Looking Back at the Jeep® TJ Wrangler

There have been many great models over the long 71 years of Jeep® brand vehicle history.  Of these, the Wrangler, with its iconic style, is the model that is most instantly recognizable around the world.  While all Wrangler models have enjoyed success, the TJ stands out as one of the most popular and successful models.  The TJ Wrangler began production in 1997 and lasted until 2006 and its nine-year reign saw many improvements to the model that made a significant impact on the Jeep brand.


The TJ was an almost completely new design from its predecessor, the also-popular YJ, which lasted from 1987 to 1996.  Huge changes to the chassis, suspension, and axle greatly improved the Wrangler’s off-roading ability.  The TJ rocked on successfully for several years until 2003, when the most capable Jeep Wrangler to date was developed: the Jeep TJ Wrangler Rubicon.


If anything, the TJ model is most noteworthy for the introduction of the Wrangler Rubicon in 2003.  At the time, the Rubicon was the most capable off-roading vehicle available from the factory. That tradition continues today with the all-new 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. To carry the title of most capable, the Rubicon comes standard with hard-core off-roading equipment and numerous options, such as heavy duty drive-shafts, electronic locking front and rear axles with Dana 44 front and rear differentials, electronic sway bar disconnects, and factory installed rocker rails.  Standard 31-inch tires, a factory lift, and many other off-roading features round out a vehicle that is trail-ready immediately after driving off the showroom floor.


Other standard models during the TJ era were the SE, Sport, X, and Sahara.  Plus, several specialty editions were introduced during that time, including the 2003 Rubicon Tomb Raider Edition, 2004 Willys Edition, 2004 Columbia Edition, 2006 Golden Eagle Edition, and the 2006 65th Anniversary Edition (of which only about 1600 were made).  Another contribution to the TJ era is the Wrangler Unlimited (LJ). This model was 15 inches longer, giving the TJ plenty of extra cargo room. The 2006 LJ Wrangler Unlimited was the last two-door version of the longer TJ Wrangler to be made.


In 2007, the TJ was finally succeeded by the JK Wrangler with a completely new engine, frame, and body design.  But during its reign, the TJ was highly successfully and wildly popular, and thanks to Jeep brand’s sturdy design, you will still see the TJ Wrangler on the road for years to come.  There is no doubt that the TJ’s popularity, coupled with the introduction of the Rubicon and all the other great editions, makes this vehicle a valuable part of the Jeep brand’s rich history.


Tell us about your TJ Wrangler! Do you own a TJ specialty edition?


  • Chris M

    Alan: Build yourself one of these:

  • Walt Hoesing

    I have a 2001, with 185000 miles, no oil leaks and one clutch. I have had very good luck with my TJ and thinking about a new 2012. Thanks Jeep for all you hard work.  Now put a V-8 down in one.

  • Janelle

    I absolutely LOVE my 2005 TJ Rubicon. The only frustration I’ve had is that the pin won’t pop out to remove the doors. They’re both totally stuck, and believe me, we’ve tried everything. Any hints? Or do I need to take it to a dealer? LONG LIVE OUR JEEPS!

    • Philip

      There are no pins to pop off. To remove the doors, you have to remove the nuts and then lift the entire door off the hinges. The “pins” are connected to the upper hinges. Hope this solves your problem.

    • Anon

      A floor jack and a block of wood. Apply pressure to the bottom of the door carefully while opening and closing the door. When it starts to lift be extra careful as it is very heavy.

  • Paul

    Love my tj, I have driven all kinds of 4wds all over outback Australia and nothing compares, broke two 80 series landcruisers, a troopcarrier, and a new model hilux but can’t stop the tj!

  • MB

    I have had two 2004 TJs which I absolutely adore. One Rubicon, one X. Both are great go-anywhere vehicles. Still have the Rubicon, and use if for moderate rock crawling on a weekly basis, as well as expedition stuff.

    Don’t count the JKs out, though – this last weekend I saw several JKs handle rock crawling I thought would be completely beyond them, and they only suffered a few scratches on the bumpers. Those new puffy bumpers hang out a bit too far in the rear.

  • troy

    got a 98 tj se for my first car. i love it! we have a farm an when it rains even small tractors get stuck. dad has a 01 chevy dually and all 6 tires were spinning. with mudders. i passed him in 2 wheel drive without spinning a tire. an my jeep only has all terains. thats saying something. this jeep is the only vehicle i have seen that can get out of the farm when the skys open up. jeep was the original 4 wheel drive. i guess you cant beat the original.

  • http://www.navreviews.com Jim

    I have a 2004 TJ X which I just love. Thing is incredible in the snow, mud, anything. wouldn’t trade it for the world!

    Go Jeep!

  • john

    I just got my first Jeep about a month ago. it’s a 97 TJ Sport. It was pushing 205k miles when I got it, and it runs great! Now I’m drooling over parts catalogs, I think I caught the “make it taller” fever. ha! I love this thing!

  • Luke

    I have a 2004 ROCKY MOUNTAIN EDITION see that its so rare you guys did not even know about it!!! :)

  • Summer_sun821

    I too have a 2004 ROCKY MOUNTAIN EDITION Yellow soft top. I have not yet known anyone who knew about it yes a rare jeep indeed.It has the Dana 40 rear end instead of the 30 a real plus!

  • Luke

    I thought they came with a Dana 44

  • Chris

    Lots of the non-standard models came with the Dana 44, including the Rubicon and the Rocky Mountain Edition, it’s probably a typo on his part because I don’t believe a Dana 40 exists, though the 30 does.

  • Summer_sun821

    Yes its a Dana 44 yikes on typos, in any case the 44 is far better than the 30 had problems with the 30 in my yj and eventualy it went completly

  • Judoka

    I owned a 97 Sahara edition which I absolutely loved! Eventually she became a monster whose sole purpose was to eat rocks. I sold her and missed having a Jeep for years. Like many before me I returned to Wrangler and now have a 2004 Columbia Edition. she is perfect the way she is, but we will make her better. First thing to go will be the D35!

    • Name (required)

      Smart move getting rid of the D35 why they don’t put the D44 in all of them boggles me. Had a YJ with the D35 and it was a headache and then some when it went.

  • summer_sun821

    I own a 04 mountian its been great ! Can’t make enough comments to due her justice.

  • http://www.whatareshinsplints.net Jim

    I have an ’04 GC – WJ model.  Great trucks

  • http://www.whatareshinsplints.net Shin Splint Causes

    These are incredble trucks.  That 4.0 liter motor is bullet proof

  • Chip

    I have a yellow 2000 4.0 sport, it has 33×12.5 Duratrac wranglers with 4″ pro comp susp. And 1″ body with lots of mods. My jeep now has 209000 miles and the only problem I have ever had was a bad sensor. I live in the middle of a 5,000 acre wooded area in Louisiana with lots of mud and many dirt roads and trails and my tj is a very dependable daily driver still, thanks jeep for my dream vehicle !!

  • The Big Yellow One

    I have a 2000 sport 4.0 liter engine 6 in. Sky’s extreme offroad custom lift, 35 in. crawler tires, arb lockers front and rear, edge performance kit with chip, cold air intake, throttle body spacer, and manifold. Plus many other mods and extras. I previously owned a yj and it does not even compare. This jeep has been unbeatable offroad. It is refered to by all the guys as the big yellow beast and it is just that. It turns heads and there is no feeling better than driving a jeep.

  • Rich

    “At the time, the Rubicon was the most capable off-roading vehicle available from the factory.”

    really? So it came off the lot more capable than the AM General/GM H1 in 2003, 2004, and 2006? Too bad the military needed AM General to ramp up HMMWV production…which eventually killed the brand (yes, I had a Jeep too)

  • Billy

    I have a 1993 TJ Renegade #24K Special Order Edition with all the bells and whistles. In mint condition with 72,000 miles. The base price was $13343.00, the Renegade Package #24K was an additional $4864.00, plus $2399.00 for 3-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, hard top group pkg. w/ deep tinted glass & rear wiper/washer. The total sticker price in 1993 was $21,101.00. Bright White exterior, with red cloth reclining bucket seats & carpet. Wondering what it’s value is today!

  • Gordon Vaughan

    I have a ’92 YJ SE. It has 175,00 Klicks on it. The Jeep people had it on ‘Recall’ to replace a part DEEP in the Engine and check the Tranny. Talk about a free major overhaul. I keep Jake the Jeep in Good Condition and he has never let me down. Passed a Dealer with one used TJ the same color of green.. (Only other one I ever saw.) But I would not trade Jake in, why get a new jeep when the one you have, every time it is time to go, never lets you down. I recently moved up Valley to where there are more places to turn him loose. Expect the odometer to start climbing from now on.

  • Ryan Smith

    I own a 2003 TJ with about 100k on it. Im the 2nd owner and I purchased her after loosing my home to a fire..insurance $..wanted something fun after a period of sadness. Beforehand I owned a 95 YJ that…well…needed some “TLC” for a year until it was destroyed by a drunk who decided to cut me off. She is all stock except her wheels and tires. My daily driver…I take her on the highway from lower Plymouth to deliver mail for the USPS in Hyannis, MA. Since I was a kid…Jurassic Park anyone – I wanted a jeep. Now I own one..and her name is Matilda.

  • Rhymin Diamond

    Well I own a 1997 tj base model 2.5 5 speed 4inch lift 33 inch tires custom bumpers a winch and off road lights , drive my jeep everyday everywhere bought it for a toy to play in now my new truck hasn’t been driven in months! I have had 3 jeeps a cj-7 briefly!!! Then had a 2002 sahara which was a super nice jeep! I’m a huge jeep fan and always will believe Tj is a huge jeep legend as was the cj was !!

  • rbaitcher

    I have a 2004 jeep Lj with a 3.25″ lift and 33″ bfg all terrain. It’s a daily driver and even though I average 12mpg I love every second of it. I try and get her in some of that GA red clay as much as possible,which is not too often but may be a good thing because it limits the damage done. The 4.0 is truly bulletproof and is one of the best engins ever produced by a U.S. car company.

  • Patryk

    Hello everyone! I just bought myself my dream jeep which I have already started making what I have always wanted on it. its 1999 TJ Sport edition. 4.0 automatic. I bought it with a 4 inch lift and I have put on 35’s bf all terrains. front and rear air lockers and air compressor. I had a custom made rear tire mount made. have a lot of work to do on it and cant wait to keep on adding everything on.