When the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited was introduced as a 2007 model many enthusiasts welcomed its four doors as a great way to carry extra passengers and gear. Kenny Hauk, owner of River Raider Off-Road in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, however, became enthralled with the JK for quite a different reason: its wheelbase and body lent great possibilities for customization.
Kenny had anticipated and hoped that Jeep would offer a truck-bodied JK. When Jeep didn't offer one to the general public, Kenny decided to build his own.
Looking for a cheap JK to start the project with Kenny purchased a 2WD four-door theft recovery from California. The vehicle had been stripped of most of its factory parts with the exception of some of the interior and the stock 3.8L V-6 (a 5.7L VVT Hemi V-8 from Burnsville Off-Road was installed shortly after the photo shoot). With a blank canvas in front of them, Kenny and the River Raider Off-Road crew started in to the build, cutting out the rear portion of the body and beginning to fabricate and mock up the bed.
Kenny and his team didn't approach the build blindly; an artist's rendering and design plans were formulated and established and the build followed this course. However, the fabrication and building process wasn't easy by any means as it was certainly different from anything that had been done before. The River Raider team took these challenges in stride and attacked the build with the end product in mind. It had not been done before. But it would be done when they had completed it.
With most of the rear body portions removed the bed came to fruition. The bed, bulkhead, and tailgate were all formed from 14-gauge steel and laid atop the stock Wrangler floor pan. A set of River Raider's rear Crusher Corners and tube fenders were installed as well. A River Raider Sport Cage was installed and an Avenger TiteTop was used to enclose the cab. The front of the Raider ST received a Truck Master Designs hood and a River Raider snorkel. With all in place, Kenny's good friend Steve Clevenger coated the Raider ST with Silver Steel paint and a matte clear coat. After paint, the rig received River Raider bumpers front and rear and a set of River Raider rock sliders.
Once the paint was dry Kenny and the River Raider crew moved on to set up the drivetrain and suspension. Front and rear axles were placed 1-inch forward and 1-inch rearward, respectively, in order to achieve the desired wheelbase and to properly situate the tires under the fenders. The front axle is a 1986 Ford king pin Dana 60 equipped with a River Raider ABS Conversion and diff cover, and high-steer arms from Virginia 4x4. The rear axle is a 1985 GM 14-Bolt with 2 inches shaved from the center for extra clearance. The rear axle is equipped with a Rock Krawler truss as well as the River Raider ABS Conversion and diff cover. Both front and rear use 5.13 Superior gears.
Since the Raider ST started life as a 2WD it needed a transfer case. Kenny acquired a factory NV241 JK transfer case and paired it with a RubiCrawler reduction box from Advance Adapters. The transfer case channels power to the ground via 1350 driveshafts from J.E. Reel Driveline. All under chassis components are completely protected using River Raiders very complete JK skid plate system.
For suspension, Kenny looked to Rock Krawler and its custom three-link builder kits. Kits were applied to the front and rear of the Raider ST and use 14-inch-travel Rock Krawler coilover shocks and heavy-duty Rock Krawler tie rod and drag link. Teraflex SpeedBumps bumpstops were also incorporated. With all in place there was plenty of room for a set of 40x15.50R20 Nitto Mud Grapplers mounted on 20x9 Black Rhino Rockwell wheels.
With the Raider ST nearly complete, Kenny moved on to the interior, installing a River Raider Sport Cage and a set of Twisted Stitch Vortex seats using River Raider JK seat brackets. Behind the seat is a custom aluminum storage shelf and plenty of space to stow extra items.
Kenny had set out to build a JK truck and he did just that. The Raider ST is one of the most unique creations built on the JK platform that we've seen. Others obviously agree, as Kenny has already taken orders to build a handful more just like it. He's also already started in to his next personal project, a Raider ST Baja truck that the River Raider team will use to compete in SCORE Sportsman class and some JeepSpeed desert racing events next year.
Vehicle: River Raider's 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK Truck Conversion
Owner: Kenny Hauk
Hometown: Chambersburg, PA
Engine: 3.8L V-6
Transfer Case: NV241 with Advance Adapters RubiCrawler
Low Range Ratio: 7.40:1
Front End: 1986 Ford king pin Dana 60
Rear End: 1985 GM 14-Bolt
Ring and Pinion: 5.13:1
Front Differential: Detroit Locker
Rear Differential: Detroit Locker
Suspension: Rock Krawler custom three-link, 14-inch Rock Krawler coilovers
Tires: 40x15.50R20 Nitto Mud Grapplers
Wheels: 20x9 Black Rhino Rockwells
Backspacing: 4.5 inches