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A Hemi-Powered JK that Flies Under the Radar

Posted in Jp Dirt N Drive: 2017 on August 11, 2017
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Photographers: Trenton McGee

In the sea of JKs that attended the 2017 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep, it was easy to overlook Josh Huntley’s 2009 two-door. After all, it didn’t have aftermarket fenders on it, it didn’t have flashy paint, and except for the lightbar, his Rubicon shares practically nothing in common with many of the fancier Wranglers out there. But then we noticed the throaty exhaust note, the 8-lug axles, and the nearly stock-looking stance while sitting on 37-inch tires. We found ourselves taking a closer look at this sleeper, and the more we saw, the more we liked.

Josh hails from South Dakota, a sparsely populated state with more than its fair share of cool Jeeps running around; and he happens to work at Dakota Customs, a shop that specializes in doing Hemi conversions in JKs. Don’t think this was a shop project, however, because Josh did the 5.7L conversion himself. Of course, he used his company’s conversion kit and tapped into his coworker’s expertise, but he did the work himself at home.

The junkyard-sourced 5.7L has several 6.4L Hemi bits, including the intake manifold, camshaft, and injectors, and it’s hooked to an ultra-rare Getrag 238 6-speed manual transmission sourced from a 2006 Dodge Dakota. Power runs through a Rubicon transfer case and out to a Dana 60 up front and a GM 14-bolt out back, both of which sport Artec 1-ton swap trusses. Josh did the majority of the axle swap work himself, though he credits friend Pat Helgeson and several coworkers for the welding and other help. The axles are located by Syngery long-arms, while Reid Racing knuckles and an Artec high-steer kit aim the Jeep wherever Josh desires. The Jeep rides on 3-inch BDS springs with 1/2-inch spacers and Old Man Emu shocks, which provide room for the 37x12.50–17 Pitbull Rockers on generic Pro Comp steel wheels. Josh trimmed the factory fenders as well, and the Pitbulls tuck perfectly into the wheelwells without rubbing.

Josh says the Jeep was built on a budget using all junkyard-sourced parts, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the finished product. He also drives it everywhere, including a trip to the East Coast after the Hemi conversion, and all the way to Las Vegas from South Dakota for the 2017 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep on the freshly swapped 1-tons.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 2009 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Engine: 5.7L Hemi w/ 6.4L components
Transmission: Getrag 238 6-speed
Transfer Case: NP241OR
Suspension: 3-inch BDS springs, OME shocks, Synergy long-arms
Axles: Dana 60, Artec truss, Reid Racing knuckles, 4.88s, E-Locker (front); 14-bolt, Artec truss, 4.88s, Yukon Grizzly (rear)
Steering: Artec double-shear high-steer system
Wheels: 7x9-inch Pro Comp steel wheels
Tires: 37x12.50–17 Pitbull Rockers

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