multi-day body mount replacement, a beginner’s how-to install with Poison Spyder Ricochet Rockers, and an at-home engine swap. Trasborg replaced all the factory gauges with Auto Meter units in Auto Meter gauge pods, swapped home-built junkyard axles under it, and showed you how to put a CJ-7 tailgate on it. He even showed you how to get six-cylinder power out of the 2.5L four-cylinder with a 505 Performance bolt-on turbo kit.

Hard Facts Vehicle: ’94 Jeep Wrangler
Engine: 2.5L w/ 505 Performance turbo
Transmission: AX5
T-case: NP231
Axles: Dana 30 (front), Dana 35 (rear)
Suspension: Homemade custom junkyard spring-under leaf packs with M.O.R.E. front shackle reversal Wheels: 15x8 Mickey Thompson Classic
Tires: 31x10.50R15 Goodyear MT/R with Kevlar
Other: Factory 4.10 gears, open diffs (front and rear); Custom home-built tubular front fenders and front bumper; GenRight Off-Road rear tubular flares and short corners; 33 Engineering aluminum belly pan/skidplate; Ford Taurus two-speed electronic fan; Auto Meter Phantom gauges in custom flat dash; Bestop Sailcloth Replace-A-Top and sound bar.
Best Mod: 505 Performance turbocharger
Worst Mod: Going to 33-inch tires – sapped power.
Future Plans: Drive it

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