20 years of incrementalism or Blackjacks 98 SE


Evil Winch Doctor
Supporting Member
Dec 16, 2018
Since the fall of Alaska4x4Network I was hoping to recover some of my old threads to no avail so I am starting this from scratch by digging up old files with varying success. So this will be a bit rough to start and hopefully improve as I find more stuff. I also hope I can explain my rational for some of the choices I have made or not made along the way. And with 20 years of ownership coming up I figured it would not hurt to chronicle it.

So in March of 2001 I became the owner of a 1998 SE for my daily driver and to build as a mild woods/beach rig while living in the Portland OR area. Two weeks after the purchase saw the company I worked for downsized and I was given the boot. Fast forward to the first week of May and my wife, myself and the Tj were on our way to Alaska for a new job.

At this point it had 30x9.5 BFG ATs, a Warrior products hitch bumper with hitch haul, and a Warn M8000 on a Warn mount with grill tube. This pic was in the Yukon taking a break and finding I just killed the rear shock in the construction just before.

So after getting settled in I finally started building the daily driver/ woods rig I had in mind. OME HD springs with Trailmaster SSV shocks, 31x10.5 Wild Country TXR tires, Steel Horse (remember them) half cab top, Warn driving lights, and Trucklite composite headlights made their way on.


2002 saw the beginning of the addition of armor which has become lots of armor. If you wheel in AK with a low riding rig you get the luxury of driving by braille wether you want to or not. So Warn rockers, rear bumper with tire carrier, and one trick I learned from Chris Woods was to take the stock lower control arms and turn them over. Yep they fill with mud but with the box side down they are far less prone to bending.

jeep 6.jpg

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Winter 2002-2003 saw the addition of my first custom Warn 8274 as winching is life up here. A MORE one inch body lift to make room for yet more armor. A Kilby gas tank skid with mudflap mod replaced the factory skid I crushed so bad it let the upper tank seal burp water in during a crossing. I also ended up with a prototype Rubicon Express long arm skid that was made for Ed at Northern 4x4 Outfitters for his TJ he built to compete in the Rain Forest Challenge. It is .25 thick steel with extra ribbing and only drops 2 inches. So to go with that I installed a RE hack and tap, double cardan shaft and built my own motor mount lift and rear upper adjustable control arms.

Edit 1 forgot I had found a used RE adjustable rear track bar and angled bracket and also installed a new Full Traction front track bar.

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2003 was to see not only changes to the Jeep. but a relocation from Anchorage to the Kenai for work as well. I added a Lock Rite to the rear 35 and made the big jump to 32x11 BFG MTs. I had also taken my hitch haul and made it sit above the deck cover to haul more stuff for extended trips that summer. That summer is when I had come to the conclusion that the Trailmaster SSVs were both a fantastic and terrible shock both. On the road they were cushy when commuting but push it some and they were planted without being overly firm. But get them on long higher speed stretches off road they overheated and faded terribly.


jeep churchill.jpg
It’s always nice when you have some history with a vehicle. Love seeing 20 year old photos. What is the Jeeps current state?
Hold up, some of these photos look older than Jerry’s photos, and we all know that he owned a TJ even before TJs came about. How is that possible? 🤣😉

Seriously though, it’s cool seeing some of these older photos.
So other mods that came at this point were an electric fan, 4.0 liter throttle body and air tube. To make the air tube work I reused the connector from the silencer box to the throttle body and a small piece of tubing to connect it together. First fan I used was from a Honda but I later changed it for one from a 3.0 liter Taurus.

This is a newer photo the Hood Lift was a gift that came later.


2004 only brought on a few changes. Finally it was time to retire the SSVs and the choice to replace them was OME Nitrocharger long travel. Since they only work with at least two inches of bumpstop extension I added about an inch of coil spacer to make up for some of the lost up travel. These mods were necessary anyway as it made room for the new 33x12.5 TSLs.


So 33 inch bias ply tire on a 4 popper TJ with 4.10s is not an ideal condition. Add to that an incident with the better half in the rig on a winter run where the Lock Rite decided to take us for a loop a change was necessary. So for 2005 more change was in order. I had a friend that was putting one tons in his Commanche so I snagged his metric ton Dana 44. It had 4.56s and a Detroit locker that I sold and went to work putting in 4.88s and an Eaton Elocker. I scavenged brackets from a Dana 35 that the center section was bad and added a whole lot more weld to prevent cracking. For the front I picked up a HP 30 and added 4.88s (these were the lowest ratio available at the time) and a set of JE Reel H20 Proof Ujoints I was given to beta test.

On the exterior the stock front bumper was swapped for a Warn and for the rear out came the hole saw for a lighting upgrade. 4 inch grommet mount LEDs and 2.5 inch LED side markers along with some simple halogen back up lights. Earlier I also had fabbed a CB/third brake light mount that attached where the soundbar would normally go.


2006 only real change was to put an Auburn Ected in the HP 30. While it is not a true locker in the tractionless environment up here you will never notice. One benefit to the design is that it can be engaged on the fly even if both tires are not spinning the same speed. My only gripe about it is that is has a tendency to not want to unlock without driving some distance. The state troopers finally said I had to cover the tires up so Warn flares and some custom fabbed removable flaps were installed.

In 2007 a company Called Nth Degree Mobility was all the talk on the webs. I was looking to do some upgrades as the heim on the RE track bar was loose and I was on my forth TRE on the Full Traction front track bar. I was also wanting to net a little more up travel as well. By this time I was expecting my first kiddo so no fancy long arm or anything was going to happen but after several back and forth exchanges with Jim Frens we came up with what would be the TJ4+. Because of the four popper we used three inch heavy springs in the front as the 4.5 would have been way to tall. The rear uses three inch springs along with coil relocation brackets that adds 1.5 inches. The front was also treated to their track bar system that uses a WJ track bar and bracket that connects both frame rails. This requires the use of a 1.75 inch drop pitman (insert gasp here) which is the essentially one from a stock XJ. The rear also received shock shifters and the handling improvement kit which changes the control arm locations and a new stock track bar.





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  • Wow
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Really like seeing what you've done to your Jeep. I wish I had taken more pictures as mine has progressed.

Keep sharing.
Really like seeing what you've done to your Jeep. I wish I had taken more pictures as mine has progressed.

Keep sharing.
I am gonna try. Between AK 4x4 Network going the way of the dodo and several hard drive losses it is taking some time to find stuff.
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I am gonna try. Between AK 4x4 Network going the way of the dodo and several hard drive losses it is taking some time to find stuff.

Yep mine was mostly on JeepsUnlimted so when it went I lost a LOT. Then a few harddrives & split ups with ex's taking shit.
But it's still fun to take a look back. Taking a 10 year break didn't help much either. As someone said my Jeep with like a time capsule looking back to 2007.
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I had tried early on to ditch the Haltenberger linkage for an inverted T using components from my Friends at R&P Parts. Ultimately I was not happy no matter what I tried so I returned to stock drag link and one of R&Ps tie rods. I also added a Warn steering box skid and built my own radiator branch deflector.



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One thing that either is loved or hated is my conversion to an electric fan. Once you spend any time up here on the trail you will find out that clutch fans suck. There are a lot of water crossings up here and the clutch can only take so much before they lock up and rob a lot of what little precious power the four popper puts out. Unlike the 4.0 guys I did not have to use the Ford Taurus 3.8 fan rather I used the Taurus 3.0 fan. It is single speed which made wiring much simpler. I used an old school Derale adjustable controller switching the ground side of a relay that I have hot side switched on the dash for water crossing cutout. You will see in these pics there is a copper radiator in there. That was added recently as I grew tired of the tanks weeping on the original. It is out of a 4.0 auto YJ and cost me free fitty so in it went.


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Kilby skid, RE skid and home brew control arm skids. Make sure you learn from my mistake and use thick enough material for you control arm skids which I will be replacing later.






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