A Chili Pepper Red TJ
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Most 98 TJs did not roll off of the Toledo Jeep factory floor covered in Chili Pepper Red paint. And most 98 TJs will also never wear a set of 39.5-inch Swampers let alone, custom high-clearance, high-pinion WMS 9-inch axles, but Casey Groth's 98 TJ does. Why? Well as part of the crew at the Wagoner Machine Shop (WMS) in Claremore, Oklahoma, Casey needs a Jeep that can not only help him get around town, but also serves as a play toy on the weekends, and reflects how WMS can modify a Jeep. The result is Casey's Chili Pepper Red 98 TJ that sports some serious tires, and some damn trick axles.
Chassis & Driveline.
In order to retain the reliability of the 4.0L and the automatic transmission Casey left them pretty much alone with the exception of a K&N air filter and an exhaust system from Flowmaster. The NP231 was modified for 2-Lo, and a slip-yoke eliminator was added to allow for the greater driveline angles that are necessary for the lift. A 4:1 low-range was also planted in the transfer case to keep the crawl ratio low enough for driving on the rocks. Both front and rear axle housings were built by WMS. WMS cut the housings as much as possible to provide the most ground clearance without getting in the way of the ring gears. Both axles were then filled with Currie high-pinion 9-inch hog's heads, which were filled with 4.56 gears and Detroit Lockers. The axleshafts are custom units from Moser, with the front axles spinning 297 U-joints and Dana 44 outers.
The frame of the TJ was kept relatively stock with the exception of the suspension mounting points, which were modified for the custom WMS 8-inch long-arm TJ suspension. The lift is achieved with 6-inch Rubicon Express coils, and some trick custom spring brackets that WMS used on the axles. Dampening of the big Swampers is done by a set of adjustable Rancho RS 9000 shocks. To protect the driveline internals from Oklahoma rocks, Casey added a custom WMS skidplate that offers tons of clearance and rock-stopping construction.
Body & Interior.
The Chili Pepper Red paint is unmodified from the factory with the exception of custom scratches care of the bushes and branches that line the Oklahoma stomping grounds of this Wrangler. Casey added a M.O.R.E. rollcage and a Sony CD player to keep the Jeeps occupants safe and happy. A 1-inch body lift was also added to keep the Swampers from mangling the body during compression. To further protect the body, Casey added Currie bumpers, rocker guards, Off Your Rocker corner plates, and a Warn brushguard. Wheels & Tires The 15/39.5x15 TSL Super Swampers are held onto to the TJ with a set of 15x10 32-bolt Fast Wheels bead locks. The type of rockcrawling Casey does in Oklahoma is tough on tires. You need thick sidewalls, low pressure, and tires that stick to the jagged sharp rocks.
Good, Bad, & What Its For
This TJ fills several duties. Casey drives it around town on business calls during the week, and hits the trails on the weekend. It also serves as a platform for testing new WMS products.
What We Think
We dig those axles. Unfortunately, Casey tells us that they are better suited for 36-inch tires, and by the time you read this Casey should have a set of WMS shaved Dana 60s under the TJ. The big Oklahoma rocks require big tires and big tires are tough on drivetrain, and apparently Casey has grown tired of trailside repairs and sold the nines in favor of some Dana 60s.