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01 Kelly Young Jeep Wrangler

How She 4 Wheels: Kelly Young

4WP Internet Catalog Manager
Photography by Kelly Young

When I started at 4WD Hardware 20 years ago, I didn’t know the first thing about Jeeps. I came from a background of ATVs, so jumping into selling Jeep parts was all new to me. I quickly saw the passion our customers had for these vehicles and decided to take the plunge. 3 months after starting there, I bought my first Jeep: a 1997 Wrangler TJ. This is the Jeep that started it all for me!

Less than 6 months after buying it, I installed a 3-inch lift kit and 33-inch tires. Shortly after the lift install, I met up with some of my coworkers to show me around a local four-wheeling spot. That was it – I was hooked! I saw the feats this Jeep was able to perform and knew the possibilities were endless. Soon, this Jeep was rocking a 6-inch long arm lift kit and 36-inch tires. I was wheeling every weekend and my buddy and I decided to start our own off-road club.

After a few years of wheeling, a friend of mine working at one of our vendors, Advance Adapters, sent me tickets to watch a UROC rock crawling competition at Paragon Adventure Park in Eastern Pennsylvania. We had frequented this park in the years prior, so I was familiar with the area, but this was my first time watching a competition. Seeing these buggies and Jeeps go through these courses, I was intrigued.

I thought about what I saw at this competition the entire 5-hour ride back home. I came up with the idea that I could do this. I went into work Monday morning and straight into our marketing director’s office to pitch the idea. I would be the only female competing, which meant more eyes on me. 4WD was eager to jump on board. I was in a unique position working for a company that sold the parts I needed to build this Jeep the way it needed to be built to handle the competitions. And I had access to hundreds of vendors that I could reach out for sponsorship. I put a team together and it was time to go to work.

The Jeep was Patriot blue so we decided to paint it ’74 Volkswagon Ralley Green so it would stand out. We competed the first 2 years with the tired 2.5L 4-cylinder engine before we decided to upgrade. We found a smoking deal on a 4.3L V-6 Chevy Vortec engine, wiring harness and transmission. The motor swap was quite the experience, but it was worth it in the long run. That motor, with the Atlas 2 transfer case and our low gears, made this rig a beast on the courses now. We also did a lot of additional upgrades at that time: 4-inch long arm suspension, 35-inch tires, better steering, upgraded cage, suspension seats and harnesses, upgraded axles – basically the full works. We competed with the rig like that for the next 3 years. We did pretty good competing in the Stock Mod class. We found ourselves in the Top 5 through each season. We had a lot of ups and down and a lot of wrenching. We would compete and give it hell for a weekend and then it was back into the garage for 2 weeks fixing anything we broke or upgrading anything that failed, then it was time for the next competition.

In 2008 after my mom passed away from cancer, I wanted to do something in her honor. She was my biggest fan and supporter. She never missed an event and was always there cheering us on. Someone suggested we paint the rig pink and use this as an opportunity to honor my mom, as well as use this as an opportunity to raise awareness. We did just that! We purchased a new body tub, new fenders, new corners etc. and painted everything rose pink, Line-X liner on the inside and underside of the tub and all custom black sponsor logos. This rig looked so bad ass when it was done, I didn’t want to beat it up but it was time to get our message out.

We changed our team name to Crawl to Cure Cancer. We sold merchandise, raised donations, displayed our Jeep at charity events, traveled all over the US to events and competitions to spread the word. In the next 5 years, with the help of 4Wheel Parts matching our donations and sales, we were able to raise close to $80,000 to donate to the American Cancer Society!

While this Jeep was strictly used for competitions and some light weekend wheeling, I was missing driving a Jeep every day so I bought a wrecked 2005 TJ. I got lucky on this one as it only needed a new hood, passenger side fender and windshield glass. I replaced everything that was damaged and was back in business!

I don’t know why I can’t keep any of my Jeeps stock – I think it’s a sickness. In less than six months of owning this Jeep, it too was on 35-inch tires and had a 4-inch long arm lift kit with a 4-inch stretch kit in the rear. That stretch kit was an awesome upgrade. It made this TJ close to the length of an LJ (That’s what we Jeep people call the Wrangler TJ Unlimited) and was definitely an improvement off road with the stretched wheelbase.

I kept both Jeeps for a few more years and then decided to be a grown up and sold both of my Jeeps to build my house. It made sense at the time, but I was starting to miss going off-road and being out on the trails. I had a 2008 Liberty that was my daily driver, but it wasn’t the same. Then I found the Jeep I had always wanted. It was salvaged, but another deal with minor repairs needed: A 2006 Wrangler Unlimited in black… an LJ!

The LJ didn’t even last a month before it was in the shop getting upgrades: 4-inch Rubicon Express long arm kit, 35-inch tires, Poison Spyder rocker guards and corners, Fishbone Offroad tube fenders, Insane Audio multimedia system. This rig was bad ass but it still had some issues. Being in Ohio, the floorboards were starting to rust and I had a wiring gremlin I couldn’t track down. I started traveling more for work, so this Jeep sat in my garage more than I drove it, so I decided it was time to sell it.

At this point, my Liberty was approaching 120,000 miles and the heater had started to quit working. This made the hour drive from the airport a lot of fun in the winter. So, to kick off the new year, I decided it was time to treat myself. I said bye-bye to the Liberty – it gave me a solid 10-year run with no issues, and I got my hands on a 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited. The JKU only had 18,000 miles on it so it’s basically brand new. I love this Jeep! After having TJ’s my whole life, I didn’t think I would like this JK as much as I do, but I am a fan.

At this time, nothing major is planned for this Jeep, but knowing my past with Jeeps, I am guessing it won’t stay stock for long. I have already installed new WeatherTech Floor Liners, a Rugged Ridge C3 Cargo Cover, Kentrol entry guards and an Insane Audio multimedia unit. That being said, I do see a 2-inch lift and 37-inch tires in my future.

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