Matt Guthrie’s 2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
One clean LJ.
We, and countless others, love Jeep Wrangler Unlimiteds, but long before there were four-door Wranglers with the name, either in JK or JL form, there were other longer-bodied, open-top Jeeps available, namely the TJ Unlimited or LJ. But those are hardly the first long wheelbased versions of the open-top Jeep. The first "long Jeeps" were a very few modified MBs and GPWs built during or shortly after WWII for use in the military. Then there was the military M-170 (1953), and then the civilian CJ-6 (1956), a design that added about 20 inches of length to the interior of the tub of the M38A1/CJ-5 platform. After that, the CJ-7 (1976) was nominally larger (about 10 inches of interior space) than the CJ-5, but the CJ-8 (1981) or Jeep Scrambler added even more length (about 2 feet) to the basic CJ-7 body design. Likewise, the Jeep TJ Unlimited or the LJ was a long-wheelbase version of the Jeep Wrangler TJ. This Jeep, like its lengthened predecessors, is bound to become one of the more desirable and collectable Jeep models going forward.
Matt Guthrie's LJ
This 2004 Wrangler TJ Unlimited, belonging to Matt Guthrie of Escondido, California, is no exception. It's one of the better-looking LJs we've seen on the trail in recent years. We caught up with Matt and his Jeep at the Milestar Tires XPDN1 event in western Arizona in December of 2020, where we got to see the Jeep perform. As it turns out, we'd met Matt before, long ago, and he, like us has been into 4x4s all his life. Since the time Matt turned 16, he's had four-wheel-drive trucks and built a few sand-rail buggies for the Glamis dunes in California. Later, Matt was a spotter at many rockcrawling events for his brother, Mitch Guthrie (of rockcrawling and KOH UTV racing fame). In 2007 Matt bought this 2004 Jeep Wrangler LJ as a commuter and slowly built the Jeep into a trail rig on 37-inch tires (while growing through three sets of axles!). More recently, during trips to Moab, keeping up with friends with JKs on 40-inch tires was getting more difficult for Matt, and his friends pushed him toward building a JK (shame on those friends!). Despite this, Matt couldn't get rid of his LJ. With permanent scars from welding and grinding on it to get it where it is today, it was too valuable to him. Instead, the LJ was stretched and tuned for 40s with several modifications that were rounded out with a license plate that says NOTAJK.
Engine: Factory 2004 Jeep 4.0L with a K&N air filter
Transmission: 4-speed 42RLE automatic
Transfer case(s): NP231 with an SYE
Front axle: Currie Extreme 60, 5.38:1 gears, Detroit locker
Rear axle: Currie Extreme 70, 5.38:1 gears, ARB air locker
Suspension: Savvy mid arm kit for 4 inches with RockJock Jonny Joints, stretched 1 inch forward and 4 inches back by Brothers 4x4 in Montclair, California, RockJock sway bars front and rear, King coilovers, and King air bumps
Tires and wheels: 40/13.50R17LT Milestar Patagonia M/Ts on KMC Machete beadlock wheels
Steering: PSC ram, AGR steering box, custom-built tie rods from Brothers 4x4
Other stuff: American Convoy soft top, Warn 9.0 RC, GenRight aluminum fenders, rock sliders, body mounts, and 1-inch body lift and Savvy bumpers front and rear, Savvy skidplates. Matt also built a custom tire rack in the back of the Jeep to maximize storage space for overnight trips. Much of the body of the Jeep is wrapped in KPMF Ominous Grey vinyl wrap to complete the look. Matt says that next on the list is dropping the 4.0L for a V-8 with an auto and an Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case system.
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Savvy Offroad – Known for building products for the Jeep TJ, LJ and JK out of heavy duty light weight aircraft grade aluminum. Using 6061 aircraft grade aluminum significantly reduces your Jeep weight when compared to steel while retaining the same, if not sometime better protection.
Savvy Body Armor –
Savvy Offroad produces many Jeep Body Armor products, such as Corner Guards, Bumpers, Rock Sliders and Tub Rails. Savvy aluminum Bumpers are the lightest and allow more cleareance than any other Jeep Bumper. These Bumpers are also available for the Jeep JK. Not only do they protect the Jeep Body, but they also build a light-weight under armor and Gas tank skid to help protect your valuable Jeep parts underneath your Jeep from damage.
Suspension Parts –
Savvy Offroad produces their own all aluminum control arms for the Jeep TJ and LJ, that include Currie Johnny Joints. The control arms are double adjustable, so there is no need to remove the control arms to adjust your pinion angle. Savvy also manufactures the only mid arm suspension system for the Jeep TJ and LJ that maximizes the true usable available travel. The Suspension kits will truely give you all the flex your Jeep can handle.
Transfer Case Shifter Kits –
Now available for the NP 231 and the NP 241 transfer cases, Transfer case shifter kits. Eliminate the problem of broken stock linkage or linkage that does not work after lifting your Jeep. Savvy provides quality parts that replace your stock linkage and allow for up to a 4″ lift with parts that are better than OEM.
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SMA-KIT – Savvy Mid Arm Suspension Full Kit – 97-06 TJ/LJ
The front is a 3 link with tracbar and the rear is a 4 link triangulation (no rear tracbar.)
CUTTING, GRINDING AND WELDING TO BOTH THE AXLES AND FRAME ARE REQUIRED.
1″ Body Lift Required for Installation of this Kit
Included in this upgrade:
2 – Front frame brackets
1 – D30 or D44 axle truss
2 – 2″ Aluminum Lower Control Arms with 2.5″ -1.25″ Johnny Joints (new included)
1 – 1.5″ Aluminum Upper Control Arm with 2.5” – 1″ Johnny Joints (new included)
1 – Front Bump Stops
1 – Set of Front 4″ Coil Springs
1 – Front Antirock
1 – Front Tracbar
2 – Rear frame brackets
1 – D44 axle truss
2 – 2″ 7075 Aluminum Lower Control Arms with 2.5″ – 1.25 Johnny Joints (new included)
2 – 1.5″ Aluminum Upper Control Arm with 2.5”- 1.”Johnny Joints (new included)
1 – Rear Bump Stops
1 – Set of Rear 4″ Coil Springs
Before installing the lift, here are some notes I compiled from Blaine (aka Mr. Blaine), the guy who designed this kit for Savvy.
- The new frame mounted control arm brackets are laid out on the center skid plate hole. We thread a bolt into them with a nut so they will self center.
- The belly pan will likely need to be trimmed at the back where it interferes with the control arm bracket.
- The rear brace for the truss to diff cover bolts is NOT optional. It should be used with a stock thickness diff cover to locate the truss properly fore and aft.
- When cutting the front cast mount off the diff, it should be cut halfway through on a horizontal plane so the ears stick up through the truss and then are welded up. This provides a mechanical bond, not a fusion bond from welding. (The truss can move with the weld filling the holes, and even if they do break, it can’t move, due to it still being a tight fit.)
- Don’t even try to do the axles under the rig. Yank both axles out, strip them down, weld on trusses, etc. Attempting to do this while the axles are still attached to the vehicle will take more time than it’s worth. Blaine has really stressed this point a number of times.
- One of the harder parts is making the rear brake lines look clean, and knowing the routing for them right off the bat. To make for a cleaner install, I suggest using the “Wizard” rear brake caliper relocation brackets. These brackets move the rear brake calipers to the front of the brake rotors, effectively clearing up more room for outboard shocks (should you decide to go that route).
- One of the rear brake lines along the frame will need to be re-routed. There are many ways to do this, but the cleanest and most presentable way is to re-shape the brake line to look like the one in the photo above, taking care not to kink the line when bending it. The brake line in the photo below was one that Blaine did by simply grabbing a piece of tube (or pipe) about the diameter of a beer can and wrapping the brake line around it. Twist it to point at the bracket and you’re good to go. You can use a universal mount such as the one shown to mount the line to the bracket. These types of brackets can be found at most ACE Hardware stores. Blaine has mentioned that redoing the flare isn’t worth it.
- The fuel lines (and some wires) going along the driver’s side of the frame will not be able to re-use the plastic clips they are attached from the factory with. The clean and elegant solution is to use the type of mounts circled in the photo above, which are called “Adel clamps” in combination will self-tapping screws to secure them to the frame. These can be found at any ACE Hardware or Home Depot. This makes for a nice and tidy install. You can see an example in the photo below.
- The exhaust system will have to be re-routed to prevent clearance issues. When cycling the suspension and at full bump, you’ll need to pay close attention to whether or not anything is coming in contact with the exhaust and re-route accordingly.
About a month ago I purchased Savvy’s new Mid Arm Kit. I wanted to do a write up for Marty and the boys of Savvy Off-Road and hopefully give future Jeepers an insight on the installation process and what they may have to look forward to. I am in no way affiliated with Savvy but have had several of their products over the last few years to include their Springs, Short Arm Kit, Modular Under Armor (Tummy-Tuck) and Aluminum Tail Gate Cover. This is my first write-up so forgive my misspelling and grammar.
A two post lift would be ideal, but I didn’t have one in my Jeep shop (aka back garage). Get the jeep off the ground and supported with 4 good size jack stands. The bigger the stands the better because you will want as much room under the Jeep as possible to have room to work.
Once you feel you have the Jeep securely supported, you’ll want to jack up the axles and place jack stands under the axles to relieve some pressure from connected components.
(I used the jack to support the front axle because I only had 6 Jack Stands.)
I started with the rear end. You can look up a youtube video to see how to remove your axles. It’s a pretty simple process. Think I got both removed by myself in less than 3 hours. Took me almost as long to get the jeep jacked up, supported, remove the wheels, driveshafts and tummy tuck.
Once you have the axles removed, put them somewhere you can easily work on them. Now is an excellent time to do some routine maintenance and go over everything. I have pinion seals and bearings that needed to be replaced and a bad ball joint.
(Here is a picture with the rear axle removed and Savvys Truss sitting on the axle. This is a heavy duty Truss and placement is phenomenal. You will have to re-route your brake line but this wasn’t a huge deal.)
Here the front axle is removed. I had to get some more jack stand and put the axle on them as well.
Now the fun begins. It’s time to start cutting the stock brackets off. Hopefully you have a plasma cutter. A cut off wheel will work just fine, but a lot more time consuming.
This was the most time consuming process to cut all control arm brackets off the frame and grind everything smooth.
(Be careful cutting around brake lines, locker lines and electrical lines.)
You will have to un-clip all these lines. I pushed them all up in between the frame and the body. I have a body lift for the tummy tuck which gave plenty of clearance for lines and hoses.
Here you can see about where the bracket will go and why the lines need to be relocated. Do not forget these lines when it comes time to weld these brackets on.
Once I got all the control arm brackets removed from the frame and got everything ground down and clean I went back to the rear axle.
I removed this bracket that holds the brake line to the axle. It may not seem the brake line will have enough to be rerouted, but if you carefully work with the line it will bend around the diff cover.
You can see how I have the brake line in front of the diff cover for now. The bracket you see on top of the diff cover is what you will use to align the rear truss. I put this bracket on and tightened the bolts only tight enough to hold it in place.
(Tight bend of brake line around the truss.)
The top 2 bolts align the truss to the bracket I showed on the previous picture. I wasn’t a huge fan of the tight bend of the brake line but it hasn’t been a problem so far. Time will tell.
Here you can see where the upper control arm brackets were cut off the axle and the truss were welded to the axle. I was running short on time and didn’t grind the old brackets smooth, but I will when I get back from my Colorado trip. Prior to welding this bracket to the axle Marty recommended I grind the top of the axle housing I believe a 1/16, but don’t remember the exact measurement. See picture below.
Once I got the rear truss welded on and upper control arm brackets removed from the axle I began working on the front axle.
Again you have to remove the 2 upper control arm brackets from the front axle. This time I removed and ground clean and painted.
Again, the test fit was perfect. Marty gave me specific instructions on how to weld these brackets in place so I don’t apply too much heat and end up warping the axle tubes. 1-1/2” welds and 1-1/2” spacing in between the welds in the pattern you would use to tighten head bolts. A Criss/Cross pattern starting from the outside and working your way in. I took several breaks making sure not to warp anything.
(My welds weren’t all pretty but they got the job done. Seems like the more beer I drank the worse my welds looked.)
I will put the documents that I received from Marty for the placement of the brackets that still need to be welded to the frame. Be sure to prep the frame and grind everything down to bare metal for good weld penetration. Also these documents will give you an initial setup for control arm lengths.
The location of the bracket placement is an exact measurement and the initial setup of the control arms are a starting point. You will have to make adjustments for pinion angle and I also have some clearance issue with diff cover clearance on the front. You absolutely need to test and tune. Get your bump stops set up correctly, ensure your axles are sitting square and get a front end alignment. Here are pictures of this kit on my jeep. I haven’t had the chance to test and tune, but will get this perfect very soon.
Another problem you may run into is your exhaust clearance. You will likely need to have your exhaust rerouted to clear the rear control arm.
Mid arm savvy
Short arm fans?
Are your metal cloak's worn? if so I would love to see them, it would help when we look at the longevity of the different bushings.
Well according to Blaine Johnson, the guy who designed the Savvy Mid Arm, he says that short arms are fine up to 4", the angle does not affect the ride as much as people say, and you want good shocks. Most people who go long arm also upgrade their shocsk and that is what improves the ride, not the control arms, and you have more of a chance to screw up the ride with a crappy setup long arm. If you NEED longer arms, look at the savvy mid arm kit. I prefer the Girro joints/DDB's over the Johnny Joints but that is personal preference because the JJ's have an excellent reputation.
I just went down to Core 4x4, they are building me a set of TJ short arms that will take the Clayton Girro/Synergy DDB bushings. I am also getting a set of 12" stroke fox 2.0 reservoirs and outboading the rears. The shocks and outboarding will do more than a long arm reduced angle for on and off highway ride. You only change 15 degrees of arm angle with a 3.5-4" lift with short arms. You will also extend the control arms to get your wheel base back to the proper wheelbase if you do it right.
Go over to the Wrangler TJ forum and the Jeep forums and read, some are experts on these modifications if you are running a TJ. Tim
This Jeep Wrangler LJ is Loaded to the Gills
Reid Nordin's 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited LJ
Reid Nordin’s 2006 modified Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited LJ is loaded with custom features to enhance its offroad capabilities, and to provide comfort for its occupants. The Jeep’s 4.0 liter inline 6 engine has been left mostly stock for reliability, but a relocated air box and custom cold air intake has been incorporated. The automatic transmission and transfer case also remain as delivered from the factory except for the addition of an external transmission cooler. Once the power makes its way down to the axles, the fun begins. Currie Rock Jock 60s with ARB Air Lockers reside at both ends. The front Rock Jock is engaged by Warn locking hubs. Getting the front axle to articulate is done with a Savvy Mid Arm suspension and Currie springs. The swaybar is a Currie Antirock with Walker End Links. Out back, the set-up is similar with the Savvy Mid Arm kit, Currie springs, and Currie Antirock swaybar. Walker Evans remote reservoir shocks with compression adjusters take care of the suspension damping. 17X8.5 Walker Evans Beadlocks are wrapped with 35X12.50-17 Milestar Patagonia M/T tires. PSC steering with Ram Assist keeps him pointed in the right direction.
Reid’s favorite spots to go 4 wheeling in his Wrangler LJ are Moab, Sand Hollow, and Ocotillo Wells. Playing in such diverse terrain, Reid needed a tire that would excel in all three and also be comfortable on the road. The Patagonia M/T was designed to be at home while rock crawling, exploring the desert, mud bogging, playing in the dunes, or a casual drive through mountain trails. The staggered, high void tread sheds mud, and special stone ejectors in the 3 ply sidewall help to eject rocks. The aggressive tread design is surprisingly quiet on pavement and has generous siping to shed water in wet conditions.
With the traction to get into some challenging situations, some care was taken to protect the AEVHi-Line hood, Poison Spyder Hi-Line aluminum front fenders, rear flairs, and flat candy green wrap by Platinum Paint Protection. Speaking of protection, Reid’s Jeep Wrangler LJ has full aluminum Belly up skid plates. The GenRight +5 gallon fuel tank is also protected by a GenRight steel skid plate. To protect the occupants, a GenRight weld in cage has been installed. The driver and passenger sit in Mastercraft Safety, Baja RS Seats and standard belts. The rear seat has been removed and a custom aluminum Storage box with above fender rack sits in its place; a favorite perch for Reid’s German Shepherd.
Lighting on the Wrangler LJ consists of Truck-Lite headlights, Laser Star driving lights, Gen-Right LED rear tail lights, and Gen-Right back up lights. The Optima Yellow Top battery powers a Magellan TRX7 GPS and Rugged Radio's 2-way radio when the SSV WORKS full stereo system isn’t cranking out tunes. The Optima also supplies power for the Warn 9000 Winch with synthetic line and Factor 55 Fairlead with Flatlink. The Warn winch is mounted to a Currie front bumper. The Currie rear bumper has a Currie Swing out tire carrier to mount the spare, and Currie Rock Rails complete the impressive package. Reid Nordin’s Jeep is a perfect example of a well thought out rig that performs beautifully, on and off the road. Every modification was chosen to complement each other to provide a functional rig that works as well as it looks.
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