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Wrangler Rubicon

Posted in Project Vehicles on March 1, 2002
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Photographers: DaimlerChrysler
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If you wanted a new Jeep that would spank practically every other vehicle out on the trail it wouldn’t be tough to go to the dealership, pick up a Wrangler, and then head directly to the nearest off-road shop for tires, some lockers, and a few other mods. But the new ’03 Wrangler Rubicon might be able to save you that extra trip so you can go straight from the dealer to the trail. The Chrysler Group has added most of the modifications for you: larger more aggressive tires, heavy-duty front and rear axles stuffed with locking differentials, and a stronger transfer case with 4:1 low-range gearing. It’s a creeper right out of the box! We tried to infiltrate Jeep security and get some undercarriage shots but we were unsuccessful. However, we did get our hands on some computer drawings. So for now, here’s a rundown of what you get with the new Wrangler.

At first, you’ll notice a few changes in the exterior in the form of Rubicon hood stickers and 31-inch Goodyear MT/R tires on new 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels. You might also catch the diamond plate rocker guards too. But what’s really cool is the mechanicals and drivetrain under the Jeep.

In the rear you’ll find a Dana 44 axle similar to what is currently available, only this one has an air-operated selectable locker and disc brakes. Up front, the common Dana 30 was replaced with a much beefier Dana 44, which is also stuffed with an air operated selectable locker. In the middle you’ll find an NV241OR transfer case, which is related to what can be found in ½-ton Dodge trucks. Except this one has a 4:1 low-range for real trail creeping. The combined crawl ratio (axle ratio x transfer case low-range x First-gear ratio) with the manual transmission should be close to 60:1 and around 40:1 with the optional automatic. Twisting and turning the drivetrain is the 4.0L inline-six with 190hp and 235lb-ft of torque.

Dash-mounted switches control the selectable front and rear locking differentials. A pneumatic pump runs at just 6 psi for a quieter system than what is available in the aftermarket. When engaged, the axleshafts are mechanically locked to drive all four wheels at the same speed no matter how rough or uneven the terrain is. The lockers can be disengaged for tight turns and street duty. We’ll give more details and go for a test drive as soon as we can get our hands on one.

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