Ultimate Weekend Warrior / Weekly Commuter

j1I wanted to tell a story on how I built a Jeep that became my favorite build to date. I high suggest this setup to anyone looking to build a TJ but doesn’t want to go extreme.

My last Tj was a great off-road warrior but on-road manors with 4.5 inches of lift, 36 inch bias iRoks, automatic lockers front and rear and $30 shocks was horrible.. if not unsafe.. I even started to tow the Jeep to events.

Image – Old Jeep verse New Stock Jeep

j2 j3

I sold the Jeep & Truck and started planning for my ultimate daily Jeep. I needed a Jeep that could be driven in comfort on the highway and back roads but could still handle any moderate trail in our region (rock crawling was taken off the table).

The overall goal was comfort, function (daily and off-road), able to do overlanding, and budget.

Budget was set at $18,500

Settled on a 2005 Rubicon TJ ($16,000) as the base building platform because of the selectable lockers, 4 to 1 transfercase and 4.11 gears. A Unlimited Rubicon TJ would have made better but I could not find any within budget.

Within a week I had all the parts ordered.

Suspension

Nothing on the market was quite what I was looking for so I decided to build my own kit:

  • Rough Country 2.5 Progressive rate coils
  • .75 Coil Spacer up front
  • Bilstein 5100 Shocks
  • Rough Country Rear Control Arm Bracket
  • Rubicon Express Front Adjustable Track Bar
  • JKS Sway bar Quick Disconnects

Tires and Wheels

With only 2.5 inches of lift I settled on 285/75/16s (33×11.5×16) so I could keep the factory Rubicon rims to keep cost down. I ended up going with Micky Thompson MTZ because they had a decent price, light, and an aggressive but not too aggressive tread.

Winch and Bumpersj4

To keep budget down I trimmed the ends of the factory front bumper and left the rear as is. For a winch I already had a Warn 9.5ti and added a Rough Country winch plate.

Skid Plates

Rubicon came with a factory steering skid so all that was added was a Terafex oil pan skid.

Note: Diff Guards should have been added

Other

Since a TJ has zero storage and I sold my pickup I added a 2 inch receiver and bought a 4×8 home made trailer.

I almost bought a M101 military trailer but not having a folding gate and the size deterred me.

Conclusions

How does it drive on-road?

On pavement it drives unlike any Jeep I’ve ridden. I think the Rough Country coils with the Bilstein 5100 shocks is a prefect marriage.

The narrow tires and only being 33s keep a stock feel to the steering and the Jeep tracks down the highway at full speed with no pull or issues. Bumps are absorbed well bj5y the shocks and corning shows minimal body roll.

Something I didn’t take into account was how much I’d be towing after I sold the truck. I had the trailer hooked up to the Jeep at least twice a month. It pulled great and never had any issues.

I did keep track of gas millage for 4 months. I averaged 13 mpg which isn’t great however this includes time spent off-road and towing.

How does it drive off-road?

Off-road the Jeep fairs better than I had expected the MTZ tires do a great job at keeping the traction and the selectable lockers make a world of difference. Was I keeping up with the Jeeps on 35s with really aggressive tires? Most the time. In fact every time other than once which I believe only one Jeep made it up the hill did I need the winch.

j6There is no rubbing other than at full turn the tires can catch the lower control arms.

What would I have done different?

On this platform.. nothing that wouldn’t have taken me hugely over budget. The major weakness on the Jeep is the factory control arms which could be replace with Currie Johnny Joint Arms for about $1000. I believe this upgrade would make the Jeep feel even more smooth but would be a nice upgrade down the road.

Project Cost

Item Cost
2005 Jeep TJ – 6 Speed – 70k – dual top $16000
Rough Country 2.5 w/o shocks $225
Bilstein 5100 shocks $400
Rubicon Express Front Adjustable Track Bar $175
JKS Quick Disconnects $175
Micky Thompson 285/75/16 $1020
Rough Country Winch Plate $60
Teraflex Oil Skid $130
2 inch hitch receiver $120
Total $18305 (not including tax or shipping)

 

Overall how did the project workout

In the end the project was a failure. What? you must be saying?

j7Here is why. The Jeep drove excellent on-road and off. I stayed within budget. However I failed in making a good overland Jeep. I could have corrected the issue by adding a rack or perhaps expedition bumpers but in the end the Jeep is just too small. I was using the trailer all the time just to go to the cottage and it was being a hassle just doing little things.

On a weekend with a few buddies with food, camping, fishing and party supplies it became obvious I needed something bigger.

So once again I sell another Jeep but stay tuned for my next Jeep Project.