Best Wranger Platform for Offroad - CJ, TJ, YJ, JK?
I'm wanting to buy a used jeep and get into off-roading. Will probably buy pretty cheap (hopefully with some good gear already installed) and build up as budget and experience dictate.
About all I know at this point is I want to go somewhere between 37 (most likely) and 39.5" tires and have as much suspension articulation as possible. I also read a *lot* about broken axle parts and want to avoid that as much as possible (without leaving the toy at home. lol)
I'm in North Carolina, and we've got a bit of everything here... sand dunes on the coast, slick clay everywhere, a bit of rock crawling, etc.
I need advice on which model to buy as the best platform to start building on. This is going to be a long term project/keeper with a lot of $ going into it, and I don't want to get $20k in and say "gee, I should have bought an xJ instead!".
First let me say welcome to the jeepforum. You will find the people here very friendly and knowledgable. You came to the right place to find out more about Jeeps.
Your question isn't easily answered though. We will need more information as to how much money you can spend and what your time frame is. It may also be wise to give more information as to how you choose such a big tire as your goal? Jeeps are very capable off road even with a standard 30" tire. Going as big as a 37" or 39" tire is really overkill. But let me see if I can help out a little anyway.
Just for clarification, I drive a stock Jeep and have little experience 'building' a Jeep. Most of my knowledge is gleaned from this forum. However, I do get my Jeep off road on occation and I am aware of the amazing abilities of a stock Jeep. With that said, let me see if I can give some basic pointers.
If you are really intent on running that big of a tire, I believe any of the models you mentioned will be fine to start with. I say this because I don't believe that any of them will have strong enough axles from the factory to handle such a big tire. So no matter which Jeep you get, you will likely have to put in a new heavier axle like a dana 60. This will also take a lot of power to turn such a big tire so get the biggest motor you can or plan on swapping in something bigger. But lets back up a little and start over here.
How important is ride comfort and amenities? With every generation Jeeps have made advances in ride comfort and amenities. Do these things matter to you or are you just building something for off road only?
Also, what is your time line? Will you build it right away or run it smaller for some time? If your building right away and wanting to go all out, just pick up the cheapest Jeep you can find and start building.
If you want to run stock for some time, the Rubicon is the most capable and will truely impress you. Also the Rubicon is already geared low, has a lower range transmission and should have little trouble running up to a 35" tire. But on the other hand if your intent on building big. You will be replacing the axles and a lot of the goodies that you pay extra for in a Rubicon. In which case you are better off purchasing a cheaper Jeep and building it from scratch.
Sorry, as I write this I realize I'm not much help to you. I'll just let you read what I wrote and maybe something will be of help. Hopefully, someone else will be around soon that can offer you better guidance.
Fargo has brought up some big points. The biggest being is this an offroad only vehicle? Is this Jeep going to be a DD also? I've owned a 79 CJ7 & my 04 TJ Rubicon. The differences between these 2 Jeep are enormous in my opinion. I say go with a TJ, the amount of engineering and technological advancements over other older jeeps make that an easy choice in my eyes. I can't speak from experience as far as my CJ goes, because I bought it already built... But I believe it's considerably easier or at least cheaper to build a TJ over the older models.
Yes, I've intentionally left the JK out of this post, I know next to nothing about them. But, and this is just a guess, I think the JK parts are more expensive compared to TJ's. Being newer and having less options or a lesser amount of companies making aftermarket parts will drive up the cost.
Obviously I'm no expert, but you came to the right place to ask questions. Hopefully some of the more experienced Jeepers will chime in. But please be a little more specific as to exactly what you're looking to do with the jeep.
Thanks for the welcome and your replies. Let me try to answer these questions all at once and as honestly as possible.
Tire size: I've read that some competitions don't allow anything over 40", so 39.5 would be the max, but I'm leaning heavily towards 37". Why? Not out of any *known* need, but more because everybody around here runs 35s. Write it off as wanting something different, "mine is bigger than yours" or SPS (small p*nis syndrome), but that's what I'm leaning towards.
I don't honestly know what a jeep is capable of, but I'm fairly decent at off-road driving.. book smarts anyway. I've read a lot. While vacationing in Aruba, we rented a stock samarai and went places we weren't allowed to go, places that had several jeep renting know-nothings stuck, and one actually flipped over. I know the Jeeps are worlds better than the Suzukis. I can only imagine with a knowlegeable and skillful person (which I'm not) behind the wheel, these things rock.
I work at home full time, so don't really have a *daily* driver, however, that being said, I have an F350 dually as my primary vehicle. This jeep will be licensed and driven on the road, but only when I feel like it. So creature comforts aren't much of an issue. I am more than a little concerned about rollover though (there go the big tires, right? lol)
About the only amenities I really care about are cruise control, possibly a/c (undecided, it's likely I won't have a top, so maybe not needed) and a stereo. All easily deal with.
I'm not rich, so buying a new or even 2 year old Rubicon and rebuilding from the ground up isn't likely to happen. I'm not poor, so a real solid build is likely to happen.. but not so much over time as running it as-is for a while adding skid plates, a compressor, welder, and other accessories, then getting tired of breaking stuff and doing the whole axle/lift/tire upgrade at once.
Fargo, you've at least given me some food for thought and are helping me iron out what I want.
Dragon158... I think you struck a chord about what I'm after.... what is cheaper/easier to build. Are they one in the same, or two different models?
All I really know at this point is that I want something I can have fun with in any situation until I figure out what kind of wheelin' I *really* like. When I get around to doing the upgrades, I want to do it all at once. for what many spend on 3-4 generations of tire/wheel/suspension upgrades, they could have bought a military half-track!
I still say TJ, but have nothing to compare to. Like I said my previous experience was with a vehicle that I bought complete, for the most part and it was some years ago. It sounds like you are looking for the best product you can build for the least amount of money.
With that reasoning, a JK is out. You're not looking to buy a new jeep, or next to new to just rip it apart and build from the ground up. A JK's price tag won't be in that budget, as I understand it...
Next option other then a TJ would be a YJ, these are older vehicles an would obviously require more work or maintenance. They are leaf suspensions, I can tell you that leafs ride rough. As far as I can tell it would be easier and cheaper to lift a TJ over a YJ. Even if just by a few dollars, I still think it's cheaper to lift a TJ. Not to mention the additional work involved in lifting it your self. I think others will agree that the TJ probably has the most easily "liftable" suspension Jeep has made in a Wrangler.
Last option would be a CJ. I love CJ's I fell in love with a 79 and had to have it & bought it. Unfortunately I had no clue what I got myself into. The rust issues I had among a few other things forced me to give this old CJ up at a huge loss. I was ill prepared for the work and upkeep I would need to do, especially since I drove it as a daily driver. You may be able to find parts cheaper for a CJ, to be honest I don't know. I do know however that unless you find and buy something that's been well cared for, you be doing upkeep and other things just to get it up to par. Not to mention any upgrades that you'd do.
Like I've said before I'm no expert. I'm hoping some more guys chime in. Hopefully someone can back up or dispute my thoughts. I'm just going by what I've seen and noticed around this site in the past year. I may be wrong, or biased but I believe the TJ is the way to go.
Hope I've helped a little. Anyone disagree with me, please feel free to post. I'm always open to ideas.
Yeah, I think I might be a bit biased too since I have a TJ. But a TJ does sound like the best fit. Dragon is right that a new JK sounds like it would be out of the budget for you. So I think we can rule that out. CJs can be a little hard to find since they are such a classic. Also they much smaller tires on them to begin with that to get a 37" tire would take a lot of work. So that leaves you between a YJ and TJ. As Dragon pointed out most people prefer the coil suspension on the TJ over the YJ. Not to mention most people prefer round headlights. Also if you look around, you should be able to find a TJ for a price similar to a YJ. I don't know what Yjs had for stock axles but you should be able to find a TJ with a Dana 44 rear end relatively easily. I'm not sure what the consesus is on its strength to tire size ratio, but I have seen a number of TJs with the Dana 44 running 35" tires. So I think this should give you enough strength to run up to a 35 inch tire. I don't think you can go 37" with a Dana 44 though. I think that is why you see so many on 35s and not 37s. You are taking another big leap once you go there.
My advice would be to pick up a TJ and wheel it stock for a while and see how it handles. Then you will really learn to wheel. Once you put bigger tires on with the knowledge you gained stock you will be virtually unstoppable. If you really want to jump in to big tires right away, I would recomend going with 33" tires. If you have a TJ you can fit 33" tires with a 2" Budget Boost (spring spacers) and a body lift. This will give you a really cheap lift that you don't have to feel so bad about throwing away (or selling on the forum) in a year or two when you decide to make the big jump to 37s.
Personally I think 37s are overkill and if they are not done correctly with a long arm suspension system, they will perform worse than a properly built jeep on 33s. They look good for the mall crawler crowd, but unless you are willing to put more money into your build up than you did for purchasing the entire Jeep, you will be better off with a good 33" tire.
I believe the rule of thumb is anything over a 3" lift should have a long arm suspension. So my best recomendation is to pick up a TJ and run it stock for a season. Then throw on some 33s with a good spring lift and be done. Or do as I mentioned earlier and run a BB with a body lift and 33s for a year or two while you save up $5,000-$10,000 for the long arm suspension lift, Dana 60s, and other items that will be needed to run your 37s.
Keep reading the forum here. Find the guys that have the big tires and find out what all is required to make them workable. If you really want to use the Jeep offroad be prepared to spend some money. Don't just put big tires on to impress the guys at the shopping mall. Most of them never get offroad. But if you want to impress them, go places on a 31" tire they can't go on a 37" tire.
Well, my knowledge is about tapped. Have fun and remember, JEEP is an acronym. Just Empty Every Pocket.