Before the introduction of the Jeep JK, the Jeep Unlimited had a different meaning. Now, Unlimited model Jeeps are longer, four-door Jeeps that are associated with being family vehicles and daily drivers. However, before the JK and into the TJ generation, the Jeep Unlimited was a different beast altogether. The early Jeep Unlimiteds were just longer and bigger Jeeps.
For the sake of differentiating this model of Unlimited Wrangler, the name LJ is used, which stands for “Long Jeep.” This name makes a lot of sense as the LJ has quite a longer wheelbase than the typical Jeep TJ, increasing in length by fifteen inches. The added length of the LJ impacts its performance in a variety of ways, from making it ride smoother to giving it greater towing capability. All in all, this now rather rare Jeep is a heavily sought after Wrangler relic that deserves respect.
What Makes the LJ Special?
The Jeep LJ fulfilled a specific niche in the Jeep community: A two-doored Jeep that had plenty of space to spare. In a sense, many Wrangler owners used LJs like a covered truck, preempting the re-release of the Gladiator. The longer wheelbase meant that both legroom and trunk space increased, which are two dimensions that are hard to argue against. With two additional inches of rear legroom and 13 inches of extra rear storage space when compared to a standard TJ, this Wrangler is quite spacious on the inside.
Much like a truck as well, the LJ has a higher tow rating than the standard TJ models. It has 1,500 lbs higher towing capacity than the TJ, weighing in at 3,500 lbs of available towing power. There is no difference in payload capacities between the LJ and the TJ, however. Oddly enough, the LJ only weighs 200 more pounds than the standard TJ, which is pretty impressive considering their visible differences in size.
Jeep LJ Differences
The innards of the LJ don't change that much from the standard TJ. There are no internal components that are exclusive to the LJ Wrangler.
The LJ comes with a few more refinements not offered on the standard TJ. Because of its increased length, the LJ sports a longer and more effective muffler. Additionally, the longer wheelbase creates an overall smoother ride, spreading out the bumps of the road over a wider surface area.
For many Jeep fans, tracking down a well-maintained LJ is like finding a white whale. The LJ only saw production between 2004 to 2006. For this reason, Jeep LJ's can often be rather expensive and will frequently be scooped up in the blink of an eye by a diligent Wrangler fan. Beyond the LJ, there is also a TJ Unlimited Rubicon that was briefly sold in 2005. The LJ Rubicon is cut from the same cloth as the TJ Rubicon, except (I'm sure you've guessed it by this point) it has the longer wheelbase.
LJ Wrangler Performance
The LJ remained (as should go without saying) a capable off-roader as well. With Dana 44 rear axles, a Command-Trac NV231 transfer case, and a 3.73 gear ratio, the LJ Wrangler handily earns its Trail Rated status. The longer wheelbase does come with some tradeoffs on the trails, however. The off-roading angles, when compared to a stock TJ, are close, but there are a few areas where the LJ lags behind. The LJ has a better approach angle than a TJ, but the length and the rear overhang of the LJ mean that it has comparatively lower breakover and departure angles.
Compared to other TJ models, the LJ holds its value quite well. Originally selling for $25,000 new, currently available LJs sell for around the same amount. A well-maintained LJ can sell for $25K or higher, and an Unlimited Rubicon can sell for even more.
The beauty of the LJ Wrangler is how versatile it is. It can fulfill the roles of a truck, an off-roading rig, and a daily driver. At the end of the day, the LJ seems like it came at the wrong time. There are stadiums full of Jeep fanatics chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel of an LJ. Beyond Jeep fanatics, the larger size of the LJ would certainly appeal to many truck enthusiasts as well as people who want a fun, if not a little rough around the edges, family car. If you can manage to track down an LJ Wrangler, it'll surely be difficult to walk away.
Sources: 2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, MotorTrend | Why the 2004 To 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 'LJ' Is the Holy Grail of Jeeps, Jalopnik | Pros and Cons of a LJ, Wrangler Forum | Image Credit: Wikimedia