A hard­core JK Wran­gler and lux­ury camper in one.

AMER­I­CAN EX­PE­DI­TION VE­HI­CLES’ LUX­URY “CAR­A­VAN” IS BUILT TO TRAVEL THE GLOBE.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

IN THE PAST few years the 4WD com­mu­nity has ex­pe­ri­enced a bar­rage of new op­tions when it comes to ve­hi­cle-based abodes. For many, the con­cept of slip­ping out of the driver’s seat and into a liv­ing room is very ap­peal­ing. Merge this the­ory with a com­pact and re­li­able plat­form that will go just about any­where and you’ll have a ve­hi­cle that is ready for a jaunt across the Ru­bi­con or around the globe in com­fort. Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tion Ve­hi­cles (AEV), run­ning ahead of the curve as it usu­ally does, de­vel­oped the orig­i­nal Out­post back in 2006. With an­other decade of ex­pe­ri­ence build­ing Oe-qual­ity con­ver­sions un­der its belt, founder Dave Har­ri­ton took it upon him­self to cre­ate the next gen­er­a­tion of the ul­ti­mate over­land Jeep. En­ter the Out­post II.

DRIV­E­TRAIN, SUS­PEN­SION AND AR­MOUR

AS ONE of the first com­pa­nies to of­fer fac­tory-fit V8 con­ver­sions for the Wran­gler, pow­er­plant choice was a given. Pop­ping the bon­net re­veals a 5.7-litre HEMI that pro­duces 375hp (280kw) and 390lb-ft (528Nm). Ev­ery­thing from the ra­di­a­tor and wiring loom to fuel lines and bat­tery tray are AEV com­po­nents. As­sist­ing with as­pi­ra­tion is AEV’S cus­tom air box, snorkel and pre-fil­ter, and upon close in­spec­tion one would lose a bet that the en­tire ensem­ble did not roll out of Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio, fa­cil­ity as-is. Aft of the torque con­verter we find an A580 five-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, tuned and with shift points mod­i­fied to ac­com­mo­date the HEMI’S power curve.

Re­ceiv­ing those ponies out back is Dy­na­trac’s new high-clear­ance low-pin­ion Dana 60 fit­ted with 4.88:1 gears, an Ea­ton lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial and a big brake kit. Up the front rides a Dana 44, also by Dy­na­trac, with an elec­tric lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial from a Wran­gler Ru­bi­con.

Keep­ing the axles in place is AEV’S 4.5inch Dual­sport sus­pen­sion. To man­age the ad­di­tional un­sprung weight, as well as that of the abode and ac­ces­sories, Dave in­cor­po­rated AEV’S high-ca­pac­ity coil springs, pro­to­type

POP­PING THE BON­NET RE­VEALS A 5.7 LITRE HEMI THAT PRO­DUCES 280KW AND 528NM

Bil­stein 8100 shocks, and a cus­tom .875-inch sway bar. The com­bi­na­tion pro­vides near-fac­tory on-road han­dling, ex­cel­lent off-road con­trol and ar­tic­u­la­tion in cross-axle ter­rain like no car­a­van we’ve seen. Keep­ing the rig in con­tact with the trac­tive sur­face is a set of 37-inch Bf­goodrich Mud-ter­rain KM3S and AEV’S 17-inch Bo­rah 356-T6 alu­minium wheels with forged bead­lock rings. The Bo­rah is a unique con­cept, as it can be utilised as a true bead­lock and can ac­com­mo­date a tra­di­tional non-bead­lock mount­ing.

No trail rig would be com­plete with­out proper ar­mour and re­cov­ery equip­ment. Up front is an AEV Premium front bumper fit­ted with IPF aux­il­iary lights and a Warn Zeon 10.0 winch wrapped with syn­thetic rope. Pro­tect­ing soft body parts are a pair of full-length Ru­bi­con rock slid­ers. To pro­tect the tail end of the camper, Dave fab­ri­cated a wrap­around rear bumper re­plete with a pair of crank-down sta­biliser jacks and weld tabs for an ar­ray of Rigid Dually LED lights. A frame ex­ten­sion from AEV’S Brute Dou­ble-

Cab was in­cor­po­rated to sup­port the camper and pro­vide proper at­tach­ment points for the rear bumper. This al­lows for the spare to be mounted un­der the rear deck, while over­all length was in­creased by 279.4mm over that of a stock four-door Wran­gler. A set of Max­trax se­cured to the back of the camper and an ARB re­cov­ery kit are close at hand if needed.

THE ABODE

THERE is a lot to con­sider when cre­at­ing a com­fort­able and func­tional liv­ing space: ef­fi­cient use of real es­tate, keep­ing in­creased mass to a min­i­mum, and con­struct­ing it to with­stand the rigours of le­git­i­mate off-road travel. To ad­dress the lat­ter, the “house” be­gan with a steel bird­cage frame formed from 14- and 16-gauge square tub­ing, which was tied into the roll­bar and floor (to add tor­sional rigid­ity) and pow­der­coated. It was then fit­ted with Cncmilled polypropy­lene hon­ey­comb pan­els and skinned with fi­bre­glass. The re­sult was a rigid box with an R9 in­su­la­tion rat­ing. The top opens in clamshell fash­ion with a pair of elec­tric jacks, re­veal­ing a breath­able en­clo­sure that pro­vides nearly eight feet (243cm) of head­room. Walk­ing around the Out­post II re­vealed sev­eral stor­age

com­part­ments, a fill cap for the 83-litre wa­ter tank, 120-volt shore­power re­cep­ta­cle, an AEV awning, and mo­tion-sens­ing ex­te­rior lights.

Be­cause liv­ing on the road is about be­ing one with na­ture, the pantry, Na­tional Luna fridge/ freezer and Part­ner Steel stove are ac­ces­si­ble via two ad­di­tional por­tals un­der the awning. While the fridge and pantry are also ac­ces­si­ble from the in­side, ex­te­rior ac­cess is handy for stock­ing pro­vi­sions af­ter shop­ping.

Step­ping in­side is rem­i­nis­cent of en­ter­ing a lux­ury yacht. A lam­i­nated hard­wood counter rests to star­board, and much of the hard­ware and ac­ces­sories are adap­ta­tions from the ma­rine in­dus­try. To port is a two-me­tre couch that con­verts to a bed, with ad­di­tional stor­age and house­hold sys­tems un­der­neath. Keep­ing oc­cu­pants warm is an Es­par B5 13,500 BTU petrol heater, and the 15-litre hot-wa­ter tank

“IT WAS BUILT FOR TWO PEO­PLE AND A DOG TO TRAVEL IN COM­FORT”

is heated and con­trolled via a ma­rine heat ex­changer and ther­mo­static mix­ing valve (shore­power can be used as a backup if needed). To safely va­cate spent gases from the heater, the man­i­fold was cre­atively tied into the ve­hi­cle’s ex­haust sys­tem at the tailpipe. Keep­ing the sys­tem en­er­gised is a roof-mounted enow 265-Watt so­lar panel, dual Op­tima Blue Top deep-cy­cle bat­ter­ies and a Na­tional Luna charge con­troller. Other clever touches in­clude a proper closet for hang­ing clothes, LED in­te­rior light­ing through­out, ARB twin com­pres­sor, cus­tom roof rack, and camper hinges thought­fully de­signed to match those of the JK’S hood.

AEV has come a long way since its hum­ble be­gin­nings in a one-room, dirt-floor shop in Mis­soula, Mon­tana. This suc­cess is largely due to its ex­tra­or­di­nary at­ten­tion to de­tail in ev­ery prod­uct it pro­duces. This ethos is ev­i­dent in the Out­post II. When asked what he would do dif­fer­ently and if the Out­post II will be avail­able as a pub­lic of­fer­ing, founder Dave Har­ri­ton said: “I built it for two peo­ple and a dog to travel com­fort­ably. As far as man­u­fac­tur­ing the Out­post II for re­tail sale, I’m not sure. We aren’t quite done with it, but I will keep you posted.”

WORDS AND PHO­TOS CHRIS COL­LARD

The cabin re­mains pretty much stock Jeep, apart from the Aev-stamped bright­work on the pas­sen­ger’s grab­han­dle.

Side ac­cess pan­els al­low out­side stock­ing of the pantry and fridge.

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