Originally Published in Issue 33 of 4Low Magazine
Nexen Tire YJ Rock Crawler
Story by Don Alexander
Photos by Toby Jho
The thought of building a YJ rock crawler never crossed my mind – not in a million years. Circumstances change. Four years ago, I was asked by SA Designs to write a book covering Jeep Wrangler JK modifications. I asked Quinn Thomas, a good friend and owner of All J Products in Big Bear to co-author the book. That project was easy. We were also asked to consider a TJ book after completing the JK book. No problem.
Quinn owns a TJ that he was modifying. When we completed the JK book, the TJ book project was handed over to another author. The publisher then offered us a YJ book project. YJ?? We didn’t have one of those handy. Despite serious misgivings, we agreed to the project. We started looking for a YJ to build as part of the book project. We discovered buying a decent YJ was going to cost more than we would make on the book. Then the search got weird!
My Jeep 4×4 School in Big Bear was asked to run a dealer event for Falken Tires. The morning we were heading out of the Lodge at Big Bear, there was a white YJ on a trailer in the parking lot along with a few other Jeeps and 4x4s. The crew was in Big Bear to film a video for the launch of the new BFG KM3 tire, right in the middle of a bunch of Falken reps and dealers. Talk about coincidence! Even more bizarre was the purpose of the YJ. They were taking it to All J Products to have ALL the fluids removed. They planned to roll it over (gently) on the John Bull trail. We figured it would be on a competitor’s tire, nope! It was on the KM3 along with the other upright rigs. The YJ made it into the finished video – for
about 2 seconds. The video crew needed some other work done at All J and the head of the production team really did not want to haul the YJ back to Washington. Quinn worked a trade. We ended up with a cheap YJ (slightly dented and trashed) for a project.
We started with a simple build with a leaf spring lift from Rubicon Express and a bunch of parts from Rugged Ridge. Quinn really wanted to build a rock crawler. We even considered making it legal for King of the Hammers. We thought about using the Cummins turbodiesel crate engine. Too expensive! We decided to go with a V-8 out of a 1998 Grand Cherokee ZJ. We used the engine, automatic transmission, radiator, and transfer case from a wrecked ZJ Quinn had in the parking lot. RockKrawler offers a great coil-over conversion for the YJ. Currie 60 Extreme axles with 5.38 gearing and ARB lockers provided plenty of beef. JE Reel driveshaft, Novak Conversion engine mounts, an Artec truss for the PSC full hydraulic steering and Raceline Monster beadlock wheels rounded out the lower portion of the build. We used Sanderson Headers for the 5.9 liter V-8 with a custom exhaust system fabricated by Gibson Exhaust. An sPOD controls all of the electrics including the Baja Designs lights. We retained the Rugged Ridge bumpers and added a Warn Zeon 10S Platinum winch. Savvy Off Road supplied the aluminum doors, rear quarters and aluminum rock sliders. Quinn and the All J crew created a custom roll cage and spare tire mount with attachments for a Powertank. Quinn fabricated a custom dash with Auto Power gauges. The dash panels are easily removed to get the wiring, fuses and the Odyssey battery.
Nexen provided the Roadian MTX 37-inch tires which work great. The wrap was installed by Jason from Impact Signs in Victorville, CA. Nexen has used the YJ for promotions at Off Road Expo in Pomona, the SEMA Show, Big Bear ForestFest and the Tierra del Sol Desert Safari. We’ve used the YJ to blast around our local black diamond trails and tackle the rocks in Johnson Valley’s Hammers and Cougar Buttes. Strange how we ended up with a Jeep running on Nexen Tires from a BFG promotional video we discovered at a Falken Tire event. We wound up with a great Jeep YJ and after extensive testing, we feel that we also ended up on the best tires!
Nexen provided the Roadian MTX 37 inch tires which work great. The wrap was installed by Jason from Impact Signs in Victorville, CA. Nexen has used the YJ for promotions at Off Road Expo in Pomona, the SEMA Show, Big Bear Forest Fest and the Tierra del Sol Desert Safari. We’ve used the YJ to balst around our local black diamond trails and tackle the rocks in Johnson Valley’s Hammers and Cougar Buttes. Strange how we ended up with a Jeep running on Nexen Tires from a BFG promotional video we discovered at a Falken Tire event. We wended up with a great Jeep YJ and after extensive testing, we feel that we also ended up on the best tires!