For many of us, the purchase of a Jeep is the beginning of a relationship; with the vehicle itself, with Jeep clubs, with new experiences, and new addictions.
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Okay, maybe it just seems like the shops we buy Jeep parts from are exploiting an addiction some of us have. Either way, the Jeep is often just the beginning of a long process of customizing it to fit our specific needs.
There are a few ways to go about this: Some of us start small and the Jeep grows over time as the addiction does. Others go whole hog and do it all at once. Whatever the case, one component that often receives the earliest and most intense effort is the suspension. Some people just like the way a lifted rig looks, and there are many options for them. However, if the vehicle is intended to be wheeled, it isn’t as straightforward.
One of the best companies competing in this crowded (and rapidly growing) segment is Clayton Off Road Manufacturing. They appeal to the group who intend to use and abuse their rigs on the trail. Their tag line is even, “The only suspension meant for abuse!” Having seen their stuff in action in Moab, I can’t argue.
Clayton Offroad builds a variety of kits for several Jeeps, but the one we’re focusing on for this build is their Jeep Wrangler Unlimited “L J” Front and Rear Hard Arm kit. John Mathews (owner of Auburn Car Repair & Offroad in Auburn, Washington) was nice enough to let me hang around the shop while the install was going on. Of course, my own addiction is putting his kids through college, so maybe that’s why he let me.
One criticism that occasionally comes up about the Clayton kits is that it requires some welding, not a task to undertake unless you’ve got a pretty good idea what you’re doing. The majority of other L A kits out there are of the bolt-on variety. The Clayton kit is designed with this challenge in mind, however, allowing the Jeep to be dropped off, have the suspension brackets welded, and remain drivable. Shade tree mechanics rejoice. In this case though, the customer, Greg Enera, had ACR&O do the entire install.