Part 1: Ultimate Adventure Support From Jeep
If you've been reading 4-Wheel & Off-Road for even a little while, you've probably become familiar with our Ultimate Adventure and the vehicles that we build for the trip each summer. This year,tech editor Fred Williams worked feverishly to finish our four-door JK Wrangler just in time for the trip, but it would only carry our illustrious leader Rick Pw and Fred on our adventure. And though the Wrangler is the highlight of our coverage, it takes quite a crew to make this trip happen. Cameramen (or women), our publisher, and the rest of the staff have to be jumping around on the rocks behind the U.A. group to make sure the filming runs as smoothly as possible. With the help of Jeep, we had decided on building two Commanders, which probably has a few of you scratching your heads right now. Why the heck build Commanders? Well, though they are IFS, they are excellent off-road vehicles right out of the box and share the same platform, drivetrain, and suspension that comes under the 2005 4x4 of the Year winner Grand Cherokee. Plus they are the biggest 4x4s with the most cargo capacity in Jeep's lineup. As long as we could wrangle up some parts to build them with, we knew that we'd have no problem making some very capable support vehicles.
We didn't want both Commanders turning out exactly the same, and we really only needed one (Biggie) to be extreme enough for recovery and extraction purposes. The other Commander (Shortie) would only need to get itself around intermediate trails and carry crew members and equipment. Therefore we had two very different, but similar, builds in mind.
With the help of Jeeps R Us in Laguna Beach, California, we'd start with the suspensions, get on the tires, and work from there. This month, we'll be covering the suspension options you have with a Commander (or Grand Cherokee) and see how our tires fit. Next month we'll be adding all the little doodads we can find like rock rails, GPS, racks, and the like.
"Biggie," as we've affectionately named one Commander (Commander No. 1 and Commander No. 2 just sound so boring), was getting a Superlift height augmentation. With the 4-inch Commander/Grand Cherokee suspension lift, we hoped to fit on a set of brand-new 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2s under our ride without too much trimming. We had to be careful with tire size because of the high-pressure climate control lines that run down the upper part of the passenger-side front fenderwell. If our tires hit that, it'd make air conditioning a thing of the past for Biggie, something we wanted to avoid considering the 110+ degree heat in our destination state of Texas.