Before you JK owners get your panties in a wad, we’ll explain the title. When the TJ Wrangler hit showrooms in 1996, it was the last new Jeep we’d ever see. Since 1941 Jeeps had a one-piece tub that was plunked down on the frame in the factory. Bolted to that tub was a pair of fenders, a hood, a grille, and a fold-down windshield with hinges. The JK’s body is largely built on the assembly line like a car and no longer features easily removable front fenders. Instead, the front fenders are part of the body structure.
So, you’ve got the last real Jeep. A ’97-’06 TJ or LJ. Congratulations. If anything, the problem is that there is too much aftermarket support. The available build options are literally staggering. Every aftermarket company has lift kits and armor for this Jeep and figuring out which is right for you might be a huge pain in the butt. An easy way to figure it out is to look at what size tires your buddies are using, and take a good look in your wallet. It is pretty easy to fit up to a 40-inch , but don’t go running right out to buy that long-arm lift kit just yet. Build your Jeep on the cheap at the beginning, then wheel it. As you find things you wish it would do better, improve them.
We’ve learned quite a lot after more than 15 years of playing with TJs. There are many ways to learn, and in our case we’ve learned both first-hand by building our own Jeeps and second-hand by watching others on the trail. As with any learning curve, we’ve got some regrets and there are some things we would do again and again, over and over.