YJ used harder than appears
Most of us buy a Jeep and focus first on the drivetrain, leaving the body as an afterthought. Sure, you might throw some rocker protection or corner protection on the tub, but unless you are wheeling with buggies that is usually the extent of the “body work” done on most Jeeps. Well, Erik Bryant does wheel with buggies, and he didn’t want his ’91 YJ to look like a beer can that had been crushed on some frat boy’s forehead anymore. This is not to say that he neglected the drivetrain, he was just very choosy about how he spent his money. In this day and age, can’t we all relate to that?
The factory YJ frame was cut behind the front seats and replaced with 1 ½-inch, 0.120-wall DOM tubing by Xtreme Engineering in Fort Collins, Colorado when they set up the suspension. The fuel tank was replaced with an RCI 15-gallon fuel cell at the same time, allowing the wheelbase to be stretched to 106 inches. The rear axle is located by a double-triangulated four-link suspension comprised of 1¾-inch DOM links capped with Currie Johnny Joints at the axle end and 3⁄4-inch FK rod ends at the frame end of the upper links. Fox 2.5-inch-diameter, 14-inch-travel air shocks are used out back to save money and weight, while Rock Equipment 2-inch-diameter, 14-inch-travel coilovers are used up front.
The front also uses a triangulated four-link using Branik 2-inch 7075 aluminum links and ¾-inch FK rod ends with a 7⁄8-inch shank. A triangulated front suspension can result in huge bumpsteer when used with a conventional steering box, so the front suspension geometry required a switch to full-hydraulic steering. That was accomplished with a Howe single-ended ram, pump, reservoir, and orbital valve along with a 13⁄4-inch-diameter 7075 aluminum tie rod from Xtreme Engineering. Ditching the box also allowed Erik to push the front axle forward for a better approach angle and increased wheelbase
Like Editor Hazel’s YJ, Erik’s Wrangler has a four cylinder that just won’t die. He has raced the Jeep in the past (and won!) and it even started to overheat during our photoshoot, but after it cooled off he just pulled the stuck thermostat and kept wheeling. Backing the squirrels is an SM420 four-speed manual transmission. “The transmission is definitely overkill for the four-cylinder and it isn’t the fastest shifting transmission, but the granny First comes in handy on the trail,” Erik reports. Power, such as it is, is then split by an Advance Adapters Atlas II with a 3.8:1 low range.
At the other end of the 1350-equipped driveshafts things get interesting. The rear axle is a large-bearing Ford 9-inch with a Strange nodular third member, 5.43 gears, and a spool connected to 35-spline Moser axleshafts and stopped with discs from Blackbird Customs. Erik converted the 9-inch to six-lug back when he had a Dana 44 front axle. In retrospect he should have converted it to eight-lug to match the Ford Dana 60 front axle he is now running, but hindsight is always 20/20. The Snow Fighter front axle uses 5.38 gears, a Detroit Locker, Alloy USA chromoly shafts with Spicer U-joints, and TeraFlex drive flanges. Since it is a Ford Dana 60, conversion hubs to match the rear axle are less common, and as a result more expensive. Erik has a belt-driven Kilby on-board air compressor and a plug kit, so he doesn’t carry a spare. He just bought inexpensive MB Predator aluminum wheels from Discount Tire with two different bolts patterns to match the axles and used Staun internal beadlocks to retain the tires. Is it ideal? Well, no, but it gets him out on the trail.