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Posted in Project Vehicles on November 1, 1999
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Contributors: Peter MacGillivrayDavid Brown
Photographers: Peter MacGillivray

If you catch a glimpse of Adam Tomlinson’s bright yellow ’88 Wrangler on the Colorado trails, chances are you’re behind him. And though you may think this Jeep is just another colorful head-turner, Adam’s four-cylinder YJ is one serious rockcrawler—at least that’s what it looked like at Moab. From the Dump Bump to the side trails, Adam’s Jeep seemed to defy the sometimes too-negative opinion of stock-milled performance.

Adam, a local of Arvada, Colorado, purchased his Wrangler almost four years ago intending to build a vehicle that would go anywhere and look good while doing it. With that in mind and the help of Mike at Dynamic Auto Body Arvada, he proceeded to blast off all the old, white paint and replace it with the, uh…slightly more noticeable coat of Audi Yellow. But first he repaired the body damage from a rollover. Adam thought that this loud color was the most unique feature of his Jeep until he considered what he might do under hood: hardly anything—a move many of us wouldn’t dare consider.

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From a person who’d alter the outside of his Jeep so radically, one might expect to find the powerplant of his creation to be even more outrageous. But the interesting thing about this Wrangler’s engine is that it’s not outrageously modified. In fact, with the exception of a few minor extras, the entire four-cylinder mill is bone stock. We’re talking about a tough little ’88 2.5L with more than 130,000 miles on it. The only pieces Adam added to maximize the output were Borla headers, a 2.5-inch Gibson after-cat exhaust system, a K&N filter, and electric fans (which he claims to be the cheapest but greatest advantage). Concerning the tranny, the same if-it-ain’t-broke mentality was applied: The thing would remain stock.

Ah, there's the rub. Articulation is where Adam spent most of his performance-enhancing efforts, including the addition of adjustable front buggy springs and a M.O.R.E. shackle reversal (which also lengthened the wheelbase by 2 inches). Fully welded bracketing, a 1-inch rear shackle lift, rear Superlift springs, Rancho shocks, EMU springs up front, and a Performance 2-inch body lift were all part of the clearance scheme. The machine rolls on 33-inch Super Swampers and Prime 15x10 wheels. Regarding rub, Tomlinson plans to do a little fender trimming and apply TJ flares.

The heart of the drivetrain was where Tomlinson focused more of his attention. After the installation of a Centerforce clutch and an NP231 transfer case, he moved on to the driveshafts. Six States shafts and Dana Spicer U-joints now accompany a Dana 30 front axle that turns 4.10 gears and a Dana 35 rear with a 4.11 Lock Right locker. Other drivetrain mods include a U-bolt conversion on the rear driveshaft from the strap style.

As for suspension, the stock leaves stayed, but a little tweaking helped boost their potential. A M.O.R.E. shackle reversal lengthened the wheelbase by 2 inches, and adjustable front buggy springs, fully welded bracketing, and a 1-inch rear shackle lift added to the droop factor. Adam gives credit for the clearance to the ARB Old Man EMU 2.5-inch front springs, Rancho shocks, Superlift 3.5-inch rear springs, and 2-inch body lift. The package rolls on 33x15.50-15 Super Swampers and Prime 15x10 wheels.

Climbing into the cockpit reveals custom Beard high-back thrones, an Alpine CD player, Pioneer speakers, a Tuffy console, and a B&M T-handle—all protected by a M.O.R.E. six-point cage. Outside, Adam handmade his own super-duty rack to replace his older one. All things considered, Tomlinson says, “Take your time and build the way you want to, not following in someone’s footsteps.”

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