A Daily Driver In Basic Black
Jeep's JK Wrangler is its most successful entry-level model. More than the TJ, which appealed to hard-core Jeepers by bringing back the classic Jeep 7-inch round headlights but adding a modern coil-sprung suspension, the JK is popular with small families that might otherwise consider car-based SUVs. JKs are basically the most daily-driveable off-the-lot bobtail Jeep yet.
Johnny Ansani knew this before he bought a one-owner 2007 Sahara Unlimited. A truck enthusiast, Johnny ran his own customizing shop, specializing in things like fabricating rollcages for everything from prerunners to street-racer ponycars. Johnny also uses his artistic impulses to design and build modernistic furniture.
A couple years ago, he pulled the plug on his install business to become an aftermarket manufacturer. Currently, the Ansani Designs product line includes replacement fullsize-truck composite front bumpers with molded-in pods for driving lights, as well as a Yamaha Rhino hood scoop that houses auxiliary lights.
Before buying a Wrangler, Johnny spent many hours on the various JK boards. His conclusion: most JK owners are first-time Jeepers; many of the vehicles are still under warranty, so the average owner goes for mild to moderate modifications that personalize the Jeep but don't render it un-streetable.
Johnny's research also revealed some voids in the JK accessories market. He noticed that the few available aftermarket hoods had classic muscle car-inspired scoops. Johnny thought a modern design along the lines of the new Camaro would look clean while also improving underhood cooling. So he tooled up a mold and began making induction hoods. Uni-directional, hand-laid fiberglass constructs a hood that's lightweight but rigid enough to not distort at highway speeds. On his personal JK, Johnny secured his Ansani Designs hood with polyurethane Daystar Hood Wrangler latches.
Next, he began playing with the iconic seven-slat grille. Johnny's first design included recessed rectangular LED light bars. It looked simultaneously modernistic and YJ-throwback. Instead, Johnny decided that the aesthetics of round driving lights would look "right" next to round headlights. His pre-production grille seen here is made from fiberglass and has pods for a pair of 6-inch round KC SlimLite driving lights (the production version might be molded using OE-type composite plastic).
Because Johnny wanted to keep the JK streetable, he decided to limit the lift to 4 inches, which would clear 35s without any fender or hood trimming. A Superlift 4-inch kit was chosen. A bang-for-the buck package, this "short-arm" system offers a few available upgrades. Johnny stepped up to the optional Rockrunner arms, which have threaded links and affordably serviceable poly bushings instead of Heim ends. The Rockrunner arms also have grease fittings for quiet operation, and they out-articulate Heims since the Rockrunner design has 360 degrees of available swiveling. Further, the Superlift kit offers different spring rates. Stiffer coils are intended for the extra weight of Unlimited model JKs, especially ones that run hardtops.