The writers of this article are most grateful to the many kind people, who have helped Ronny in the compilation and information given from the Rock Crawler Jeep web site in America and to all his friends, of all the modifications that were carried out on this vehicle.

Everyone has a dream, some take longer to fulfill, some come true and some never do. When a dream does come true, it makes a person realize certain things. That with self made commitment, patience and loyalty to oneself, all things are not out of their reach.

The day dawned, after originally ordering the Jeep, I also decided to order a few extra items from Mopar Daimler Chrysler South Africa, but will tell you about them later on in this letter.

The Jeep finally arrived in Queenstown at Ronnies Motors, this happened in the year 2000. A friend of mine, Simon Morris who also has his own Datsun Tracker 4x4 1800cc welcomed the opportunity to be able to help me with the many modifications that I would be doing to my dream Jeep. We first removed the front and rear plastic looking bumpers, in their place we fitted a set of rock bumpers and a front bull bar, side rock bumpers were also fitted. We then fitted special rated tow hooks to the front and rear of the vehicle. The Jeep looked great with those rock bumpers, but I had been looking at some of those American Magazines JP and Jeep and thus ordered a few other items from Currie Enterprises in America.


The 1" body lift kit arrived and was fitted, which also included heavy duty engine mounts, so that the fan blades would not foul with the radiator cowling.
The next modification was a 1& 3/4" coil spacer lift kit. Currie in America sells many different types of spares, modification kits for different Jeep vehicles.
Off came the Goodyear Wranglers tires which were 225/75x 15", we fitted some 265 / 75 R15 second hand tires which were still in excellent condition, which also gave us a little extra ground clearance. Special under belly plates were fitted to help give more protection against protruding obstacles that you do not see when driving through long grass sometimes or at night time.


We thought that the Jeep was now ready for the ultimate 4x4 trail, thus we visited a trail near Sterkstroom called Bamboeshoek, which is owned by Chris Bartlett with some fellow Club members, this trail was rated as one of the top ten roughest 4x4 trails in South Africa, however the TJ was proven wrong, on one of the difficult cross axle sections, which consisted of a small incline, which veered to the right as you drove over the lip, the rear output shaft on the NP 321 transfer case snapped, causing the Jeep to be stranded. It would not move forward or even backward, even after removing the rear drive shaft, she was a sitting duck we left the Jeep up on the mountain side that night and returned the next morning to tow the Jeep off the mountain using Simon’s trusty old 1983 Datsun Tracker 4x4, as the tow vehicle. (This would have made a great advert for Nissan South Africa). To tow this broken Jeep was rather tricky due to the steep declines, narrow trail tracks and using only a tow strap, but with the use of a set of those Companion type Radios we managed to communicate to each other to get us safely down off the mountain, one guy in a Mazda double cab 2.5 tdi 4x4 Rob Walton, asked us the dumb question,( how, are you going to get your Jeep off the mountain?) we told him that we were waiting for a helicopter, he then just drove past us and then carried on his way, with out offering us any help. With this problem with the Jeep, we found it rather distressing when the other club members were not willing to help us. They were only interested in getting down off the mountain for the braai and booze up.

However after phoning The Dealer Services, for Daimler Chrysler. The Jeep Agents in East London, Ronnies Motors sent up a flatbed truck on the Sunday to load the Jeep, to take it back to East London to carry out the repairs. New automatic gearbox and transfer case were fitted at no cost to us. Their willingness to sort out the problems were excellent and their service great. Thanks a lot Ronnies Motors.

After much research and sleepless nights, it was decided that if Ronny wanted to use his Jeep Wrangler TJ off-road, as it was built for, like The American do on The famous Rubicon Trail then more modifications would have to be carried out. Thus during this past December 2002, we fitted a Rancho Rock crawler 2. .5" chassis lift kit, now remember this Jeep is a right hand drive model and that the kits that a person orders from or other dealers in America are for left hand drive models, they do not make these kits for our right hand drive model Jeeps thus certain items had to be modified. Later we were able to source parts from Australia and England.

The modifications that a person has to do are;
Change the pitman arm with an extended one that comes with the kit. Make sure that you have the correct type of puller to be able to remove it. Other wise you will have to cut the old pitman arm off, like we had to do, which was not a problem as we had decided to use the existing pitman arm for a modification. ( We now have a puller )

Then we changed the front and rear coil springs, make sure you have a set of coil clamps and be careful, just makes it easier to remove and replace the coil springs. We were lucky enough to use the two post vehicle lift, which made things so much easier. We also added an extra set of front coil spring pads to compensate for the extra weight of the Milemarker winch and bigger tires.
Then you have to remove and fit new flex brake lines that are also in the kit. Use a small container or tray to catch the brake fluid that will run out when you change these pipes, if you get brake fluid on your vehicles paintwork, use water to wash it off straight away.

The Rancho RS 9000 shocks do not come with this kit, you have to order them seperate, we fitted this type of shock due to the fact you can change their settings by turning a switch on each shock while on the trail. On the front we fitted two disconnects made by JKS, which can be disconnected in a few seconds while on the trail, this allows your vehicle to have more articulation down and upward travel, they are very easy to reconnect, but remember you must also drill a small hole, the instruction booklet shows you where, under the wheel arch on the left and right side of the Jeep, to be able to attach the loose rod to the underneath of the wheel arch so that it does not dangle loose, but please wear a pair of gloves when you do this, or end up with bloody knuckles.

Now the front trac bar that they supply for the front will not work, it is for the left hand model, we later sourced one from Australia, what we did was make a (dropped bracket) on the right hand side of the existing standard trac bar, where it connects onto the chassis, giving it a 2 .5" drop, we used a piece of 50x50- 5mm thick angle iron, welded a piece of 10mm thick flat bar on the one end. Then drilled a 12 mm off set hole through the flat plate. Now remember with this bracket being so short, you must first fit a HT bolt through the hole then you can weld the other end, we welded the one end of the steering pitman arm that we had cut off originally to the other end of the angle iron, the reason being the hole for the steering rod is tapered and it is the same size as the drag link ball joint. Once you have finished welding the pitman arm section to the angle iron, you can then cut off the extra part that you will not need, this worked out beautifully add a bit of black paint this did not take much time to do. Some of you might say that steering parts should not be welded, well you are correct, but due to the problem that we have, we only did this to see if it would work. But it did not.

Then came the problem with the rear drag link, the bracket that was supplied also did not fit, thus with a little cutting with the plasma cutter, we again used a piece of 50x50 -5mm angle iron and two 10mm flat bars which we welded on to each end, remembering this bracket also had to give the chassis a 2.5" drop, we then bolted it in place, again using HT 12mm bolts, spring washes and lock nuts, this modification was also a great success. See photos of the front and rear drag link modifications.

We then fitted the new Mickey Thompson 31" 11-50x15" Baja Claw tires and new Classic 2 alloy rims, the black plastic front and rear wheel arch fender flares were removed and new extended 7" new fender flares fitted.

THE ROCKCRAWLER.......................ATLAS 2 4.3 to 1 ratio.

A special cross plate had to be made, to hold the 4litre fuel injection engine and automatic gearbox in place, while we were working on the transfer box, we used a piece of channel iron, we once again used the coil spring clamps and then some angle iron and then supported the rear underbelly of the auto box and then removed the underbelly protection plate which serves as the rear cross member for the auto box, do not forget to also remove the four nuts on the gearbox mounting.

Once this plate was out of the way, the battery was disconnected all the electrical wiring plugs were disconnected, (please note, you must remove one of the battery terminals, with the ignition key switched off, before you disconnect any wires.) This is just for safety. Then we removed the center consol in the interior of the Jeep; this is between the seats to be able to remove the shifter lever from the floor support.
Once we had loosened the four bolts holding the rear drive shaft to the rear Dana 44 diff flange. Out came the drive shaft. Then the bolts holding the transfer case to the rear of the auto box were removed and out came the transfer case, you do not have to drain any oil from either the auto box or transfer case. You do not have to have a gearbox jack, due to the transfer case not weighing too much. We then cleaned the mating surfaces, removed the old studs from the old transfer case and then refitted them into the correct holes on the Atlas 2, use some thread lock liquid on the threads, you have five different positions angles that you can fit it, using a little Wurth red silicon on both surfaces and allowing it to dry for five minutes, we then fitted the new Atlas 2 transfer case onto the rear end of the auto box. If you are not sure what angle or holes in the Atlas to use then you must have a dry run to see if the transfer case will fit in the correct angle.Without the 1” body lift you would not be able to fit the Atlas 2 at the top most angle like we did. Giving us more ground clearance. The 1” body lift gave the Atlas more space and it was actually easier to make the adjustments for the twin shifting levers.

Then the rear Dana 44 diff flange was removed and a special heavy duty flange fitted, we also removed the Atlas 2 rear drive shaft flange and fitted a multi hole flange for the special double cardan joint universal the front has one fitted standard from the factory and heavy duty drive shaft which we ordered from Tom Woods in America. The front drive shaft we had shortened by Bill’s Prop shaft Center in East London and then refitted it to the Dana 30 diff upfront.

Then a Richmond Trax Lock was fitted in the Dana 44 rear diff and a Trax Lock in the front Dana 30, these are also known as auto lockers, first you have to remove the front and rear side shafts, see workshop manual for details, drain the oil and then remove the diff covers, with the rear diff we had to remove the crown wheel and carriage due to the main pin that locates the sun and planetary gears, would not slide out past the crown wheel teeth for some reason, the fitment of the auto diff lock in the rear, can also be done without removal of the crown wheel, this was not difficult at all. Concerning the front fitment of the auto diff lock we were lucky enough to do it in place without removing the crown wheel, out came the pin, sun and planetary gears then in went The Trax Lock, section by section, once again the instruction manual shows you what to do. Take care of the special little springs, use a bit of grease on them to keep them in place.
Once we were happy about the auto lockers and the sealing surfaces were clean enough, sealant was once again used; we fitted the inspection diff covers. A mechanical locker would be better for the front diff, as sharp turns are very difficult to negotiate, here we disconnect the front wheel drive. It would be better to disconnect the front diff lock

Ronny has a 55 ton hydraulic press and thus when we had fitted the new heavy duty universal joints to the Warn free floating heavy duty axle side shafts, we inserted the side shafts into the front and rear axle housings, on the front side shafts you must first insert the inner tube seals these tubes prevent dirt, mud and water from entering the front axle housing, the older standard side shafts have a black plastic collar that serves this purpose, they will not work on the new shafts, the old shields are too small. The Timken bearings and hubs were greased with bearing grease and The Warn Hub Locks front and rear were fitted, then the front brake discs, pads and calipers and rear brake backing plates, shoes and brake pipes reconnected and brake drums. The wheels were then fitted, please note we had to also drill a hole through the flat flange part of the locking hub and brake drum which was threaded to screw the hub in place, as normally only the wheel nuts hold the locking hub in place, thus if you get a puncture be careful when you remove the wheel, as the locking hub will also come off allowing dirt to enter the bearings, this grinding paste will rip apart the workings in a short time.

Simon then manufactured a front bull nose protection plate using 3.5mm steel plate, that we incorporated the special winch plate that the Mile Marker 12 000 lbs hydraulic winch bolts through into the already threaded holes in front of the chassis. We used longer HT bolts to hold the winch, bull bar, winch plate, bull nose and tow hooks in place. However we did consider enough protection for the steering box due to the hazard of rock damage. We were also able to incorporate the wireless remote into the system, thus the aim is with the help of the Companion walk n’ talk radios, Simon would be able to control the winching operation by remote and be able to stand safely away and be in contact with Ronny who would be driving his Jeep, Ronny bought himself a set of ear phones that he plugs into the Companion radio and thus is hands free to control the steering. There is also the correct electrical socket available for the normal wire remote.

Other modifications were; a security consol was fitted, Simon made up heavy duty anchor point for the rear that a bow shackle can be attached onto it to make a tow point, we fitted one of those Mopar tow bars, but first modified it by fitting High Lift jacking points, so we can insert the extension for the High Lift. Special jacking points were also made for the front bull nose. We had to buy another new Mickey Thompson Classic 2 rim to use as a spare, due to the fact that the original alloy rim would not fit the Warn hubs, we managed to get the rim and Mickey Thompson HP second hand tire from After Market Sales, Haynes du Plessy's, Haynes was also very helpful, he also fits chassis lifts to different vehicles, made by Pro-comp. Remember when a person does these modifications when you order any parts instruction manuals come in the package which explain in detail what to do, however we also ended up getting confused especially with the fitting of the hub locks at the rear, we were not sure what went back first, but after contacting our supplier, we found out that the bolts that hold the bearing flanges in place, their heads have to be in the correct position, in other words the flats of each head have to be against the round part of the flange other wise you could not turn the wheel bearing hub, there was not much clearance between the flange and the head of the bolts, a recess should have been cut into the flange to give more clearance, thus with the correct torque that they state we found that they did not all line up so you just had to use your common sense and advance some a little.

Finally the morning arrived when it was time to test drive the Jeep , but first of all we greased all the necessary points, re checked all the oils, we used the grass pavement across the road from Ronny’s home to test the Atlas 2, to see if the operation was correct, that the twin shifting levers were in their correct position as they are threaded where they connect to the two shafts on the Atlas. Thus we first locked the front hubs, selected low range for the rear and then low range for the front, the Jeep had to be moving slowly forward to make these selections, with The Atlas 2, a person can decide which gears to select, due to the different options available, for example, you can select low range for the front wheels only and put the rear wheels in neutral or you can select high range for the rear and put the front wheels in neutral, you can also select low range, but not high range for the front alone. To change from high to low, you have to be on a slow downhill.

Everything worked accordingly to plan, we did not have to make any adjustments, but please remember you will have to cut some of the floor pan away to give the rear shifter more selection free play, we once again used the plasma cutter for this small job, also you will have to file some of the plastic consol away when you refit it back between the seats, otherwise the rear shifter will touch the consol.

Return to Bamboeshoek .

On a cold winter morning, there had being a bit of snow sleet the previous night, Danie Nel and Charmain in their CJ 2 Willy’s Jeep, Paul Larkin in his trusty 1996 110 tdi Land rover , Simon in his Datsun Tracker and myself in my upgraded TJ Jeep Wrangler went back to Bamboeshoek for the day, we left in convoy with Simon leading the way, on arrival in Sterkstroom, Danie had engine problems with his Jeep, he said it was due to the extreme cold conditions, his vehicle was running very cold, thus we placed a piece of cardboard in front of his vehicles radiator to help warm the engine to operating temperature and we all then proceeded on towards the trail head of this fantastic 4x4 trail.

Bamboeshoek is situated +/- 65 km from Queenstown. There are two very scenic trails, the one trail climbs up to +/- 7000 ft above sea level and gets pretty steep in areas. There is a hut at 6000ft which can sleep up to 6 people, the hut is very basic but as close to nature as you will ever get. There is also a thatched bathroom which has a flushing toilet, when you are sitting on the throne you have a wonderful view of the country side, deep valleys snow capped mountains in the distance below. Or you can see an eagle circling high above. There is also hot and cold water for the shower and wash basin, you can also pitch your tent next to the hut if you dare, especially during the cold winter months, Simon and his friends camped up there last June, they said that it was rather cool. There is also a reed type lapa area with an old tractor rim and fire place to cook. There are also camping sites at the bottom of the mountain where there is also a basic shower and toilet available. On the farm there is a large selection of game such as Black Wildebeest, Blue Wildebeest, White and Brown Blesblok, Fellow deer, Reebok, Springbuck, Zebra and a few Eland, the sighting of Eagle is also possible.
There are also Bushmen paintings to be seen, but you will have to walk a short distance to the caves. On the farm there is also a chalet available if you have children and you do not wish to rough it with the men. At the end of the gravel road you enter through a gate, this is when you select low range 4x4 and diff lock if your vehicle has one.

Thus it was now time to prove to ourselves that Ronny’s Jeep could conque this trail without any problems, once we had all deflated our vehicles tire pressure to each drivers own individual desire, Simon once again took to the trail head, with his Firestone ATX 215x15” tires deflated to 1.5 bars his Tracker with its low growl of the small 1800cc petrol engine slowly wound its way up the mountain, Ronny in his TJ Jeep Wrangler automatic followed slowly behind, when was the last time you got goose bumps traveling at 3 kilometers per hour, due to the diff auto lockers in the front and rear there was no wheel spin just the grunt of his 4 liter fuel injection engine could be heard, the Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires 31” x 11-50x 15” gripped whatever rock or sandy surface in their way, especially the side walls of the tires with their special tread design, its all in the rubber, the only thing that kept this Jeep from racing away was the old Datsun Tracker up front. Then we had Paul and his wife Melody in their outfitted African style Land rover that has been on many a trip across Africa and last but not least Danie in his CJ 2 Willy’s Jeep bringing up the rear.

We stopped off at the hut for some coffee and biscuits and then were on our way again to tackle the heart throbbing corner which is above the hut, this section is very dangerous due to there being just enough space for your vehicle’s width and nothing on your left, except the deep valley below, on your right there are a few rocks that jut out of the mountain above you, no escape route that way, thus with heart throbbing you just have to keep going forward, Simon had to climb out of his vehicle, on this corner and pack rocks to be able to drive up and over a small ledge, with Simon’s Tracker having no diff lock, he could not get up onto the ledge, he had to end up reversing back down the mountain to the hut with his wife Michele directing him so that he does not drive over the steep edge on his left. Ronny in his TJ went up and over the ledge without any problems, with the front axle articulation especially with the front disconnects disconnected none of his wheels were in the air and thus his vehicle did not loose any traction, Ronny did say that he would be fitting a hand throttle to his Jeep in the future for better control. As his foot kept jumping off the excelerator pedal.

Simon then again tried to drive up onto the ledge but even once again with the repacking of rocks it was not possible to drive through, thus with the angle of the upgrade of the trail and very limited space, above this ledge, Ronny managed to turn his Jeep to the right just far enough so that we could hook up a snatch block on our right to a rocky formation and then we connected the Mile Marker hydraulic winch cable through the snatch block to the front of Simon’s Tracker to one of the special heavy duty bow shackle anchor tow points. Once all the necessary safety precautions had been checked and using the fantastic wireless remote for the winch and of course the Companion radios for communication between Ronny and Simon and with the hydraulic winch selected to slow speed Simon and his vehicle were soon up and over the ledge, what a wonderful piece of machinery.

Paul and Danie did not have any difficulty of getting their vehicles through this difficult section. We then were once again on our way to the escarpment, on top of the mountain there are rocky water formations where water has collected from snow that has melted and the summer rainfall, however it was 12h00 midday and these water rock pools were still frozen from the previous night, the ice was so thick that we were able to only break it using a rock, what an awesome experience (see photo’s of ice) in these pools of water if a person looks carefully they might have the privilege of spotting some of the crustacean type fish that thrive up in these mountains, they are not tadpoles, they are fish, nobody knows where they come from due to the fact, some times these rock pools dry up and then, when the next summer rain fall comes these fish reappear. Maybe they have always being living up there since the beginning of time, maybe the Bushmen put them there.

On the other side of this mountain we drove towards the famous steps, this part of the trail is the ultimate section of this 4x4 trial, many 4x4 enthusiasts have driven far and wide to be able to drive this trail, one at a time we proceeded down the steps slowly, with the deflated tires curling themselves over the sharp edges of the different rocks, with the limited amount of rainfall in this area, when it rain it sure rains, thus the trail gets really washed away down these steps, rocks sometimes have to be moved out of the way or you have to pack other rocks against the big rocks that are in the way, like the Romans did when they were building their roads, just to get through, by the time we got to the bottom of the Steps, the front trac bar conversion on Ronny’s TJ Jeep, that we had modified using the old pitman arm had broken, the HT bolt had snapped due to the excessive torque that must have been put onto this weak joint, no problem Simon just bought out some thick cable ties and we just tied the front trac bar to the front axle so that it would not drag on the ground, with the front trac bar not connected all that happened was the front wheels just had more side ways movement making the steering wheel out of alignment, not anything to worry about. We were soon on our way, we then stopped when Paul waved to Simon and told him to stop, Simon had a puncture, thus out came the High Lift jack, the tire repair kit and once Simon had plugged the hole with some plugs, out came The Trail Blaster which is a CO 2 bottle which he bought from Takla Products and soon the deflated tire was repaired and re inflated to the correct pressure.

We all sat around and enjoyed our picnic baskets which we had brought with us, we had decided that we would not be making any fires for a braai due to two factors, the time limit and the dry conditions of the winter, we did not want to have a fire hazard. Sitting on the mountain, in the distance Hangklip Mountain could be seen in the distance, this is a well known land mark for all the over flying planes on their way to their different destinations. On our way down back towards the farm house, Simon was not concentrating and his right front wheel hit an outcropping rock which smashed into his front stabilizer bar, on the right ripping the bar out of the front chassis member, bushes and all. After inspection and finding that it was not a safety problem, his steering wheel was also out of alignment we just carried on down to the farm house.

What a wonderful day we all had on this trail, it has proven that The Land rover handled everything that was pushed in front of it without any problems, we proved that we would have to find another solution for the front trac bar and that Simon would have to look where he is driving in future, not at his beautiful wife. Danie in his Willy’s said “when will we be back” Contact us if you are interested in joining us on this trail next year.
If you can, maybe you will.

That evening Simon went onto some Australian 4x4 web sites and managed to get in contact with Mark who said that he could supply us with the correct 2.5” front trac bar for the right hand drive TJ, thus once the correct monies were transferred, it took 6 days from Australia to Johannesburg customs for clearance and more than two weeks from Johannesburg to Queenstown, we used the normal postal service to get the parts to us, which also included a spare ball joint and bush. We then fitted the new front trac bar and took the Jeep to The Imvani 4x4 Trail which is between Cathcart and Queenstown, to test the new trac bar,

The Imvani 4x4 Trail is rated as a 7 out of 5, with 5 been tough, this 4x4 trail is not for sissies. You can break your 4x4 vehicle if you do not know what you are doing, but this is only on the rock crawling special optional sections of the trail
The normal run of the mill 4x4 vehicles such as the double cabs would find it extremely difficult to drive through this trail, but there are other parts of this 4 500 hectare game farm where you can see some of the 14 different type of game that roam all over the farm. Scenic view, water flowing streams. This 4x4 trail is also a 4x4 Enthusiasts paradise there is also a thatched hut and A- frame type wooden huts for sleeping, a lapa type area for braai's, flushing toilet, hot shower, donkey to make fire for the hot water, it is very back to the wild type atmosphere but well worth the visit, Imvani also offer game drives, horse riding, the different 4x4 routes, fishing for fresh water fish in The Black Kei, walking trails and game hunting all year round, bed and breakfast is also offered back at the main ranch house on request and booking is essential some of the animals are wildebeest, zebra, springbuck, blesbok, water buck, fellow deer to name just a few. On this trail we had no more problems, Ronny has said that where Simon’s old Datsun tracker can go so will his Jeep. Ronny has now given his Modified Jeep the name of “ Long Drop “ due to the way that the front suspension drops in front. Simon calls his Tracker “ Mountain Tortoise “ due to the fact that a tortoise can go everywhere out in the wild. The Imvani 4x4 Trail is definitely rough country, possibly it will show the men from the boys, rocks and Karoo desert, steep inclines, shady trees, lovely evenings around the log fires all these wonderful things will call us back each few months.

Thus here in Queenstown live a few proud men, with their different 4x4 vehicles, that use them as 4x4 vehicles should be used. All 4x4 vehicles were designed for their off-road capabilities not for pavement parkers.

Remember “Real Jeeps are built, not bought “

I have attached a few photos that you may want to use, please contact me if you have any requests or you require any other information

Thank you
Ronny Rengers 083 5000 321
Or Simon Morris 082 499 1924
[email protected]

Thank you