King-of-the-Trail Wran­glerLJ

Jp Magazine - - Table Of Contents - By Ali Man­sour jped­i­[email protected]­magazine.com Pho­tog­ra­phy: Ali Man­sour

Linked and locked and down­right nice

We have of­ten be­lieved that Jeep years should be thought of in dog years. Af­ter all, a cou­ple years of wrench­ing and wheeling can dras­ti­cally change the look of your Jeep. Take Chris King’s ’06 Jeep Wran­gler Un­lim­ited, for ex­am­ple.

Hav­ing owned it for more than eight years, the Jeep’s evo­lu­tion has been steady and well thought out.

Over that time, it has served as a daily driver, trail toy, and pizza de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle, of all things. While the for­mer Ma­rine and now full-time lum­ber­jack has of­fi­cially tran­si­tioned the LJ from daily driver into ded­i­cated wheeler, this doesn’t mean he’s afraid to drive it to and from the trail and back home. We caught up with the North Carolina res­i­dent in Uwhar­rie Na­tional For­est to get a closer look at his twist on one of the most sought-af­ter Wran­glers.

Chas­sis

De­spite only be­ing avail­able for three years, the ’03-’06 Wran­gler Un­lim­ited

re­mains one of the most de­sired wheeling plat­forms. This is largely due to the ad­di­tional 10 inches of wheel­base it gained over the stan­dard TJ Wran­gler. While the added length helps tremen­dously with sta­bil­ity, it can be chal­leng­ing when at­tempt­ing to main­tain a lower amount of lift.

Con­cerned that an off-the-shelf long-arm kit would cre­ate ground clear­ance is­sues with his mod­est sus­pen­sion lift goals, King worked with the crew at Low Range 4x4 in Wilm­ing­ton, North Carolina, to achieve a unique link setup. This cus­tom con­trol arm kit would com­bine JK-length 0.250-wall con­trol arms with heavy-duty high-clear­ance brack­ets from EVO Man­u­fac­tur­ing. The front axle uses a four-link with track bar to keep it cen­tered, while out back the track bar was ditched in fa­vor of tri­an­gu­lated up­per con­trol arms. Lift coils of the 2.5-inch va­ri­ety keep the over­all height down, while a Cur­rie An­tirock front sway bar adds sta­bil­ity on- and off-road.

To dial it all in, four Bil­stein 5100 se­ries shocks han­dle damp­ing, while a 1.25-inch body lift pro­vides a touch of ex­tra clear­ance. Since the Jeep spends a fair amount of time in the rocks, it was out­fit­ted with a high-clear­ance bel­ly­pan and en­gine skid­plate sys­tem from Un­der Cover Fab­works. To en­sure the fuel tank could take a beat­ing, a Savvy alu­minum skid­plate was added.

Driv­e­train

Spend­ing a lot of its time as a daily driver, King didn’t want to go too crazy mod­i­fy­ing the stock 4.0L en­gine. Aside from a Banks cold-air in­take, the orig­i­nal in­line-six en­gine re­mains largely un­touched. Bolted to the back of the

block is a 42RLE au­to­matic trans­mis­sion that has been up­graded by ATS Diesel. It feeds an NP231 trans­fer case, which has a slip-yoke elim­i­na­tor.

If King’s Wran­gler looks much wider than stock, that’s mostly thanks to the G2 Axle & Gear 44 se­ries axles. These were orig­i­nally de­signed for an ’07-’17 Wran­gler JK, so they were built with a 65-inch WMS. The high-pin­ion front uses G2 chro­moly axle­shafts and 5.13 gears. The tie rod is from Syn­ergy Man­u­fac­tur­ing, while the drag link was cus­tom-made to work with the LJ’s stock steer­ing gear.

Out back, a low-pin­ion G2 44 gets a serv­ing of chro­moly axle­shafts and match­ing 5.13 gears. Both axles carry ARB Air Lock­ers and are spun by Tom Wood’s cus­tom driveshafts. Power gets to the ground through a set of 37x12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grap­plers wrapped around 17-inch KMC En­duro bead­locks. Since these wheels were orig­i­nally used on the LJ’s stock axles, King in­stalled a set of wheel adapters to con­vert from the JK 5-on-5 bolt pat­tern that the G2 axles were built with.

Body and In­te­rior

Help­ing the 37s have all the room they need to fully cy­cle is a cus­tom high­line con­ver­sion us­ing Smit­ty­bilt front fend­ers up front and Gen­Right high­line fend­ers out back. The Mo­to­bilt front bumper holds a Warn 9500 se­ries winch that has been paired with 100 feet of Cus­tom Splice rope and a Fac­tor 55 FlatLink. Adding a bit of ex­tra clear­ance to the rock­ers are EVO Man­u­fac­tur­ing boat­side rocker guards, while the stock rear bumper has been re­placed with a Gen­Right cross­mem­ber plate. To in­crease night­time vis­i­bil­ity, the stock head­lamps were swapped out for a more pow­er­ful LED set from High Beam Of­froad, and a light­bar from Se­ward Of­froad was se­cured on the bumper.

Oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion was just as im­por­tant as trail per­for­mance, so King turned to the guys at Low Range 4x4 once again to cre­ate a cus­tom ’cage. In ad­di­tion to en­hanced rollover se­cu­rity, King’s LJ has Cor­beau XRS front seats and a Cor­beau Baja rear bench. Each sus­pen­sion seat is paired with PRP har­nesses. For trail days when the top is bet­ter left on, a Bestop Trek­top does a fine job of keep­ing ev­ery­one out of the el­e­ments.

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