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A Clean 2008 Jeep Wrangler JK That Checks All The Right Boxes

Posted in Features on June 4, 2015
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Some of the best vehicles and people we have run across have been by happenstance. While on a photo shoot at The Flats Offroad Park in Marion, North Carolina, we spotted Byron Stabler’s ’08 Wrangler Sahara getting ready for the trail. Having affection for stretched two-door JKs, we had to take a closer look. We quickly realized that Stabler’s JK was a practical balance of quality parts, clean work, and usability. Coupled with the fact that Stabler was a super nice guy that wasn’t afraid to push his rig on the trail, a great feature was born.

Chassis Starting up front, Stabler added an EVO Manufacturing 1⁄4-Pounder front bumper with a stinger. The bumper was modified with additional tubing to provide increased hood and grill protection. Tucked within the high-clearance bumper is a Warn 9.5ti winch wrapped with Viking synthetic winch rope. Suspending the front end is an assortment of different manufacturers. For springs, 4-inch Synergy Manufacturing lift coils were used.

To control the front suspension cycle, Fox 2.0 Pro Series shocks were placed in conjunction with TeraFlex SpeedBumps. TeraFlex adjustable lower control arms and Rock Krawler adjustable upper control arms work with a TeraFlex track bar to isolate the axle. Giving the axle freedom to articulate is a Synergy quick-disconnect sway bar kit. To increase the steering strength and component durability, a PSC Motorsports hydraulic-assist kit was installed along with an over-the-knuckle draglink conversion and Carolina Metal Masters 1⁄2-inch aluminum tie rod.

Out back, a custom three-link suspension secures the rear axle 6 inches further back than its stock location. Each rear control arm is paired with Currie Johnny Joints, while a Rock Krawler adjustable track bar is used to keep it all centered. In order to properly mount the 2-inch-lift Synergy coil springs, the stock upper coil buckets and shock mounts were torched off and a custom set was fabricated farther back on the frame. Like the front, Fox 2.0 Pro Series remote-reservoir shocks keep the rear suspension cycling smoothly. Gone is also the stock Sahara rear bumper, and in its place are EVO D-ring mounts and a Smittybilt receiver.

With the exception of a K&N drop-in air filter and Optima YellowTop battery, very little was modified in relation to the 3.8L V-6 engine. Giving Stabler full control over his gear choice is the NSG-370 six-speed manual transmission. Looking for more gear reduction over the stock Sahara T-case, an NV241OR from a ’10 Wrangler Rubicon was bolted in. Protecting the 4:1 T-case and the engine oil pan is a River Raider skidplate system.

Tatton’s custom driveshafts move the power to the Rubicon JK transplanted Dana 44 axles. The high-pinion Dana 44 front housing got the full Synergy front axle bracing treatment, along with RCV Performance axleshafts and 5.13 differential gears. Adding beef to the rear axle is an Artec axle truss and Ten Factory chromoly axleshafts. Both axles retain the Mopar Tru-Lok selectable electronic lockers.

Body and Interior
Occupant comfort and safety were high on Stabler’s list. The comfort part was easily upgraded with a set of MasterCraft Safety Baja RS suspension seats. The safety aspect was covered with a Synergy 13⁄4-inch DOM weld-in ’cage. Resting between the wheelwells inside is a fullsize spare tire and wheel. Moving outside the Jeep, plenty of attention of detail was used to balance the needed armor protection and stretch panels.

Keeping the doors and side panels covered are EVO Manufacturing rock skins and frame-mounted weld-on sliders. The 3⁄16-inch-thick steel River Raider rear corners were modified by Buckeye Performance in Swannanoa, North Carolina. Painted to match the factory body color and fit with Off Road Only LED taillights, the rear of the JK is extremely clean and well done. To get the most performance out of his 37x12.50R17 Goodyear MT/R with Kevlar tires are 17-inch ATX Slab beadlocks.

Good, Bad, and What It’s For
There’s not much we don’t like about this very simple, yet smartly built, JK. Sure, in hindsight it probably would have been easier to start with a Rubicon, but scoring second-hand Rubi parts can sometimes be much cheaper than stomaching that initial price premium. Since the photo shoot, Stabler has installed a harness system to get the most use out of his MasterCraft seats and is looking at upping the rear suspension travel with a set of coilover shocks. While it has its share of armor, it doesn’t perform like a typical overweight JK. The fact that Stabler can easily drive it to the trailhead and wheel on some extreme terrain really speaks volumes about the setup.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: 2008 Wrangler Sahara
Engine: 3.8L V-6
Transmission: NSG-370 6-spd manual
Transfer Case: NV241OR
Suspension: Custom 4-inch
Axles: Dana 44 Rubicon JK (front)/ Dana 44 Rubicon JK (rear)
Wheels: 17x9 ATX Slabs
Tires: 37x12.50R17 Goodyear MT/R
Built For: Wheeling

Why I Wrote this Feature
I like understated rigs. There’s nothing on Stabler’s JK that screams look at me. Everything has a purpose and is cleanly done. The quality components and type of modifications done to the JK resulted in a rig that might look run of the mill but is a notch above. Knowing that this Jeep performs as well as it looks also makes it one to appreciate greatly in my book.

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