Part 5: Outback Exploration And Recovery Gear
In Parts 2 and 3 we revitalized our suspension. In Part 2, we majorly upgraded the front axle. In Part 4, we made it a reliable and safe runner again. Now it's time to have some fun. In the past, Project JR was something of a compromise. The stiff, race-oriented tires didn't lend themselves very well to the Jeep's daily commuting duties. The spare tire strapped in the cargo area cut into the gear-carrying capacity. And the prerunner-inspired nature of its off-road use precluded running a winch or placing any additional weight up high.
But now JR has a new role to fill: that of a quiet, comfortable daily driver and long-range outback exploration rig. We've come to terms with the fact that chasing Jeep Speed racers isn't conducive to a vehicle's longevity. So instead of hauling ass through whoops at 65mph, we'll be hauling camping gear and groceries for up to a week, exploring ghost towns, desert roads, and seeing the off-road sights.
We've already equipped our front and rear Currie 9-inch axles with parts to make them highly survivable off-road, yet mild-mannered on-road. The Eaton Truetrac differentials will give us all the traction we need for trails like the Rubicon or unimproved desert stretches without barking, banging, or clanging on the street. And we can always spin the dials on the Warn locking hubs on-road to free up some mileage and improve our steering feel. But our gnarly race tires needed to go, so we ordered up a set of 33x10.50R15 Toyo Open Country MT tires and had them mounted on a set of Black Rock Wheels 15x8 Viper Series 900 aluminum wheels in Tungsten finish. We think the five-spoke design looks killer and the Toyo's lugs bite deceptively hard considering how silky smooth they roll on the pavement.
To get our full-size spare tire out of the cargo area, we tapped our friends at ARB for one of the company's super-solid roof rack in mild steel. The ARB rack is a powdercoated beast that can easily withstand the weight of a spare tire and extra camping gear strapped to its sturdy steel attachment points. It never rattles and wind noise is actually almost nonexistent. We filled the void in the cargo area left by the spare tire with ARB's newly designed 50-quart Fridge Freezer, optional Fridge slide mount, tie down system, and Fridge bag. The slide mount makes it easy to reach the contents of the Fridge Freezer and the Fridge bag insulates the unit during those hot days, reducing battery drain.
With our gear and grocery carrying out of the way, we began eyeballing the Warn winch catalog for an electric winch that we could count on to help us or others tackle any recovery challenge-even if we were days away from help. We ultimately chose what we consider to be one of the best winches going: Warn's 9.5xp. With 9,500lbs of single-line pulling power and Warn's latest 6hp high-output parallel series-wound motor, it's well suited for extreme winching situations and should prove more than we'll ever need. We wrapped the Warn with 100 feet of Master-Pull's 5/16-inch Superline synthetic winch rope with a breaking strength of 21,000lbs. Our trusted and well-used Warn medium-duty accessory kit rounded out our recovery gear.
Be sure to check back next time around when we'll wrap up the work on Project JR. There's not much left to do except enjoy the fruits of our labor, but we'll show you all the little details that still need finishing and share with you how it all works in the real world.