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1994 Jeep Wrangler YJ - Big Mini: Part 2

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 14, 2013
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Last issue we reintroduced our 1994 Jeep Wrangler YJ on 40s, which we call Big Mini. The last time this Jeep was driven by its previous owner, it was into a living room—which tweaked the frame and suspension. Trasborg had the frame straightened and then shoehorned 40s under it on stock leaf springs. A 1-inch Daystar body lift gave a little bit more elevation, but stock YJ springs and shocks have their limits off-road. We’ve wheeled the heck out of stock YJs over the years and know exactly some of the shortcomings they have.

We’ve managed to severely bend stock YJ springs with tiny 31-inch tires; what we’d be capable of doing to them with these 40-inch monsters doesn’t bear thinking about. We’d likely bend them every trip out. The super-short rear shocks limit downtravel, and if you put longer shocks in the back, you have to bumpstop the snot out of it to keep the shocks from ripping off the frame or axle on compression. Then, of course, you smack off the bumpstops on even minor fire roads. Up front, the shocks are longer, but still have the same limitations with the added bonus of the upper pin-style mount robbing overall length and some would argue durability. If that weren’t enough, as it sat, we had only about 4 inches of wheeltravel before our fenders became our bumpstops, which is no good for going off road at anything higher than crawling speeds.

YJ springs are 46 inches eye-to-eye with a centered centerpin. Front ’74-’91 Wagoneer springs are 47 inches eye-to-eye with a centerpin offset 2 inches, which can be useful for altering wheelbase. We originally had the Jeep on some junkyard springs with Wagoneer main leafs, but for the elevation, we opted for Rancho 44044s (top), which are intended to lift the front of a Wagoneer 2.5 inches. We had no idea what to expect with our big Jeep. We ended up with about 4-5 inches of lift over stock YJ springs. That’s more lift than we were looking for, but we are comparing new springs to worn-out junkyard ones. The new ones should settle with use.

Even though we wanted more elevation, we want to keep this thing low and stable. We also want to stop using our shocks as either limiting straps or bumpstops. On the one hand, we want to keep this Jeep simple, but on the other hand we don’t want to cut corners or take shortcuts that will bite us in the butt later. We’ve gone with bolt-on shock extenders and usually break them. We’ve gone with pin-to-eye bushing conversion kits, but that only makes us lose more shock length.

We turned to GenRight Off Road for the company’s shock hoop system. Because we had a V-8 between the framerails we were able to go with the upgraded universal kit (PN FSM2005, $349.99). The base kit (PN FSM2004, $299.99) is designed with a bent cross bar and flanges for removal and clears six-cylinder engines with ease. The upgrade includes a straight section of tube and CNC-machined fittings, both of which make it slightly stiffer than the base kit. Since we are thinking of cutting the front crossmember out of this frame to sink a winch into it, we wanted the most strength we could get.

So once again, we found ourselves trying to package 10 pounds of number two into the proverbial 5 pound bag. So often that means you end up wearing the other 5 pounds, but that wasn’t the case here.

PhotosView Slideshow

Wrap Up
We made a lot of choices here based on our experience in the past. We ended up with more than we aimed for, so far as shock length and lift height. While it is possible to set bumpstops on the first build with leaf springs it is more difficult than coils. We left bumps out because we still have axles to figure out and steering to sort through. We have a good idea of where we are going with both, and some of the mods here make sense with our upcoming changes in mind. So stay tuned as we go forward with our monster leaf-sprung Wrangler.


Rancho Suspension
Monroe, MI 48161
Phoenix, AZ 85043
GenRight Off-Road
Simi Valley, CA 93063

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