We’ve moved! Well, sort of. We recently started a new blog that we think you will all really like. Go check out www.getlostblog.com and let us know what you think. Overall, its a great deal of the same type of content featured on this blog, but with a sharper focus towards events, vehicles, and products for overlanding and just camping in general. For the foreseeable future, we will be putting any new content on the Get Lost Blog, but will keep this blog active so you can check out the archive of posts.
If you own a Jeep, and you do more with it (or at least hope to) than drive it to the grocery store, chances are you’ve at least heard of JKS Manufacturing. For those unfamiliar, we want to take a few moments of your time and fill you in on this company that specializes in Jeep suspension upgrades. Due to their name, many believe that JKS gained its start from offering suspension kits and components for the widely popular Jeep JK that began production in 2007, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
JKS Manufacturing has been designing, building, and distributing quality Jeep suspension since 1989 with the release of their original Quick Disconnect, a unique sway bar disconnect that sent shock waves through the industry. Fast forward 27 years, and JKS is at the forefront, still developing cutting edge parts for Jeeps of every kind and used for nearly any purpose.
What really sets JKS apart from the competition, besides their forward thinking components, is their grasp on the notion that most Jeep owners truly use their vehicles for nearly everything, and need their Jeep to perform just as well careening up a mountainous ascent as flying down the freeway. And that’s the premise they’ve always taken, which is what led to the original Quick Disconnect. This kit allowed Jeep owners the ability to easily disconnect their sway bar for maximum off road articulation, yet quickly reconnect for superb street manners without excessive body roll that is typically associated with Jeepers that opt to remove their sway bar. And now in 2016, with those years of experience under their belt, the masterminds behind JKS have released their latest offering, the JSPEC 3.5” J Konnect Suspension System. The J Konnect takes all of the experience JKS has accumulated and literally dumps it all into a comprehensive suspension system, ready to tackle whatever adventure you fathom.
And we at Off Road Power Products put the J Konnect to the test! As we covered in our previous blog post, found HERE, we recently outfitted a 2016 Jeep Wrangler JKU Rubicon two weeks before the highly acclaimed Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Once our JKU was finished, we literally loaded it with gear and hit the long road to Moab, wheeled it on the red rocks for a few days, and headed back home. To say the J Konnect kit performed well in all situations would be a complete understatement. We’ve frankly never driven a JK that you could set the cruise control and forget you were in a Jeep, then hammer so hard in the dirt, and still drive home in.
Another important aspect regarding every JKS kit and component we have ever installed is the ease in which it installs. Some kits require some tweaking here and there, or they do not include a brake line relocation tab or other minor components, but not with JKS.
Sure, some of JKS’ FAB components require welding, but there’s simply no other way to install it onto the vehicle. And you can rest assured that when it comes time to weld, its going to fit perfectly. And as a huge perk, their kits are priced quite competitively with most of the “lesser” systems found on the marketplace that by no means perform as well. Oh yeah, and their packaging is hands down the best in the industry. This may seem like something minor, but if you’ve ever ordered something online and had it shipped to you,
only to unbox and find damaged contents, you know how big of a deal this really is.
So if you’re in the market for upgrading your Jeep’s suspension, you really need to look at JKS, we promise, you won’t be disappointed.
To see our full line up of JKS, click the below link:
To check out the video coverage of our journey leading up to and during Easter Jeep Safari 2016, click the below image:
Easter Jeep Safari 2016 has now come and gone in a typical whirlwind of last minute vehicle builds, sleepless nights, and plenty of fun out on the rocky trails of Moab, Utah with friends, both new and old. EJS16 was similar to many others in the past, but as the 50th anniversary of this amazing event, was purposely set out to be the biggest, and well, best yet!
For this year’s event, we decided we should have a new Jeep Wrangler JKU Rubicon to showcase some of the wares we sell. But in true Offroad Power Products form, this was decided only two weeks prior to EJS! And if that wasn’t enough, we were also in the midst of building a new package for Heavy Duty Rams, dubbed the Nomad, that ALSO needed completion for the event. At this time, our Nomad Ram was at the body shop having fender modifications completed, meaning we had one vehicle that couldn’t be worked on because it wasn’t physically in our possession, and another vehicle that we had just picked up, but didn’t have parts for. So basically we were at a ten on the sense of urgency scale. If this situation doesn’t sound familiar to you, then you’re not doing it properly.
The first order of business to meet this quickly approaching deadline was to outline the complete JK build and get parts coming, and coming FAST. We immediately decided that the theme for this JK should be what we sometimes deem, the Swiss Army Knife approach. Basically, a Swiss Army Knife approach entails a vehicle build that features off-the-shelf, bolt-on components that are absolutely bulletproof and can handle and TACKLE any obstacle we throw at it. Further, we wanted this approach to still be affordable for the Average Joe that just went out and bought a Jeep JK, which means stock axle housings, stock transfer case, stock engine, and any other of the truly expensive powertrain components would remain stock. Overall, we would take a bone stock, brand new Rubicon, throw a carefully selected pile of parts at it, and transform it into the Rubiconier!
As anyone with a Jeep knows, the first order of business is suspension. And anyone that knows us, is well aware that this is an area that we will meticulously scrutinize for days, weeks, or even months over depending on the build. For the Rubiconier, the decision was actually quite simple, keeping with the Swiss Army Knife theme, a JSpec 3.5” J Kontrol Suspension System from our friends over at JKS Suspension was on the list. This system offers superb off road prowess, while still being extremely street friendly. This kit includes everything that any Jeep enthusiast would have on their bucket list, to include front and rear dual rate coil springs, front adjustable track bar, JKS’ exclusive front sway bar “Quicker Disconnects,” all relocation brackets, and a plethora of components you can add to the kit. We opted to upgrade with a weld on track bar brace in the front and rear, a rear adjustable track bar, sector shaft/steering box brace, and extended brake lines. Further, because we wanted this Jeep to handle as well at crawl speed as at redline, we upgraded from the standard Fox 2.0” IFP shocks to Fox 2.5” remote reservoirs in the front, and 2.5” piggybacks in the rear.
Because of the diameter of these larger shock bodies, we needed to move the front lower shock mounts outward, which was easily accomplished by welding on a set of Synergy Manufacturing’s Lower Shock Mounts that relocate the lower mounting position to the inner C’s. From there, we knew we needed to handle the length of the factory arms, and for this we opted to run the new JKS J-Axis Adjustable Arms. Not only do these adjustable arms allow us to stretch the wheelbase back where we want, but also adjust the caster to our specifications.
The next order of business was to handle the steering. Due to the oversized tires we run on EVERYTHING, and our fondness for dirt, we’re huge advocates for adding a PSC hydraulic assist steering to most vehicles. The addition of their system, to include a new higher volume pump, reservoir, cooler, and pressure relief breather, makes turning even 42” tires on dry pavement like butter. In order to ensure this steering ram couldn’t disfigure what it was attached to because of the massive pressure, we then looked at upgrading the tie rod. The Rock Krawler tie rod was another no-brainer with its robust construction and built in “wobble stoppers” that would prevent the tie rod from flopping all over like a wet noodle when the hydro assist is doing work out on the rocks.
To complement the new high steer drag link that is included with the JKS kit, we opted to upgrade to a set of Reid Racing knuckles. With the high steer drag link, one would typically drill out the factory knuckles to relocate the drag link, however the Reid knuckles feature a pre-drilled tab specifically for vehicles running a high steer kit. Besides having the high steer functionality built in, the Reid knuckles also relocate the tie rod up 1.5” from factory, meaning more ground clearance. Plus, these knuckles are one of our favorite colors….ORANGE, so how could we go wrong?!
Now that the suspension was dialed in, we turned our attention to the wheel openings that somehow needed to clear 37’s with only 3.5” of lift. But why did we only lift the JK 3.5” if we wanted to run 37” tires you may ask. We’ve found that this combination will do a couple of things for us. For starters, its easier to get in and out of! But the most important reason is the fact that it gives us a much lower center of gravity, making the vehicle feel more comfortable and stable in off camber situations. The easiest way to get a larger tire into the wheel opening on a Jeep Wrangler is to get rid of those massive factory fender flares, as they take up a lot of valuable real estate. To fit the look of our build, we went with a set of Nemesis Industries Notorious Flares, accompanied by their Billy Rocker Rock Sliders with Tub Armor. These flares are so much more than the typical fender flare that most are used to. Nemesis has designed an internal reinforcement system, they affectionately refer to as the Skeletos. This system connects the fender flares to the inner structure of the factory fenders, sandwiching the outer flimsy body panels in between, creating a rigid structure. This allows for load dispersion in the event you were to run into or slide across an obstacle, drastically reducing the risk of body damage. We have personally used these as “kick stands” that have prevented the body from falling into trail obstacles.
Nemesis carries on with this theme on the Rock sliders that feature a reinforced tub armor which ties into the inner structure to disperse load again. The other added bonus is all of this body armor is made from high grade aluminum to prevent a massive weight gain. And surprisingly, despite the fact that the factory flares are made out of plastic, they actually weigh MORE than their Nemesis counterparts. Now to put some attention on to the bumpers. Keeping with the theme of light weight and high clearance, we went with the Savvy Off Road LHT aluminum front bumper which requires you to remove the factory front cross member and replace it with a steel winch cradle, tying the front back together. Out back, another Savvy LHT bumper. Like the front, the rear also has you remove the factory cross member, but this time tying everything back together with a new high ground clearance steel cross member that must be welded into place. We also opted to upgrade all four doors of this JKU with Savvy’s Aluminum Half Doors. Besides the weight savings, one of the nicest features of using these doors is you find yourself not quite as concerned with destroying the doors on an obstacle. Why? The Savvy’s are WAY less expensive to replace than the factory doors. To finish off the clean lines of our Nemesis and Savvy products, we had everything color matched to the vehicle, and the inner fenders shot with a layer of spray-in bedliner material.
To handle the weight of the spare tire without adding a component that we would have to open before opening the back of the Jeep. We installed the Teraflex HD hinged spare tire carrier. This replaced the factory unit allowing us to not only keep the spare tire mounted in the stock location, but exponentially reinforce the mount to handle the added weight of a 37” tire.
Now that the body and suspension are ready for the larger tires we needed to give some attention to the drive train. An early morning trip with the Jeep in tow, and we were on our way to Cashmere, Washington to pay a visit to our friends, and all around axle gurus, Nitro Gear and Axle. Knowing that we already had front and rear Dana 44 axles, coupled with factory lockers, and wanting to keep this vehicle with stock drivetrain in place, the only major upgrade to the axles would be a ring and pinion upgrade to give us the proper run out we would need with the addition of 37” tires, coupled with some minor axle reinforcement while we were there. To give us the offroad grunt we desired, a 5.13 ratio was selected to fill the front and rear pumpkins.
Because we knew we would be installing front and rear Tom Woods drivelines to handle the added articulation from the JSpec suspension, we had the crew at Nitro install solid spacers in place of the crush sleeves that come standard in this kit. This would allow us to install the Tom Woods drive flanges without compromising the pinion bearing preload. In order to combat any weaknesses inherent to the front 44, we sought the advice of Nitro coupled with our experience and added some relatively simple reinforcement. The front Dana 44 is a strong differential coming in a high pinion, which puts the drive load on the strong side of the gear, however the weak links are in the small, soft axle tubes, as well as the C’s which have been known to bend when stressed. Fortunately, because Nitro addressed these issues long ago, they offer an Axle Assurance Kit that includes knurled inner axle sleeves and knuckle gussets. Now, the sleeves aren’t something you can just go purchase and throw in as soon as you get home, they require at least a little bit of planning. Because they are an interference fit, it is recommended to literally freeze them overnight (that’s right, put them next to your ice cream and hamburger in the freezer) so the material can contract before being pounded into place. Once the sleeves warm back up to temperature, the knurling around the outer two inches dig in and secure their position. This is a great upgrade to either the Dana 30 or 44 since they both share the same size axle side tubes. With the sleeves in place, we welded on the knuckle gussets and front lower control arm skids. Wham, bam, axles are DONE!
After some tuning with our Superchips F5 Flashcal tuner to let the ECM know about its new gear ratio and tire size, it was time for the tires. We installed the new Toyo R/T’s in a 37×13.50R17 on a set of Method 105 Beadlocks in a 17X9 with 3.5″ of backspace. This widened our stance dramatically, giving us enhanced stability in off camber situations, and with the 13.50” tire width, the contact patch for offroading is perfect.
At this point, we were down to the final pieces to the puzzle. With the Tom Woods flanges waiting for us, we quickly installed them, then measured length for the custom shafts. Tom Woods was nice enough to bust those out and ship them out the same day. To guarantee the front driveline didn’t contact the exhaust at full droop, we went with the best option, a Magnaflow Loop Delete Pipe that moves the Y crossover behind the transfer case instead of in front, gaining the JK substantial clearance and another margin of safety, protecting the exhaust from all those pesky rocks. From the Y back is Savvy’s custom built Magnaflow high clearance exhaust. In true Magnaflow fashion, it was a perfect fit.
Now what to do with the interior? For all of the 12 volt auxiliary devices we would be running, we needed a power distribution center. Switch-Pros was chosen for this because of the eight programmable buttons and its solid state construction. For those unaware, solid state means there are no fuses or relays, it is all built into a circuit board, similar to most current vehicles’ factory computers. Plus, it means only running a single power lead to the battery, instead of a rats nest of wires and fuses hanging from the positive side of the battery. We mounted the Switch-Pros control panel on a custom A-pillar mount for easy access (and because it looks cool). One of these switches controls an ARB Twin Air Compressor that we mounted under the passenger front seat using a compressor mount from Teraflex. Another switch is utilized to engage the two Baja Designs XL-80 LED lights mounted to the A pillar windshield hinge for nighttime trail visibility. The final switch is for the ten….yes TEN, KC HiLiTES Cyclone LED Rock Lights to make sure we can see what we’ve both already ran over with the front tires, and about to run over with the rears. Now time to protect the seats with the best Jeep seat covers on the planet…..Bartact. We’ve used these covers in numerous other builds, as well as offer them to our customers, and they are without a doubt the best fitting, most durable, and best looking covers out there for Jeeps. And finally, to make all of our friends on the trail envious during mealtime breaks, we added a Trailgater folding tailgate table with a bamboo slide out. This awesome accessory mounts to the inside of the tailgate, and folds down to provide a sturdy table. It sure beats trying to prepare and eat your meal from your dirty seat or the ground.
With Project Rubiconier complete, sitting on all fours, looking pretty and less than fifty miles on the odometer, it was time to load this bad boy with gear and hit the long road to Moab, Utah to see how she handles the rocks. Others may believe in what most call a “shakedown run,” in which you take the vehicle for some mild testing before a big excursion…..nope, not us, who’s got time for that nonsense?!
When you hear the words “summer camp,” what are the first things that come to mind? For most, its probably thoughts of a fun filled week out on a lake as a youngster fishing with your friends, sleeping in a tent, and cooking your meals over a campfire. And now that many of us have grown up, we get to think of summer camp as time where we get to temporarily release control over our kiddos and take a short break from parenthood. While these immediate kneejerk responses to summer camp are accurate, the most recent remembrances we at Power Products have are wheelin’ with our friends on Peterson’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine’s Ultimate Adventure, dubbed “Summer Camp.”
For those unfamiliar with the Ultimate Adventure, essentially this is a gathering put together by Petersen’s that occurs every year in which they invite sponsors and a handful of readers to an unknown location with short notice to spend a week offroading. The week is also filled with several “road days,” as multiple destinations and states are covered in order to get the chance to play in numerous areas. And to top it off, you are required to drive your offroading vehicle to each destination, sleep and survive out of that vehicle, and if you break, you’re left in the dust (or in the case of this year, mud, and lots of it).
Let’s first cover the most important part….what we drove! In previous years, we have taken vehicles such as our Cummins powered Mega Cab, the Raptor SuperDuty, Project Mjolnir, and our 4BT Cummins powered Jeep JK, basically a host of very well-functioning, but also very nice vehicles, on a trip that is destined to bring at least some type of carnage. This year, we decided to change things up a bit. Recently, we had acquired and completed a short build of a 1975 Jeep Cherokee Chief that we took to this year’s Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. We thought so highly of it, we ended up doing a more thorough build and decided to take it on this year’s Ultimate Adventure. And as usual, with very little time to accomplish it…..about three weeks.
First things first, check and change all fluids, but wait, there’s metal in the oil of this old, original engine. And, let the frame-off begin! So yeah, the 360 AMC was pulled and completely rebuilt, and we opted to add an MSD Atomic EFI for consistent fuel delivery. To back up the 360, we bolted up a fresh Turbo 400 featuring a heavy duty torque converter with a manual valve body for driver controlled shifts. Backing up the transmission was a fresh NP205 transfer case with twin stick controls from our friends over at Off-Road Design.
Coming out of the transfer case, we had Tom Woods Custom Drive Shafts build us a pair of drivelines to send power to the front and rear axles. We heavily modified the front Dana 44 with a Synergy Manufacturing truss, Reid Racing knuckles, an 8 lug wheel conversion, ARB Air Locker, and 4.88 Nitro Gears ring and pinion. Out back, we fitted a 14 bolt axle with Nitro chromoly axles and an ARB Air Locker stuffed with Nitro 4.88 gears to match up to the front. Air operation of the lockers comes via an ARB Twin Air Compressor mounted at the tailgate area of the interior cage using a custom mounting bracket that we manufacture. At each corner of our modified axle assemblies lie one of the new 37” Falken Wildpeak M/T’s mounted up to a Method 105 beadlock for maximum offroading traction and the ability to run extremely low tire pressure for when things get gnarly.
In order to deliver the performance from the suspension we required, we went to work laying out the laundry list of components we would need to gather, manufacture, and install on the Chief in short order. Up front, we designed a custom three link that gave us amazing articulation capabilities, while still being extremely street friendly. To provide the height and dampening for the Chief, we opted to go with a set of Fox Performance Series 2.5 x 12 remote reservoir coilovers featuring their Dual Speed Compression (DSC) Adjusters mounted to a pair of Artec Industries coilover towers. These are awesome because you can literally change up the low and high speed compression via a simple knob located right on the shock assembly to create harmonious shock performance, no matter the situation. Out back, we again looked to the professionals at Fox for a set of their 2.0 Performance Series remote reservoir shocks that mount to a custom crossmember that we fabricated. And to keep the low slung ride height we desired, we got with BDS for a pair of their leaf springs that allow for a ton of flexibility, while again, still being super capable on the street, which were mounted to a pair of Synergy shackles.
As far as steering, one product that we have grown VERY fond of, being most of our vehicles run at least 40” tires, are PSC hydraulic assist steering systems. While the Chief would “only” be running 37’s, it was still determined that this project would also benefit from a little steering assistance when out on the trails, thus it was fitted with a complete PSC steering box and hydraulic assist. If you’ve never experienced a vehicle with hydraulic assist, just imagine being able to turn 40” mud terrains on pavement while not moving, WITH EASE! Yeah, its that cool. To get the motion from the steering box to our bright orange Reid knuckles, we built a custom drag link and center link with Synergy GM 1-Ton heavy duty tie rods at all corners for maximum strength that mount to a GenRight pitman arm and heim joint kit.
Now that the drivetrain and suspension were complete, we were able to focus our attention on all of the body protection, lighting, and electrical. Up front, to house our Warn Zeon 10-s winch, we looked to Mercenary Offroad for protection. We’ve used Mercenary bumpers in the past on our heavy duty Rams because they offer up unparalleled styling and ground clearance, while being extremely resilient, and our expectations were again exceeded with their bumper for the Chief. The lines on this bumper are unlike any other on the market, and keep everything high and tight for proper approach angles. To keep with the Mercenary theme, they built a matching rear bumper with an integrated receiver hitch for us that came out unscathed after a week of torture. In order to carry loads of gear and house exactly a zillion Baja Design lights (that’s right….a zillion), we broke out the welder and tube bender to create a custom roof rack that tied into an internal roll cage. The roof rack also served very purposeful to strap our Summer Camp required canoe, which we will get to later. While building the internal cage, it became evident that the floor boards had definitely seen better days, with years of moisture eroding the metal, turning into red powder. Fortunately, BJ’s Offroad makes killer replacements for this era of Cherokee that saved us a ton of time in fabricating our own. In order to keep all passengers in place at all times, we bolted down a set of PRP digital camouflage covered race seats with PRP five point harnesses. Not only are these seats built superbly for keeping you strapped down, but are actually quite comfortable.
While on the Ultimate Adventure, you are required to do a considerable amount of highway driving in order to reach each destination, so we knew a set of upgraded headlights would be necessary to avoid running auxiliary lights, which have a tendency of attracting unwanted attention. To tackle this, we went with a pair of J.W. Speaker Evolution 2 headlights, as they’ve been an amazing upgrade for some of our JK projects. To complement the Evo2’s when on the trail, like we mentioned earlier, we added a zillion Baja Designs lights….alright, alright, there were actually six of their S2 model mounted on the rack and two Squadron XL-R’s on the front bumper (almost a zillion). In order to avoid random fuses and relays mounted in every orifice of the Chief, we hooked up with our friends at sPOD and wired up one of their Source Systems that runs all auxiliary electrical through one single system for a super clean installation. To round out the electrical was one of the most important pieces to the puzzle, a RacePak dash that not only delivers us a full digital dash including speed, RPM, and fuel level from our BJ’s Offroad fuel cell, but also alerts from various sensors if values fall outside of a preset range.
Now all that was left to complete the Chief were to build a custom, high clearance exhaust system to avoid rock carnage, and some “fender clearancing.” Unfortunately, the original fender design of the 70’s Cherokee’s do not lend themselves to running 37” tires with only minimal increases in suspension height very easily. Of course, we could have gone the route of sourcing custom fiberglass units, but with the clock-a-ticking, that wasn’t an option. So we went with option numero dos….a “Falken” Sawzall and a “Falken” hammer to provide clearance for the Falken tires (the whole “Falken” thing went on for the duration of Ultimate Adventure, as they were the tire sponsor this year).
And with the welds still warm and glowing, we loaded the Chief onto our gooseneck trailer and hooked up and headed out for the long trip from Washington state to Tennessee to drop the truck and trailer. Once in Tennessee, we had minimal time to boogie to our UA meeting point in Ohio, roughly 700 miles of driving a vehicle that had next to zero testing time. And as we expected (and hoped), it performed flawlessly, guzzling unleaded the whole way.
And So The Adventure Begins…
Day one of the Ultimate Adventure is not so much about wheeling, more talking about wheeling, and ensuring all vehicles are in compliance with the rules set forth by Petersen’s, and are basically safe. So yeah, that’s what happened on day one (don’t worry, it gets more exciting). Day two started out like every other day of every Ultimate Adventure, uncertainty of what Rick Pewe, our fearless leader, had in store for us that day. And as usual, he did not let us down as we found ourselves at Powerline Offroad Park, which was riddled with deep water crossings and loads of mud due to the never ending rain. Overall, it was a great day with minimal carnage and we had a blast.
Day three was considered a road day, as we needed to make our way from Ohio to Kentucky, but we were fortunate enough to hit up Clay Valley Dirt Park located in Harrison, Ohio that was featured more mud and a ton of fun. The most interesting part was a gnarly hill climb that found many of “us” on our sides at one particular obstacle near the peak of the climb. Fortunately, with plenty of man power and winches on every vehicle (mandatory UA accessory), flopping rigs over is like flipping pancakes. While trying to get out of Ohio, we felt a bit like we were in the movie Twister, as we were chasing down a tornado, or maybe it was chasing us. Fortunately, we made it to our river barge to cross into Kentucky before we found ourselves in the Land of Oz.
Up to this point, the Chief had performed flawlessly with miles of getting beaten on, but it must have had a vendetta about crossing into Kentucky, as we found ourselves being forced to make several stops at various auto parts stores, and then playing catch up with the rest of the group. The first item on the fail list was a thermostat that caused an overheating issue, which we replaced with a high flow version from Mr. Gasket. Well, guess what, that failed in no time flat, so another stop and we popped in a Stant branded t-stat with fingers crossed. Now as the weather continued to rain down on us and the sunset looming, it became evident that while our headlight switch was flipped on to provide power to our J.W. Speaker headlights, there was obviously no illumination. After a quick check, the headlight switch had failed. So, sorry oncoming traffic….engaging Baja Designs LED’s! We finished our road trip for the day by settling in at Harlan County Campground at the trailhead of Black Mountain Offroad Park in Putney, Kentucky, a mere 700 miles from where we began our journey earlier that day.
About thirteen seconds after we finally shut our eyes for some sleep, we heard the rooster crowing to get day four started. One thing about Ultimate Adventure, while it may be one of the greatest vacations you can have the opportunity to participate in, you will by no means be catching up on any sleep! With the rain still pouring down, we were ready to further test out our Falken tires’ ability to keep us moving through the muck at Black Mountain. At this point, one issue became very clear, the Chief had the ability to maintain its own atmosphere. Let us explain. First of all, one of the rules of UA are “windows down.” This is done to create a feeling of equality between all open cab vehicles, such as buggies or Jeeps, with cabbed vehicles. This practice only accentuates the amount of humidity from the outside environment. To compound with this, the Chief has no insulation on the floorboards, thus all resonating heat from the undercarriage is transmitted into the cab. All of this equates to a substantial amount of moisture building up on the ceiling, quite literally raining down on any and all passengers and equipment within. “We really need to stop and get Fog-X” became almost a systematic dialogue throughout the entire trip as we were forced to continually wipe down the windshield. But, on a positive note, we managed to repair the headlight switch before camping out in Black Mountain again for the night.
Day five, like all other mornings on UA, started earlier than we would have wished. Today would take us on yet another road day to make our way into the great state of Tennesse, and back out again into North Carolina. What Tennessee did bring us, no matter how short our stay, was the opportunity to FINALLY find out why in the world we had these enormous canoes mounted to the roofs of our vehicles…..BATTLE CANOEING! That’s right, we reserved a few hours of daylight to stop and have some fun in the water smashing into one another like Vikings in full combat mode over a newfound haven. Upon crossing into North Carolina, somewhere, on a boat, in the pouring rain, we had the opportunity to repair our malfunctioning windshield wipers. Oh, did we forget to mention the wipers quit working? Sorry, details are somewhat foggy, like our windshield. “We really need to stop and get Fog-X and Rain-X” was the new slogan. And sleep, yeah, we slept somewhere, just not able to pinpoint that location at this point.
Now into day six, we found ourselves somewhere on the North Carolina and Georgia border at Durhamtown for some wheelin’. Here, we were able to open up our pipes, spin some tires, and play in a plethora of rock gardens to truly test not only driver skill, but vehicle aptitude in a range of different terrains. The Chief was fortunate enough to come out almost completely unscathed, with exception to a boulder deciding it wanted to try and destroy our custom exhaust, nothing a hammer and some wire couldn’t fix, though! After a full day of burning fuel and making memories, we settled into Durhamtown for another wet night camping under the stars.
Day seven, what a glorious day the seventh day was, as we finally stopped for Fog-X! Oh yeah, and Cooper drove a tank over a Jeep XJ, but we got Fog-X! In all seriousness, Rick Pewe managed to secure us some time at a tank test grounds where some of us were able to strap into a tank and turn a few childhood dreams into reality. Once we had our fill of tanks (or maybe they told us it was time to leave) we loaded back up and wound up in Pittsburgh, Tennessee for the night. For the final day before our adventure was over, it seemed fitting that we would spend the day
in Adventure Offroad Park on day eight where we could all give our vehicles everything we had, as there was little to lose with the end of UA nearing. Rocks, mud, and gnarly hill climbs seemed to be the theme for Adventure Offroad Park, which equated to a lot of questionable decisions and plenty of impressive automotive feats. Our Chief discovered that when you combine rocks, mud, and gnarly hill climbs with plenty of right footed WOOPOW, things can sometimes get a little sketchy, and she ended up on her side. But that’s okay, its just part of the UA experience, and building a vehicle that can take the abuse. Now at the close of the last day, we had one of the most welcoming sights we had seen all week, a hotel with running hot water!
Throughout our eight day adventure, we racked up over 1200 miles on the Chief, not including our transport to and from the start/stop points, averaged around eight miles to the gallon, and managed to only break miniscule original equipment components. As with every year in the past, we had the opportunity to see a host of old friends, meet plenty of new ones, and we are already thinking about next year’s event, hopefully the Chief is aired out by then, as its smelling a tad on the funky side.
Do you like to go wheelin’? What about wheelin’ in Moab, Utah? Well, what about wheelin’
in Moab, Utah for NINE days? If you were confused with the first question and aren’t sure what “wheelin” is, then this probably won’t interest you, but if you do, read on! If you did answer “yes” to any of the three questions, its likely you’ve at least heard about Easter Jeep Safari. And for those unfamiliar, lets change that.
Basically, Easter Jeep Safari, or EJS for short, is a nine day gathering of off road
enthusiasts in the prestigious off roading community of Moab, Utah organized by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers organization. Each day is a new outing on numerous trails in the area that will service the entire spectrum of enthusiasts. Whether you are a novice four wheeler or consider yourself a pro, there will be a trail ride to match your skill level and vehicle ability.
While this may be dubbed Easter Jeep Safari, this adventure is by no means limited to
Jeep owners. The nomenclature originates back to 1967 when the adventure first began. But today, you can find everything from Jeeps to full size trucks hitting the trails. So much so, there is even a trail ride dedicated to the full size group, dubbed the Full Size Invasion. For this ride, the trail is typically more tailored towards the bigger vehicles, not to say they aren’t going to scratch some fenders along the way.
Over the last several years, we have been fortunate enough to attend EJS with a few of our vehicles for a little “product testing” as we like to call it. Really, its all about the fun of getting out there and the comradery of helping everyone get through the trails and making it back to base camp. Since our maiden voyage , we’ve taken numerous vehicles, such as our 4BT Cummins powered JK, our Ford Powerstroke aptly named the “Raptor SD,” and “Mjolnir,” our 2013 Ram 2500. This year, you’ll likely see “Ginsu” hitting the trails and possibly other vehicles of ours. For those unable to attend this year’s Easter Jeep Safari, we’ll be sure to take plenty of photos and video that we will share upon our return. And for those that will be in attendance, look us up, we always enjoy meeting fellow enthusiasts.
Jeeps have undergone many transformations over the years. From different body styles,
powertrains, and even trends in upgrades. In the past, most utilized big lift kits in order to fit larger tires for proper axle clearance when off road. Unfortunately, this also caused Jeeps of the past to being excessively top heavy, and couldn’t perform as well as they could on steep or off camber obstacles. Since the release of the JK models in 2007, the trend has pushed towards a lower slung Jeep with larger tires to keep the center of gravity as low as possible, but still achieve massive axle ground clearance. Most suspension manufacturers have fallen on suspension systems that raise the front of the JK’s an average of four inches for a good compromise of tire clearance and minimal lift. However, we have found that we can push the limits even further for maximum on AND off road performance. We got together with our friends at Eibach and had them build us progressive rate coils that are a mere two and a half inches over stock. With these, a JK running stock fenders can quite easily clear 35” tires. But for those upgrading to one of the ever popular MCE Flexible Fenders, Nemesis, or other similar type of flare, you can mount up a set of 37’s under your Jeep.
The biggest highlight of these coils are not the mere fact of their ride height, but of their sheer capability to enhance the prowess of your JK in any situation. We’ve personally pushed the limits of these coils time and again on our in-house JK, dubbed Ginsu, and it has performed without flaw. Further, the on road handling beats anything we have ran for the grueling Monday through Friday commutes. Now, since we realize that some do have a preference towards more lift, or do not wish to upgrade the fenders, we also have 3.5” coils to deliver a slightly taller ride height, but built with the same superior progressive rate design.
For more information on these coils, as well as others that Eibach produces for us, click HERE.
Some may call it the Power Wagon’s little brother, but the Ram Rebel 1500, set to be available in the second half of 2015, features an aggressive styling package with some offroad cues that at least make it LOOK like its ready for the wilderness, if nothing else. The first modification we noticed for this trim package was that of the grill. Gone is the classic cross haired chrome grill with a large Rams head adorning the center replaced by a matte black grill with the word “RAM” boldly emphasizing the automaker. As the first Ram since 1993 to not feature the cross hairs, this had to be a large step for the automaker. The black grill flows into a matching front bumper with an integrated skid plate for additional protection when encountering obstacles off the beaten path. To provide even further off road appeal, the Ram’s standard air suspension is lifted one inch taller than the standard 1500’s for an improved 10.3” of ground clearance. This coupled with the standard 33” Toyo Open Country A/T tires will deliver enough offroad prowess for getting to your favorite camping spot, but probably not much further than that.
Overall, it’s a big move for Ram to be stepping away from some of its signature styling they have relied upon for over two decades, but the look is definitely appealing to us, and we hope they decide to extend this package in some of their other models.
The Toyota 4Runner was originally introduced in 1984 as a spinoff of the Japanese version, the Hilux Surf. In its infancy, the 4Runner was basically a Toyota pickup with a fiberglass shell over the bed. Over the years and five major redesigns, the current model 4Runner really only shares one major facet from its original design: the name. Today, the 4Runner can be classified as a mid-size SUV available in several trim packages and engine choices. This widely popular vehicle is mostly served to the general public as a stylish commuter with some leg room and storage space for getting the kids to soccer practice and loading groceries.
For 2014 model years, Toyota released an optional TRD Pro Series package to appeal to the offroading community. And while this package has some styling cues and basic upgrades to better outfit this 4Runner for very mild offroad use, it still leaves plenty to be desired for most that would have interest in a TRD model.
In our latest Zero 2 Hero build, we took one of these docile 2014 4Runners that could easily blend in with the crowd, and transformed it with some easy to install upgrades for a better appearance and suspension prowess. At the center of this build is an ICON Vehicle Dynamics Stage 1 Suspension System. While this kit may be dubbed a Stage 1, it by no means compares in any regard to a typical “lift” one would find at your local tire store. At the front, the vehicle gains some altitude from a set of ICON’s custom valved 2.5 adjustable coilovers. These are not only responsible for raising the front end for additional ground and tire clearance, but also deliver an astounding difference in ride quality, both on and offroad. To assist with proper axle movement in the front, a simple pair of sway bar drop brackets are slid in between the mounting points of the factory sway bar.
In the rear, the theme of altitude and ride quality is continued with a pair of ICON’s own custom wound 2” coil springs and 2.0 shocks. The coils lift the vehicle 2” over factory to provide a level stance when paired with the front adjustable coilovers. Further, these coils completely complement the V.S. 2.0 Aluminum shocks that ICON has precisely tuned for the weight and articulation of the 4Runner.
To finish off the suspension, we opted to add in a set of Camburg’s Performance Balljoint Upper Control Arms. When lifting nearly any vehicle, it is imperative to add additional caster for correct steering geometry. The best way to do this is by replacing the upper arms, plus these arms will also deliver increased wheel travel to better mate with the ICON front coilovers. Many may wonder why we opted for an upper arm that reused the factory balljoint, as opposed to a uniball style arm. The answer was simple on this build. This specific 4Runner is going to see considerably more pavement than trail, and uniballs, while being notable stronger than balljoints, can have a tendency to being noisy and sticky if not properly lubed on a regular basis. This coupled with the fact that this generation of 4Runners received substantially stronger balljoints than previous years, we felt that these arms were the right choice for this particular vehicle.
Finally, you can’t go to the dance if you’re not wearing the right shoes. A set of BFGoodrich All Terrain tires were wrapped on four ATX black simulated beadlock wheels to give this Toyota the appearance and aptitude of trail use, even when picking up the kids from soccer.