Featured build: A YJ My Way
Burt's idea for the perfect build? A YJ. Inspired by his dad's CJ from when he was a kid, once he found his 1995 Wrangler YJ, he knew it was fate. See how Burt's customized his YJ for both daily driving and massive trails below.
What made you start with a YJ?
My dad was a jeep guy who had a honcho and CJ and after my mom asked what kind of car I wanted, I said a CJ5.
She said, “Are you kidding...that is a death trap?!”
Years later, I told my wife I wanted a Jeep and her only condition was that it had to have air conditioning. Because CJ’s with air conditioning were rare, I found the YJ instead! I bought it in ‘98 from the original owner and the rest is history.
How did the “build” start?
The first time I took it off-roading in 1998 I was barely able to get up a hill, and on top of it all, the bug hit me too. Around 1999 or 2000 the first build included a rubicon express 4” leaf spring lift and 33” tall tires (which I thought was perfect). Until it wasn’t, and I constantly wanted to make it better. From there I added a 1” body lift and added TJ Fenders to fit 36” Irok’s. Once we got to this point, the 4-liter engine wasn’t cutting it so we did a v8 swap and added 37s. The drivetrain wasn’t up to par either, so we added Currie Front and rear 44’s, as well as an Atlas transfer case. We all knew where the build was heading and I wanted a Jeep that could be more street friendly...so the build continued! The most recent update to the build was in 2017. The build plan was to make it as capable as possible on the trail, but being a realist, I knew that it ALWAYS had to be a daily driver first. On road manners were priority.
Even though I had other vehicles to drive, I always preferred my YJ.
So the master minds at Jeeptech and I decided to double down and add Poison Spyder fenders, front and rear Currie Rock Jock 60s, Atlas 5.0:1 transfer case, Genright Legend Comp suspension with King coilovers; which makes it super comfortable on the highway, while being a beast off road!
What is your favorite part of owning such a classic jeep?
I love the rarity of a clean well built YJ. With so many JK’s and JL’s on the road you don’t see many other jeeps that haven’t been beat to crap. I love being able to drive my YJ to the trail and know that it’s going to perform exactly the way I want it. With the electronics being limited, the engine swap was simple. Another simple but favorite aspect of this jeep is that its a manual transmission.
It surprises me that so many people dismiss a manual while offroad, but I have found that with the right drivetrain setup, it almost wheels itself.
Where is your favorite place to take the YJ?
While moab is phenomenal, nothing beats the east coast trails in a small jeep. My favorite trail is actually on private land in Dawsonville, GA. It has a little bit of everything from easy from technical trails. I love that it’s so close to me because I can ride down, wheel all day and be home for dinner.
What is your advice for someone looking to build an older Jeep?
I would say determine your build plan, and stick to it. It’s easy to say, but very hard to do. It’s pretty common to see the progression from 33’s to 40s but I would have saved a ton of money if I went straight to 40s! My biggest piece of advice is to just stick with it and try to plan your dream Jeep from the get go!
If you’re on the east coast, I would highly suggest taking your Jeep to Jeep Tech in Cumming, GA. They made the build process simple and the quality of work is well worth any amount of time traveled to have a perfect jeep when it’s done.
So, anyone else convinced a classic jeep may just be the next build on the list? We love what Burt's done with his '95 YJ and we look forward to see what the future has in store for this build. Be sure to show this article and his build some love if you're into this classic guy.
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