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Old 08-14-2010, 02:23 PM   #1
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Looking for info RE: buying TJ vs Rubicon

Hello TJ owners!

I'm new to the site but not new to Jeeps (My dad owned a Cherokee and I own a Patriot), and am looking to buy an older model, 6 cylinder, automatic transmission Wrangler 4x4 to turn into a project/trail rig. Although I've read a plethora of opinions and reviews on the internet, ultimately the best information is going to come from owners who have "been there done that." My ultimate goal is to do pretty much do whatever it takes to enable it to attack almost any obstacle, including lifting, adding a snorkel, lockers if needed, etc. My timeline for purchasing this vehicle is sometime within the next year, but I would like to build the framework of information to consider when purchasing the Jeep.

Thus, my questions are:

1) Capability wise, what is the difference in offroad capability between the Sport and Sahara TJ models and the newer Rubicon class?

2) If the difference is great, is it worth spending the money on the necessary parts to upgrade the older model Sport/Sahara TJs to what the Rubicon can do or just continue to save pennies and get a Rubicon?

3) Any further advice I should keep in mind.

Thanks!

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Old 08-14-2010, 02:37 PM   #2
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They didn't start making Rubi's till '03. Sahara's are basically fancier Sports. Either may have a D44 rear end. If you feel lockers are needed for what you want, then probably you'll save money in the long run buying a Rubi. If you want to build it yourself, to suit your needs then get an older Sport and build it your way.. You can find Sports with the D44, just have to look....

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Old 08-14-2010, 02:40 PM   #3
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The sport and sahars a pretty much the same, they both came with 4.0 and AX-15 trannys and both had the option of the Dana 44. The Sahara is the top of the line betwwen the 2 meaning it has a custom interior /decals and what i mentioned before. The Rubicons are a trail rig out of the box and already have the hard expensive work done. They have front and rear Dana 44's with front and rear air lockers(Can lock and unlock the axles,instead of being locked all the time like a traditional locker, this makes it Daily driver/Trail rig friendly,makes daily driving to work and such much better) They also have rocker guards,and extra wide fender flares, and 16in Mohab rims on 31in mud terrians.If you get a good deal like i did you can build a early TJ or YJ much cheaper,Craigslist is a excellent source.Plus who has the money to go drop 25-30 grand and then go beat the piss out of it on the trail,not me.
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Old 08-14-2010, 02:58 PM   #4
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Ya'll are forgetting to mention the transfer-case on the Rubi. It has a NV241OR transfercase with a 4:1 low gearing(NV231J has 2.73:1) also has a fixed yoke so no need to get a SYE. You just have to get a double cardian(commonly known as a CV) drive shaft.

If it is going to be a trail rig get the rubi. sell the rear axle for 1k(or more) and get a D60 under it 4 link it and you will be good to go.
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Old 08-14-2010, 03:17 PM   #5
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My "built" '97 Wrangler Sport was stolen in March so I ended up buying an '04 Rubicon to replace it with. Other than the Rubicon's 4:1 transfer case ratio which I love, I still miss my old Sport... a LOT!

If you like to build up things on your own and don't mind adding the kind of lockers you like, doing axle work, perhaps swapping in a 4:1 transfer case if you need that low of a ratio, I think you'd enjoy buying a Sport and building it up to how you want it yourself. Or telling a shop what lockers & gears you want them to install so it works like you want it to.

But if you would rather buy it pre-built and leave the drivetrain as is, you'd probably enjoy the Rubicon if indeed you need the front/rear lockers and 4:1 transfer case ratio the Rubicon has over a stock Sport.

If I had it to do over again and if my '04 Rubicon hadn't been offered to me by a friend at a price I couldn't turn down, I would have rather gone with a non-Rubicon and built it up my way. Plus I'm not real comfortable with the Rubicon's rear locker reliability in the kind of stuff I'm building it up for which admittedly not all Jeepers want to do.

A Rubicon is a nice Jeep but my two issues are that I wouldn't have built mine like the factory builds it and I'm not so sure I like how its lockers work. My old TJ had a Detroit Locker which was a "point and shoot" type of locker that you never had to turn on or off, it just did it's thing. And the front locker was automatic too, so the two of them just worked without having to think about it.... like I never had to worry about 'should I lock up for this obstacle or trail?' kind of thing

Heck, I even removed my new Rubicon's Rubicon decals.
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Old 08-14-2010, 03:44 PM   #6
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Heck, I even removed my new Rubicon's Rubicon decals.
That's the first step in keeping them out of Mexico.......
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Old 08-14-2010, 10:46 PM   #7
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Thanks for the responses! One more question regarding the automatic transmissions. After doing some research on the site, I've found that Jeep went from a 3-speed to a 4-speed for the '03 model year. However, the ratio of the lowest gear went from 2.74 in the 3-speed to 2.84 in the 4-speed. Knowing that lower ratios tend to be better for rock crawling, and considering the majority of the trails I'm planning on running in Idaho, Colorado and Utah are rocky and not really muddy, is the loss of .1 of ratio detrimental or is it small enough to be insignificant?
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Old 08-14-2010, 10:53 PM   #8
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No, that .1 is insignificant because with an automatic, its first gear ratio is infinitely low in reality. The torque converter is responsible for that. You can drive from 0 mph up in 1st gear with an automatic.
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Old 08-16-2010, 07:12 PM   #9
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first gear ratio is infinitely low in reality. The torque converter is responsible for that.
Pardon the (ignorant) technical question, but how exactly does it achieve being infinitely low? I just don't understand how that could even be possible...
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Old 08-16-2010, 07:18 PM   #10
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Pardon the (ignorant) technical question, but how exactly does it achieve being infinitely low? I just don't understand how that could even be possible...
Because the torque converter provides a fluid, not a mechanical, connection between the engine and transmission. Which is how you can sit at a stop light in Drive with your foot on the brake and not stall the engine.

I can drive my automatic equipped Jeep offroad at any slow speed I want, even .0001 mph by allowing it to just creep forward under control of the brake pedal. The torque converter allows that to happen since it provides a fluid and not gear or clutch-based connection between the engine and transmission.

That is why automatic equipped Jeeps can crawl so much slower over rocks than similar Jeeps with manual transmissions can.

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