2002 Jeep wrangler TJ Sport - Clean Lines

    One-ton, Green, and Fun!

    Verne SimonsPhotographer, Writer

    It’s a fact of life that Christian, Pete, and Verne all get to see lots of very nice Jeeps. Hey, it’s part of the job, and none of us minds the chance to get to crawl over the many drool-worthy rigs we bump into. Just like the humans who build these Jeeps, not all are perfect. In fact, many have flaws or Jeep-building no-no’s that we try to overlook, make fun of, or point out if someone is in danger. Occasionally we come across a Jeep that is so clean, well thought out, and thoroughly built that we just have to pass it on to you. One such Jeep that we got a chance to wheel with on Hell’s Revenge Trail at Easter Jeep Safari ’13, Moab, Utah, is this clean green ’02 TJ owned by Adam Shoemaker from Fenton, Michigan. Adam is holding a trick card because he has been building Jeeps for a while as the owner of Sinister Fabrication and Unlimited Offroad, both located in Fenton. As a result, this is one clean TJ that deserves a second, third, or maybe even fourth and fifth looks.

    The '02 factory Jeep TJ frame of Adam's Jeep is mostly intact with only a handful of slight modifications present to accommodate the custom suspension, steering and body armor. The Saginaw-style steering box no longer lives on the left-hand side framerail just before of the front axle. Now steering comes thanks to a fully hydraulic setup using Sinister Fab's Full Frontal Hydro Mount and Skid. Shining out from under the belly of the big green beast, are 2-inch solid aluminum links. Three of these links, loaded with Johnny Joint ends, run forward from Sinister Fab four-link brackets to grab the front axle while four similar links and eight ends head aft from similar brackets to the rear axle. The suspension sets the wheelbase at a climb-conquering 105 inches with a minimum of lift and just enough clearance for the tires. Up front, 14-inch Fox 2.0 coilover shocks suck up bumps while a Sinister Fab track bar and bracket keep the front axle centered come what may. Eibach air bumps up front allow a little go-fast technology on this crawler should Adam feel frisky. Out back (pun intended) two-inch lift coils from Old Man Emu provide a touch of lift while dampening comes from a set of Bilstein 5160s. Body roll at all four corners is handled by a pair of Currie Antirock sway bars. Rolling stock comes in the form of 40x13.50R17 Goodyear MT/Rs with Kevlar held firmly in place on a set of Hutchinson DOT-approved beadlocks.

    The drivetrain of this big green Jeep starts with a reliable, yet strong 4.0L cooled by a custom aluminum radiator and exhaling through a custom exhaust with a Flowmaster Hushpower muffler. Intake air is cleaned by a Spectre washable cone air filter. Bolted to the rear of the I-6 is an AW4 four-speed automatic from a '99 XJ. This transmission is cooled by an oversized remote transmission fluid cooler plumbed in line with the custom radiator. From there things get custom with a 4.3:1 Atlas II transfer case from Advance Adapters protected by a TeraFlex skidplate. Power is then split via a pair of shafts by Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts to a couple of Dana 60 axles. Both 60s hold Yukon 5.38 gears and 35-spline Yukon chromoly axle shafts. The front axle is a Ford kingpin axle with a high-pinion centersection. Both axles are sourced from a '79 Ford. Both axles are locked via a pair of Yukon Competition Zip Lockers that ironically enough receive pressure from an ARB air compressor. Yukon-sourced chromoly spindles, forged U-joints, billet yokes, and Yukon Hardcore locking hubs round up any loose ends on this beefy drivetrain. The axles were both rebuilt with new bearings while the front axle received new Spicer kingpins, Solid Axle Industries high-steer arms, forged knuckles, and a stout Solid diff cover. The rear axle also features a truss to grab the upper suspension links, a rear disc brake conversion, as well as a Great Lakes 4x4 rear diff cover. Voltage comes from an Optima Yellow Top fed by a Mopar alternator. Fuel is stored in a Gen Right gas tank that also allows for the rear suspension's stretch.

    Body and Interior
    Without doubt no one is missing that Synergy green paint sourced from a '12 Chevy Camaro. That color sure pops on the expertly tuned TJ sheetmetal in front of Moab red rocks. Luckily for us Adam also wheels this thing hard and therefore some of the nice green paint has been scratched off on a rock or two around the country. An AEV Heat Reduction hood sits over a pair of Sinister Fab front fenders. Sinister Fab rocker guards also protect the factory TJ tub's exterior while full-length aluminum rear corners help form the stretched rear wheelwells. The floor of the super-clean interior is coated with Line-X to provide protection from the elements and traction for passengers. A black Sailcloth soft top from Bestop with tinted windows matches the interior and acts a lid for the Jeep for those rainy trail days. The top can either be combined with a set of full steel-doors or a pair of color matched factory half-doors with Sailcloth uppers. The rest of the factory interior is pretty cleanly in place with only slight modifications for the Atlas II shifters, locker switches and a handheld Cobra 75WX CB radio. The front and rear blunted ends of the TJ are protected with a pair of Sinister Fab bumpers. The front bumper carries a grille hoop and a Warn 12000lb Power Plant winch. Front signaling comes from a pair of LED marker lamps mounted to the TJ Grille while Lite DOT LED rear lights handle stopping, turning and Reverse illumination.

    Good, Bad, and What it's For
    Adam bought the Jeep in stock configuration, and at the time it wasn't even running. What you see here was finished up at Unlimited Offroad in Fenton, Michigan. In August 2012, when done, the Jeep left immediately for a crosscountry run to the famed Rubicon Trail, Fordyce Trail, and many others near Lake Tahoe, California. Since then it has been to Moab and out to several local events and fundraisers around Michigan, including Drummond island. Adam has plans to bring the Jeep back to Moab for EJS '14. We'll see you there, Adam! One of the only flaws that we can see with this beautiful Jeep is the lack of a rollcage. In our opinion any Jeep rolling on 40s, (or off-road) should have a stout cage just in case it starts rolling on something other than the tires.

    Hard Facts
    Vehicle: '02 Jeep Wrangler TJ Sport
    Engine: 4.0L I-6
    Transmission: AW4
    Transfer Case: 4.3:1 Atlas II
    Suspension: Three-link with 14-inch travel Fox 2.0 coilovers (front); Four-link with 2-inch OME rear coils and Bilstein shocks (rear)
    Axles: Dana 60 high-pinion (front); Dana 60 (rear)
    Wheels: 17x8.5 Hutchinson DOT double beadlock
    Tires: 40x13.50R17LT Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar
    Built For: Rocks, and to show what a low lift, big tire'd Jeep can do

    Why I Wrote This Feature
    Clean Jeeps with a high attention to mechanical detail are fun to drool over. Adam's '02 TJ looks like it could have been thought up by and built by Mopar Underground. Yeah, it's that nice. Also Adam wheels the thing, as evidenced by these pictures and the rock rash. That's a combo that's hard to pass up when looking for a feature. We love this Jeep and want to see more TJs and JKs built like it—with solid parts, a flattering low stance, and simple dependability.
    -Verne Simons