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TJ Build Thread - 05+ SD Tons on 43" SX Stickies


Well-known member
Jan 17, 2021
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Oklahoma City, OK
Glad to see that the true *irate4x4 is back. Figured I'd start off doing something I missed about the original site. Wanted to make a build thread for my TJ. It's currently "done" but not exactly where I want it to be yet. I will split this up along multiple posts to keep it from being extremely long.

I started with buying a 2002 TJ that had 95k miles on it. Found it locally for $3800, with a hardtop, 4.0 and auto. It also had brand new 35" Cooper STT's on it which was perfect as my plan for this one was to keep it streetable. After getting it home the original plan was just a few simple upgrades to the suspension (had a mix & match ProComp, Rough Country, etc. crap lift) and bumpers and clean it up. Also a rear axle swap to a Ford 8.8, and E-Lockers front and rear with 5.13 gears. The junkyard axle I bought ended up having a bent axle shaft, so did the Yukon C-Clip Chromo Shaft kit. Changed to Currie adjustable links and AntiRock, Synergy Triple Rate Springs, Adjustable Track Bars, SYE and CV rear shaft. Was ready to go wheeling.

To start out with, I need to give a ton of credit and thanks to my buddy Chris Warden (owner of Iron Goat Garage) for helping me work on the Jeep on nights, weekends, and sometimes when I wasn't even there!! He did a lot of the welding (especially in the beginning until I got back in the groove and all the Gear/Locker work on the Jeep).



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Went on my first wheeling trip with the Jeep and broke about 45 minutes into the trip. Was climbing a ledge and lost traction and slid back down. Was still in the throttle and ended up breaking the rear u-joint and shaft. I made the decision the best fix for that would be to swap out the 35s for 38s and do a front axle swap. Real smart move Clark. There goes the idea of keeping it a "street Jeep". I didn't want the Jeep to be down for too long, so I bought a Wagoneer 44 front axle, a TNT Customs swap truss and RuffStuff 1 Ton TRE steering, stuffed it with another E-Locker, 5.13s and Chromo Shafts, snagged some 38" SX's with a set of weld on beadlocks. I didnt want to raise the Jeep any, so I got some JCR High Line Fenders and Duraflex Hood, along with putting in a Poison Spyder Trail Cage.




I considered the Jeep done at this point for about a year or maybe a little longer. I loved being able to drive it short distances still but wheeling a lot. Then I went to Burris Valley Ranch (now Rugged Mountain Ranch) and my perspective completely changed. I was only able to do about 25% of the trails there with my setup. I just wasnt built enough. I did a few more upgrades during this setup trying to make it more capable, trying to wheel Burris... but still wasnt enough. Swapped to an Atlas 5.0 t-case, added PSC hydro assist steering. They helped, but still only could do maybe 35% of the park at this point. And that might be a stretch.

I took some friends and the lady friend to Burris for the first Tackett Creek Challenge where I made the decision it was time. I was building the Jeep on tons and that was that. I started gathering parts quickly and went on one last wheeling trip to Disney before the teardown.




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Onto the stuff you guys actually care about. It was time to teardown the Jeep. It happened quickly. And luckily, I found a guy who wanted to buy everything from me off the old setup. So with all that gone, i bought the rest of everything I needed.

Build plan was 05 SD 60 front and Sterling 10.5 in the rear. Bought Yukon Zip Lockers, 5.38s and Installs. Got some 16" ORIs from Jensen Brothers, PRP seats and harnesses, Artec Trusses and Steering and made a mistake of buying 45" SX2's on Raceline Beadlocks (SX2's suck). A bunch of GenRight and RuffStuff suspension mounts and a set of 1.25" Heims from Motobilt. The build went really smoothly but took about 6 months due to only working on it during nights and weekends at a buddies shop (Iron Goat Garage, now in Yukon, OK). The goal was to make it as low as possible being on 45s.





Grinding down the SD 60 is a real b*tch. I hated my life doing that. Axles went together fairly easy, nothing to report there other than putting the loaded carrier is a pain with the Artec ram mount. Doable, just a pain. Next it was on to the suspension.





Suspension went as easy as it could, I wasn't 100% pleased with my front suspension geometry... but with as low as I wanted it to be, it wouldnt allow for as much vertical separation as I truly needed at the axle. It still worked well on the road and the trails however.





How I initially setup the front shock mounts I wasn't happy with at all. At full compression the front was way too tall. I didn't want to mount them on the C's like a lot of people do, and on top of the truss made it sit too tall.





Ended up redoing the front mounts with the Genright mounts that I used in the rear. Allowed me to mount the shock directly behind the axle tube so it was still protected, but low enough it gave me much more shaft showing on the ORI's at ride height and bottomed out right where I wanted it to be.





Next up was building the panhard bar and then finishing out the front axle. The panhard was a challenge... needed to make it as long as possible, but also keep it up where I can keep the Jeep low. Ended up mounting it up under behind the front bumper and also made a mount as far to the passenger side on the axle. Once that was done it was on to gearing the front and doing steering.





I did the Artec steering arms once the main part of the axle was done. In hind sight, I should've done the Jesse Haines Fab steering arms. His were the original arms and allow for a much better steering angle. The Artec's suck. That is on my shortlist of things to fix with my current setup. I also did the Nick Barna Ball Joint Eliminators and TMR flanges.





thats a pretty sick build.

I see everyone trussing the SD axle - is it really needed ?
thats a pretty sick build.

I see everyone trussing the SD axle - is it really needed ?

I guess it depends on what you're doing. It makes it a lot easier to build suspension off of. I know a few people who didn't truss them and are doing fine.

Thanks for the compliment... I still have a lot of updates to go on this thread... just took a break to get some actual work done.
Hadnt thought about ease of suspension build, makes sense, thanks.

p.s. build it, wheel it, and then sell it to me :flipoff2:
Okay... lets continue. After finishing the knuckles, I put it all back together and checked clearances at full bump. They were tight but everything cleared perfectly.




Once I had the shocks filled and went to the exhaust shop to have exhaust done... I had a catastrophic failure... one night while working on the TJ late... I changed the pinion out and forgot to tighten the pinion nut. This was just 2 weeks before its maiden voyage to Hot Springs. My buddy Chris (owner of Iron Goat) came in clutch and had a new front gearset and locker overnighted from Yukon and rebuilt the front end for me that week while I wasn't even there. He killed it and I still owe him for that to this day!





Anyways... after Chris came in clutch... I got the Jeep "finished" and ready to go on its first trip with my family and friends to Hot Springs. Trip went really great, only issues I had was a hydro line rubbed and made a pin hole and had to be fixed, easy thanks to the field serviceable fittings that come in the PSC kit. Also had a bad solenoid in the compressor that would leak out air over time but was able to limp that through the weekend.





After the first trip, and a couple more, I decided to change out the Poison Spyder rockers for a set of Dave's Custom Unlimited Boatside rockers. Before you decide if you want to do these or not... check out the next post. The install was fairly simple, and they looked good. But stay tuned...




Next trip out was for the Tackett Creek Challenge at Burris Valley Ranch. Here's a few random pics of the Jeep from the trip.





While running Tackett Creek, I slipped off a rock (because SX2's suck) and landed on my newly installed rocker. It caved in a good portion of the rocker and the tub when it happened. Granted... it was a hard hit... but still disappointed. I will address this at a later date. For now I just ordered another set with plans to brace it to make it stronger.



Around this time... I got a cool offer from the guys at GenRight OffRoad to become a Brand Ambassador for them. The Jeep needed a new cage so I took them up on the offer and swapped a bunch of parts over. Ended up putting in a cage, new bumper, highlines and corners. Also made the swap to 43" SX Stickies and got with Andy Clifford for a set of 17" Trailworthy Fab Double D's.





First wheeling trip on the new stickies was back to Burris Valley Ranch, and the first trail I hit was Asylum which exposed a weak link... took out a 1480 Spicer joint which took out a stub shaft also. Also popped the weld on my Ball Joint Eliminator. I winched my way off of Asylum and back to camp and the trip was done. Also... bent another Boatside... :flipoff2:



Replaced the shaft with a set of 1550 shafts and have been running them for about 2 years without a failure yet. Next trip out was back to Burris Valley to redeem myself. Ran Asylum this trip without issue, however, later in the evening I exposed another weak link. I was still running the factory TJ skid. And my exposed oil pan and transmission pan took a fatal hit and ripped holes in both of them. That was the end of that trip.





Time to continue. After a few more trips... I couldnt get more cooling system to perform the way I wanted it. So it was time to revamp it. Added a large Griffin Aluminum Radiator, Mishimoto Fan and Temp controller. Hoping it would help.




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