A unique JK Wran­gler pick-up taken for a spurt.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS PHO­TOS NATHAN DUFF

The phan­tom Jeep pick-up that never was has been cre­ated in Queens­land.

JEEP has an­nounced it will pro­duce a ute, or pick-up ver­sion, of the next model Wran­gler, but there are plenty of en­thu­si­asts not will­ing to wait un­til 2018 for the fac­tory op­tion. As al­ways, wher­ever there are folks look­ing for some­thing the man­u­fac­tur­ers aren’t sup­ply­ing, you’ll find af­ter­mar­ket busi­nesses will­ing to build it for them. Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tion Ve­hi­cles (AEV) built its first TJ Wran­gler ‘Brute’ pick-up for the 2002 SEMA Show in Las Ve­gas. Jeep was so im­pressed by the con­cept it took the Brute back to De­troit to in­ves­ti­gate build­ing one at the fac­tory, but with the JK Wran­gler al­ready well and truly in the plan­ning stages it de­cided it was too late to de­velop a TJ ute. Jeep said it would look at it again for the JK.

AEV took the ini­tia­tive and be­gan build­ing TJ Brutes for cus­tomers who loved the ver­sa­til­ity and abil­ity of a Wran­gler-based pick-up, es­pe­cially when com­bined with one of AEV’S Hemi V8 en­gine con­ver­sions.

AEV’S busi­ness boomed with the launch of the JK Wran­gler and a host of spe­cialised prod­ucts de­signed to make the Jeep more ca­pa­ble and func­tional wher­ever its cus­tomers’ off-road ad­ven­tures took them. With ru­mours of a fac­tory-built JK pick-up still in the back­ground, AEV held off de­vel­op­ing a Brute for the new model. How­ever, when the fac­tory of­fer­ing didn’t even­tu­ate, the AEV dou­ble-cab Brute broke cover in 2011. AEV never of­fi­cially de­vel­oped a JK Brute sin­gle-cab, and Jeep’s fac­tory JK ute didn’t even­tu­ate ei­ther. On the other side of the world a Queens­land com­pany fi­nally made it hap­pen.

Murchi­son Prod­ucts in Bris­bane, a dis­trib­u­tor of AEV gear, also builds, main­tains and services all man­ner of Jeep ve­hi­cles, from mild to wild. Owner Stu­art Murchi­son had built a cou­ple of TJ Brutes over the years and saw the po­ten­tial of a JK ver­sion. He built a few of what he calls ‘Over­lands’, us­ing the Mopar JK8 kit, but they

You won’t find that colour in any Jeep cat­a­logue, but no sur­prise there. Chopped and stretched, the Over­land is strictly a one-off propo­si­tion

didn’t have the true pick-up style

The gold nugget you see here was orig­i­nally a JK Un­lim­ited Sport that Stu picked up sec­ond-hand for the right price, be­fore it went un­der the sur­geon’s knife in the Murchi­son work­shop. The body was chopped in half be­hind the front doors and a new rear panel fab­ri­cated from scratch, util­is­ing the JK8 rear win­dow sec­tion. With a bit of ex­tra space be­hind the doors this Over­land is an ex­tra­cab more than a true sin­gle-cab; although, the space re­ally just al­lows the seats to sit back, rather than pro­vide much space be­hind them. The roof sec­tion re­tains the JK’S ‘Free­dom’ pan­els, which can be re­moved to give the unique Jeep an open-top feel.

The rear cargo tub is a mod­i­fied AEV TJ Brute item. With no JK Brute avail­able, Stu chose to sec­tion the steel TJ tub, widen­ing it 150mm to match the JK’S pro­por­tions. In­side, the tub is pro­tected by a spray-on liner, and it also houses the fuel filler for the cus­tom 120-litre tank that sits in the chas­sis rails. The rear wheel-arch flares are mod­i­fied Wran­gler Un­lim­ited pieces from the donor ve­hi­cle.

The cut-and-crafted ute body is ac­cen­tu­ated by a host of AEV prod­ucts, start­ing with the heat-re­duc­tion hood (that’s Jeep-speak for bon­net) that al­lows hot air to eas­ily exit the en­gine bay. Help­ing to get clear air into the en­gine is an AEV in­take, while up front an AEV pre­mium bumper ac­com­mo­dates a Runva winch and a pair of IPF spot­ties.

You won’t find the paint colour in any Jeep cat­a­logue, it is Range Rover Zanz­ibar Metal­lic, adding to this Wran­gler’s one-off sta­tus.

When you look at the side pro­file of the JK Brute, you could be ex­cused for think­ing the chas­sis has been length­ened. It hasn’t, but the wheel­base has. With no fac­tory rear whee­larches to dic­tate where the wheels should sit, Stu was able to stretch the wheel­base 254mm longer than the stan­dard JKU us­ing Clay­ton long arm sus­pen­sion. The cargo tub was mod­i­fied to have the arches sit in the right place, while long sus­pen­sion arms al­low for longer travel. The set-up is aided by re­mote reser­voir Fox 2.5 Ex­treme Rac­ing shocks both

Abil­ity doesn’t end where the bi­tu­men stops, as be­came im­me­di­ately clear when we put this golden brain­child through its off-road paces

front and rear, with Mur­shi­son-tuned coil springs. The rear diff is the orig­i­nal Dana 44, al­beit equipped with an ARB air locker, 4.10 gears and Dy­na­trac cover; the front diff is a com­plete Dy­na­trac Pro Rock 44 re­place­ment, again fea­tur­ing the ARB lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial, plus RCV axles and a high steer ar­range­ment.

Those sexy wheels are 17-inch AEV Salta alloys wrapped in 35-inch BFG mud­dies. Get­ting the grunt to those wheels and tyres is the orig­i­nal 2.8-litre turbo-diesel en­gine that has re­ceived a flash-tune tweak to give it some more berries when needed. Flash-tun­ing mod­ern 4x4s is a big part of the Murchi­son busi­ness and, even though they can do most brands of ve­hi­cle, Jeeps re­main the shop’s spe­cialty. Tun­ing this ve­hi­cle sup­plied an ex­tra 105Nm to those mas­sive 35-inch treads. The grunt feeds back through the fac­tory five-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, and the com­bi­na­tion is sweet both on open roads and bush tracks.

Even though this ve­hi­cle has been built to a pre­mium stan­dard, it is all about the func­tion­al­ity of an off-road-ca­pa­ble pick-up. Stu Murchi­son handed us the keys to the Over­land ute on a re­cent cus­tomer drive week­end in South East Queens­land, and we were stoked with its quality fit-and-fin­ish, on-high­way ride and off-road ca­pa­bil­ity.

The tuned en­gine, com­bined with the cus­tom ute’s re­duced weight, makes for one of the most re­spon­sive and will­ing diesels we’ve ever driven

From the out­side the Jeep looks top­shelf. The quality con­tin­ues when you slip in­side and sit on Jeep seats that have been cus­tom-trimmed in two-tone leather with com­ple­men­tary Over­land lo­gos. Ev­ery­thing works as it should, and the cabin is wellinsu­lated from road noise. Power for high­way cruis­ing and over­tak­ing is al­ways on tap, and there’s no no­tice­able loss push­ing the big 35-inch mud­dies. In fact, when you com­bine the tuned en­gine with the lower weight of the ute con­ver­sion, this Wran­gler boo­gies along bet­ter than any other diesel JK we’ve driven.

The abil­ity doesn’t end where the bi­tu­men stops, as the ute made easy work of the steep and rut­ted tracks at Swan Gully Off Road Park, where we took it for a cou­ple of days’ fun. Murchi­son has cre­ated a ve­hi­cle that not only looks über-cool but func­tions bet­ter than stan­dard in all dis­ci­plines – un­less you want a four-door five-seater that is. But we all know utes are way cooler.

A good as this golden Jeep is, Stu has big­ger fish to fry. A part­ner­ship with SCD Amer­i­can Ve­hi­cles has a RAM 1500 on the shop­ping list, so the Jeep has to go. This one-of-a-kind Over­land pick-up will soon find a lucky new owner. Give Stu a call if you’re in­ter­ested.

LED lights from JW Speaker add to the top shelf quality in this Jeep build.

There’s an ex­tra 105Nm of grunt from the diesel en­gine driv­ing those 35-inch mud­dies.

On top and out front, there’s a heat-drain­ing bon­net. Be­low, Fox shocks and cus­tom coils.

No mere head-turner, per­for­mance more than matches looks.

BFG mud­dies on the Salta alloys, a bru­tal coun­ter­point to the slick, shmick in­te­rior.

Top: Cus­tom Over­land stitch­ing for the re­main­ing seats. Be­low: The fuel filler is in the tray and feeds a 120L tank.

Rough stuff? The Over­land took the worst ruts in its stride.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.