Money Pit Jeep LJ Rockcrawler build

Money Pit Staff Writer

Welcome to the Money Pit Classifieds Jeep LJ rock-crawler build! This build will be completed in a standard 2-car garage to show how anyone who has some fabrication and welding skills can build a very high-quality rock crawler without the need for engineering and CAD experience and without expensive tools like a tube bender, hydraulic shear, hydraulic brake, laser or a water jet machine.

We decided to build our rock-crawler on a Jeep LJ platform for a few reasons. The first and most important is the ability to stretch the wheel base to about 116 inches. We wanted to build a trail rig capable of hauling ass to the beginning of the trail, so low and long without compromising its rock crawling ability is key. The second reason is the availability of aftermarket parts for the Jeep LJ, especially for the suspension. There are some incredible suspension options, but it was never a question for us: GenRight Tracer suspension is just the right suspension that will make this LJ perform exactly how we want.

We set out looking for a nice LJ, but soon after looking at a few clean, low mileage units, we realized that most of what we would be buying would end up in the scrap pile. It didn't take long to figure out that all we really needed was a frame, tub and a title. It made perfect sense to look for a salvage title Jeep that had little or no body or frame damage. So when we called Sgt Jeep in Rosamond, CA to see what they might have, they had just received a 2005 LJ that after having been hit in the front suspension, the front axle was pushed back about 1-1/2”. We drove to Rosamond to take a look.

The Jeep was in fair condition. It had about 100k miles on it and some surface rust on the frame and some minor body rust issues told us that it had probably spent some of its life on the East coast. None of this damage scared us, so we made a deal and brought it home. Part of our deal was that they would buy back all of the parts we didn't want. Perfect for both of us! Parts like the engine, trans, transfer case, air bags, hood, fenders, seats, dash, roll cage and hardtop will all get loaded up and shipped back to the seller.


The second line of business was to design the build parts list. Having been on the trail with Jeeps for many years, we've come to recognize which vehicles really perform well. That made it easy to come up with the initial parts list:


               Jeep    2005 Jeep LJ

            Engine    LS3-430 HP

  Transmission    Maximum Transmission 4L80 Reverse Manual Valve Body

 Transfer Case    Advance Adapters Atlas 3.0

     Suspension    GenRight Tracer

               Axles    Currie RockJock 60 with 5.38:1

               Links    Summit Machine 7075 Aluminum

              Joints    Summit Machine Flex Joint

            Shocks    Fox or King 2.5x14” coil over

            Bumps    Fox or King

          Steering    PSC hydraulic assist

          Fenders    GenRight Aluminum High Line

         Bumpers    GenRight Steel

             Armor    GenRight Aluminum

       Roll Cage    GenRight Fast Back

           Wheels    Raceline

               Tires    Yokohama

Tear Down

Day 1 of the build was all about tear down. 2 people and about 6 hours and there wasn't much left of our purchase. First, we removed the roll cage and set it aside. Next the front fenders, grill, radiator, and hood came off. The battery, computer, wiring harness, power steering lines, a/c lines, fuel lines and brake lines were also removed. After all that, we separated the body from the frame. Then, after removing the drive lines, we pulled the motor, trans and transfer case all together. Next we removed the link bolts and shocks which released the entire axle assemblies from the frame. Finally, the only thing left was the fuel tank and 7 bolts later is was laying on the floor. The next day we loaded up the unwanted parts and hauled them back to Sgt Jeep in Rosamond.

More soon! Keep an eye out for the next step in this build. 
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