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Project Ali-Lander, Building an Unlimited JK for Adventure

Posted in Features on July 7, 2015
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It’s taken me a while to come to terms with the idea of an adventure rig. Unlike a trail rig, an adventure rig has to be ready to wheel, drive long distances, and mall crawl at a moment’s notice. More so, it has to carry gear enough gear for week-long camping and wheeling expeditions. I’ve owned a few JKs over the years, and every one I’ve built, I have enjoyed.

However, until recently, I discounted just how versatile the JK platform is. If you’re the type who drives your Jeep to the trailhead, instead of towing it, you’ll immediately appreciate the refinement of the Unlimited JK. My recent purchase of the ’07 Rubicon Unlimited you see here on the two-post lift has been one of the most peculiar buys of my lifetime. It all started with a quick Craigslist search. From the ad, it was clear that someone had wheeled the Jeep. A mud-stained engine bay, lightly rusted framerails, and dents from front to rear were clear indicators of the Unlimited’s past.

With only a little over 100,000 miles on the clock, the Jeep’s stock 3.8L engine was thought to be on its way out by the previous owner. A misfire in the No. 6 cylinder got me pulling the plugs, which appeared to be original. By the time I made it to the No. 6 cylinder, the oil buildup on the plugs was a clear sign of a bigger problem. Currently, the engine ingests about a quart of oil for every tank of fuel. The top ends sounds like marbles in a tin bucket, and the check engine light is on, signaling a catalyst efficiency code.

My plan is to hunt down a low-mileage replacement, which should allow me a few good years of use. In a perfect world, I would swap in a 6.2L LS-series V-8, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. As for a project name, I didn’t plan on giving it one officially, but offline I have jokingly referred to it as the Ali-Lander.

Since it’s my camping/long-distance wheeler, it’s the closest to an overland rig I will likely come to having. Since I don’t have a satellite phone, portable cookware, nine flaps per article of clothing, or at least one tent that requires a ladder, I don’t think I can officially be an overlander, so I suppose it’s my own take on the camping/wheeler craze. In full disclosure, the name is also me having fun with my good friend’s at EVO Manufacturing, which dubbed it’s four-door JK (to which mine is being built similar to) the EVO-Lander.

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