Hemi-Pow­ered LJ Wran­gler

An un­der­stated build that works so well

Jp Magazine - - Table Of Contents -

Jeep­ers who live in states with strict emis­sions laws can ap­pre­ci­ate the dif­fi­culty of

do­ing an en­gine swap and mak­ing it le­gal. How­ever, in most states the process is pretty straight­for­ward and rea­son­able. In Cal­i­for­nia, how­ever, only those that re­ally want a le­gal en­gine trans­plant will per­se­vere, and the process only gets more dif­fi­cult as the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion is newer. There are hun­dreds of hoops to jump through, mul­ti­ple ref­er­ees to con­tend with, and mounds of pa­per­work. It’s not a co­in­ci­dence that get­ting a smog cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for an en­gine swap is of­ten re­ferred to as a golden ticket. Bob Besch is one such holder of a golden ticket, and the 5.7L Hemi breath­ing un­der the hood of his 2005 Jeep Wran­gler Un­lim­ited does so with the full knowl­edge and bless­ing of the state.

When you ask Bob about how dif­fi­cult ob­tain­ing the golden ticket was, he de­vel­ops the thou­sand-yard stare of some­one who spent a lot of time in the trenches and changes the sub­ject. We man­aged to get out of him that even the part num­bers for the char­coal can­is­ter and cat­alytic con­vert­ers were scru­ti­nized and cross-ref­er­enced dur­ing the ref­eree process. But nev­er­the­less, the torque of the Hemi is a wel­come ad­di­tion un­der the hood. Not sur­pris­ingly, the en­gine looks like it came from the fac­tory be­tween the LJ fend­ers. While it’s easy to focus on what’s un­der the hood, there’s a lot more cool stuff worth check­ing out on Bob’s Jeep.

King coilovers peek­ing out from the fend­er­wells grabbed our at­ten­tion first. The TJ has a very con­ser­va­tive stance; it’s low, wide, and sta­ble, which is ex­actly what we like to see. The stance is cour­tesy of a GenRight Leg­end sus­pen­sion sys­tem, while the 2-inch Kings at all four cor­ners

han­dle the spring and damp­ing du­ties.

The Jeep rolls on 37x12.50-17 Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires wrapped around a set of Walker Evans bead­lock wheels. The ex­tra clear­ance for the tires comes from a full com­ple­ment of GenRight alu­minum fend­ers and ar­mor. Un­der­neath is a TMR skid­plate keep­ing the driv­e­train well pro­tected and tucked up out of harm’s way.

The Hemi torque passes through a Dodge 545RFE trans­mis­sion on its way to an At­las 4-Speed trans­fer case. From there, it’s split to a pair of Dy­na­trac ProRock 60s filled with 5.38 gears and ARB Air Lock­ers.

Though Bob’s LJ may have been overkill for the rel­a­tively mild-man­nered trails of the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive pre­sented by Jeep, it had clearly been well sorted out and didn’t have the typ­i­cal bugs and quirks that come with such a highly cus­tom build. To our knowl­edge he never needed to spin a wrench dur­ing the trip, and the LJ kept Bob and his wife warm and dry thanks to the fully func­tion­ing HVAC sys­tem. The Jeep is clearly built for hard trails, but is equally at home on the street as it is on the thou­sands of miles of dirt roads all over the South­west.

By Tren­ton McGee jped­i­tor@jp­magazine.com Pho­tog­ra­phy: Tren­ton McGee

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