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A Custom Jeep Liberty KJ With One Ton axles, 39-inch Toyo tires, and Coilovers

A Liberty built for the rocks

In 2001, the Jeep Liberty broke the mold of what a Jeep had always been.

It was the first Jeep to have fully independent front suspension (IFS) and a real transfer case with low range and 4WD. Sure, there were several other models of Jeeps that came in 2WD, and if you dig deeply enough even a few rare Jeeps from the 50s and 60s with IFS, but this was the first mass produced Jeep 4-wheel-drive without, gasp, a solid front axle.

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Still, the Liberty is and was a Jeep. The IFS design works pretty well off-road for what it is, and the Jeep had some new CPU technology that other Jeeps hadn't really seen. For example, the Liberty had a separate computer program to better control engine RPMs in low range. That's cool. The Liberty also has a three-link solid rear axle, unibody frame construction, four doors, and an obviously Jeep-inspired grille. Most Liberty models served time as commuter cars with a few actually getting used to their full potential.

Currently, these Jeeps are cheap on the used market. With either the decent 2.4L 4-cyl or the peppy 3.7L V-6, lightweight uni-body construction, a common four-speed auto, and somewhat common 5-speed manual, the Jeep Liberty actually can make a good platform for a trail rig. That's exactly what Max Krause of Goodyear, Arizona, created when his 2014 JK Unlimited caught on fire and was significantly damaged.

A Jeep Liberty After the Fire

It seems that Max's 2014 JK Unlimited, which was already on one-ton axles, had the front driveshaft seize up. That in turn destroyed the JK's transfer case, tossing transmission fluid onto the hot exhaust. Poof, the Jeep caught fire and Max's smallish onboard fire extinguisher didn't do much to quench the flames. Finally, a good Samaritan in a cleaning van stopped and used his onboard pressure washer to douse the fire. The Jeep was pretty well burned to a crisp, but when the dust settled, Max was able to salvage the axles, the coilovers, most of the suspension, steering components, and more. With these parts in hand and a strong urge to get back out onto the trail, Max tracked down this Khaki Metallic Gold 2004 Jeep Liberty with a five-speed transmission. It was quickly put under the knife, and Max and his crawler buddies were cutting and fabbing on the Liberty to make the parts fit.

One-ton Axles and Coilovers

Up front, a 1999 Dodge Ram 2500 Dana 60 is held in place with a three link that Max and his pals engineered. The axle holds 5.38:1 gears on Yukon Zip Locker and Yukon chromoly 35-spline inner axles and 33-spline chromoly stubs from Letzroll Offroad in Mesa, Arizona. The axle has large unit-bearings and lacks locking hubs, but that seems to work well for Max. The rear axle is a 1999 Dodge Dana 60 with like gears and another Zip Locker, Yukon chromoly 35-spline axles and is located under the Liberty with a double triangulated four-link that Max says he researched while web wheeling. The boing and flex of the suspension is controlled by 14-inch travel 2.5 Sway-a-Way remote reservoir shocks up front and 16-inch 2.5 remote reservoir Kings. All of the suspension, including the link ends and shock mounts, are tied to a mild steel tubing and plate-constructed subframe built by Max and his friends. The subframe is then grafted to the Liberty's unibody pseudo frame all the way under the body. The roll cage is also tied into the unibody and subframe.

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The Jeep Liberty's Engine, transmission transfer case, and more

Max's Liberty sure stands out in the crowd of JKs. The Jeep is powered by the venerable 3.7L V-6. This engine is from the same design family as the 4.7L V-8 that was found in Jeep Grand Cherokees, Ram trucks, etc. This 3.7 is downright zippy in a Liberty and preferable to the JKs 3.8L V-6. Behind the 3.7L is the Liberty's original NV3550 transmission. That's the same transmission as what would be found in many TJs of the era. Keeping things simple, Max sourced a Jeep NV241OR from a TJ Rubicon. The 4:1 gearing helps give the Liberty gearing and control in the rocks. Tires are from Toyo M/Ts sized 39x13.50R17 and mounted on 17-inch KMC Machete Bead Locks.