Mingo is a two-owner 1998 Jeep TJ Wrangler Sport and we’re the second owner. This gun metal blue beauty was built into a capable trail rig right here at Skid Row Offroad roughly 15 years ago. It was equipped to handle some of the toughest trails all over the East coast and it did great providing plenty of fun along the way. It was wheeled in a variety of cool locales including Tellico more than once, Paragon plenty of times, and at Rausch Creek Offroad Park. Unfortunately, that was literally years ago now and two of those parks have since closed.
Fast forward to today and you could easily say that this poor Jeep has seen better days. Despite it’s deceiving good looks, it’s missing a good portion of the driver’s side floor along with two body mounts….and we’re not talking about the easy to repair body mounts on the chassis. No, we’re talking about major damage to the tub. This isn’t uncommon here in the Northeast, but it’s always sad to see. In addition to trail duty, this Jeep was used as daily transportation by its original owner and was subject to heavy doses of road salt during the Pennsylvania winters. Eventually, it sat unused in the woods for several years, which meant plenty of humidity to encourage even more rust.
When it was originally built we equipped it with a 4.5″ Rubicon Express suspension lift in order to clear a set of 35″x 10.50 Interco Super Swamper tires. We then added a 1″ Daystar body lift along with their 1″ raised motor mounts to gain a little extra clearance. We also swapped out the original flares for a set of wider flares from a 2003 Rubicon to gain a little extra coverage for the tires. It was an easy swap that gained us an inch with no other modifications.
Naturally, once we had clearance for the tires we were going to run, we still had to address the axles. We knew that the stock Dana 35 rear axle wouldn’t hold up to those 35″ Swampers for long, so we sourced a Dana 44 out of a low mileage 2000 TJ Sport. We added a Detroit electric locker and a set of 4.56 gears to compensate for the increased tire diameter. The electric locker is sweet in that it can be used as a limited slip or fully locked differential depending on what the driver wants to use for the next obstacle, but it doesn’t need an air compressor to operate. Just run one wire and add a switch to the dash. Up front we kept the original Dana 30 but added a set of matching 4.56 gears along with an Ox Locker for its versatility. Yes, we realized that the 35″ tires were likely to destroy the axle shafts, but the plan was to upgrade them once they snapped. Somehow, they never did.
When lifting a short wheelbase vehicle like a Jeep, driveline angles become an important aspect to consider. In order to eliminate any vibration from the rear driveshaft, we determined that the best solution was to add a short shaft kit to the original NP231 transfer case. We then ordered a new rear, double cardan joint, driveshaft from Tom Wood’s Custom Driveshafts. We’ve used their driveshafts for many vehicles over the years because they’re well made and the folks at Tom Wood’s know their stuff….and they’re fast. We’ve never had an issue with one of their products. The only issue we had with this part of the project was getting the rear axle rotated to the correct angle for the new driveshaft. We ended up adding a set of adjustable control arms from Teraflex and they solved the problem. There weren’t as many options then as there are today and those Teraflex upper control arms worked.
For safety’s sake we added a Rock Hard 4×4 bolt-in roll cage to the interior to protect the passengers just in case things get a little upside down. It includes an overhead console that let us install a CB radio there. We added the control cable for the Ox locker to the shifter console and then installed a hand throttle on the shifter. Ya never know when you might need an extra foot! Other than those modifications, the interior is stock and looks great to this day.
The black soft top is from Bestop and it’s augmented by one of our Top Props to keep the noise down while driving. During the summer the full top comes off and a half cab style top with a tonneau cover is installed. One of our Tonno Props is used to keep water from collecting on the tonneau cover during summer rainstorms.
Naturally, we outfitted Mingo with a complete array of Skid Row Offroad armor to make sure that damage was kept to a minimum.
- JP-0009 Engine/Transmission Skid Plate
- JP-0010 Gas Tank Skid Plate
- JP-0015 Radiator Skid Plate
- JP-0016 Steering Box Skid Plate
- JP-0101 Lower Control Arm Skid Plates
- JP-0051 Straight Cut Rocker Panel Guards with Tube Step
We also added a few other goodies from our catalog including set of our Modular Nightcrawler bumpers which are literally the original modular bumpers that all others are modeled after. While we haven’t made these bumpers for some time now, we’re considering bringing them back. For recovery work, there’s a Warn 9000i winch mounted up front and our heavy duty screw clevis plates provide secure mounting points.
- JP-0022 Nightcrawler Modular Front Bumper with Round Openings for Spotter’s Lamps
- MA-2010 Screw Clevis Plate and Bumper Extension Set
- JP-0103 Nightcrawler Modular Rear Bumper
Finally, we added a set of our Mirror Relocation Brackets that we never came up with a cute name for. When the doors are off, we still wanted to be able to see to either side without craning our necks. Our Skid Row mirror brackets are unique in that the passenger side mirror is mounted so that you view it through the windshield. It’s literally the only set of mirror brackets made this way and while some people think it looks funny, it works! Positioning the mirror in front of the windshield creates a usable passenger side mirror and it’s one of the many innovative designs from Skid Row Offroad.
What’s in store for Mingo now after being brought in from it’s resting place? Well, that’s a good question. There are some repairs to be made just to be able to take it wheeling again. After that, the tentative plans are to use it to design some additional TJ products. Of course, we’re also planning to have some fun with it out on some trails here in Pennsylvania. There’s no rush on it and we’ll keep you posted on its progress.