LIM­ITED UN­LIM­ITED

Wild JK Wran­gler Ru­bi­con has been ex­ten­sively tweaked to be­come an off-road jug­ger­naut.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS DEAN MEL­LOR PHO­TOS CRIS­TIAN BRUNELLI

This wild JK Wran­gler might be called Un­lim­ited, but with just 30 ex­am­ples land­ing in Aus­tralia back in 2013 it’s any­thing but.

Y’see, to cel­e­brate the 10th an­niver­sary of the Ru­bi­con name­plate, Jeep de­cided a spe­cial edi­tion model should be launched in very lim­ited num­bers, and Aus­tralia’s al­lo­ca­tion of the imag­i­na­tively named Ru­bi­con 10th An­niver­sary Model was just 12 ex­am­ples of the two-door Wran­gler and 18 of the four-door Un­lim­ited.

Ja­son Storace was al­ready a Jeep Wran­gler Ru­bi­con owner when he first heard about the launch of this an­niver­sary edi­tion, and he knew straight away it was the ve­hi­cle for him, which would mean wav­ing good­bye to his 2010 Wran­gler Ru­bi­con shorty… so long as he got his or­der in early enough for his lo­cal dealer to se­cure him one of the very lim­ited Un­lim­it­eds.

“My dealer and I ba­si­cally had to fight to get al­lo­cated one,” Ja­son says. “There were only 18 com­ing into the coun­try, and I got the only one in this colour, with a man­ual gear­box, for Vic­to­ria.”

The Ru­bi­con-spec Wran­gler is a pretty se­ri­ous bit of off-road kit, even straight from the fac­tory floor. Su­per-low 4:1 gear­ing in the trans­fer case com­bines with 4.1:1 diff ra­tios to pro­vide a handy 73:1 crawl ra­tio in low-first gear. Team this with a live-axle sus­pen­sion set-up with long-travel coil springs, elec­tronic front sway-bar dis­con­nect and heavy­duty Dana 44 lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials and you have some­thing that’s pretty much un­stop­pable. The 10th An­niver­sary Model also has an ad­di­tional inch-anda-half of ground clearance, MOPAR rock slid­ers and ex­tra un­der­body skid-plate pro­tec­tion. But like many Jeep afi­ciona­dos, once they get the bug, Ja­son soon dis­cov­ered that too much off-road ca­pa­bil­ity is never enough.

“Hav­ing owned the shorty, I al­ready knew how good the Ru­bi­con was, so I made the de­ci­sion to up­grade to the four­door Un­lim­ited to make use of all the money I was go­ing to spend on it,” laughs Ja­son. A me­chanic by trade, Ja­son could at least save a bit of money on labour. But parts don’t come cheap and Ja­son didn’t want to make any mis­takes with this build, so he called on the ad­vice of some Jeep ex­perts to make sure he made all the right de­ci­sions.

“I def­i­nitely want to say a spe­cial thank you to An­drew Bot­tom­ley and all the guys at Dou­ble Black Off Road, as well as all the guys at Jeep­Konec­tion, be­cause they were all ter­rific in help­ing me with set-up,” says Ja­son, who had a pretty clear pic­ture in his mind’s eye of ex­actly how he wanted his Anvil grey Wran­gler to look.

“Ev­ery­one com­ments that I’ve main­tained what looks to be a mil­i­tary edi­tion as it would’ve left the deal­er­ship, and that’s what I was after,” Ja­son says. “And the idea is I can still rip off the roof and cruise down the beach and have that nice look that you ex­pect from a con­vert­ible. So a lot goes into the think­ing, all the way down to the finer de­tails. I mean the wheel nuts are black in­stead of the stan­dard chrome ones. I pay a lot of at­ten­tion to de­tail in any­thing I do to make sure I get the look that I want.”

Like many Jeep own­ers, Ja­son turned to Us-based AEV (Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tion Ve­hi­cles) for many of the good­ies you see

Like many Jeep fans, Ja­son dis­cov­ered that too much off-road ca­pa­bil­ity is never enough

on his rig, start­ing with the sus­pen­sion. “It has an AEV 2.5-inch lift on it, with the high-steer ge­om­e­try kit to im­prove the steer­ing,” Ja­son ex­plains.

As well as springs and matched Bil­stein shocks, the AEV Dual­sport 2.5Inch XT Sus­pen­sion Sys­tem in­cludes a cus­tom rear track-arm, front sta­biliser end-link re­lo­ca­tion brack­ets, bump-stop ex­ten­sions and brake line re­lo­ca­tion brack­ets. As Ja­son’s Jeep has a fair bit of gear on it, he soon found the rear-end want­ing, so he beefed it up with heav­ier rated King Springs. “That’s been a lot bet­ter with the ex­tra weight that I’ve put on it,” he says.

That ex­tra weight is a re­sult of fit­ting items such as the neat-look­ing steel bar up front, winch, rear bar, roof rack, rooftop tent and all the other good­ies you need for a long trip away in the bush. “I re­ally wanted it to look like, and be set up for, ex­pe­di­tions, so I can be on the road for two or three weeks and be 100 per cent self-suf­fi­cient,” Ja­son says.

The steel bar up front is from an Amer­i­can com­pany called Rock-slide En­gi­neer­ing. It houses a pair of sev­eninch LED driv­ing lights and is home to a Warn Zeon 10-S winch run­ning Dy­nam­ica rope. Ex­tra light out­put comes cour­tesy of four LED light bars mounted to a Smit­ty­bilt light rack above the wind­screen. In ad­di­tion to the Ru­bi­con’s stan­dard un­der­body pro­tec­tion pack­age, Ja­son has added a Rock-slider En­gi­neer­ing bash plate be­neath the bar and an AEV rear diff slider. It has an AEV rear bar, too.

“It has an AEV rear bar and that has wa­ter stor­age with an elec­tric tap set-up on the bumper bar for easy ac­cess,” Ja­son ex­plains. “Then I have the AEV spare wheel car­rier, and built into that is an AEV moulded fuel tank that lit­er­ally sits on the in­side of the spare wheel, in be­tween the wheel and the tail­gate, and gives about 38 litres of fuel stor­age. You just siphon it out of there with a jig­gler and fill up the tank and you can do another 250-300 kays.”

Ja­son reck­ons the Wran­gler av­er­ages around 15.0L/100km on the high­way with its 35-inch Pro Comp mud­dies on 17-inch AEV al­loy wheels, which he says is about on par with many of the diesel ve­hi­cles he reg­u­larly goes tour­ing with.

As for those black AEV wheels, Ja­son says they have a fac­tory off­set, so they sit neatly within the stan­dard wheel-arches, help­ing him to main­tain that fac­to­ry­s­tan­dard look he wants.

Up top, Ja­son has fit­ted a James Baroud Ex­plorer Evo­lu­tion rooftop tent, which is mounted to a three-quar­ter length rack. “The roof rack is from Dou­ble Black Off Road; the rack is from MBRP in the States, and it al­lows me to put the James Baroud Ex­plorer camper on top,” Ja­son says.

“You just re­lease some clips and the tent pops up. And your bed is in there with your pil­lows and your sleep­ing bag, and you’re in bed in about eight sec­onds… very lazy mate; it’s about how quick you can get to your beer,” he laughs. “It only takes about a minute to pack away. You just walk around the car and pull against the struts and put the clamps in, and then you’re off and run­ning.”

As well as the tent, the MBRP roof rack is home to an Eezi-awn Manta 270 swing-out awning that of­fers shade from the side around to the back of the Wran­gler. Pop open the tail­gate and you’re pre­sented with a well-thought-out and func­tional stor­age space; although, there’s no drawer sys­tem in sight. “I’ve got a fold-down Ter­aflex pic­nic table on the tail­gate, an 80-litre Waeco in the back on a cus­tom-made slide, and an Ad­ven­ture Trail­ers up­per stor­age shelf, Camp is set up in less than five min­utes and I’m good to go,” Ja­son says.

“I’ve kept the fridge down the bot­tom and the shelf up top be­cause I can rip off the roof rack and sleeper and then take the hard­top off. I can head down

“The dream mod would be prob­a­bly be the 6.4-litre Hell­cat V8 con­ver­sion!”

the beach with the dog and have the red leather out in the breeze. I didn’t want to go the whole drawer sys­tem; I’ve got Pel­i­can boxes that I use.

“The back seat is still in there; the whole idea is to have as much stor­age space in the back as pos­si­ble. I’ve got a hot wa­ter camp shower I keep in the back, all my cargo gear and every­thing. The only time I’ve got to put the seats down is if I’m tak­ing the dog with me,” Ja­son says.

There’s not a hell of a lot of space un­der the bon­net of a Wran­gler, so rather than fit a tra­di­tional dual-bat­tery set-up, Ja­son opted for a more por­ta­ble so­lu­tion. “It has a sec­ond bat­tery in the back, a Thumper 105Ah bat­tery, and that’s a mo­bile power unit,” he ex­plains. “It comes with a charg­ing kit, so it’s lit­er­ally plugged into your main bat­tery sys­tem. I’ve got it hard­wired through the iso­la­tor switch and then all I’ve got to do is dis­con­nect an An­der­son plug and I can pull it out of the car if I want to. It’s in its own case and, if you want, you can rip it out and put it in your boat. The Waeco will run off it for five days with no prob­lems, and if I’m not driv­ing I just whack out the so­lar panel.”

Com­pared with the en­gi­neer­ing, ac­com­mo­da­tion and stor­age mod­i­fi­ca­tions, Ja­son hasn’t done a hell of a lot to the in­te­rior of the Wran­gler, other than fit­ting a Uniden UHF and a mount for his phone.

“It comes stan­dard with an Alpine pre­mium seven-speaker sound sys­tem. It’s prob­a­bly one of the bet­ter sound sys­tems I’ve heard,” Ja­son says. “I use the stan­dard Jeep nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem and my phone with Hema Maps loaded; I like to keep a very fac­tory look in­side.

“I’ve got a few bits and pieces to go on the in­side, like cargo bags. I’m look­ing for that mil­i­tary SWAT look for some of the lug­gage stuff, but noth­ing fancy. Gen­er­ally the in­te­rior is quite stock stan­dard, it has heated seats – all that com­fort stuff,” Ja­son says.

Ja­son reck­ons he’s “pretty happy” with where his Ru­bi­con 10th An­niver­sary

Model is at right now and that, other than a cus­tom-made shade sys­tem for the roof-top tent, there aren’t any se­ri­ous mods on the cards… but he does ad­mit to grander am­bi­tions. “The dream mod would prob­a­bly be the 6.4-litre Hell­cat V8 con­ver­sion,” he laughs. “One day… or Jeep might bring out a V8.

“Right now? I just want to keep on en­joy­ing it,” Ja­son says. “We head out with the dirt­bikes a fair bit, I prob­a­bly go camp­ing about once a month. We do a lot of day trips, a lot of week­end trips. We’re about to do the Vic­to­rian High Coun­try for nine days, start­ing from Haunted Stream near Omeo, then do­ing Davies High Plain and Tom Grog­gin. I’m just dy­ing to dip into that. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to get­ting across to that side, be­cause we’ve done heaps around Dargo and all through there, and Won­nan­gatta.

“We’ve got a two-week trip planned for Septem­ber through Ood­na­datta, Alice Springs, Birdsville and all through there. A friend of mine did it last year so he’s drag­ging a whole bunch of us out.”

Th­ese days work­ing as a mort­gage bro­ker, Ja­son says he can be quite flex­i­ble with his time, which al­lows him to get out onto the scrub quite a bit.

“We do a lot from the of­fice but also a lot of mo­bile work,” he says, “so I can go away and be four-wheel driv­ing and do two or three hours’ work, and then call it quits for the day and keep go­ing.”

But for some blokes with the of­froad bug, get­ting away from it all, even reg­u­larly, sim­ply isn’t enough.

“I’m based in [Mel­bourne’s] west­ern sub­urbs, Caro­line Springs, and I’m look­ing at land near the Wom­bat For­est. I’m try­ing to put the for­est in my back­yard,” Ja­son laughs.

Once he’s done that, we reckon you’d need a crow­bar to pry him out of his beloved lim­ited Un­lim­ited.

For some blokes with the off-road bug, get­ting away from it all sim­ply isn’t enough!

The Jeep’s long-travel sus­pen­sion was up­graded with AEV com­po­nents to help shoul­der the load of Ja­son’s tour­ing equip­ment.

Ru­bi­con’s red leather gives a splash of colour. With proper floor mats, this comfy cabin is tough and easy to keep clean, too. Jeep own­ers are luck­ier than most 4x4 nuts, as there’s an in­cred­i­ble range of clever trek-ready af­ter­mar­ket equip­ment avail­able.

With deep low-range gear­ing and lifted long travel sus­pen­sion, the Ru­bi­con is a no-fuss off-road per­former.

Ja­son reck­ons pop­ping the top is easy, un­less, of course, he’s al­ready topped-up with pops!

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