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By, CHAD CROWELL
Metcalf Motorsports Flat Skidplate Package
There's a point when you are building a Jeep when you have a certain "level". Most people regard it as a hefty suspension lift, 33" tires, gears and lockers. There are a million other modifications, and I have many of them just like you, but I think this level is what a lot people initially shoot for.
Then there is a decision. Bigger? I was sure I'd stick with 33's until they started wearing out. As the tread got thinner I began to ask around about the characteristics of a TJ with 35's. After hearing the opinions I decided to do it. And I couldn't be happier.
To fit 35's on my TJ with a Rubicon Express 4.5" lift, RE recommended adding a 1" body lift. That was the one reason I ever hesitated when considering 35's. Never having a body lift before, I selectively remembered all the bad things I had heard about them: linkage problems, cable stretching, tubing binding, etc.
Despite these problems I decided to go for it. Besides, how bad could a 1" body lift be? I picked up a used M.O.R.E. 1" body lift from a fellow TJ List'er for $55 and went from there.
Once I had the body lift on, I bought new 35" General Grabber MT's, and everything fit very well. The tires stuffed into the fenders as far as possible without hitting the fenders, so everything worked out just as planned.
When installing a body lift, it is recommended that the fan shroud on the radiator be lowered. Easy enough, but there is another solution. Raised motor mounts. These are usually made of 3/16" steel with polyurethane bushings. Polyurethane bushings supposedly transmit more vibrations to the body of the vehicle, which makes sense because it is much firmer and denser than the rubber of the stock bushings.
Several large 4x4 companies make them, but, again, the TJ List came to the rescue. Brennan Metcalf, an active list participant, is the owner of Metcalf Motorsports, a small 4x4 fabrication shop in Idaho. He mentioned that he makes 1.25" raised motor mounts, along with a flat transfer case skid plate in one convenient package.
This threw another wrench into the gears in my head. Besides keeping the radiator and fan aligned as mentioned above, raised motor mounts also benefit you by lifting the front of the engine and moving the oil pan up a bit out of harm's way. There's no argument with either of those!
But a flat transfer case skid? That's a whole other subject. I had seen pictures of them on Brad Kilby's and Paul Nasvik's TJ's, but they were custom fabricated by their owners. I talked with Brennan extensively about the plate and it is actually quite a perfect match to raised motor mounts and a body lift.
Raising the height of the transfer case skid has obvious benefits. It moves the back end of the drivetrain up to match the lifted motor mounts. This gives more clearance under the skid plate and keeps rocks that would otherwise cause you to scrape or high center to pass underneath without a hitch. Works for me!
Metcalf Motorsports makes two motor mount/skid plate packages. One for those with a 2" body lift, and one for those with a 1" body lift. Brennan recommends a 2" body lift for the TJ, which allows the use of 2" raised motor mounts and a completely flat to the frame skid plate.
Since I already had a 1" body lift, and was not interested in changing to a 2" version, I ordered the 1.25" motor mount package, which included a skid plate with 1" spacers. The spacers lower the flat plate off the frame 1", but still provide 2.5" more clearance under it than the stock plate. A definite improvement!
I actually did this install on two separate occasions. The motor mounts in March, and the skid plate in April. Why? As I discussed the plate with Brennan we brainstormed up some ideas he just had to incorporate into the design.
Follow along as I discuss and install the Metcalf Motorsports products onto my 1998 TJ.
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