My first seven slat was a 1990 Jeep Wrangler Sport (YJ) with a 2.5L engine and 5-Speed manual transmission (All Jeeps should have a manual transmission, in my opinion). My YJ was $10,000 new, less than a third of what I paid for my JK.
My Dad purchased it new the latter part of 1989, so the “hate” for the YJ from the CJ community was still fresh. The YJ was an AMC design, although Chrysler Corporation got the blame for releasing it, and “ruining” the Jeep. I believe that the YJ started the movement that “The New Jeep” is not a “REAL Jeep” , so now that the JL is on the road, can I finally say that my JK is a REAL Jeep? Even though there were the haters, the CJ drivers still waved, and as a teenager that wasn’t a jock, nor a geek, I felt accepted into the Jeep community.
My YJ was a basic S model, that didn’t even come with a radio. Red with a sand color interior and hard top. I recall that the carpet and roll bar covers were an option. Unfortunately, I lost all of the photos of my YJ, however it looked very similar to the photo below, tiny wheels and all.
While it was a basic model, my YJ was equipped with 4:10 gears, which helped go just fine down the highway, as well as the trail. The YJ was a tremendous improvement over the CJ, with a stiff frame, and soft springs, making for a much more civilized ride over the CJ. I installed lift shackles that actually flattened the spring arc, and gave my YJ an even better ride ironically. And as much hate as there was for the YJ, there was a company that started selling a one-piece fiberglass front clip to give a CJ, the YJ look.
I do have to admit that the YJ had a very “pedestrian” look to it, with the small car tires and space saver spare. After installing the lift shackles, I installed 31″x10.50R15 Goodyear Wrangler AT’s, and those tires made it look like a monster truck compared to stock. Body lifts were still pretty popular, however I never had the urge to do a body lift.
When I first started my off-road Jeep adventures, I thought faster was better. Luckily, I only sheared a couple of pan-hard bar bolts, and bent my seats up a few times, before I learned to slow it down. Hill climbs and jumping was what I enjoyed most with my YJ. I got it airborne a few times with no significant damage, expect for the time that two guys on dirt bikes came over and told me how much air I got on my last jump that landed so smooth, so of course, I had to do it again. The second jump landed hard on the front, my front passenger seat broke towards the middle of the Jeep and my buddy wound up laying in the back seat. Initial inspection after landing didn’t reveal any other damage, until I tried to put the doors back on a few days later. I had tweaked the body, and/or frame and my door strikers were a 1/4″ towards the front of the Jeep, and the doors would not latch. So after removing some shims, and a little beating and banging, I had the doors sealed back up.
I wound up purchasing more aftermarket parts as replacement parts for repair than modification, however my YJ never left me walking home from the trail. There were times I drove home with a slipping clutch that had been submerged when I got stuck in a small pond for a couple of hours, a bent leaf spring that got hung up something in the snow, or on the spacer saver after I shredded one of the 31’s playing in the sand low on air pressure.
I also drove my YJ a bit like a sports car(hey, it was a red convertible), having to replace two clutches before the 70,000 mile mark. Somehow I burned up only the cylinder head gasket between the number two and three cylinders, which was causing really bad gas mileage, which is never good in a Jeep. Not only was gas mileage not great, my YJ had a less than accurate fuel gauge. I recall the Owners Manual instructing you to park the Jeep on a level surface, and turn the ignition key to the On position in order to get an accurate fuel level reading!
My YJ eventually gave up, losing compression in two clylinders. At that time in my young life I didn’t have a lot of extra dollars or sense. I found a buyer for my non-running YJ to give me $4,500, which was a good price considering the overall condition of my YJ at the time.
I took some of the cash and purchased a 1978 Dodge Ramcharger that was lifted, on 35″ tires and tried a big and heavy 4×4 for a while, before coming back to a 1978 CJ-7.
My CJ-7 was short lived before I took a nearly 20-year hiatus from having a Jeep of my own. Now I am a proud owner of a JK, and will highlight my JK, which I can now call a REAL Jeep, in another post.