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2006 TJ Wrangler Rubicon: Owner Al Handy Shares His Jeep Story!

Al photographs his TJ Rubicon at the Atlantic beach.

  Note: Al Handy has many Jeep stories. An avid Jeep and four-wheel drive enthusiast, Al attended my Mopar-sponsored 'Camp Jeep' tech workshops at Virginia. Here is Al's "Jeep story," in his own words! Photos provided by Al Handy.—Moses Ludel

In Al Handy's own words:

     My utter infatuation with the little Jeep started at a very young age, while glued to my parents' black-and-white television, watching the “Rat Patrol”! There was nothing more glorious than envisioning myself with Christopher George, flying over the dunes in a flat fendered Jeep, just as he appeared in the opening credits. From that very first episode, I was hooked on the vehicle known as the JEEP! I fantasized that one day I would own a Jeep, and along with my dog, we would have Jeeping adventures every day.

     After owning an FSJ Wagoneer, and a highly modified Liberty, I was able to fulfill my 40-plus-year dream by purchasing an open top Jeep—my 2006 Rubicon. When I am finally finished 'personalizing' this Jeep, it will have everything I dreamed of—with the possible exception of the Rat Patrol's 50-caliber machine gun!

Al on the downslope of a backwoods trail!

     Dubbed 'Black Ops' due to its color, my 2006 Rubicon TJ was built in June of 2006 and purchased new in January 2007. Instead of the factory “Trail Rated” badge, the Rubicon wears brass Black Ops insignias from Fort Benning, GA. The Rubicon is the pinnacle of 65 years of factory Jeep production.   

     Once in my driveway, this factory-ready off road vehicle did not remain unmodified for long. One of the first changes I performed was the installation of the ARB Bull Bar bumper. Having met a gentleman named Seth from ARB, I contacted him a couple of months after SEMA 2006 and inquired about a factory "seconds" bumper. He had the display bumper from SEMA, and I could have it cheap!

     In the summer of 2007, with less then 5,000 miles on the Rubicon, we visited Rausch Creek Off-Road Park in PA. The Jeep handled the lesser trails with ease. From that day on, we have been trail riding, noting the deficiencies that might keep us from conquering the more difficult trails, addressing these deficiencies, attending show and shines, and becoming more implanted in the Jeep subculture.

Al photographs his rescued Pit Bull, Mo, a constant travel companion!

     On a side note, my rescued Pit Bull, Mo, attends most of the show and shines with me. Badly scarred and burnt by acid, he loves meeting new people and giving them a wag of the tail and a lick. A placard with his story is posted next to my Jeep. Mo gets plenty of attention as an ambassador against dog fighting and abuse.

Al provides a cockpit view of his trail oriented TJ Wrangler Rubicon!

     Over the last four years, the TJ Wrangler Rubicon and I have attended trail rides from Vermont to Virginia. We attended a Big Dogs trail ride and their first show event, two United Four Wheel Drive “Wheel Ins”, two Jeep Jamborees and two Camp Jeep events, one of which I was a trail guide in VA. We have been on three Crawl for the Cure Breast Cancer charity trail rides and one Wounded Warrior event.  We have even ridden the beach at Assateague Island. To date, this is the only Jeep I have noticed on the trails or at the show and shines with “Mayor Emeritus” license plates!

A trail guide at Camp Jeep events, all enjoys four-wheeling with friends and other Jeep owners! 

     I really enjoyed the opportunity of being a Trail Guide at Camp Jeep on one of the “lesser” trails known as the Z-Ditch at Oak Ridge, VA. This afforded me an opportunity to guide mainly novice Jeep owners. The look of panic followed by a broad smile on their faces will always stay in my memory. Judging by their business attire, some in suits, I was also assigned several cooperate types in new four door JKs. They appreciated seeing what their vehicles could do! This experience was well worth being away from home despite the lack of sleep and running around in woods in the 95-degree F, 95-percent humidity weather! 

Al has attended these Show and Shine events:

PA Jeep, York, PA
Big Dogs, Assateague Island, MD
OK 4 WD, Stewartsville, NJ
Jeeps in the Vineland, Atco, NJ
Quadratec Show and Shine, West Chester, PA
Several miscellaneous charity car shows around NJ and PA

Even with the trail rash or trail-inspired "pin stripping", despite the rock chewed chassis, the Rubicon has taken home several awards. These include:

3rd Place TJ Jeep Class 2008 OK4WD Truckfest
1st place Trail Rigs OK4WD 2009 Truckfest
3rd place Jeep TJ 2009 Jeeps in the Vinelands
3rd place trail rigs 2010 OK4WD Truckfest
1st Place Best Display Big Dogs 2010 Show and Shine

Al pinpoints some front suspension modifications.

Al describes his 2006 TJ Wrangler Rubicon's modifications to date...

Suspension:

*Rusty’s Long Arm Upgrade kit
*Currie Upper Front Axle Bushing Kit
*Custom Tie Rod Flip, right hand drive drag link, ZJ tie rod, Go-Fer-It bushings, with Rusty’s Sway Bar mount extensions
*Track Bar Flip, Frame mount for double shear, axle mount now on top of the axle (to eliminate the bump steer from the tie rod flip)
*Modified Adjustable JKS Front Track Bar, cut the single shear frame end off, threaded the inside of the bar and installed a Currie Johnny Joint  
*Stock JK rear springs on Nth Spring Relocaters (soon to be replaced by ACOS and BDS lift springs)
*Out-boarded the rear shocks
*OME 2.5 inch ZJ Springs on JKS ACOS in the front
*JKS Adjustable Rear Track Bar w/relocation bracket & mount support
Currie Antirock Front Sway Bar (one of the best modifications to the Jeep)
*2 inch front and rear Bump Stops
*Lift Height: Approximately 3.5 inches

Front suspension highlights by Al Handy.

Other end of track bar at front suspension...

Off Road Protection:

*Nth Tummy Tuck, modified for the Rusty’s Kit
*Rokeman Rear Corner Guards
*Skid Row Oil Pan Skid Plate
*Lower Axle Arm Mount Skid Plates
*HD Gas Tank Skid
*Steering Box Skid
*Skid Row Radiator Skid Plate
*ORO Front roll bar system with dash bar
*Solid Front and Rear Differential Covers
*All J Boulder Bars (2” X 3”) Rock Sliders
*Modified ARB Front Bumper with rollover grill hoop. Moved about an inch forward to allow room for the Currie Sway Bar.
*Factory Rear Light Guards
*Quick Removal Pocket Fender Flares, the nuts for the bolts were welded to the body for ease of removal of the flares.

Outboard rear shock mounts using Ford truck brackets...Photo and work by Al Handy.

Rear shock bracket inserted into rear frame notch...Welding comes next. Al performs most of this work himself. He sublets the welding task.

Lower shock bracket now mounts outboard and on level with the axle tube for better ground clearance. Al Handy and others make this modification for off-road use. 

Exterior:

*Old Style 35 x 12.50R 15 BFG Mud Terrains on Steel Pro-Comp Wheels
*Hella Lighting, headlight, fog lights and driving lights
*Hy-Line Hood Vent Panel
*Custom Rear Hitch with CJ Stainless Bumperettes
*Cold Air Intake Vent takes cold air from the hole left by the right hand side directional signal. Signals are now in the ARB bumper.
*9000 Pound Warn Winch (from Jeep dealer)
*Custom Vinyl Graphics, now reflective black (makes it go faster!)
*Roof Rack (used when required)
*Tow Buddy, 1967 M416 Trailer (under construction)

Drive Train/Under the Hood:

*AEM Air Filter w/Heat Wrap
*Relocated Air Temp Sensor
*4.6 L V8 Mustang Injectors
*Magnaflow Cat Back exhaust
*Six-speed manual transmission
*Stock Rubicon Dana 44 with factory lockers
*241 O-R Transfer Case
*On Board Air by Viair
*Yellow Top Battery w/Winch Master Switch to the winch
*Factory A/C, P/B, P/S and other options

Al Handy and the black TJ Wrangler Rubicon in the woods!


Interior:

*Hyundai Tiburon Seats

*Corbeau Four Point Harness
*Stock RB-1 stereo/Cobra CB/I-Pod
*800 Watt/120-volt converter in glove box with 50-amp circuit breaker at the battery
*Jeep Heritage Shifters (K-Bar knife on the transmission, and a pineapple grenade on the transfer case)
*Custom Dog Platform/Bed
*An area below the platform to store the soft half door windows
*8-inch Tuffy Box in the rear, complete with 150 piece Craftsmen tool set, winch kit, straps, chains and extra parts
*Military Tools (pick, hachet, trenching shovel, hanging on the inside of the tailgate)
*First Aid Kit/HD flashlight/fire extinguisher
*Quick Release Cargo Tie Down, the rails for this are mounted to the top of the tub behind the front seats
*Hi-Lift jack mounted to roll bar

Al, we're dog rescuers, too...This is the life that Mo deserves!

Al further notes: Future modifications will include welding or bolting skid plates to the Rusty’s Long Arm frame mounts, installing a PSC steering box, trussing the front axle, removing the factory rear frame spring mounts and replacing them with ACOS, replacing the rear JK springs with 3-inch BDS springs, installing adjustable ball joints, Spyn-tech front hubs and installing a liner in the soft top to reduce the noise and assist in climate control.

Group four-wheeling in the woods...Jeep photos provided by Al Handy! 

Final comments from Al Handy, "Being a fairly skilled 'back yard'  mechanic, I built this Jeep on a budget, using slightly used items, sale items, bartered items, scratch and dent items, raffle items won at various shows, and skin from my knuckles! I have performed 99 percent of the modifications to this Jeep. I left the welding needed for the track bar flip to the professionals at OK 4WD in Stewartsville, NJ."

Al's 'Bucket List': Drive the Rubicon Trail, attend Easter Jeep Week at Moab, participate in every Jeep Jamboree across the U.S.A., and drive a Jeep 4WD on the Alaskan Highway!

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