I picked up a stock 97 TJ SE (2.5L, 5-speed, No A/C) with 140k for $4k. I then spent $8k and two years of hobby time on full lockers, gears, suspension, winch, rack, bumpers, etc, etc.
It is highly reliable; starts fast and never hicups. The engine is easy to work on, and striping out the interior bits is also quite easy for upgrades and fixes.
A Reman motor will only cost you $1500 and a
weekend to swap it, or half that for a transmission, so long term cost to run it is dirt cheap, vs. the 6cyl w/auto at twice that price, or my 1/2 ton truck, which costs three times that to rebuild.
It's not plush or fast, but it crawls up anything, gets lots of admiration and ride requests! FUN!
- Lots of elbow room in the engine compartment
- Simple and durable interior
- Lots of aftermarket support
It's a Jeep. Any "improvements" will just be pricey comfort and convenience items for city folks trying to look like they off-road. Keep it simple, Keep it Jeep!
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.