Is This The Ultimate Backcountry Jeep?
It's early in the morning, and the sun is rising over the distant reaches of the desert southwest. On the horizon, the dirt two-track I am parked on fades into the distance like a thin ribbon of chocolate over the carroty foothills. The distant mountains beckon. I'm not really sure of my exact route today, but I know my destination, and it's nowhere near the frenzied and chaotic disorder of the freeways near my hometown. Today, I won't have to dodge any SUV-wielding soccer-moms who drift into my lane, I won't be jockeying for a parking spot near the office, and I won't be standing twenty-deep in the queue at Starbucks. In fact, I won't be dealing with any of that crap for months to come.
The air is crisp, and a cool breeze carries the scent of sage through my nostrils, heightening my senses and awareness of my surroundings. I'm in the middle of nowhere and heading south towards Mexico, Belize, and points south. Breaking camp is only a ten-minute affair. Just hit the button to close the electric top and snap down a few latches. Click on the GPS, turn the key and slide the tranny into Drive. But something is wrong...it's a persistent and blaring noise from outside my door. I open the door...it's my alarm clock. I hastily reach over and hit the snooze button. It's Monday, but the time clock and traffic await, not my dream rig and a year-long kitchen pass. I want to go back to my dream, to that road less traveled, the distant horizon and what lay beyond.
We've participated in numerous campfire debates about the perfect expedition vehicle. Should it be a behemoth lux-machine such as a Unimog or Unicat, or something smaller, with fewer amenities but more maneuverable? And what are the must-have features: Solar power, a navigation system, hot water, shower, a comfortable bed for two, a potty, a fridge and room for gear? And last, what platform do you build it on? Following the 2008 SEMA show, we headed to Prescott, Arizona, to check out what Scott Brady believes is the perfect world traveler. As an off-road journalist and owner of 4x4 outfitter Expeditions West, he might be right.
The base platform for Scott's Earth Roamer is a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, which rolls from the factory with Dana 44 axles and electric lockers, an NVG241 4:1 transfer case and electronic sway bar disconnect, and a 202hp 3.8-liter V-6. From there, the ultimate overlander was fitted with an Nth Degree 3-inch suspension, heavy-duty rear springs, and a set of BFGoodrich KM2 Mud-Terrains on 17-inch American Expedition Vehicle (AEV) beadlock wheels. Up front, an AEV front bumper cradles a Warn 9000i winch spun with Viking synthetic winch line. And when the sun goes down, a pair of Light Force HID 240 driving lights provides plenty of illumination. Out back, a Wilderness rear bumper carries the spare tire, a pair of jerrycans, and shovel. Rounding out the upgrades are a Kilby compressor, AEV snorkel, and three AGM Lifetime batteries. But those are just the nuts and bolts-the special stuff's inside.