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Old 12-05-2009, 02:55 PM   #1
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Upgrade 1997 TJ or save for a Rubicon?

I have a 1997 wrangler sahara with a little over 100k miles. It is pretty much stock I was wondering if it is worth it to upgrade it all nice or just drive it how it is stock and save for a Rubicon. Is a Rubicon much nicer then another TJ or is it just better off road?

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Old 12-05-2009, 03:51 PM   #2
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well with my 98 sport im kinda in the same boat, but i have begun upgrading and i gotta say it feels good doing it yourself and watching your jeep transform!!! The difference in a rubicon and say a Sport or Sahara is that it has pretty much everything you need for serious offroading out of the box! The differences is Dana 44's front and rear vs. dana 30/35(but some Sports and Sarahs came with rear 44's), front and rear lockers(a must have for serious offroading, and something no other TJ came with stock), extra wide fender flares(1in wider ), rocker guards, 16in rims(sports and saharas came with 15in), and 31in Mud tires(sports and saharas came with 30's)So pretty much all you need is a lift and maybe a little bigger tires, but the stock tires on a Rubicon are bigger than a sports or saharas, Im pretty sure i covered it, but as long as yours is a 4.0 and not a rust bucket i say start upgrading

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Old 12-05-2009, 04:01 PM   #3
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First,the rubicon is set up for serious off road stuff,better dana 44 rears,electric lockers,lower range transfer case,ETC.On your 97 tj,i have one myself,and just put a ton of money in it.The jeep is now VERY sweet! but i will never get back even half the money spent.Hindsight being 20/20 I should have sold it with the 2.5 OME lift and 31 inch tires,then looked for a 07 rubicon JK,popped a 4 inch kit and 35 inch tires on it and kept it for ten years.This is my new plan,but will have to wait maybe 2 years.
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Old 12-05-2009, 04:05 PM   #4
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i have a 1999 TJ SE and 1999 TJ Sahara.

definitely Rubicon if the Heavens above allow.....
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Old 12-05-2009, 04:20 PM   #5
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Yes rubicons are nice if you have the money. But for example i could probublu get 6K(give or take a little) for my wrangler, and you are not gonna find a good, decent milage Rubicon for under17-20K, so lets say Ifind one for 19k and sell mine for 6k even ,therer is still a $13,000 dollar difference, and i guarente I could fix up my jeep to preform just as good as a Rubicon for under $13,000!!! But this is just my opinion
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Old 12-05-2009, 04:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by willysmb View Post
First,the rubicon is set up for serious off road stuff,better dana 44 rears,electric lockers,lower range transfer case,ETC.On your 97 tj,i have one myself,and just put a ton of money in it.The jeep is now VERY sweet! but i will never get back even half the money spent.Hindsight being 20/20 I should have sold it with the 2.5 OME lift and 31 inch tires,then looked for a 07 rubicon JK,popped a 4 inch kit and 35 inch tires on it and kept it for ten years.This is my new plan,but will have to wait maybe 2 years.
IMO a rubicon is a good start to a wheeler. Not really for the hardcore but a good start if all you want to run is 36" tires.

If your TJ is paid for just upgrade it. Or sell off your TJ and find a built jeep and go that route. It'll be cheaper to find a built one vs. building it over time.

My jeep is a 90 YJ that has gone through many transistions. I paid $7400 for it back in 2003 with 60kmiles on it. I have invested well over $40k in mods over the years. But If I sold it all I would get is about $18k.
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Old 12-05-2009, 05:03 PM   #7
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Well look at it this way. If you keep yours you can put things on here and there as you get the money and it will be a jeep built for you. If you buy a rubicon you have to A= fork out all the cash out front. B= get a loan and make payments for a while then try to get cash together while making payments to mod it the way you want. Then when you have a payment and you hate to beat it up because its not paid for. I know now that I have my tj paid off I only have to pay for mods or what I brake.
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Old 12-05-2009, 05:24 PM   #8
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Sooner or later, you will still want a Rubi, and you won't get back nearly what you spend adding to your current rig, when you sell it. Its all fun
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Old 12-05-2009, 06:58 PM   #9
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If it were my decision, I'd build the '97. A Rubicon is nice but you could install upgrades to your '97 that would at least be the equal to if not easily better than the Rubicon. The Rubicon's front Dana 44 is really no stronger than the TJ's front Dana 30 since it uses so many key Dana 30 components. Axle tubes, outer stub shafts, u-joints, knuckles, inner/outer C's, unit bearings are right off a Dana 30. The Rubicon's rear locker hasn't proven as bulletproof as Jeep said it was going to be either. What I do like about the Rubicon is its 4:1 transfer case but you can upgrade your TJ's transfer case to 4:1. Plus the '97 is easier to work on in many areas. I've installed upgrades in several Rubicons for friends and there are just a few areas where I still prefer my '97 for its simplicity like several fewer 02 sensors, 3 less catalytic converters, etc.

Plus you'll have a rig you built yourself, will know far better, and it will command a lot more respect on the trail with f/r lockers you installed, t-case, suspension lift, etc. rather than having a factory built rig. Nothing wrong with a Rubicon at all but personally, I'd rather build a '97 into a Rubicon killer and you'll be money ahead having done it that way.
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:04 PM   #10
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Depends on the year, I'm not to into the new body styles just yet.
but personally I'd do the work on mine if I were in you shoes, but then i love working on stuff.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:17 PM   #11
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I bought my Rubi new in '03. I considered adding all the things I wanted to a regular TJ, and compared costs. The Rubi was cheeper by a long shot than adding the stuff the Rubi started with.
4:1 t-case
air locker in the rear D-44 - with posi when it's unlocked (unique) - yes the locker is weak - too much stuff crammed in it.
front air locker (not electric as some think)
D-44 with 4.11 gears - yes it's a combination of the D-30 and D-44
disc brakes all around,
no ABS to contend with
Heavier steering box
CV driveshafts - no SYE needed
rocker gaurds
supposedly heavier springs (not so sure I believe that).

Just buying those things would have added up considerably higher that buying the Rubi new - not to mention the time it would take to do it. I'd never trust anyone else to install it so I didn't add in the cost of installation.

So - I forked out the cash. I drove it as-is for a few miles, then modified and added things to suit me.

It's a great platform to begin with, saving lots of time and money.

Right out of the box a Rubi outperforms any other stock vehicle, but it still leaves lots to be desired. But it all depends on how capable you want it, and how long you can wait.

Yes, I'd do it again.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:22 PM   #12
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If I get the NP241 into my 05 Wrangler X 6 speed, I wouldnt need a SYE kit right? since NP241 is straight out of a Rubicon and a direct bolt on onto TJ's. And I believe I have NV3350 or something close to that (too lazy to look up) since it is a 6 speed.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:23 PM   #13
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ER686, I can't give you a direct answer to your question but here is something to think about.
I don't know what you want your ultimate Jeep to look like or what you may spend to do it, but I'm going to take a swing at some numbers for you to help evaluate. I think these are the key variables so if you substitute your estimated #'s for each item that I took a WAG at, you might come up with a pretty good idea at what makes sense for you. Again it is just a process to play with.
So let's say:
Your Stock "97 in good shape has a value of...$7000+/-
Upgrade costs to your '97 to make it your dream rig...$8000
Now you have $15,500 in your rig.
Assuming you keep it 4 years then sell it, the resale value might be...$8500
So you spent $7000 over 4yrs or $1750 per year to enjoy your dream ride.
OR
You buy a nice Rubi for say $19,000 ( your '97 plus $12,000)
Plus you will still need to add a few goodies to the Rubi to make it your dream rig, so say you spend $1500 more.
So now you are in the Rubi $20,500
So let's say the Rubi's resale value in 4 years is $16,500 ...
If so, then you would have spent $4000 over 4 years or only $1000 per year.

In this hypothetical case the New Rubi looks attractive.. BUT...if the upgrades to your 97 were less or if you kept the dream rig longer I suspect you would see keeping the '97 might be a better deal.

The big missing piece in a pure numbers calculation is the unknown real condition of buying that Rubi versus knowing exactly what you have in your '97. If you get one big (expensive) mechanical surprise in the Rubi your calculations are near worthless. So there is a lot to be said for building the '97

Lastly....is the sex appeal factor of a Rubi...how do you value that? The higher up the scale that it goes in your eyes then the less the difference in the numbers really matter.
Either way...good luck with your decision..have fun! Let us know what you decide.
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Old 12-05-2009, 09:16 PM   #14
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Do the math of upgrading yours, vs buying a rubi and see what works better for you. OR go have a pair of arb's installed and go anyplace the rubi does.
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Old 12-05-2009, 11:30 PM   #15
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build Sport vs buy Rubi

I just went through a similar issue, and stuck w/ my 2000 TJ, I am happy w/ my decision. But there are so many variables to consider especially what size tire do you want to end up w/ and what type of wheeling do you want to do. In my case I only wanted to run 32's and be more capable on moderate trails.

My '00 Sport is paid off and had a 3.5 lift and some nostalgic value, maybe could have sold for 8k, then an 03 Rubic would've cost $13K but I'd still need to lift it ($1K - 3.5 short arm). My TJ had D30 open front and D35 open rear, with 3.07's (yuck). I did a lot of searching and found a set of '03 rubic front and rear D44's for w/ the factory airlockers/pumps, etc. I then bought new gears (he'd actually put in 4.88's - too steep for my 3speed auto) and bearings, $2000 total for all. Wish I could have done it myself but paid a shop to hook it all up, $800. So, now I'd love a 4:1 Tcase but even w/o it I am almost as "rubicon'ed" as I needed to be.

I'm out $2800 vs $6K w/ a rubicon. Yes the rubi would have 4:1 tcase and a 4 speed auto, fewer miles, but I am glad I kept my jeep.

One thing I'd add - if you can find a BUILT 03-05 rubi already lifted, winch, etc, consider that. But if you have to do a ton of stuff to it just build yours and bargain hunt. You can do it steps and save up and not have a car payment. I like Search Tempest - The EASY way to search Craigslist! where you can search ALL craigslists at once.
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Old 12-05-2009, 11:40 PM   #16
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If you aren't in a hurry, and have the cash ready - be patient. I saw a nice '04? Rubi with long arms on a street corner "For Sale" $15,000. I thought about it for an hour or so, then went back to get it - Gone!

The deals are out there, but if you try too hard too fast somehow they disappear. But when you do find it, ya gotta jump on it.
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:28 AM   #17
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If you're not into rock climbing just build yours. Read somewhere that the Rubi gear ratios are super for rock climbing, but not optimal for other types of wheeling. But if you have your heart set on a Rubi...you won't rest untill you buy one. But remember that the Rubi is not the be all , end all of jeep.

In my case I had to choose between my 99 4 banger SE or getting an 05 unlimited....I went with the 05 cuz its a much better platform to start with. But you've already have a great platform with the Sahara. Regardless, good luck on your quest for the ultimate jeep.

...and if you decide to mod yours, Mod it to your specific wheeling needs. If you jump on the Jeep mod bandwagon..you'll never be done. LOL
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:08 AM   #18
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ask yourself if you are really into hardcore 4x4.. or do you want the rubi just because of the hype that its a rubi.. I mean it comes great out of the box and all but will you even go out and hit the trails once a month.

Id buy it if I lived in the outback somewhere but I mainly do city driving and go to the snow once twice a year.


I just have alift and 32'' tires.. Id say I barely use the 4x4 where i live..

something to think about.
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:47 AM   #19
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Quote:
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If I get the NP241 into my 05 Wrangler X 6 speed, I wouldnt need a SYE kit right?
That is true, there is no slip yoke on the Rubicon's transfer case. All you'd need is a CV driveshaft.
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:51 AM   #20
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If you're not into rock climbing just build yours. Read somewhere that the Rubi gear ratios are super for rock climbing, but not optimal for other types of wheeling. But if you have your heart set on a Rubi...you won't rest untill you buy one. But remember that the Rubi is not the be all , end all of jeep.

In my case I had to choose between my 99 4 banger SE or getting an 05 unlimited....I went with the 05 cuz its a much better platform to start with. But you've already have a great platform with the Sahara. Regardless, good luck on your quest for the ultimate jeep.

...and if you decide to mod yours, Mod it to your specific wheeling needs. If you jump on the Jeep mod bandwagon..you'll never be done. LOL
Man I just red your sig, where weer you when I had the money to buy the 80 CJ7 you sold LOL
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:05 PM   #21
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hmm well the OP might want to look into getting the NP241 T-case as opposed to a SYE kit as SYE kit might sometimes be on par with the NP241 (in terms of price).

Also something ill be looking out for. And correction, I have a NV3550 Transmission but NP231 T-case, I tried to edit my post but it wouldnt let me = \
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Old 12-06-2009, 05:00 PM   #22
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Do what a friend of mine did. He bought the front & rear axles & t-casr out of a wrecked Rubi for under $2000. He them stuffed them in his 2000 TJ. Instant Rubi for a fraction of the cost. There was a little fabrication; but nothing serious. Now he has a "sleeper" Rubi.
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Old 04-27-2010, 06:59 PM   #23
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Iam in the same boat.. I found a 06 rubi with 35k miles for $18k.. My 04 x is paid for so in my calculations I should be able to exceed the rubi with the same money.. Now that is if i dont charge for my time.. which i dont.. so i am adding the Dana 44's new transfercase.. and after that all is left is motor and transmission.. and the jeep is new. I really believe upgrading existing is the way to go.. as far as TJ ... Older jeep maybe a different story.. besides I dont like the JK look at all
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:45 PM   #24
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You can get most of your stuff at junkyards, which is the BEST way to get your scrap materials for your vehicle... It's very cheap and if you don't trust it, rebuild the part!

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