New Member, '03 WJ JGC from Lincoln, CA

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tjZ06

Rank IV
Member

Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
First Name
TJ
Last Name
Adams
Member #

20043

Hello Overlandbound,

I'm a new member from Lincoln, CA. I just joined (OB-20043) and made a brief post in the Member Introductions thread, but I thought I'd expand a bit here. I grew up backpacking with my Pops, so I'm familiar with minimalist camping, packing light, etc. Over the last few decades though I've mostly done "Glamping" with 5th wheel Toy Haulers or RVs. I still have a 5th wheel, and we still do trips with it, but lately I've been longing for the simplicity of Overlanding. My goal is to have a well-equipped, highly-capable rig that I can just throw some food and clothes in and be on the road into the woods as quickly and simply as possible. I recently moved to Lincoln, CA (Northeast of Sacramento, just before the foothills of the Sierras) after living most of my life in the Bay Area (I still work in Palo Alto, CA). Part of my attraction to Overlanding is how close we are to so many amazing offroad camping destinations. We already camp in the Tahoe National Forest with the 5'er and our RZR, but I'm looking forward to exploring the more out-of-the-way spots. I also go out in the woods of the Payette National Forrest in Idaho, and plan to do some longer expeditions into Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona etc. in the future.

My rig is a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee (aka a "WJ") Overland. I'm just in the early stages of building it, but have a good roadmap for what I want to achieve. Originally we purchased it for my girlfriend's younger brother who we take care of, and it's been a great vehicle for him. He's going off to college next year, and is turning 18 and will be getting a more practical college car (we're looking at a 2-3 year old Chevy Malibu for him, the plan is to co-sign for him so he can further establish his credit... my parents did something similar for me when I as 18 and it was a great learning experience and helped build my financial responsibility and future). So... that means I get the Jeep back!!!

Here's the Jeep back when we first picked it up in '17:

1568930920282.gif

1568930920315.gif

1568930920343.gif

1568930920369.gif

1568930920402.gif

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I added a Gibson Exhaust (really nice, deep sound without being overly loud) right away and got to planning the next phase of the project. As most of you know the Overland has the 4.7 HO and QuadraDrive along with solid front and rear axles with multi-link coil-spring suspension. It's actually a very capable stock, but of course I wanted to add a bit more. To compliment the nature of the WJ, I wanted a mild lift with great flex but I wanted to maintain great onroad manners too. After a lot of research I settled on Iron Rock Offroad (IRO) for the lift, and names like Addco, Bilstein, and Kevin's Offroad for some of the ancillary parts.
For wheels and tires we landed on this setup:
Wheels - Pro Comp Series 7032 (16x8, 5x5, 4.5BS):
1568930920465.gif

Tires - Goodyear Duratrac (265/75-16):
1568930920499.gif

Again, the goal on this first stage wasn't a hardcore rock-crawler or anything like that. More of a very capable Overlanding vehicle for Jake that could still be his daily driver to work and school. The IRO 4" ROCK-LINK is probably a bit of overkill for "just" Overlanding, but IMHO extra flex is worth it. The Quada-Drive is a good system, but it's not as good as true lockers. Keeping the tires planted with the extra flex will help out a lot in letting the QD system work this Jeep through tight spots.

Here's how it came out with those parts (JKS Quicker Disconnects not on yet in these pics):
1568931241221.gif

1568931241279.gif

Rock-Sliders:
1568931241385.gif

1568931241441.gif

Front long-arms:
1568931241474.gif

1568931241506.gif

1568931241539.gif

1568931241573.gif

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Over-the-knuckle tie rod, steering stabilizer, etc:
1568931241635.gif

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Front springs, shocks (I hate how the dust boots have bunched up) and extended end-links:
1568931241783.gif

Rear:
1568931241812.gif

1568931241841.gif

Next was a cheapie stereo upgrade just to get Bluetooth and slightly better sound. I just changed the HU and dash speakers, so far the amp and the rest of the speakers are stock, and it sounds "okay." I'll probably upgrade the stereo a bit further in the future for longer expeditions, but it's not bad for now.

We didn't really take pics during the install, and Jake did most of it. It's a kick-ass head unit though, and it even makes the stock amp/speaker setup sound much better.

1568931748293.png

Other than some additional trimming of the front bumper and inner fenders (I do have pics of that if anybody is interested), that's about how it sits now.
 

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tjZ06

Rank IV
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Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
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TJ
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Adams
Member #

20043

As I mentioned, I've been "Glamping" for a long time now, but earlier this summer I went out in the Payette National Forrest where my Dad's side of the family has had a cabin since shortly after my Grandfather returned from WWII. The cabin is really just that: a cabin. It's super-basic and you don't sleep inside, you sleep out on the sleeping porches. It's not at all like when you hear someone say they have a "cabin in Tahoe" and it's really a 5k sqft mansion with some logs slapped on the front. That said, the cabin was busy the week I was going, so I tent camped with a buddy of mine in a nearby campsite instead. I guess you could call it my first 'Overlanding' trip (tent camping out of my pickup truck... it kinda counts, right?).

















Random rig we saw, ready for some winter Overlanding!





We even stopped by the family cabin, this is a shot off the porch, looking out onto the South Fork of the Salmon River:





And here was our camp:








I try to learn something from every trip, so what did I learn from this one?

1) I'd say the biggest lesson was that we brought entirely too much stuff. Perhaps it was a function of being used to the 5'er, but I packed like I was going to go live in the woods, not just be there 4 nights. I suppose there are worse lessons to learn, but it did get me thinking more about the WJ and the advantages of a well-setup dedicated Overlander.

2) I learned that time out in the woods, way away from (most) people, electricity and 4/5G was exactly what I needed. I work for a tech company, and it's often hard to un-tether. Some of my usual Glamping buddies had their doubts that I'd enjoy a return to a tent and cleaning up in the river... but they couldn't have been more wrong. I enjoyed every second of it.
 
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Narbob

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Welcome to Overland Bound!
Great looking rig/buildup.
Here’s some info in case you didn’t get it on your initial posting.

Check the forum calendar and Meet-Up page for events, and the Trip Planning page for trips being planned by members.

Overland Bound Meetups

If you have any questions message your Member Representative @Magic Mike or me, your Regional Director, on the forum at @Narbob
 

tjZ06

Rank IV
Member

Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
First Name
TJ
Last Name
Adams
Member #

20043

Welcome to Overland Bound!
Great looking rig/buildup.
Here’s some info in case you didn’t get it on your initial posting.

Check the forum calendar and Meet-Up page for events, and the Trip Planning page for trips being planned by members.

Overland Bound Meetups

If you have any questions message your Member Representative @Magic Mike or me, your Regional Director, on the forum at @Narbob
Awesome, thanks for the info and the welcome!
 

tjZ06

Rank IV
Member

Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
First Name
TJ
Last Name
Adams
Member #

20043

My next trip was just this past weekend, and was the first use of the WJ for a camping trip. We ran pats of the Pardoe/Squaw trail in the Eldorado National Forrest, out near Lower Bear Reservoir, Silver Lake, and out around to hte backside of Kirkwood ski resort. The trails are generally listed as mild, and most stock 4x4s would be capable of most of it. We found a few slightly tougher spots and I got to test out flexin' the WJ for the first time (and discovered I need to delete the fog lights and move the windshield washer reservoir).

My buddy's XJ on 35"s and my WJ:


The whole crew, the XJ on locked D44s and 35"s, a bone-stock JK Rubicon, my WJ, and a buddy's bone-stock XJ he had bought the weekend before:


The JK and modded XJ:


Modded XJ, my WJ, stock XJ:



My WJ getting its flex on a bit:



A few more snaps of the WJ:




There's still snow up around 9k feet:



And some shots where we ended up bivouacking (more on that story in a bit):







(hindsight 20/20 we should have turned the privacy shelter 180 degrees to have the most epic view ever for our "contemplation time")

Random shots:




A shot of "camp" on our way out (highly-skilled shot with part of my hand in view):


^ This pic was important to me because it shows something I've always thought was extremely important when offroading, or enjoying nature in general: leave it cleaner than you found it. If you look close, there's a fire-ring in the pic. We didn't have a fire because there was a fire restriction above 8k feet in place. However, somebody had clearly been there recently, ignored that restriction, and worse-yet left beer cans in the fire. I should hope nobody is having a fire hot enough in this area to melt cans, but even if they do it's not like the aluminum actually burns or magically disappears. I collected the cans (and any other trash I saw) and packed it out with me. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but it's just something I'm always shocked not everyone does.




Anyway, as for the "story" about why we camped there, rather than further down in elevation where we could have a fire. Well, as I mentioned one of the rigs was a bone-stock XJ, and the driver was also new to wheeling. He did a GREAT job, and with a little spotting was easily making it through everything the rest of us were. However, it was on pretty old tires, and eventually he ended up slicing a sidewall on a sharp bit of root sticking out from the ground (isn't it ALWAYS a root or branch that slices tires, no the jagged rocks you'd assume would shred them?). As it turns out, he only had a donut spare. I take a lot of the responsibility here, as he was my buddy and I had helped him find and inspect the Jeep as well as talked him into the trip. The Jeep is super-solid, and very clean (for a 20 year old, 185k mile Jeep) as well as mechanically sound so I had no worries with him bringing it. I also knew if the trail got too tough we could turn back. However, I knew by the date code on the tires we were pushing it a bit, and I failed to check that he had a full-size spare. I guess it just never dawned on me that Jeep would put a donut in any "real" Jeep (maybe a Compass or what not - no offense meant to any Compass owners). So, knowing he was on older tires I should have been sure to check that he had a solid, full-size spare.

Once we got the flat we made quick work of changing it. We used the factory jack from the JK and my electric impact w/ a torque stick to buzz it on and off, as well as using the Powertank from the built-up XJ to air-up the spare (I have a nice Viair compressor, but nothing is as quick as a Powertank). Still, the sun was setting so we made the call to find the closest decent spot to camp. The built XJ went ahead to scout, and found a pretty great spot about half a mile ahead. He spotted the JK and I through to the camp spot (as it turns out this was probably the most technical section of the trail, and it was now dark) and we got the XJ to a safe spot off the trail for the night.

The next day was a bit of an adventure, and slow-going as we all took turns spotting the stock XJ on a donut through the hard spots, stacking some rocks where needed (and returning them when done). Here's the "money shot" from the weekend:



And yes, that was the "easy way" through that section. Again, I take a lot of the responsibility here, and I KNOW BETTER than to be wheeling with rigs without matching spares. But it just goes to show you can get ahead of yourself in the excitement before a trip, and sometimes the basics aren't that basic.
 
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tjZ06

Rank IV
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Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
First Name
TJ
Last Name
Adams
Member #

20043

As I mentioned before, I like to learn from every trip, so what were the lessons gleaned this time?

  1. First and foremost: have a matching spare for every vehicle. No excuses, this is a must (mea culpa).
  2. I still brought way too much stuff, and still over-complicate the uncomplicated
  3. I want a roof top tent

Now, on that last point, I had been somewhat up in the air on the whole RTT idea. I'm sure there are a million threads here that outline the pros and cons, but this trip cemented my want for a RTT. The area we found to camp for the night was pretty rocky, and had few truly flat spots. On top of that we were setting up after dark (due to the flat tire ordeal) and we had 4 rigs with only 5 people and 4 tents + the privacy tent. In other words, we were at the peak of inefficiency when it came to setting up. My buddy with the XJ and I ended up just sharing a tent since it really didn't make sense to setup all 4 tents, which was fine... but when possible I'd rather not share a tent with anybody but my girl (and our dogs). ;)

As to the second point: over-complicating things I think I have a very good idea of what I do, and don't actually need now. I can cut down my gear by about 40% and also have a better idea of how much water and things like that to bring (with the 5'er or RVs we always just bring a ton of everything... because why not?).





I also have started planning the next phase of my WJ build. As stated above I absolutely want to retain good road manners (I want to be able to comfortably put in 12+ hour road days when needed) and reliability is key with how remote some areas I intend to camp in will be. As such, for now I'm avoiding the urge from my rock-crawling days to go YYYuge. Instead, my plan is pretty simple:

  • Notch Customs W-Max Fender Flares to allow more tire at this same lift height, I do not want a super-tall, high-CG rig
  • Something around a 33" tire (305/70-16 which is roughly 32.8x12" is most likely, but perhaps a "true" 33x12.5)
  • Sleeve, gusset, chromoly axle shafts with an ARB and re-gear (probably 4.88) the front Dana 30
    • This is a place I've had much internal debate, the old rock-crawler/hardcore wheeler in me says any $ spent on a D30 is money wasted. However, for Overland use and if I don't get ridiculous with the throttle in tight situations a well-built D30 will be more than strong enough while retaining more ground clearance, lower weight, etc.
  • Gusset, chromoly axle shafts with an ARB and re-gear (again, 4.88) the rear D44HD (aka aluminum center section D44, hence wanting a tube-to-tube gusset)
  • Replace my 247 QuadraDrive full-time 4wd T-Case with a Part-Time 242HD (which offers 2WD, 4H full-time, 4H part-time, N, 4L)
    • Slip Yoke Eliminator
    • Full rebuild with all new bearings, bushings, seals and chain
  • Custom Tow Woods double-double cardan driveshafts
  • Front, rear and center frame stiffiners from Iron Rock Offroad and Trail Forged - this WJ was clearly never wheeled before me, and is clean, straight and tight with no rattles, squeaks, leaks etc. As most of you know, the WJ is a unibody so if I want to keep it this way, it needs a little help
  • Fuel Tank "Tuck" - the WJ was the first Jeep SUV that didn't have the spare tire inside the vehicle. As such, there is a spare tire-well in the back, which means the fuel tank has to sit below that. The end result is a really low fuel tank which is susceptible to all sorts of trail damage (see the pics above for how low the stock tank hangs). Since I'll be running a spare outside I can eliminate the spare-tub, patch the Jeep's floor and raise the fuel tank a solid 8"+ while keeping the interior of the Jeep fully sealed and looking exactly the same
  • Aftermarket front bumper w/ winch
  • Aftermarket rear bumper w/ tire-carrier (see lesson #1 above, and I don't want to put a 33" spare inside and lose all of that storage space)
  • Roof-Top-Tent!! Since the WJ's roof is actually pretty small as compared to newer things like JK Unlimiteds, Land Cruisers, or even 4Runners I want something with a small, slim profile. Also, nearly all of my wheeling/camping is in the woods, so I don't want something too obnoxious that will catch every tree branch I even think about going under. Unfortunately, this rules out hard-shell RTTs, which were my first choice for simplicity. On the WJ they look like a mushroom-cap, and while looks aren't everything they would significantly reduce clearance when squeezing through trees etc. Right now I have my eye on a Tepui Low Pro 2 if I buy new, though I miiiiight have a line on a used Ayer 2 which is still relatively compact, and would help my (already hurting) budget a lot.
  • Fridge and second battery
    • Admittedly I'm a bit on the fence on this one. I think an ice chest is generally fine, but I do recognize there is probably a reason that EVERY Overlander eventually goes with a fridge/freezer
  • Finally, I will probably convert the rear suspension to a long-arm. It's not that I'm really hurting for wheel travel or articulation, but this will allow me to move the rear axle back .5-1" (and I will move the front about the same) to help with tire clearance

So, that's my grand plan. Any thoughts? What am I obviously overlooking? Have any of you WJ owners had experience running a RTT on the stock WJ roof rails (with added cross-bars of course)?
 

Magic Mike

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Hello Overlandbound,

I'm a new member from Lincoln, CA. I just joined (OB-20043) and made a brief post in the Member Introductions thread, but I thought I'd expand a bit here. I grew up backpacking with my Pops, so I'm familiar with minimalist camping, packing light, etc. Over the last few decades though I've mostly done "Glamping" with 5th wheel Toy Haulers or RVs. I still have a 5th wheel, and we still do trips with it, but lately I've been longing for the simplicity of Overlanding. My goal is to have a well-equipped, highly-capable rig that I can just throw some food and clothes in and be on the road into the woods as quickly and simply as possible. I recently moved to Lincoln, CA (Northeast of Sacramento, just before the foothills of the Sierras) after living most of my life in the Bay Area (I still work in Palo Alto, CA). Part of my attraction to Overlanding is how close we are to so many amazing offroad camping destinations. We already camp in the Tahoe National Forest with the 5'er and our RZR, but I'm looking forward to exploring the more out-of-the-way spots. I also go out in the woods of the Payette National Forrest in Idaho, and plan to do some longer expeditions into Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona etc. in the future.

My rig is a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee (aka a "WJ") Overland. I'm just in the early stages of building it, but have a good roadmap for what I want to achieve. Originally we purchased it for my girlfriend's younger brother who we take care of, and it's been a great vehicle for him. He's going off to college next year, and is turning 18 and will be getting a more practical college car (we're looking at a 2-3 year old Chevy Malibu for him, the plan is to co-sign for him so he can further establish his credit... my parents did something similar for me when I as 18 and it was a great learning experience and helped build my financial responsibility and future). So... that means I get the Jeep back!!!

Here's the Jeep back when we first picked it up in '17:

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I added a Gibson Exhaust (really nice, deep sound without being overly loud) right away and got to planning the next phase of the project. As most of you know the Overland has the 4.7 HO and QuadraDrive along with solid front and rear axles with multi-link coil-spring suspension. It's actually a very capable stock, but of course I wanted to add a bit more. To compliment the nature of the WJ, I wanted a mild lift with great flex but I wanted to maintain great onroad manners too. After a lot of research I settled on Iron Rock Offroad (IRO) for the lift, and names like Addco, Bilstein, and Kevin's Offroad for some of the ancillary parts.
For wheels and tires we landed on this setup:
Wheels - Pro Comp Series 7032 (16x8, 5x5, 4.5BS):
View attachment 118148

Tires - Goodyear Duratrac (265/75-16):
View attachment 118144

Again, the goal on this first stage wasn't a hardcore rock-crawler or anything like that. More of a very capable Overlanding vehicle for Jake that could still be his daily driver to work and school. The IRO 4" ROCK-LINK is probably a bit of overkill for "just" Overlanding, but IMHO extra flex is worth it. The Quada-Drive is a good system, but it's not as good as true lockers. Keeping the tires planted with the extra flex will help out a lot in letting the QD system work this Jeep through tight spots.

Here's how it came out with those parts (JKS Quicker Disconnects not on yet in these pics):
View attachment 118150

View attachment 118151

Rock-Sliders:
View attachment 118156

View attachment 118155

Front long-arms:
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Over-the-knuckle tie rod, steering stabilizer, etc:
View attachment 118162

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Front springs, shocks (I hate how the dust boots have bunched up) and extended end-links:
View attachment 118166

Rear:
View attachment 118167

View attachment 118168

Next was a cheapie stereo upgrade just to get Bluetooth and slightly better sound. I just changed the HU and dash speakers, so far the amp and the rest of the speakers are stock, and it sounds "okay." I'll probably upgrade the stereo a bit further in the future for longer expeditions, but it's not bad for now.

We didn't really take pics during the install, and Jake did most of it. It's a kick-ass head unit though, and it even makes the stock amp/speaker setup sound much better.

View attachment 118174

Other than some additional trimming of the front bumper and inner fenders (I do have pics of that if anybody is interested), that's about how it sits now.
Welcome to Overland Bound, as @Narbob stated I am you member Representative if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me @Magic Mike

Make sure you browse through the new member threads they will help you navigate the Overland Bound website and will allow you to the most out of it.

Check out Rally Points for up coming event, meet-ups and trips. Also check the member calendar for some of the same information. FYI we have a local meet-up in Auburn on the first Saturday of every month. Check Rally Points for upcoming dates and information.
 

tjZ06

Rank IV
Member

Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
First Name
TJ
Last Name
Adams
Member #

20043

Welcome to Overland Bound, as @Narbob stated I am you member Representative if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me @Magic Mike

Make sure you browse through the new member threads they will help you navigate the Overland Bound website and will allow you to the most out of it.

Check out Rally Points for up coming event, meet-ups and trips. Also check the member calendar for some of the same information. FYI we have a local meet-up in Auburn on the first Saturday of every month. Check Rally Points for upcoming dates and information.
Thanks Mike! I'll be sure to heck out those sections, and I look forward to finishing this "build" and getting on the trail with y'all.

-TJ
 

TJDon

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I’ll be following along with your buildup. I have a WJ also, but I’m definitely keeping it on the much milder build than yourself. I’m also from the rock crawler world and it’s a challenge to not go overkill with “beefing” everything up. Yours is looking good so far!
 

tjZ06

Rank IV
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Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
First Name
TJ
Last Name
Adams
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20043

I’ll be following along with your buildup. I have a WJ also, but I’m definitely keeping it on the much milder build than yourself. I’m also from the rock crawler world and it’s a challenge to not go overkill with “beefing” everything up. Yours is looking good so far!
Thanks. It's not clear how soon I'll get into the next phase, like I said I want to do it this winter but we'll see. Even as-is the WJ is very capable. I'm probably going to focus on the frame stiffeners and at least the rear-bumper next (so I can run a matching spare not inside the Jeep).


Welcome from Central Texas.
Thanks!

-TJ
 

TJDon

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Been looking at the trail forged bumpers myself. Be good to support a local to us guy also
 

tjZ06

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Been looking at the trail forged bumpers myself. Be good to support a local to us guy also
Yup, I wrote them via their "contact" section on their site, but no reply yet. I'll give them a call when I'm closer to actually ordering, most small shops like that aren't great with email.

-TJ
 
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JimBill

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Very nice build! The WJ is a good platform. I can't believe the flex I get with a budget boost and front discos. I can imagine your front long arms flex insane! This last weekend I did the Bald Mountain Loop at the OB Rally Sierras, with no trouble and several compliments from the Toyota drivers behind me and the group lead. So your WJ must be a monster with the upgrades you have!! I will be posting some pics and what I learned/found from last week's adventure. I have parts on order and work to do.... JimBill
 

tjZ06

Rank IV
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Enthusiast I

1,213
Lincoln, CA
First Name
TJ
Last Name
Adams
Member #

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Very nice build! The WJ is a good platform. I can't believe the flex I get with a budget boost and front discos. I can imagine your front long arms flex insane! This last weekend I did the Bald Mountain Loop at the OB Rally Sierras, with no trouble and several compliments from the Toyota drivers behind me and the group lead. So your WJ must be a monster with the upgrades you have!! I will be posting some pics and what I learned/found from last week's adventure. I have parts on order and work to do.... JimBill
Yeah, some of my buddies with IFS rigs saw my pics from the little trip I did a few weeks back and were very jealous of the flex. The WJ is Jeep's forgotten solid-axle rig, and I'm not sure why. You can get a decent V8 in the 4.7 HO - it's no GM LS-series motor... but 265/325 HP/TQ is still pretty good. The current 3.6 you get in a Wrangler or Gladiator is 285 HP, so yes a hair more HP but it comes at 6,400 RPM vs. just 5,200 RPM for the 4.7 HO's peak of 325. On the torque side the current 3.6 has just 260 lbs-ft at a very high (for a torque peak) 4,800 RPM. The 4.7 HO has 325 lbs-ft down at just 3,600 RPM. IMHO the 4.7 HO is a better motor for a heavy "Overlander" than the 3.6 - sure the new 3rd Gen EcoDiesel will be better than either the 4.7 or 3.6... but the point is the WJ has a lot going for it. It has a much nicer interior too than the way more popular XJs, TJs or even JKs (IMHO).

Anyway, looking forward to seeing your posts about the new parts! I need to get my little sand rail sold, then I'll be making an order myself!


-TJ