PROJECT: - American Expedition Vehicles

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PROJECT: - American Expedition Vehicles
RAT
PATROL
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Our Latest Project JK is
Poised to Do Battle
B
BY JAMES J. WEBER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMES J. WEBER
uilding a project vehicle is a balancing
act. On one hand, we want to showcase the latest and greatest, and on the other, we want to
keep it simple. Every time we ponder a new aftermarket part, we ask ourselves whether or not that part
would bring us closer to creating a simple, functional
trail rig. Too many parts just make for a cluttered rig.
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Editor-In-Chief Phil Howell located this two-door ’08 JK Rubicon
at Hemet Chrysler Jeep Dodge in
Hemet, California. Yours truly retrieved it from the dealership.
Before making any modifications, a theme had to be chosen.
We’ve got immense respect for the
courage and dedication of the men
and women of the armed forces,
and that respect brought the 1960’s
television series “The Rat Patrol”
to mind. A running theme of the
“Rat Patrol” was “Impossible Mission? Impossible Task? Give it to
the Rat Patrol!” In short, the Rat
Patrol was ready to do battle anytime, anywhere it the world. The
JK’s deep green combined with the
well-documented military heritage
of the Jeep tied in well with the
Rat Patrol theme. Our goal with
this JK is to build a trail rig that
can go anywhere and do anything.
It’s a simple idea, but the execution
proved a little more involved.
Our first order of business was to
drop the vehicle off to Mel Wade,
owner of Off-Road Evolution in
Fullerton, California, to begin our
build. Following our mission statement, a 3-inch Black Diamond Suspension system was installed along
with Off Road Evolution’s air bump
system at the front coils. In addition
to retaining the factory geometry of
the vehicle, the Black Diamond system replaces the factory front lower
control arms for more durable and
adjustable units and includes adjustable heim-jointed traction bars
in the front and rear. Based upon
our vehicle’s trim level, model type
and other parameters, the front
and rear coil springs in each kit
are matched accordingly from the
factory. A factory option that we
DECEMBER2008
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project: rat patrol
The rolling stock consists of 17x8-inch
American Expedition Vehicles Pintler beadlock wheels wrapped with 35x12.50x17 Toyo
Open Country MT tires.
The factory hood was replaced with an American Expedition Vehicles heat reduction hood
which allows fresh and cooler air to enter
the engine compartment through the top and
side vents. Fitting seamlessly into the hood
is an AEV snorkel / pre-filter kit which scrubs
the air prior to it entering the air box.
The 3-inch Black Diamond suspension is
paired with Bilstein 5100 series shock absorbers and an Off Road Evolution Evo Air
Bump System. This setup provides a plush
ride and ample clearance for the 35-inch
Toyo Open Country MT tires.
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chose to incorporate into the kit were
custom-valved Bilstein 5100 Series
shock absorbers. To compliment the
shocks, a pair of Bilstein bump stops
were chosen as part of the Off Road
Evolution air bump system, which
borrows the same technology that
desert race trucks utilize to help absorb some of the suspension rebound
and ride harshness when on hard
packed roads and trails. Once at a
respectable trail height, a set of highquality and durable American Expedition Vehicles 17x8-inch Pintler factory cast bead lock wheels replaced
the factory Rubicon units along with
a set of equally durable 35x12.50R17
Toyo Open Country MT tires. Given
the additional height increase and extreme angles of articulation that the
front suspension possesses, the OE
front brake lines were replaced with
extended stainless steel versions from
Currie Enterprises.
The upgraded suspension combined with the meaty tires and
wheels had a domino effect on the
drive train. The factory 4.10 gears
did a great job of turning the factorysupplied 31-inch tires, but were no
match for our 35-inch Toyo Open
Country M/T’s. The crew at Off-Road
Evolution swapped the factory ring
and pinion sets for a pair of 4.88 gears
from Reider Racing. While performing the gear change, the front and rear
axle shafts were also upgraded for a
pair of Superior Axle & Gear’s Evolution Series axle shafts. Fully compatible with the factory Dana 44 axles,
Superior’s cold-rolled axle shafts are
installation ready and include new
studs, bearings and seals. Knowing a
system is only as strong as its weakest
link, the stock front and rear driveshafts were replaced with units from
J.E. Reel Driveshafts and compliment
the Rock-Trac Rubicon transfer case
with 4:1 low range. The 1350-Series
drive shafts manufactured by J.E.
Reel feature 1-3/8-inch diameter slip
yokes versus the factory 1-1/4-inch
units and have been lengthened an
additional inch in the slip joint. To
protect the entire drive train and underbody components, a pair of High
Caliber Products/Magnum Off Road
steel skid plates was installed, including one that protects the evaporation
canister in its stock location.
With the drive train poised for
battle, beefing up the body armor
was next. Starting at the front and
working our way back, an American Expedition Vehicles front bumper was installed along with a stout
Ramsey Patriot 9000 lb. winch with
synthetic winch line and a pair of IPF
HID off road lights. Easily one of the
best looking front bumpers for the
JK, the AEV unit is the only stamped
steel front bumper on the market.
Fabricated from 1/8-inch thick steel,
the bumper is able to retain both the
factory fog lights and the factory air
bag crush canisters. The sides of our
rig have been protected with a set of
PUREJEEP formed rocker guards that
feature a side step for additional protection. The durable steel plate and
thick-walled tubing allow our vehicle
to slide off of virtually any rock formation without so much as a scratch
or dent to the bodywork. Each of
the rear corners have been wrapped
with American Expedition Vehicles
steel corner guards. Following the
same construction methodology,
each corner has been fabricated from
1/8-inch plate steel and stamped for
a truly factory fit and finish. Bringing
up the rear, our friends at Rock Hard
4x4 were called upon to make the
back end of the rig be as bulletproof
as the front end. Starting with their
1/4-inch thick steel plate rear bum-
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project: rat patrol
Protecting the underbody and new drive train
components are High Caliber/Magnum Off
Road’s 1/4-inch thick steel skid plate system, which even includes a skid plate that
allows the evaporation canister to be kept in
its stock location but further protected. The
new J.E. Reel driveshaft also benefits from
the skid plate system.
The risk of side injury to our JK’s body has
been greatly diminished thanks to PUREJEEP’s formed rocker guards that have been
built from stout 1/4-inch thick steel plate and
heavy walled DOM tubing.
American Expedition vehicles steel corner
guards provide additional protection to each
rear corner of the JK, while providing a stylish look as well. A Mopar fuel filler door was
also installed along with a CoolTech license
plate mounted CB antenna mount.
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4WD&SU
A High Caliber/Magnum Off Road cargo divider made from 4130 chromoly tube and perforated sheet materials not only keeps cargo
from sliding under the front seats, but it also
serves as a mounting location for a Powertank air bottle and vital engine and detailing
fluids. Rock Hard 4x4’s rear harness bar can
be seen directly behind the cargo divider.
The rear of the vehicle has been treated to Rock Hard
4x4’s full product
line which includes
their ¼-inch thick
steel plate bumper
with fuel can holders, spare tire carrier and mountain
rack all attached. The rear bumper has an
integrated Class 2 receiver hitch built in.
For those times when extrication of another
vehicle is required, there are two shackle
mounting points included as well.
Mastercraft’s Baja RS race seats provide all
of the support and comfort needed when traversing the Rubicon trail thanks to their suspension construction. A true bolt-in product,
the Baja RS units are fully adjustable and
have been designed to accommodate Mastercraft’s 2-inch harness system.
per with integrated Class 2 receiver
hitch and tapered ends for increased
departure angles, their swing out tire
carrier was installed along with their
mountain rack and jerry can holders
that feature military-spec 5-gallon
Spectre fuel cans secured with Steel
Core locking tie down straps. An additional wheel and tire combination
was installed on the rear tire carrier
which swings on a 1-1/4-inch steel
shaft and 2-3/4-inch hub with upper
and lower sealed tapered roller bearings. A trick swing stop has also been
incorporated into the package to help
manage the spare when the rear gate
is open. For added safety, a pair of
Whelen LED strobe lights and an extreme Hi-Lift jack was added to the
tire carrier’s A-frame.
Being a two door Rubicon, cargo
space is at a premium. To help add
more real estate to our rig, a pair of
Yakima roof racks was added to our
factory three-piece hardtop. Installed
using Yakima’s track system, each
piece of the three-piece hardtop has
had a track installed, that way the
targa configuration may still be used
with the racks staying in place.
Given the amount of steel products
added to the JK, the 3.8L V-6 began to experience the consequences
in the performance department. To
bring performance back to par, we
utilized a Hypertech Max Energy
power programmer which allowed
us to optimize our tuning settings on
the vehicle, including fuel programming, speedometer and odometer
correction and cooling fan settings.
Helping to filter the intake air and
provide an additional line of protection to the engine, an American Expedition Vehicles snorkel/pre-filter
system was installed which utilizes
the factory air box and mounting
bolts on the body. Working in seam-
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project: rat patrol
Even though our Rubicon is equipped with
the MyGig navigation system from the factory, you just can’t beat the tried and true
Lowrance GlobalMap Baja 540c for when you
really need to know where you have been and
where you’re going. The unit was installed
in a modified Daystar console insert which
also holds a cell phone or similar device in
its built-in tray.
less conjunction with the AEV snorkel system is an American Expedition
Vehicles heat reduction hood that has
been designed to provide fresh intake air and critical cooling within
the engine compartment. This is
achieved through a series of strategically placed openings on the side and
top of the steel hood. With attention
to detail never overlooked, the AEV
team uses perforated stainless steel
grates to cover the hood openings.
Since the hood came e-coated and
ready for paint, our resident paint expert Alex Paul of AP Designs in San
Marcos, California, laid down the
color matched metallic Jeep Green
paint for a factory appearance.
Moving to the interior, a Lowrance
GlobalMap Baja 540c GPS unit was
installed atop the factory MyGig unit
and housed within a Daystar console
insert. As anyone who has ever ridden
in a Jeep with the top down can attest,
you can’t hear yourself think due to
the wind noise. To resolve this issue,
a David Clark 9800 Series “Go Fast”
marine intercom system was called
upon. Using the latest in voice activated technologies; the intercom system is able to integrate an iPod, a VHF
radio and even a cell phone for hands
free driving. Tasked with controlling
all of the electronics and lighting accessories on the vehicle is an S-pod
switching system which incorporates
a better than factory looking fuse and
relay box which mounts onto the factory ECU mounting bolts and incorporates the six lighted switches above
the rear view mirror. Always keeping
safety of our occupants a top priority,
a Rock Hard 4x4 interior sport cage
was bolted in along with their soon
to be released rear safety harness bar.
The factory front seats were removed
and replaced with a pair of Mastercraft’s fully adjustable Baja RS units
The mil-spec Sceptre 5-gallon fuel cans are
the same type that our U.S. military forces
use on their vehicles. Steel Core locking tie
down straps are in charge of keeping them
part of the truck until needed.
A waterproof Hella rear work light and
Whelen LED strobe light system have been
mounted on the spare tire carrier’s A-frame
for added trail security and safety.
Occupants of the JK can enjoy their trail ride
with piece of mind thanks to Rock Hard 4x4’s
interior sport cage which bolts into factory
locations and strengthens the integrity of the
cab in the event of a rollover or some other
turning event.
An Extreme Hi-Lift jack is attached to the
spare tire carrier and has been secured via
a padlock which passes through one of the
mounting bolts.
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4WD&SU
www.4wdandsportutility.com
project: rat patrol
Additional real estate for added cargo has
been found atop the roof via Yakima’s track
mounting system that has the versatility to
allow us to remove the front roof panels for a
true saratoga top configuration.
The American Expedition Vehicles front bumper houses a Ramsey Patriot 9,000 pound
winch with synthetic winch line and a pair
of IPF HID off road lights. The construction
of the front bumper is flawless. Built from
1/8-inch thick steel that has been stamped
the same way OE bumpers are created, the
unit accommodates the factory fog lights and
crush canisters for the air bag deployment
system.
with their 2-inch safety harnesses.
To keep the cargo from shifting while
traversing trails, a High Caliber Products/Magnum Off Road cargo divider
was acquired. Aside from just holding cargo back, the divider also serve
double duty as a mounting platform
for our Powertank air tank and had
SOURCEs
A M ER I CA N E X PE D I T I O N V E H I CLE S
( 4 0 6 ) 251-210 0
www.aev-conversions.com
LO W RA N CE
( 8 0 0 ) 3 24 -13 5 6
www.lowrance.com
AP D E S I G N S
( 76 0 ) 471-10 24
www.apdesignsusa.com
M A S TERCRA F T RACE PRO D U CT S
(800) 565-4042
www.mastercraftseats.com
B I L S TE I N S H OC K A B S OR B ER S
(858) 386-5900
www.bilstein.com
O F F ROA D E V OL U T I O N
( 714 ) 870 -5 515
www.offroadevolution.com
B LAC K D I A M O N D /
S U PERL I F T S U S PE N S I O N
( 318 ) 3 9 7-3 0 0 0
www.superlift.com
PO W ERTA N K
( 209 ) 366-2163
www.powertank.com
C U RR I E E N TERPR I S E S
( 714 ) 528- 6957
www.currieenterprises.com
D A V I D CLAR K CO M PA N Y
(800) 298-6235
www.davidclark.com
D A Y S TAR PRO D U CT S
I N TER N AT I O N AL , I N C .
( 80 0 ) 595-7659
www.daystarweb.com
H E M ET C H R Y S LER JEEP D O D G E
( 951) 652-2200
w w w.hemetchr ysler.com
An S-pod switch system controls all of the
auxiliary switching duties. Included with the
kit is a switch panel that mounts on the windshield frame above the rear view mirror and
the distribution center which comes complete with TRW fuse block, relays and circuit
board and a protective housing. Best of all,
the unit utilizes factory bolts as its mounting
location above the ECU module.
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4WD&SU
the capability to store extra quarts
of vital engine fluids should we ever
need them.
Our Rat Patrol JK is built for the
ultimate in serviceability. This story
alone doesn’t do justice to the Jeep or
to the parts used to build it. Watch for
more detail in upcoming issues.
P U REJEEP
(800) 255-6464
www.purejeep.com
RA M S E Y W I N C H
( 918 ) 4 3 8-276 0
www.ramseywinch.com
RE I D ER RAC I N G
( 800 ) 522-2707
www.reiderracing.com
ROC K H AR D 4 X 4 PART S
(308) 750-4690
www.rockhard4x4parts.com
S - PO D
( 6 61) 75 5 -8139
www.4x4spod.com
H I G H CAL I B ER /
M A G N U M O F F ROA D
( 76 0 ) 59 9 -415 6
www.magnumoffroad.com
S TEEL CORE PRO D U CT S
( 714 ) 879 -79 9 9
www.steelcore.net
H Y PERTEC H PER F OR M A N CE
(901) 382-8888
www.hypertech.com
S U PER I OR A X LE S & G EAR S
( 888 ) 522-2953
www.superioraxle.com
I P F L I G H T S by AR B U S A
( 4 2 5 ) 2 6 4 -13 9 1
www.arbusa.com
TO Y O T I RE S
(800) 442-8696
www.toyo.com
J . E . REEL D R I V E L I N E S PEC I AL I S T S
(909) 629-9002
www.jereel.com
Y A K I M A PRO D U CT S
(888) 925-4621
w w w.yakima.com
www.4wdandsportutility.com

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