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History of the Jeep Wrangler TJ LJ 1997-2006

Posted by Jeep Federation Team on Oct 23rd 2017

History of the Jeep Wrangler TJ LJ 1997-2006

The second-generation Wrangler had a change in looks, the headlights went back to the classic round version seen on the CJ. This Wrangler TJ was known as a modern version of the Wrangler CJ. There were little changes in the body design of this model that made it different from the CJ model. The turn signals positioned on the front fenders are a good example of the difference apart from the obvious headlight change. This Wrangler had coil-spring suspension. The Wrangler TJ has four marker lights at the fenders and a slightly different grille that bends a little towards the middle. The Wrangler TJ and Wrangler LJ were made in different editions and trims between 1997 and 2006. This model was produced in 2door only. The LJ model was introduced in 2004 and differed in length of wheelbase which was increased by 10inches. The backside of this model is evidently larger than the regular TJ model.

The year

  • Wrangler TJ 1997-2006: this model is a good option for off and on the road as handling on bot terrains is fair. The coil spring suspension of the TJ is similar to the newer JK but keeps, the simpler and smaller setup of the YJ. The price for this model is also good, although different editions and modifications value differently.
  • Wrangler LJ 2004-2006: this is officially known as the TJ Unlimited Edition. Here is more space on the interior with this version and the wheelbase in about 10inched longer than the TJ model. Performance and handling off-road and on-road are simplified with this. More competent option for this model is the Rubicon trim made from 2005 to 2006.

The difference

Apart from the obvious difference in wheel base between the Wrangler TJ and Wrangler LJ, other differences over the years were in the engines.

  • 1996-1999: 4.0L AMC straight-6 engine with 5-speedAX-15 manual transmission.
  • 1996-2002: 2.5L AMC straight-4 engine with 3-speed 30RH automatic, 5-speed AX-5 manual transmissions and 4.0L AMC straight- 6 engine with 3-speed 32RH automatic transmission.
  • 2000-2004: 4.0L AMC straight-6 engine with 5-speed NV3550 manual transmission.
  • 2003-2006: 4.0L AMC straight-6 and 2.4L power tech engines with 4-speed 42RLE automatic transmission.
  • 2003-2004: 2.4L power tech engine with 5-speed NV1500 manual transmission.
  • 2005-2006: 4.0L AMC straight-6 and 2.4L power tech engines with the 6-speed NSG370 manual transmission.

What happened

Chrysler has a pre-program for Jeep-truck engineering and the evolution of the Wrangler TJ began there. 1990-1993 saw mules built based on the Wrangler YJ. Designers worked on the project producing different proposals for design between 199- and 1992 until a proposal was selected. After testing prototypes, production of the TJ began in 1996 after the previous YJ went out of production. The 1997 Wrangler TJ model was unveiled early in 1996 as a modernized revolution. This new Wrangler had core suspension for better handling and riding. The classic round headlights of the CJ model came back in the TJ model and it featured a 4.0L straight 6 AMC 242 engine, same as the Grand Cherokee and Cherokee. A 2.5L inline 4 AMC 150 and 2.4L 4cylinder DOHC engines were available in 2002 and 2003 respectively. There was a right-hand drive variation for foreign export. An automatic transmission was made for postal carriers in this variation.

In 2004, the Wrangler LJ version, officially known as the 1/2 Wrangler Unlimited, was introduced. This Jeep featured a wheelbase 10inches longer, NV231 Command-Trac transfer case and Danna-44 back axle. The Rubicon trim introduced in the same year had the wheelbase and off-road features of the Wrangler LJ. The increased wheelbase made the LJs towing capacity double of the TJ model.

What changed

  • In 1998, the 19gallon fuel tank became standard capacity.
  • The metal framed, black side mirrors from 1997 to 2002 changed to plastic model versions from 2003-2006.
  • From 2001 to 2003, the colors and fabric changed and hard and soft top fits were a little different.
  • A 4 speed automatic with overdrive replaced the three speed automatic transmission in 2002.
  • Rectangular radio bezels in 2002 became rectangular with round edges in 2003.
  • The seats changed from a rounder design to a precise separation between seat and headrest. Soundbars gave way for sound pods, and the skid plate was reconsidered.
  • The Wrangler TJ was the last Jeep to utilize American Motors parts. After the 2006 model, the door handles, AMC straight 4 and AMC straight-six engines were removed.
  • The trims changed over the years
    • 1997-2006; SE: available in right-hand drive with all standard fittings. 2.5L from 1996-2002, 2.4L from 2002-2006 and 4.0L from 2005-2006.
    • 2002-2006; X: with a 4.0L engine, this trim had all standard features with an option for AC.
    • 1997-2006; Sport: cloth upholstery, cassette, AM/FM radio and six speakers along with the 4.0L engine.
    • 1997-2004; Sahara: came with standard features, unique seats, decals and trim as well as camel/forest color plan seats from 1996-2002.
    • 2001; 60th Anniversary Edition: all Sahara features without decals, trim and seats. Available in black and metallic Silverstone colors.
    • 2006; 65th Anniversary Edition: features of Sahara without decals, seats, trims and rockers. Available in Jeep green, bright silver, dark khaki, light khaki and black colors.
    • 2002-2003; Apex Edition: available in blue, black and silver colors with seven speakers, CD player, hooded decals, and seats.
    • 2004; Colombia Edition: came in bright silver, solar yellow, flame red, patriot blue and black colors. Each had Colombia bugaboo parka.
    • 2003; Freedom Edition: came in black, red, silver and blue colors. Had full metal doors and gray cloth or vinyl seats.
    • 2006; Golden Eagle: had exclusive interior trim, fender, hood, seats and spare tire decals.
    • 2003-2005; Rocky Mountain: came in yellow, black, red, silver and blue colors. Had subwoofer, seven speakers, and special cloth seats.
    • 2005; Sahara Edition Unlimited Rubicon: only 1000 were made in automatic and manual transmission variations. Everything else was identical.
    • 2003; Tomb Raider Edition: one of the most collectible Jeeps, this was made to promote the movie and not up to 1,100 were made. They have features of Rubicon.
    • 2004-2005; Willys Edition: had standard features with special trims and only 1000 were manufactured.
    • 2002-2006; Rubicon: had different variations.