We really don’t need to go into the history the 4x4 since everyone knows what they represent—adventure. The utilitarian 4x4s are a very capable vehicle in stock form and can blast through mud, sand, and snow and climb and crawl in all sorts of conditions. Throw some performance modifications at Jeep and they can go just about anywhere!
Jeeps are everywhere, and what we notice most is that they are not only used as a family’s daily driver, but also weekend entertainment transporting them to the mud park, ’wheeling down the beach, and hunting. Our stock ’06 Jeep Unlimited was a great find and in perfect condition, after we were handed the pink slip we were ecstatic with it on the way home.
The bottom line is that even though the Jeep is great in stock form it is also the perfect platform to build our low-key mud Jeep and weekend adventure machine. We didn’t want to go to wild with it since it would be driven to the grocery store, mall (really), and everywhere there isn’t pavement. The first performance modification we made was installing a Rancho short-arm suspension system for more ground clearance and better articulation, Nitto Trail Grappler tires, and some tough Teflon coated ATX 17x8 Mojave wheels.
Now that we are rolling through the fields and hitting the parks at events with the Jeep, it’s time to give it some front and rear protection. We contacted Poison Spyder Customs and ordered up a front and rear bumpers. Poison Spyder has been around for years and manufactures some really cool and high-quality custom Jeep components. The guys don’t just make and sell parts; everyone in the company is a hardcore Jeep enthusiast and racer. We met Larry McRae, owner of Poison Spyder, about 12 years ago on the trail in the middle of nowhere and were impressed with his four-wheel skills way back then. Today, all his experience goes right into his product.
After little debate we ordered the front Brawler Bar and the rear Rock Brawler rear bumper with spare tire carrier. Both bumpers are constructed of CNC laser-cut, brake-formed 3⁄16-inch plate steel and are exceptionally well engineered. After we got the bumpers and test-fitted them, powdercoated at Ace Powder Coating, and finally installed at Serious Autosport in Palm Beach, Florida.
Keep your eyes peeled for more on this project because in Part 3 we’re going to install more performance parts on our Universal Jeep and take it on adventure in the swamps of Florida.
Step By Step
Once our Poison Spider bumpers arrived we loaded them up into our trailer and drove them over to Serious Autosport in Palm Beach, Florida, for a little test fitting. Never get your new equipment coated with paint or powder before test-fitting the parts. If new holes have to be drilled it will wreck the powdercoating. We’ve never had any problems with Poison Spyder parts.
The front RockBrawler bumper is designed for ground clearance and approach angle. This 3⁄16-inch steel is laser-cut to very precise measurements, allowing it to be a direct bolt-on replacement of the factory bumpers.
The RockBrawler rear bumper is a really cool design. It not only protects the Jeep but makes it look damn cool too. Finally, we can now mount our spare tire securely to the back of the Jeep. We also chose the optional 1-inch-thick steel billet recovery shackle tabs for tow and yankin’ strap points.
Once we fitted the bumpers to the Jeep just to make sure everything lined up, the crew at Serious Autosport headed over to see Tommy Vann at Ace Powder Coating in Rivera Beach, Florida. We all decided that a flat black color would match the new Teflon-coated Mojave wheels.
As we mentioned before, the guys at Poison Spyder pride themselves on high-quality parts, so there was little hard prep involved in getting them ready for powdercoating. Tommy was easily able to prep and powdercoat the bumpers with very little effort. We’ve picked up other bumpers and spent hours grinding sanding and fitting. Not these!
We decided to coat the small laser-cut spider web red to match the suspension. It’s the small details like this that give a rig character and make it stand out from the rest.
After the bumpers were powdercoateded and back at the shop, Anthony and the crew at removed the cheesy factory bumpers. We’ve always hated those little plastic bumperettes!
The front bumper uses the factory mounting holes, so no drilling, cutting, or welding is required. It’s light enough that it can be installed by hand with one person, but two is more fun. The front bumper can be installed with factory fasteners or new stronger Grade 8 bolts if you don’t trust the old bolts.
Mounting the rear takes a little more effort. The plastic bumper extensions are popped off for easier access and a T27 Torx bit is used to remove the bolts.
Also, the brackets on the framerail need to be removed with an 18mm socket—set the bumper aside or pitch it over the fence.
The rear bumper is heavier than the front, so once it is lifted in place with some help it is loosely bolted on with the supplied hardware. After the bumper is in place the tire carrier is tested to make sure it swings out and latches correctly. Once the bumper is level and even with the body lines all around, the bolts are tightened up.
After packing the tire carrier bearings with grease and pop-riveting the lock pin plate in place.
We installed the tapered bearing into the preinstalled race. It’s imperative the bearings seat properly for smooth operation.
The tire carrier is then lifted into place and carefully slid over its spindle. Next, the flat washer and 1-inch, 14 grade, all-metal lock nut are installed. The bolt should be tightened until it swings freely without friction or resistance, but without slop. The hinge cap and lock pin assembly are installed before the latch and knob. When these last parts are on the bumper, installation is complete and the spare tire can be mounted in place.
Ace Powder Coating, Tommy Vann