Micro-sizing our beater TJ
Someone, we are not sure who, once said just ’cause you can do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. That person was right. We here at Jp have lots of ideas, but they’re not necessarily always good ones. But recently we think we may have hit on something worthwhile. You be the judge. Somewhere along the line someone else seems to have decided that bigger is always better. Au contraire, mon freres (that means: “Not so fast, pal,” in Japanese or some such foreign language). The fact is that some obstacles are easier with a long wheelbase, lots of horsepower, and huge tires, but very often a small rig can work well, too. Personally, we like a challenge, and we can see that bigger is not always better.
Example: The first Jeeps look tiny in comparison to a decked out, full-boogie JK Unlimited. And even though JKs are amazing off-road, don’t forget that it was the little, small-tired Jeeps that cut the trails for ’em. Counter to everyone else’s current plan of bigger and better, we had an idea. Why not try to make a TJ smaller and lighter—like a flattie, Samurai, or early CJ-5? All these rigs have a cult following because they work off-road. This is often because of their small size and light weight. We thought we could leave our TJ’s wheelbase stock, but shorten the front and rear of the body improving approach and departure angles while shedding a bit of weight. This is kind of like adding a lift and bigger tires where the larger tires can help reduce approach and departure angles. This way we could have a rig that is different from the norm, starts right up like a TJ, drives down the road almost like stock, and can be pushed through tougher trails all over the US despite being relatively small. How should we do this? Well a shrink-ray gun would be best, but Rick Moranis still won’t return our calls. Boo. Second best is to take a fairly unmolested TJ and cut, chop, and hack until the rig is small, and pay attention to trimming the fat where it ain’t doing anything for us. With help from RockAuto, Parts Mike, Pro Comp, C&C Fabrication, and Master-Pull, we cut up and re-work the front end of our ’97 four-banger TJ to make it tougher, shorter, and hopefully a little lighter. Next time we’ll show you how we trimmed down the rear while adding some serious trail protection!