Originally Posted by brewmenn
I with the OP that I prefer a manual, just because it's what I like. And auto may be easier to drive off road, but I don't go off road because it's easy. If I wanted easy I'd just stay on the pavement.
While the second paragraph talked about an auto, the first is not auto specific. I was specifically thinking of my 1975 CJ5, when I wrote it.
One of those things that, on paper, looks like piss-poor gearing. 3.73 gears, T15 3 speed with a 3:1 first gear, and a Dana 20 t-case with 2:1 low range, with 34" tires. About 1/2 the overall gearing of my TJ before it. Buuut, it was extremely well matched.
One, the CJ5 was much lighter than the TJ. I suspect that the 304 made around similar horsepower to the 4.0, but more like 250-275 ft-lbs.
Two, and more important, was that first gear gave me a gear with about 200-230 rpm per MPH, which is something of a sweet spot for most Jeep engines. Basically, you want a high of gearing as possible that you can still lug.
With that setup, I could lug down to 300rpm or so, but still spin the tires up when in mud, if I needed to. I never needed to shift. Put it in 1st gear when you got to a climb/mud hole/snow pile, and leave it alone.
Had I put in something like 4.10 or 4.56 gears, I'd have helped low rpm crawling, but hurt the performance in those most common 'michigan' wheeling situations, where I needed RPM. I'd need to shift 3/4 of the way up hills, which sucks.
So, yeah, a well shifting transmission helps, in momentum scenarios. But if you are doing that very often, you should be asking why you've set up a Jeep that requires a shift at that point.