BlackBetty: A Do-It-All JK Wrangler

The differences in terrain in different regions of the United States, and the world, have their own toll on what modifications are made. Things that perform well in mud don’t stand always have the same performance on rocks. On Troy Hatch’s 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited, that difference spawned a host of changes in an otherwise pre-built Jeep.

Troy’s JKU, named Black Betty, was originally built in Florida for East Coast use. The build was effective, but didn’t have the flex-all attitude Troy wanted from it. Now residing in Colorado, the goal was to have a Jeep that would conquer any trail. That is where the TeraFlex six-inch Elite LCG long-arm suspension system comes into play.

The six-inch height provides the clearance for larger tires, but does so much more than that. The quarter-inch-thick steel plate brackets and new FlexArm control arms reposition the vehicle’s center of gravity. Having a lower center of gravity means the vehicle has a stable foundation with more wheel travel, along with the same amount of lift. Additionally, Teraflex has put the time into bracket placement and control arm length to improve things like control arm bind and rear anti-squat.

The Teraflex six-inch Elite LCG long-arm suspension system provides a lot of smooth wheel travel. Heavy-duty brackets and control arms positioned in the just the right spots give the Jeep a stable on-road feel while allowing the tires to droop out. Meanwhile, Teraflex bump stops and FOX 2.0 reservoir shocks keep all that movement under precise control.

Added to the performance suspension are a set of Fox Performance Series 2.0 reservoir shocks. Coupled with the 6061-T6 aluminum shocks and their race-developed high-flow piston design are a set of Teraflex’s front speed bump kit.

Far better than standard bump stops, the speed bump kit features performance-tuned technology inside a specifically designed system that requires minimal modifications to the vehicle. BlackBetty also features front and rear Currie Enterprises Anti-Rock anti-sway bars that find the right balance between suspension movement and stability.

All Of The Flex

In years past, having a common ground for suspension travel to be compared scientifically was tough. The common Ramp Travel Index (RTI Ramp) was, and is still, inherently flawed. Though better than nothing, RTI ramps can be confusing and inconsistent.

While at the Winter 4×4 Jamboree event in St. George, Utah, Troy took the opportunity to put BlackBetty on Metal Cloak’s Flex Trailer. Using the more sophisticated and accurate Corner Travel Index (CTI) system, the max score is 900.

The four-wheel CTI system uses a simple formula and set of standards like 15psi in the tires, fixed platforms and simple vertical measurements to calculate on a consistent basis. Per Metal Cloak, “A vehicle with a higher CTI will maintain more constant wheel contact with the ground while traveling over extreme terrain and obstacles.” BlackBetty cruised away with an extremely respectable 865.

Needless to say, Troy is happy with the results. “The flex has been amazing in this Jeep,” he said. “It’s really tough to get to, but this Jeep is set up and it works very well.”

Drivetrain and More

The incredibly strong, Dana-60-based Tera60 and CRD60 are loaded with all the right goodies: 35-spline axle shafts, ARB Air Lockers, 5.38:1 ratio gears and big brakes.

Keeping the tires on the ground doesn’t mean much when it doesn’t have proper motivation. Under BlackBetty’s hood is the stock 3.8-liter V6 powerplant and 42RLE automatic transmission. While certainly no beast of power, the combination is generally reliable and easy to repair. A factory Rubicon NV241OR transfer case was swapped in to give BlackBetty the added boost of a 4:1 ratio low range. The really good bits are in the differentials.

Connecting the tires to the power is a pair of Teraflex variants of the classic and bomb-proof Dana 60. The front Tera60 is a complete package set up around the center casting and 3.25-inch outside diameter tube that is 0.375-inches thick. Inside the beefy housings are 35-spline inner and outer axle shafts, a venerable ARB Air Locker, and a 5.38:1 Super 60 ring and pinion set.

Rock Hard 4×4 skid plates protect the belly of the beast.

Because differential components are only as strong as their weakest links, the Tera60 also sports a Teraflex heavy duty steering system with a flipped drag link, 13.3-inch diameter big brake upgrade and 1350 series pinion yoke. It also features a reinforced track bar bracket to make sure the unit stays where it is supposed to be.

Out back is a matching Teraflex Tera CRD60 rear differential assembly that is loaded with all the same internals, extra strong brackets and has 13.5-inch diameter big brakes. To keep that heavy-duty steering working smoothly, a full PSC hydraulic ram assist system was added.

The Yokohama Geolandar X-MT tires are the perfect tire for Troy. The extra grippy and long lasting compound is exactly what he wanted for BlackBetty.

With the brute strength of those differentials, it would be easy to think the tires are on easy street, which is far from the case. The sneakers on a rig are by far the most abused item when off-road. Knowing he needed to have a solid grip on the trail, Troy set the Jeep up with a set of 37-inch Yokohama Geolandar X-MTs.

The X-MTs are a major hit with Troy. “We have been using their Geolandar X-MT tires, and we love them,” he said. “These tires have deep tread lugs and sidewall blocks, and use a special compound that has amazing durability. The tire has been amazing in the rocks and quiet to drive home.”

A quiet ride with such an aggressive tire is extremely uncommon. On top of that, the XM-T boasts a long tread life and extended overall performance thanks to its triple-polymer tread compound.

The Yokohama’s are wrapped around a set of satin black 17-inch Ultra Wheel Xtreme Truck Bead-lock wheels with a machined ring. They help the Jeep stand out while also providing the extra piece of mind while Troy is driving around, aired down.

Exterior, Interior, And The Rest

Troy wasn’t sure about the Line-X at first, but it has since won him over completely.

The first thing most notice about BlackBetty is that she is covered in Line-X texture coating. Troy wasn’t sure about it at first, however. “I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first having this product on the Jeep,” he explained. “But it’s kind of unique, and the maintenance on it is easy. No scratches, no buffing, just wash and go.”

The rest of the exterior received some attention as well, especially in the areas where armor is needed. Up front is a Smittybilt XRC M.O.D. front bumper, sans bull bar but loaded with a Mile Marker SEC95 9500-pound winch with a synthetic rope. The rear is equipped with a beefy Smittybilt SRC Gen 2 rear bumper hanging just below a GenRight swing-out rear tire carrier.

To protect the rocker panels, a set of frame-mounted Poison Spyder Rocker Knockers was installed. Going further under the rig, there is a full set of 3/16-inch thick steel Rock Hard 4×4 belly skid plates to protect all of the vitals underneath.

The low-key Smittybilt front bumper adds a nonchalant charm to the front of the blacked-out Jeep.

Lighting up the trails for nighttime adventures are a pair of J.W. Speaker Model 8700 Evolution J2 Series LED Headlights and a-pillar mounted 3.5-inch LED Work Lights.

The interior of the Jeep is set up with a Rock Hard 4x4 Ultimate Cage, Corbeau seats, Mile Marker wireless winch control and a Superchips TrailDash2. All switching duties are wired through the five-inch dash mounted monitor.

Driver comfort and security was placed high on the list of to-dos. Troy replaced all the seats with Baja XRS suspension seats from Corbeau Seats. Occupants are securely planted in their positions by the Corbeau four-point harnesses. Surrounding the passengers is Rock Hard 4×4’s bolt-in Ultimate Sport Cage. It’s covered in a custom carbon fiber look wrap to keep with the blacked-out theme.

One key upgrade to the interior is a Superchips TrailDash2 in-cab performance controller. All auxiliary switches, including the ARB lockers, are routed to feed through the five-inch color touch screen for easy customizable access. Through the trick system, Troy is able to monitor all the vitals of the Jeep and adjust the tune on the fly while dominating the trails.

Where To Now?

Though seven years in, the trip is just beginning for Troy and BlackBetty. We caught up with them at Easter Jeep Safari and got to see the duo in action. BlackBetty is already so capable that through most of his trip in Moab, on trails like Metal Masher, Potato Salad Hill, Hell’s Revenge and all the other popular tracks, Troy said he rarely had to turn the lockers on.

The sum of all the parts certainly made for a greater total. Troy intends to keep hammering the trails and wants to upgrade to 40-inch X-MTs, knowing the Teraflex differentials can handle it.

Article Sources

About the author

Jake Headlee

Jake's passion started at a young age wrenching on cars with his Dad. Obtaining that glorious driver's license sparked his obsession with grease and horsepower, and the rest is history. Soon, he was a general mechanic and suspension specialist, and currently designs and modifies products for the off-road industry. Jake enjoys rock crawling, desert racing and trail running, and writing in his spare time.
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