This Custom Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK Overland Is a Dream Come True

Taking one last look at his Mercedes-Benz sedan, Chris Perron told the salesperson, “I won’t need this once I retire.” After 33 years in the military, Chris found himself at a Jeep dealership, ready to trade the rigors of his career (and his sports car) for something geared more for the dirt. To the bewilderment of the sales staff, he parted ways with the CLS 550, drove away from the dealership in a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Recon Edition, and never looked back.

Although this was his first off-road vehicle, Chris knew he’d end up with a Jeep. He just couldn’t beat the vehicle’s ruggedness and the storage beneath the hardtop. Once the Wrangler was his, he methodically modified it to suit his specifications. Chris fine-tuned the Jeep’s suspension setup, matched tires and wheels to his off-roading style, augmented nighttime visibility, and tailored the cargo area to fit his needs. Once complete, the Jeep was a carefully honed tool for exploring far away from civilization, and it has allowed Chris to travel from coast to coast with confidence.

Wheels and Tires

AEV Borah beadlocks keep Chris’ 37-inch BFGoodrich mud-terrains seated no matter how low he chooses to drop his tire pressure.

Cargo on Top

Rhino-Rack’s Pioneer platform is a low-profile solution to storing cargo above the Jeep, and it is paired with the company’s Backbone system that reinforces the hardtop from the inside. Chris sleeps above the ground inside his James Baroud Explorer rooftop tent.

LED Lights and Winch

ARB Intensity driving lights sit low on the front bumper, and LED pods from Rigid Industries are on the cowls, packing forward-facing amber lights. Chris’ scene lights are red-lensed Rigid Industries LEDs for easier vision in the dark. There’s a Warn Zeon 10-S winch with a Factor 55 FlatLink nestled behind the Rubicon’s stock steel bumper.

Steering and Armor

Reinforcements in the front include an aluminum tie rod and drag link, an adjustable track bar from JKS Manufacturing, and an up-armored differential cover. Skidplates from Rock Hard 4×4 protect the evap canister, rear differential, and other sensitive parts on the undercarriage, and the company’s transmission crossmember adds additional heft. Chris opted for aluminum skidplates to reduce the sprung weight of his Jeep.

Underhood Electronics

Under the hood, the 3.6-liter V-6 shares real estate with a dual-battery system and an sPOD six-switch relay box. The unit can control up to six circuits with rocker switches, and its design requires only one wire to be run into the cab.

Suspension

Chris chose Old Man Emu remote-reservoir BP-51 internal-bypass shocks that afford him adjustable control over compression and rebound damping. His coil springs support the Jeep’s load while offering four inches of lift.

Cargo Organization

Knowing where things are is crucial for Chris, so he worked with OK4WD in Stewartsville, New Jersey, to fit the Jeep with organization and storage options from Goose Gear. There’s space for his fridge/freezer, a slide-out kitchen arrangement, easy-access drawers, and various options for securing additional cargo. All work at the tailgate can be done under easy-on-the-night-vision red LED light.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Recon Edition: Build Details

  • Stomping grounds: Sedona, Arizona
  • Build time: 1 year

Drivetrain

  • Engine: 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6
  • Transmission: WA580 five-speed auto
  • Transfer case(s): NP241OR 2-speed
  • Low range ratio(s): 4.0:1
  • Crawl ratio(s): 70.1
  • Front axle/differential: Dana 44, Yukon Gear & Axle 4.88 gears/stock electronic locker
  • Rear axle/differential: Dana 44, Yukon Gear & Axle 4.88 gears/stock electronic locker

Suspension

  • Front: Old Man Emu BP-51 remote-reservoir shocks, Old Man Emu 4-inch coils, JKS Manufacturing track bar; JKS JSPEC Advanced Geometry Upgrade Kit for Jeep JK, Hellwig anti-roll bar
  • Rear: Old Man Emu BP-51 remote-reservoir shocks, Old Man Emu 4-inch coils, Hellwig anti-roll bar

Tires/Wheels

  • Tires: 37 x 12.50R17 BFGoodrich T/A KM3 M/T
  • Wheels: 17-inch AEV Borah beadlock

Miscellaneous

  • Steering: Old Man Emu damper
  • Lighting: ARB Intensity 9.5-inch LED spot lights, ARB Intensity LED flood lights, Rigid Industries SR-Q Series Diffused LED light, DSS Pro LED lights, and D-Series Pro Diff SM LEDs; AEV CHMSL third brake light; Baja Designs LED red and clear dome lights; Vision X LED strip light, 279J Jeep Taillight
  • Armor: Rock Hard 4×4 transmission crossmember, and aluminum skidplates, MetalCloak tube fenders and fender liners
  • Cool stuff: Warn Zeon 10-S winch, Power Interrupt Kit, and Maximus-3 winch mount; Factor 55 FlatLink; sPOD JK six-switch panel; Goose Gear JK 2 Door Plate System, CampKitchen 2.3 system, Double Drawer Module, and Drawer Inserted Cutting Board; Partner Steel 22-inch Propane Stove; 1.5-gal Manchester propane tank; ARB 50-qt fridge/freezer w/tie-down system, wiring kit, recovery kit, Portable Air Compressor, Hydraulic Recovery Jack, and Digital Tire Pressure Gauge; Genesis Offroad G Screen monitoring system and JK Dual Battery Kit; Rubicon Express driveshafts; Dynatrac ProGrip Brake System; JKS Manufacturing Exhaust Extension Kit; AEV ProCal module, Snorkel System, and Fuel Caddy; 67 Designs iPhone/GoPro/iPad mounts; weBoost cellular booster; Garmin inReach Mini; Maxtrax traction boards and harness; Northbound Expeditions G.A.R.B. and chainsaw bag; STIHL battery chainsaw; Fiskar Axe; Bubba Rope recovery kit; Hi-Lift jack; 6-ton bottle jack; Rhino-Rack 84×56-inch Pioneer Platform, Backbone 3, and RLCP legs; Alu-Cab Shadow awning and awning mount kit; James Baroud Explorer tent

4×4 Garage Video Series! Episode 1: Updating A 1988 Ford Bronco Suspension

In episode 1 of the new video series 4×4 Garage, host Christian Hazel tears down the suspension of a 1988 Ford Bronco for a 6-inch Superlift system and dives into the axles to prep them for new 4.88 gears and Eaton TrueTrac differentials to support the 37×12.50R17 Falken A/T3W all-terrain tires for awesome performance. Want to see more? Subscribe to the MotorTrend YouTube channel!

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