Eddie Salazar has been building Jeeps for over 15 years - from an '85 CJ to his latest creation, an '06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. Like many of us, in the past he chose the quick and easy route, which we all know often leads to the cheap route as well. As Salazar gained more experience behind the wheel of Jeeps, he learned a valuable lesson: You get what you pay for. So, this time around he turned to good friend Mel Wade, owner of Off Road Evolution in Fullerton, California. Mel and his crew turn out some very creative and unique vehicles that always turn heads at off-road events. Knowing that his new Jeep needed to be solid both on- and off-road, Salazar worked closely with Off Road Evolution to be sure the right components were installed no matter what the cost.
Starting off with the Rubicon Unlimited gave Eddie a platform that would be plenty strong for almost any trail; however, he wanted to do more and not only defeat those trails but suffer as few problems as possible doing so. That meant beefing up the axles, suspension, and drivetrain. In order to create an all-new platform that would withstand tons of abuse, Eddie ordered up a set of Dynatrac Pro Rock 60 axles. Pro Rock 60s are known for being among the toughest axlehousings around. The housing is custom-machined and reverse-cut and uses a nodular-iron housing. Eddie had the 60s installed both front and rear with matching 5.13-ratio gears, 35-spline axles, and ARB Air Lockers.
The custom work began at Off Road Evolution with Eddie's suspension setup. The base of the system is Full-Traction's popular long-arm suspension system combined with a Poly Performance coilover setup on the front end and additional rear shock support. The Poly Performance kit works well with the Full-Traction system and requires minimal modification for installation. The Poly Performance coilover kit includes shock towers, lower mounts, and a shock-tower tie-bar that goes across the top of the engine. The tie-bar keeps both shock mounts in line and increases strength and durability as well as providing a home for the remote reservoirs. Sway-A-Way air bumps were also installed up front to aid shock performance because Eddie not only wanted to crawl through canyons but blast through sand dunes too, which keep a suspension system moving constantly. With coilovers and air bumps up front, Eddie decided to run Sway-A-Way adjustable race shocks in the rear with 4-inch Eibach springs and Acos spacers.
Seeking a good all-around tire for both dirt and highways, Eddie chose 37x13.5R17 Toyo Open Countrys. The tires wrap around 17x8.5 KMC beadlock wheels with 5.5 inches of backspacing. A Dynatrac high-steer system was added to the stock Jeep steering components to aid in turning the additional weight the new suspension, wheels, and tires have put on the vehicle. The braking system also needed to be addressed because of the new setup, so a set of Ford F-150 disc brakes was swapped in place of the factory Jeep calipers and rotors.
Although his engine bay remains fairly stock at this time, plans include a new set of headers, an Edge Products performance module, a new throttle body, and more. So far, the performance has been increased with a custom-made exhaust system and an AEM Brute Force intake. Also found under the hood are dual ARB air compressors (one for each axle) and an Optima RedTop battery.
When it came time to equip the body, Eddie started off with a rock-solid Rock Hard 4x4 Sports Cage. The 'cage includes everything from the factory bar forward to the dash and fits both hardtop and soft-top vehicles. Dash brackets are mounted to the bolt below the dome-light switch and both bolts above the switch. All connections to the factory bars are with 1/2-inch-thick, CNC-machined clamping collars with six 5/16x1-inch Grade 8 socket-head capscrews. All tubing is 1-3/4x0.120-wall. Also found inside the cabin is a set of Corbeau MicroFiber seats with built-in seat heaters. For increased body protection, Hanson Enterprises rocker guards were installed as well as a Kilby Enterprises gas-tank skidplate and a Turbo City steering-box skidplate. The front bumper is made by Warn; the rear bumper is from Durango 4x4.
Eddie wants to thank Mel at Off Road Evolution for his and his crew's hard work building his Jeep, and he can't forget to say thank you to his loving wife for putting up with his Jeep addiction. We should all be so fortunate to have a partner who allows us to build not only one off-road vehicle but six!