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L96 V-8 Powered Jeep JK8 Conversion

Posted in Features on November 9, 2018
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Clark Hill purchased a brand-new 2007 Jeep JKU Rubicon just for the purpose of cutting it up. When we asked why, he said, “I wanted to start the project with a clean slate and not be dealing with the hassle of fixing somebody else’s mistakes while busy building my dream Jeep.” Driving his ambition even more so was the fact that somebody told him that it couldn’t be done. That only made Clark work harder to build a Jeep pickup with generous power and a suspension made to handle any terrain.

The two-year process began with the grafting of the JK8 conversion kit to the JKU body. Clark did the cutting, welding, and grinding work on the body rebuild, but sourced a JK Heat Expulsion Hood engine hood from TOTL Innovations. Front prerunner and rear shorty bumpers from VKS Fabrication and a set of MetalCloak fenders were added, as well as weld-on rock sliders from VKS. The MetalCloak fenders were coated with the same gray Extreme Liner that the entire body, inside and out, was sprayed with. Demon Eyes headlights from are perched in the grille, giving the front end of the JK8 conversion a menacing stare.

The nose of Clark’s rig offers up some seriously beefy hardware, including a custom drag link and steering arm, Redneck Ram steering system, and an Artec-trussed Dana 60 loaded with 5.13 gears and an ARB Air Locker. That VKS front bumper and Warn winch are bulletproof, too.

The wheelbase was stretched to 120 inches (1 inch in front and 3 inches in rear), and Clark built a custom three-link front and rear suspension system that features 12-inch–stroke ORI struts. Swinging underneath the suspension is a pair of axles from a 2005 Ford F-350: A Dana 60 front and Sterling 10.5 rear are both filled with upgraded Dana Spicer axle U-joints, 5.13 gears, and ARB Air Lockers. The front features Warn hubs and an Artec truss, the rear got a custom truss that also tied in the upper (third) rear suspension link. Both axles are tipped with PowerStop disc brakes that get juice from a J8 booster and master cylinder from Mopar. A Redneck Ram hydraulic steering system helps turn the massive 40x13.50R17 Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires on custom powdercoated 17x9.5 Raceline ST Monster beadlocks.

The job of getting power to those tires begins up front with an L96 6.0L V-8 from a 2014 GMC 2500HD pickup. A Flex-A-Lite dual-pass all-aluminum radiator with a thermostatically controlled fan from a 2016 Jeep Wrangler and a MagnaFlow dual 2 1/2-inch to single 3-inch exhaust system augment the small-block. The righteous dyno-tune by Throttleworks in Boise, Idaho, made it roar. Clark backed that up with a 6L80 juice tranny and an NV241J transfer case from a 2014 Jeep JK Sport, and a pair of custom spinners from Adams Driveshaft connect powertrain to drivetrain.

The GM 6.0L L96 V-8 was shoehorned into the engine bay of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK8 conversion with a little help from some friends. Once Clark got it dyno-tuned at Throttleworks in Boise, Idaho, the motor really roared to life, providing plenty of power to take the Jeep wherever he points it.

Inside the JK8, he created a cabin filled with creature comforts and security measures. Heated and custom-patterned (designed by Clark) leather seats from Simpson Racing hold occupants securely in place while on the steepest terrain (and we found plenty of that on the slickrock fins of Moab during our photo shoot). A Rock Hard 4x4 bolt-in rollcage lines the cabin; a Blaupunkt/Rockford Fosgate sound system that includes a 10-inch subwoofer, 5-inch front speakers, and dual amps fills the space with beautiful noise for those long hauls to the trailhead.

Why This Jeep?

Despite the wide-ranging opinions the look of Clark Hill’s Jeep JK8 conversion may evoke, it’s undeniable that the engineering and construction, flexible but controlled suspension, gnarly 1-ton axles, and a tiger of a V-8 engine make it one heck of a trail machine. He was a Jeep fan that could wait no longer for his dream truck—so he built it.

ORI Struts with 12 inches of travel provide damping duty and support the weight of the body. Their shock and spring solution in one package along with adjustability made them the obvious choice for Clark’s JK8 build.
The sizeable links used in the three-link suspension system up front make for a sturdy foundation. Note the sweet weld job Clark did connecting the VKS rock sliders to the framerail.
An Artec aluminum skidplate stretches the entire distance between the suspension links’ upper pivot points, offering full belly protection.
Underneath the JK8’s tail is a Sterling 10.5 rear axle salvaged from a 2005 Ford F-350. The custom truss also acts to anchor the trailing pivot point of the third (upper) link in the rear suspension system. PowerStop disc brakes are on the rear and front axles.
Clark took full advantage of the bed that the JK8 conversion presented by quickly filling it with a prerunner-style spare mount for the massive 40-inch tire, toolboxes, Hi-Lift jack, and a huge ice chest. You wouldn’t know it at a glance, but that tailgate is a custom blend of a CJ-8 and JK tailgates. The better-than-factory, smooth work took many days of sweat, blood, and tears for Clark to perfect.
A custom transfer case shifter and Winters Performance transmission gear shifter make trail life much easier for Clark when climbing or ascending the steep slickrock trails of Moab where we met up with him.
A little extra security for occupants was created using a Rock Hard 4x4 bolt-in rollcage. Clark welded up the most critical joints of the cage once it was installed.
Comfort inside the cockpit was a major part of the JK8 conversion’s build. To that end, heated and custom-patterned seats from Simpson Racing were installed.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon/JK8 Conversion
Engine: 2014 Chevrolet 6.0L L96 from 2500HD
Transmission: GM 6L80 6-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NV241J
Suspension: Custom 3-link front and rear, 12-inch-travel ORI Struts
Axles: Artec-trussed 2005 Ford F-350 Dana 60 (front); 2005 Ford F-350 Sterling 10.5 (rear); both w/ 5.13 gears and ARB Air Lockers, PowerStop brakes
Wheels: 17x9.5 Raceline ST Monster beadlock
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Pro Comp Xtreme MT2

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