Moab, Utah — with its picturesque landscape and extensive trail systems — attracts outdoor adventurers from around the world. Each spring thousands make the annual pilgrimage to the Easter Jeep Safari, bringing in a stellar collection of modified Jeeps and killer customs.
We met up with Carter Reed from Zone Offroad Products to check out the company’s latest build, a 1990 Jeep Comanche coined Project MJ.
Zone Offroad designs and manufactures lift kits and off-road accessories for a wide range of trucks and Jeeps. After locking in a spot on the 2011 Ultimate Adventure, the crew over at Zone decided they couldn’t show up in a run-of-the-mill TJ or JK, so the decision was made to build an MJ. The thinking was to not just build any MJ, but one that would have broad appeal to both desert racers and crawlers. With a short six-week build deadline they quickly sourced two rusty Michigan donor trucks and got busy tearing down and gathering parts.
With an empty shell they started out by plating the unibody with 10-gauge steel for additional strength and rigidity. From there the cage was mocked up, Hannemann fenders and bedsides were fitted, and the drivetrain was prepped. In place of the worn out 4.0L went a brand new 4.6L stroker mated to the stock AX-15 and NP231. Driveshafts came from J.E. Reel Driveline and axles were sourced from a J8 Wrangler with the military spec Dana 44/Dana 60 getting some attention in the form of a custom sleeve and truss for the front. It was then outfitted with Reid knuckles, Superior gears and shafts, and ARB Air Lockers. Suspension came in the form of a prototype front four-link and rear triangulated four-link long arm with 14-inch Fox 2.5 remote reservoir coilovers at all four corners.
From there, the bumpers and rock sliders went into place. Hidden beneath the low profile front bumper a Warn 9.5 XP winch is ready for recovery while an AGR Rock Ram assists with turning the 40-inch Maxxis tires. With the mechanical wrapped up, the guys focused their efforts on completing the body, cage, wiring, and accessories before quick stops for paint and graphics in a frenzy to the finish to make the starting point of the Ultimate Adventure.
The plan for this truck was simple, build a clean, capable, full-bodied Comanche, that would be right at home on the street or out on the trail. Zone used the opportunity to not only build a one-off killer custom, but to design and test new products to expand their Jeep line with innovative new products in the future.
Zone’s Project MJ out at Behind...
Zone’s Project MJ out at Behind the Rocks in Moab. This Comanche brings together the sleek bodylines of a desert racer with the capability of a fully built trail rig.
||1990 Jeep Comanche MJ
||Zone Offroad/Coldwater, Michigan
||Golen 4.6L Stroker
||AX-15 five-speed manual
|Transfer case/low range ratio:
||Mopar J8 JK Dana 44 w/ Reid knuckles
||Mopar J8 JK Dana 60
|Ring and Pinion:
||ARB Air Locker
||ARB Air Locker
||Zone prototype front four-link/rear triangulated four-link long arm with 14-inch Fox remote reservoir coilovers
||40x13.50x17 Maxxis Trepador radials
||17x9 Mickey Thompson Sidebiters with Inner Air Lock beadlocks/5 inches
Beneath the dimple-died hood...
Beneath the dimple-died hood sits a Golen 4.6L stroker for added performance. Black and lime green carry throughout the truck even down to the custom-stitched PRP seats and restraints.
A few trail issues arise with...
A few trail issues arise with the departure angles on a full-bodied MJ. Zone built a stout high-clearance rear bumper to assist out on the trail. For suspension, Zone ditched the leaf springs and opted for a prototype triangulated four-link and Fox 14-inch coilovers with a swing arm-style rear sway bar.
The Jeep is kept as low as...
The Jeep is kept as low as possible while still allowing clearance for 40s. Approach angles are maximized with a custom low profile front bumper and recessed winch mount.
The rockers feature integrated...
The rockers feature integrated sliders that tie into the belly pan and long arm mounts. The uni-body was plated with 10-gauge steel for added rigidity and allows for mounting of the suspension brackets and roll cage.
The cage work carries over...
The cage work carries over from the cab and into the engine bay with integrated mounts for the Fox coilovers.
The front J8 Dana 44 was sleeved...
The front J8 Dana 44 was sleeved and trussed before being outfitted with Reid knuckles, 5.38 Superior gears and shafts, and ARB Air Lockers. Steering assist comes from an AGR Rock Ram assembly.
The cage work continues into...
The cage work continues into the bed where you’ll find a Warn VTC air compressor, 15-gallon aluminum fuel cell, and dual Optima Yellow Top batteries with a BTF mount.
The front end of the MJ features...
The front end of the MJ features a low profile bumper with a recessed winch mount housing a Warn 9.5 XP winch. H4 headlights and a 30-inch Rigid LED light bar are put into service to brighten up the night.
In true race truck form, the...
In true race truck form, the exhaust is routed out the bedside for a clean exit tucked up out of harm’s way.