You've probably heard of Dan McKeag and the crew at Burnsville Off Road, located in Burnsville, Minnesota. Dan figured out very early how to install Hemi V8s into new JK Wranglers and doing it so that everything works as it came from the factory. With the CANbus system in the JK, all systems communicate with each other, making a simple engine and transmission swap more difficult than just bolting them in. The Burnsville crew makes these swaps work every time. The swaps also come with a one-year unlimited-mileage warranty. Dan or one of his crew members will fly out and repair any problems one of their vehicles might have, although we haven't heard of any problems yet.
This JK started out as a mild-mannered Jeep Green JK Sahara Unlimited that came from the factory fully loaded with the dual-top group, power/convenience group, and MyGIG navigation radio. It came from the factory equipped with a Dana 44 rearend and Dana 30 front. Burnsville purchased a Mopar Performance JK Rubicon frontend and rearend and replaced the stockers. Superior 5.13 gears were installed front and rear. They also replaced the Sahara sway bar with a JK Rubicon electronic-disconnect model. The front and rear lockers work in any transfer-case position, not just in Low range as in the Rubicon. The sway bar can be disconnected or reconnected at any speed, even in two-wheel drive. You can see the advantages.
What really makes this Jeep a Super Sahara is the 6.1 Hemi, the same V8 used in the SRT8 Grand Cherokee. The 6.1 used was a brand-new crate engine from Chrysler that comes complete from intake to exhaust manifolds. A Griffin aluminum radiator keeps the big mill cool, even on the hottest days. A custom stainless exhaust system, built by Burnsville, utilizes stainless MagnaFlow mufflers. With 425 hp, the 6.1 motivates the JK Unlimited much better than the stock 3.8L V6 did (duh). Tony Squier at Squier Incorporated in Mena, Arkansas, supplied his wiring harness for this swap. Tony's harnesses look OE and use all factory connectors.
The SRT8 Grand Cherokee has a six-speed automatic with an all-wheel-drive transfer case that just wouldn't do in this application. After all, a Super Sahara has to be super not only on the pavement, but off the pavement too. A 545RFE five-speed automatic used in the Hemi-equipped Dodge trucks bolts right up, as does the stock transfer case to the back of the transmission. Burnsville reprogrammed the computer to operate the 545RFE, and it works just as if it were still in its original Dodge-truck home. Tom Wood built two of his custom CV driveshafts, and they do a great job getting the 6.1's power to the frontend and rearend.
School's still out on whether the OE JK steering box and pump can hold up to the rigors of hard off-roading. Burnsville didn't take a chance and installed a brand-new steering gearbox and power-steering pump from PSC. The PSC system is set up to run a hydraulic ram assist, but Dan couldn't figure out how to plumb the ram into the box with the Hemi in the way, so just the box and pump were installed. There have been no problems with this installation, and the steering works very well.
A Mopar Performance long-arm suspension by Rubicon Express was installed, and it works very well. The only change made to the suspension was powdercoating the arms black and the addition of Walker Evans adjustable reservoir shocks at each corner. With 14 compression levels, the Walker Evans shocks can be dialed in to perform well whatever situation the Super Sahara may run into. We've found the rebound damping is perfect for the JK. The 4.5-inch Rubicon coil springs allow the use of 37-inch tires.
Burnsville likes to run bias-ply Interco Iroks for hard-core off-roading and then run radial mud-terrain tires for all other applications. They mounted the Iroks on 17x8.5 Walker Evans Racing beadlocks. For all-around use, OMF beadlocked the stock 18-inch Sahara wheels and powdercoated them black. New 37-inch BFGoodrich KM2 Mud-Terrains work very well in all conditions. Spidertrax 1.5-inch spacers get the wheels out where they need to be when the factory Sahara wheels are used.
Burnsville does some nice touches to these Wranglers, and one of them on the Super Sahara is the leather seats. The leather matches the khaki interior perfectly, and even the backs and sides are leather. Why leather in a Wrangler? It cleans off a lot easier than the fabric does. Cows have no trouble at all. Another good idea is the Kilby Enterprises EVAP canister-relocation kit. JKs have their vapor canister hanging down where rocks can easily rip them off. When they get ripped off, the Jeep goes into limp mode, ensuring you probably won't get home. Kilby's relocation kit moves the canister above the frame behind the gas tank, getting it out of harm's way.
A ShrockWorks stubby front bumper protects the front and is a very nicely executed part. The Warn PowerPlant is not only a powerful 9,500-pound winch, but a powerful air compressor too. The PowerPlant is a useful product to have on a Jeep, and even its large size isn't bad when it's mounted between the framerails in the ShrockWorks bumper. ShrockWorks offsets the fairlead hole, so the winch rope can be wound on the drum correctly. Some bumpers center the hole for aesthetics, but that makes the rope wind on one side of the drum.
We guess if you never really use a winch, that's OK. We think ShrockWorks made the right decision when designing its bumpers. A Master-Pull Superline XD rope was wound onto the Warn's drum. Master-Pull was the original synthetic winch line, and it's still on the cutting edge today with its abrasion-resistant ropes. KC HiLiTES 6 inch SlimLite fog lights replace the factory fogs. Factory Rubicon rock rails protect the rocker panels. Installed in the rear was a Mopar tire-carrier bumper that Burnsville modified by trimming off the outside "wings" and cleaning up the bumper. We think it looks great.
As you can see, Burnsville Off Road took a stock JK Wrangler Unlimited and turned it into Super Sahara. We've driven this Jeep, and its performance is stellar. The 6.1 Hemi's horsepower and torque are unbelievable! If the ESP is turned off, the 37-inch tires can be spun at will. With the ESP on, the Jeep handles just as it did in stock trim. In the dirt, it's nice to be able to use the lockers when they're needed, not just in Low range. The suspension soaks up the bumps and allows the axles to articulate well. So, although this Jeep returns super performance, it's still mild-mannered enough to drive everywhere, anytime.Clark Kent would be proud.