Mike's Jeep

I found a YJ that was running good enough to drive home. The next six months spent taking it apart and selling what I could. Everything that didn't sell and would not fit into the project I scrapped. What I had left was a frame, steering box, body, fenders, hood, grille, gas tank and a lot of miscellaneous nuts, bolts and accessories.

Now was the time to start acquiring parts. I located a new crate GM 3800SC (super charged) engine, not quite the normal conversion engine. I choose it as it was light in weight, decent power and its dimensions would afford a lot of room for everything I wanted. Next I invested in a 700R4 backed up by an AtlasII transfer case. Up front would be a Ford reverse cut Dana 44 high pinion front axle narrowed and equipped with an ARB air locker and 5.13 gears, APM knuckles, PM high steer arms, tierod, draglink and pitman arm. In the back went a Dynatrac Pro Rock 60 center section.

Brett, a friend and great fabricator (BRC Motorsports), installed the axle tubes, gear set and air locker along with Ford Motorsport rear disc brakes and Dutchman 35 spline semi-float axles.

I wanted to keep the leaf spring suspension so I installed Rubicon Express SOA 5 leaf spring packs along with my PartsMike designed Wrap Control bar. I had J.D. Champion give the body a great looking Dodge Durango blue paint job.

Great! Look at all the pieces. I slowly started assembling the Jeep. Each day I thought about what I wanted to do and at the end of the day I would look at the pieces but would be tired from my regular work. I kept procrastinating and putting off assembly. The weekends would roll around and by Sunday night the project not have moved forward. Decision making time was here as I really liked what I had and I wanted it done right.

I called my friend Brett and made a deal on getting it all assembled. This was a wise choice. Brett being a little compulsive is probably the best technician I have ever known. He is quick, has all the tools, and the ability. When he takes on a customers project it will be done the same way he would do his own.

He installed the Drivetrain and all the rest of my parts including the Buick ECM and stock harness that he modified for the Jeep installation. He also installed new Bestop seats, Super Top, Tuffy Lock box console, Omix overhead console, Radio Shack CB, Sony sound system, Chicken Lips antenna splitter, Auto Meter, Lokar shifter along with a multitude of other parts into and onto my rolling chassis.

The build continues with custom work on the floor pan, custom exhaust, and completed wiring. Then we hit the world famous Rubicon trail.

Brett cut the floor to allow the Atlas transfer case to lay flat. He pieced together metal to cover the hole. This is so well done I have to point it out to people that are looking at the Jeep as it looks stock.

When I open the hood the first thing you see is Jim Piatt's hood lift kit that really works (Every Jeep should have it)! Next, you view the neatest engine conversion you will ever want to see, the blown V6 with its injection system looks like it supposed to be there, even the heater hoses line up from the engine to the firewall (stock Jeeps never did). Fuses that were installed in a tidy row make the engine compartment a pleasure to look at protect the ARB pump and all the electronics. Nothing looks out of place.

The end result is a great looking Jeep with exceptional ground clearance as nothing hangs down.

Unlike any other off road vehicle that I have owned over the past 37 years, I now have one that I was not wrenching on the night before the trip. This I know is almost disgraceful. We all know in the Jeeping world that you have to be working on it right up until it is time to leave for the trip. It sure felt good to get a good nights sleep. I guess I'm just getting old.

My wife Judy, in the last 42 years has put up with many trials and tribulations concerning that night before a run madness. We both worried a little as we set out in a not quite finished or marginal project vehicle. We both had some doubts about the mechanical degree of readiness the vehicles of the past had for those trips. Well that was the past this is the present.

This year we signed up for the 53rd annual Rubicon Trip presented by the Auburn Jeep Club of which I'm a life member.

New vehicle and degraded skills we headed out for the Auburn Jeep Club camp. We left at 3:30 PM Friday headed up 193 through Georgetown, stopping of course at Uncle Tom's Cabin (a requirement) then continuing up the new road to Ice House Rd to the Loon Lake turnoff across the dam, through the trees and the gatekeeper. The trail is fairly rough in a couple of spots but we arrive in camp at 7:15 PM still looking good.

Here are some shots of the jeep in action. Saturday morning we line up and hit the trail a little after 7 AM. I try and keep our group together and moving and all goes well. I avoid the "Little Sluice" after stopping and checking it out, as it is full of other "wheelers" trying to damage their vehicles that are not setup for this particular obstacle. It takes something that is high off the ground, well suspended, low geared and body panels either armored or you don't care if they get bent, to traverse this particular obstacle. The group I have is mainly made up of worthy vehicles for the Rubicon. Those that sit low had some problems with rolling rocks getting hung up under them, thus requiring some tugging and a little winching to keep everyone moving.

The trail is pretty raw this year with a lot of rocks exposed. Since my Jeep is only about 300 miles old I decide to at least try some of the tougher spots that can be circumvented. Most of other drivers in my group also wanted to tryout their vehicles capabilities along with their driving skills and this was accomplished. The consensus of the group is that they would like to be in my group next year.

The engine ran flawless. The 700R4 coupled to the Atlas 4.3 with 5.13 gears holds back like a manual transmission. The 4 wheel disc brakes powered by a Hydroboost made stopping and going slow easy.

This is my first vehicle with both front and rear ARB air lockers, what a difference they make as they allow you to cut down your turning radius when needed, yet have locked front, rear or both axles. The Atlas 4.3, what more can I say as this is the keystone that allows you turn on a dime and have low gearing in a virtually unbreakable package. Along with the Goodyear 37X12.50X17 MTR's traction and the vehicle's agility and climbing ability this is best Jeep I have ever driven.

In retrospect all I can say is I have a great looking Jeep that performs beyond my expectation. Thanks to everyone involved with the project!! I hope to see you on the trail in the future.