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The Mighty 6x6: An LS-Powered, Triple-Axle, Mega Jeep Pickup

Posted in Features on February 15, 2018
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Photographers: Derek Booher

It all started with a phone call. Entrepreneur and longtime Jeep enthusiast Willy C. of Miami, Florida, had an idea—overhaul a Jeep Wrangler JK into a one-off 6WD creation that, in his words, “would blow the doors off a G-Wagen.” With big power, big tires, and a big footprint, Willy knew a Jeep of this caliber would be a massive undertaking, so he reached out to friend and Jeep whisperer Jeff Garland at Bruiser Conversions in Clearwater, Florida, about taking on the project. While he saw its potential, initially Jeff declined the proposal based on the timeline and other workload. After more discussion they reached an agreement, and the six-month overhaul was green-lighted to prep the Jeep for the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

Jeff’s shop is no stranger to custom Jeep builds, from JK pickup conversions and four-wheel-steer CJs to trail rigs and mud boggers, Bruiser has built them all. The shop’s specialty, however, is in performing Hemi, LS, and Cummins diesel swaps, available as both DIY conversion kits or turnkey installs—all backed by a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty. For Willy’s 6x6 JKU, the Bruiser team started off by tearing a bone-stock ’16 Wrangler completely down before lopping off the rear to graft in 31 inches of sheetmetal to allow enough room for the tandem rear axles and 40-inch rubber. The rear body panels were pulled inward by 1.5 inches per side to clean up the body lines, while the rear was angled upward to improve departure angles. GenRight Off Road front fenders and custom rear fenders were fitted along with a bulkhead to help enclose the cab section while keeping the body in one piece.

With the body jigged up, the stock frame was extended to accommodate the second rear axle and suspension mounts. From there, the stock 3.6L Pentastar was pulled and replaced with a 6.2L GM Performance LS3. Using a Bruiser Conversions kit, they mated the engine to the stock WA580 five-speed automatic transmission and followed it up with an Advance Adapters Atlas two-speed transfer case that distributes power via JE Reel Driveline driveshafts. For axles, the Jeep was converted to a front Spicer Ultimate Dana 60 and custom rear tandem Ford 9-inch thru-shaft housings from Differential Engineering. Ride height is set with a combination of BDS Suspension, JKS Manufacturing, and FOX components, with the front receiving a BDS long-arm kit along with the JKS 4-inch coilover conversion featuring FOX 2.5 coilovers with remote DSC adjustment. Steering upgrades include CMM Offroad heavy-duty linkage and a PSC ram assist. Both rear axles use stock JK coil springs and feature JKS adjustable track bars and J-Axis control arms, and FOX 2.0 shocks with remote CD adjustment. This setup offers a Cadillac-like ride with tons of flex, and allows fitment of 40-inch Toyo Open Country M/T tires on 17-inch Hutchinson Industries beadlock wheels.

The Jeep 6x6 is 6 feet 7 inches wide, 6 feet 8 inches tall, and 19 feet 6 inches in length. It weighs approximately 6,800 pounds. It was built with a “spare-no-expense” mentality and sports a 480-horse LS3, three custom axles, and an ultra-durable liner sprayed inside and out.

The tub and body panels were sprayed with a rugged aliphatic polyurea liner inside and out before being bolted back on the chassis for the Battle of the Builders at SEMA. From the custom trimmed Katzkin leather seats to the 9-inch in-dash navigation system to the eight-switch sPOD relay system to control the assortment of Rigid LED lights and accessories, the interior of the Jeep has all the amenities. As with most Jeep builds it’s still a work in progress. Willy loves the setup, but in true Tim “The Tool Man" Taylor fashion he wants more power, so a supercharger is in the 6.2L engine’s future. While this Jeep started life as a custom showpiece for SEMA, Willy said this 6x6 didn’t stay that way for long, as he’s hit the trails to see what this rig is capable of. Meanwhile, this rig turns heads wherever it goes, and it’ll blow the doors off G-Wagens.

Up front, the factory drivetrain components have been swapped out in favor of a Spicer Ultimate Dana 60. The axle comes ready to bolt in with JK mounts already installed. The front housing uses 3.5-inch, 0.370-wall axletubes, heavy-duty Cs, upgraded brakes, and Warn manual locking hubs. Fitted with 4.88 gearing and an Eaton ELocker, power is sent through 35-spline, 4340 nickel chromoly steel axleshafts with Spicer SPL 70 U-joints to the 8-on-6.5 outers. Keeping the front axle under control is a BDS long-arm assembly paired with a JKS coilover conversion utilizing FOX 2.5 Factory Series coilovers with remote DSC adjustment. Additionally, JKS Flex Connect sway bar links were added for tunable adjustment of body roll, along with a JKS adjustable track bar and BDS extended stainless steel brake lines. Steering assistance comes from a PSC hydraulic-assist kit connected to CMM 1.5-inch OD solid aluminum steering linkage.
Under the heat reduction cowl hood is an aluminum-block LS3 from GM Performance that puts out 480 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque with the help of a custom camshaft, intake, and MagnaFlow exhaust. What’s more, the conversion appears to be a factory-level install with new motor mounts, battery, and fuse box brackets. There’s also a complete wiring harness that runs off the factory PCM allowing full integration of the OBDII to communicate with the Chrysler ECM for diagnostics and compatibility with other factory items like cruise control, remote start, and tap shifts. Mated to the LS3 is the factory WA580 (aka NAG1) five-speed transmission featuring an upgraded 3,100rpm stall torque converter and billet aluminum input shaft built to handle upwards of 1,000 hp. Even with all that motor there is still room to fit the PSC steering components and an sPOD relay system to control all electrical accessories.
The cockpit is what you’d expect from this caliber of build; clean, yet custom. The factory seats feature custom two-tone leather from Katzkin with the Bruiser logo embroidered in the headrests. The tub and headliner received a similar treatment as the exterior with the black aliphatic polyurea coating for extra protection and sound deadening. The dash features an Alpine X209-WRA 9-inch weather-resistant GPS head unit that sends tunes to the JL Audio speakers. The head unit also has a screen for the backup camera to make reversing the big Jeep a bit easier. Along with the Amp Research Powersteps to help cab access there are CMM billet grab handles and a custom dash handle. Next to the stock transmission shifter you’ll find twin sticks that link up to the Advance Adapters Atlas two-speed transfer case with 3.0:1 low range. Up top, the eight-switch sPOD is mounted to control a gamut of lights and accessories this Jeep has been outfitted with.
This 6x6 has no trouble lighting up the night with a collection of LED lights. The factory halogen headlights have been upgraded to Truck-Lite LED units along with a 20-inch Rigid Industries E-series lightbar mounted in the grille. Up top is Rigid’s latest hardware, a 50-inch Adapt lightbar for adjustable beam patterns and RGB accent colors.
For tires and wheels Bruiser turned to Toyo. The six 40x13.50R17LT Open Country M/Ts are on 8.5-inch-wide Hutchinson Industries Rock Monster beadlocks in a Copper Vein powdercoat. This combo offers comfort on-road and traction off-pavement with the ability to air down without worry of blowing a bead.
Power is supplied to each axle via JE Reel drivelines outfitted with Spicer 1410 U-joints. The rear axles on this 6x6 are the work of Differential Engineering. These Ford 9-inch housings feature 3.75-inch-diameter, 0.500-wall square tubing and a full-float design with 35-spline chromoly axleshafts for a 69-inch width from WMS to WMS. Each third member has 4.88 gearing and a Detroit Locker. The center axle uses a billet through-pinion and dual bearings to carry the power through to the rear axle. Jeff mentioned the center axle carries two-thirds of the weight of the rear, allowing the rear axle to pivot easier to help keep it more nimble around town. For brakes, both rear axles were fitted with dual piston disc brake assemblies from a late-model Ford E-350 van.
Why square axletubes? Jeff says, “Because these are stronger and made building suspension mounts easier.” He designed the frame extension and axle mounts to accept off-the-shelf JK suspension parts. Control arms were sourced from JKS with the company’s J-Axis uppers and lowers bolted in, allowing loads of adjustability while increasing suspension travel. Additionally, JKS adjustable track bars were used to position the rear axles, while a quad pack of FOX 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks with CD adjusters were fitted to dampen the suspension. Jeff knew the right spring rate would be pivotal in setting the rear suspension up for proper ride height and a smooth ride with the tandem axles. After crunching the numbers and testing a few sets out, what he found was the factory JK rear coil springs offered the optimal setup for the rear.
Out back, the frame kicks upward and the body is trimmed to improve departure angle. The recessed hitch mount is fitted with a removable Warn 9.0Rc winch and Factor 55 FlatLink. The rear frame section is protected by a thick, high-density plastic to help it slide off obstacles while allowing for recessed mounts for the lighting and winch controller pack.
The 6x6s bed is a work of art. The body panels have been drawn inward with the help of an English wheel to carry a clean body line all the way to the rear. The original swing-gate was smoothed and converted to a drop tailgate. Additionally, the taillights, fuel filler, and rear license plate were relocated for a clean, classy appearance. The fuel filler is now located inside the bed connected to the factory fuel tank, which is protected by 1/4-inch-thick 6061-T6 aluminum skidplates from TNT Customs. The floor of the bed is built from mahogany wood planks with a removable tire carrier and a rear rollbar bolted in for extra protection.
Bruiser added custom accents throughout the build that include copper badging treated to a rustic, weathered patina that the team achieved using a combination of water and muriatic acid.

At a Glance


General
Vehicle: ’16 Jeep Wrangler 6x6
Owner: Willy C.
Stomping grounds: Miami, Florida
Build time: Six months

Drivetrain
Engine: GM Performance 6.2L LS3 V-8
Transmission: WA580 five-speed automatic
Transfer case(s): Advance Adapters Atlas 2
Low range ratio(s): 3.0:1
Crawl ratio(s): 52.6:1
Front axle/differential: Spicer Ultimate Dana 60, 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, Warn manual locking hubs/4.88 gears, Eaton ELocker
Rear axles/differentials: Differential Engineering tandem 9-in axles, 35-spline axleshafts, Ford E-350 disc brakes/4.88 gears, Detroit lockers

Suspension
Front: BDS Suspension long-arm, JKS Manufacturing coilover conversion with FOX 2.5 DSC coilovers, JKS Manufacturing track bar and flex connect sway bar links
Rear: JKS Manufacturing J-Axis UCA/LCA and track bars, stock JK coil springs, FOX 2.0 remote-reservoir CDA shocks
Steering PSC Motorsports ram-assist

Tires/Wheels
Tires: 40x13.50x17 Toyo M/T
Wheels: 17x8.5 Hutchinson beadlocks

Miscellaneous
Armor: TNT Customs aluminum skidplates, GenRight Off Road front bumper,
Cool stuff: Truck-Lite headlights, Rigid Industries LED lighting, Warn Zeon 10-S front winch, Warn 9.0Rc rear winch, custom body lines, mahogany bed floor, aliphatic polyurea exterior/interior liner, Katzkin seat covers, Alpine/JL Audio sound system, sPOD eight-switch relay system

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