Jeep YJ Overview

Updated on Sep 14, 2023

As the grandfather of the Jeep Wrangler lineup, the Jeep YJ sports classic aesthetics and solid specs that make it a popular and reliable chassis for wheeling. From the CJ-based body and suspension to the peppy inline 6-cylinder powerplant, the YJ is a linear generational upgrade, combining the well-loved elements of the early Jeeps with some modern amenities and creature comforts. 

These are just some of the reasons behind the popularity of Jeep’s first Wrangler chassis. While not sporting the TJ’s revolutionary multi-link suspension or the CJ’s iconic round headlights (a major point of contention for most Jeepers), the YJ helped to kick off the modern Jeep recipe that we know and love. 

That’s why, in this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the first Wrangler: the 1987–1995 Jeep YJ.  


After the widespread success of the Jeep CJ platform, ranging from the earliest civilian Jeep–the Willys CJ-2A–to the renowned Kaiser/AMC Jeep CJ-5, CJ-6, CJ-7, and CJ-8 Scrambler, the model was in major need of a refresh. The engineers at AMC (American Motor Corporation), who’d owned Jeep since its 1970 buyout of Kaiser/Willys, got to work revamping the CJ-7 to compete with modern vehicles while retaining the key characteristics of the beloved CJ. The resulting creation was an amalgamation of CJ engineering and modern tech, featuring a nearly identical galvanized-steel tub fitted onto a stiffer chassis with a reinforced frame and beefier leaf springs. A new swing-out tailgate replaced the CJ’s truck-style hinged unit, while new front fenders, hood, grille, and square headlights marked the significant changes to the body. An all-new interior added much-needed comfort and amenities, making the YJ far more inviting for daily driving. 

Only a year after the YJ’s release, the Chrysler corporation purchased AMC and the company's other subsidiaries, marking the beginning of the Chrysler-owned Jeep era that still exists today! The company continued production of AMC’s original design without significant upgrades until 1995 with the introduction of the legendary Jeep Wrangler TJ; however, the model did receive some notable mid-generational changes. 1991 saw the shift from the carbureted 4.2L inline 6-cylinder to the legendary 4.0L fuel-injected inline 6 that carried over to the TJ. Other mid-generation changes included upgrading both auto and manual transmissions (for the inline-6 models), which also introduced updated slave cylinder tech.

Jeep Wrangler YJ Specification Rundown


  • 2.5L AMC Inline 4-Cylinder

  • 4.2L AMC Inline 6-Cylinder (1987–1990)

  • 4.0L AMC Inline 6-Cylinder (1991–1995)


  • 5-Speed AX-5 Manual (4-Cylinder; All Years)

  • 3-Speed 30RH(A904) Automatic (4-Cylinder; 1990–1995)

  • 3-Speed A999 Automatic (6-Cylinder; 1987–1991)

  • 5-Speed BA-10 Manual (6-Cylinder; 1987–1989)

  • 5-Speed AX-15 Manual (6-Cylinder; 1989–1985)

  • 3-Speed 32RH Automatic (6-Cylinder; 1991–1995)



120 HP/140 lb/ft TQ


190 HP/224 lb/ft TQ


237 lb/ft at 4,000 RPM

Transfer Case

  • NP207 (1987)

  • NP231 (1988–1995)

Axle (Front)

Dana 30

Axle (Rear)

Dana 35

Jeep Wrangler YJ Colors & Codes

Throughout the years, the Wrangler YJ wore numerous paint colors. Check out our complete list below:

Color Name

Color Code

Colorado Red


Silver Metallic


Spinnaker Blue Metallic 


Vivid Red Metallic 


Khaki Metallic

BL, J5, HJ5

Sand Dune Yellow


Pearl White




Classic Black


Navy Blue Metallic


Bright White

GW6, PW6

Malibu Yellow


Radiant Fire

HJ4, PJ4


PX9, TX9, X9

Khaki Metallic

HJ5, PJ5

Canyon Blue Metallic


Dark Silver Metallic


Sage Green Metallic

PG1, LG1

Sand Beige Metallic


Hunter Green Metallic

LG4, PG4

Bright Copper Metallic


Electric Blue Metallic

KC3, PC3

Navajo Turquoise Metallic

KQ2, PQ2

Jewel Blue Metallic

MC9, PC9

Poppy Red, Flame Red


Dark Montego Blue Metallic, Dark Blue Pearl


Light Montego Blue Metallic, Brilliant Blue Metallic


Bright Mango

PV5, RV5

Light Pearlstone Metallic

HV1, H18, PV1

Aqua Metallic


Emerald Green Metallic


What Makes the Jeep Wrangler YJ So Popular?

The Jeep YJ can commonly be found tackling a variety of terrain, from packed parking lots to deep woods and demanding trails; but what exactly makes the model so popular? 

Off-Road Performance

If you’ve read any of our other Jeep overviews, you’ll likely recognize this justification for the YJ’s popularity; after all, it’s a Jeep! Regardless of the generation, Jeeps are, foremost, off-road vehicles. Solid front and rear axles and small, narrow frames make traversing challenging obstacles and tight trails a breeze, and the YJ is no exception. While not as capable as multi-link TJ, JK, and JL chassis, the YJ’s leaf-sprung suspension offers decent articulation while holding up to significant abuse on the trail.


Regarding reliability, it’s difficult to argue that the YJ is a top contender. Beefy Dana 30 and 35 axles can withstand most abuse (as long as you’re running moderately sized tires), and all three powertrains are known for robust durability, which is especially important on the trail. 

The generation’s simple design means relatively few issues, aside from finicky electronically-controlled carburetors on early models and typical wear-and-tear, like sensor faults, worn bushings, and rust (depending on your part of the country). All in all, a YJ is unlikely to leave you stranded.

Long Production Run

Over the YJ’s lengthy 8-year run, AMC and Chrysler produced over 630,000 Wranglers; though paling in comparison to the JK’s 2.1-million unit run, that’s still a lot of Jeeps! As a result, you can still find clean examples of the YJ, ripe for building into weekend drivers, heavy-duty wheelers, or anything in between!

Active Community/Aftermarket

The key to keeping any chassis/community alive is sprawling aftermarket support. Luckily, as with any Wrangler chassis, the YJ is blessed with just that! From suspension upgrades to body armor and anything in between, if you can think of it, odds are someone’s engineered a kit to make it happen!

Aside from supportive companies like RealTruck, the YJ is backed by a faithful community of dedicated owners and enthusiasts that help keep the chassis alive. From forums to social media pages and Jeep-specific shops, the support for the first Wrangler is unwavering, and odds are, it’ll never stop!

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