Built for a short three year span, the 2004-2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited better known as the LJ, has quickly become a modern classic as Jeep’s first “Unlimited” model offered. LJ, short for “long Jeep”, hinted at the Wrangler Unlimited’s 10” extended wheelbase over the normal Wrangler TJ platform available at the same time. Sporting the reliable 4.0L inline-six, the LJ offered almost double the cargo space as its shorter wheelbase predecessor.
Nearly 46,000 Unlimited model Wranglers were made for the short three year span, with only 13,000 of those being Rubicon models—causing prices to quickly rise as the model is quickly becoming highly sought after by off-road enthusiasts alike. Many say the LJ is the next modern classic due to its heritage, off-road performance, and the increasing challenge to find clean examples.
The Search Begins
With nearly double the cargo space of a normal TJ Wrangler, the classic appeal, and increasing rarity, we knew this would be the perfect vehicle for Adventure Imports. Thoughts of the perfect Sunday cruiser, light to moderate trail vehicle, and even the weekend warrior overland build kept running through our minds. ... And so the search began!
After weeks of searching, we finally got a lead on a Wrangler Unlimited. Located in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, this unique example had to be the one. A clean 2006, Flame Red, low mile (89k miles to be exact), Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon boasting a desirable Safari Top became what we believed to be the perfect candidate.
Upon receiving our newly acquired Jeep, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the uniqueness the safari-styled hard top added to the LJ. A quick visual inspection yielded the advertised 35” MT tires to in fact actually be 33” and mismatching. The interior which lacked cleanliness was quickly addressed as the team made quick work getting the LJ back up to a livable standard.
Making a checklist of everything we had to address, we knew we would have to quickly get to work on this project in order to get this Jeep up to Adventure Imports standard. First things first, the LJ couldn’t leave without the addition of a fresh set of Signature Orange MAXTRAX MKII and a MAXTRAX Rear Wheel Harness to keep our MAXTRAX in place.
SUMMONING THE EXPERTS
Knowing our visual inspection only touched the surface, we headed over to our local 4x4 specialists in Prescott, AZ, Summit 4x4 Company. Summit 4x4 Company, best known for their focus on premium Jeep builds, has been an instrumental partner supporting many of our vehicle builds from the very beginning including the Adventure Imports 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.
A PROPER INSPECTION
With a team experienced in all things Jeep, the staff at Summit 4x4 Company eagerly looked the Jeep over before pulling the vehicle up onto one of their lifts to get a closer look underneath. Taking note of every detail within the suspension and steering, the service tech’s list was quickly growing. Sloppy steering, old tires, play in the wheel bearings, blown shocks, worn out bushings, and accessory wiring which needed to be dealt with ASAP. The findings didn’t come as a surprise as the initial drive over gave the feeling that many components would be loose and tired. Going into the project knowing we would eventually be replacing all the above issues was the piece of mind we needed as we regrouped and got to the drawing board.
Having the Summit Jeep experts on our side, we got to brainstorming how we would take this project on by most effectively outfitting the LJ. Our end goal for this modern classic/weekend warrior became very clear as we discussed our expectations. Timeless looks and modifications to compliment the Safari Top, increase capability while still running 33” tires, and still have enough room for Dakar our Greyhound rescue to comfortably enjoy any adventure. Global supply chain delays and part shortages threw unexpected changes to our plans for upfitting certain parts as arrival times weren’t even in the question. Luckily the team at Summit 4x4 Company had our backs.
THE GAME PLAN
So what exactly is our game plan you may ask? The 2006 Jeep Wrangler LJ will first and foremost receive a set of 285/75/R16 Falken AT3W tires which we’re mounting on a timeless set of Fifteen52 Analog wheels in specific TJ fitment. By addressing the worn set of tires at the beginning with our favorite trusted option, we will ensure safe travels while we wait for everything else to fall into place.
Removing the existing wheel spacers from the vehicle will add peace of mind that we won’t see a fender flying into the air, nor will we have to deal with the added stress spacers add to driveline components such as your wheel bearings.. Once wheels and tires are addressed, we plan to replace the tired suspension with a fresh set of Bilstein 5100 shocks, Teraflex control arms, new steering components, and wheel bearings. The Jeep will receive new fluids at the same time as steering and suspension are sorted.
Once our LJ is up to a sufficient baseline, it will receive a new ARB Deluxe Rear Bumper which will better support the weight of two sets of MAXTRAX MKII and our 33” spare tire. By addressing the key components first on the vehicle, we aim to regain our reliability, enjoy the simplicity, and over time make note of things we want to change in the next phase of building our LJ.
Stay tuned for further details on this modern classic project in Part 2 below.