Three, two, one, ignition, demolishion!!!! Day 1 of Week to Wheeling is over and man, did we toss some 1997 Wrangler parts towards the dumpster! We’re starting with a well-worn but more or less solid Jeep Wrangler with a 4.0L engine, AX15 transmission, and NP231 T-case. But while the drivetrain is good, the suspension bushings were worn and sloppy, the steering linkage was bent, and the passenger-side lower control arm looked like a junkyard dog had been using it for a chew toy. That’s okay, because we’ve got a spankin’ new MetalCloak 4.5-inch RockSport Edition long-arm suspension system featuring the company’s killer Lock-N-Load radius arms that prevent radius arm bind when off-roading, yet can be locked solid for predictable and precise on-road handling.
The day kicked off with the build team (Motor Trend Group Tech Center guys Jason Scudellari, Christian Arriero, and 4-Wheel & Off-Road Editor Christian Hazel) flat-out stripping the suspension, axles, steering, and even control arm brackets off the Jeep. Anything on or below the framerails pretty much met the dumpster. Once we had the offending factory parts relegated to a tidy pile in the corner of the shop floor, we ditched the factory T-case crossmember and cracked open the NP231 T-case to install a slip-yoke eliminator kit from Advance Adapters. The burly 32-spline output shaft will swallow all the punishment we can throw at it and the ability to run a longer double-cardan rear driveshaft will be a welcome addition to the relatively short-wheelbase TJ sporting 4.5 inches of lift. We ended the day by mocking up the MetalCloak Long-Arm Frame Mount system brackets to the framerails before wrapping for the day. Tune in tomorrow at fourwheeler.com to watch the super-beefy MetalCloak control arms find a home and maybe some Rampage front and rear bumpers get hung where they belong.