In a world where building a big JK is as easy as putting on your pants in the morning, it is hard to find one that stands out from the crowd. In the JK arena, even a fancy paintjob, big tires, and a Hemi isn’t a guarantee that you’ll catch someone’s eye. But when you take a four-door Wrangler with all that stuff and make the B-pillar removable like it should have been from the factory, then put in a well- thought-out full cage made from actual tube, you are onto something.
The Jeep belongs to Pat Gruber from Longmont, Colorado, and in spite of its pretty paint, it gets used. Since day one we’ve thought that four-door Wranglers look kind of goofy without their doors. So, once we noticed the B-pillars were missing we started taking a closer look. The skidplates under the Jeep had obviously have been doing their job so we arranged to head to Area BFE and the Moab Dunes for some wheeling and photos.
Big? Green? What else is big and green but dinosaurs? So the Jeep was named T-Rex after the dinosaur in Toy Story. Pat’s kids came up with the T-Rex hood ornament.
The factory Jeep frame is still under that green body, but all the factory suspension is gone. Pat tells us it took him three completely different suspension setups before he ended up with the T&T Customs long-arm conversion working in conjunction with an Off Road Evolution Double Throwdown coilover conversion kit and EVO Lever system in the rear covered with a T&T Customs aluminum skidplate. The front axle is pushed forward about 1½ inches and the rear axle is moved backwards about 3½ inches which helps make room for those monster 43x14.50-20 Interco TSL SX tires on U.S.-made TrailReady HD20 beadlocks. T&T Customs stepped in again with custom front and rear track bars while front King and rear JKS air bumps keep the tires out of the fenders.
As it turns out, the beaten-up skidplates we were talking about earlier are also from T&T Customs. They are part of a modular system that protects the engine, transmission, and gas tank. Steering duties are handled by PSC Motorsports with a pump, box, and hydraulic-assist ram. If Pat ever manages to get stuck, there is a front Warn winch in the normal location and a Warn winch hidden out back under the modified floorboards.
The factory minivan engine was tossed in the parts pile in favor of a 5.7L Hemi V-8. The new mill was installed using an AEV installation kit and given a bit more oomph thanks to custom Burnsville Off Road programming and 6.1L-spec injectors. The exhaust was custom-routed by T&T to clear the company’s suspension. A Jeep Speed Shop radiator helps keep the mill cool. A 545RFE automatic transmission followed the Hemi from the donor and a 5:1 Atlas II was bolted to the back of the transmission to hand power off.
The front axle is a Dynatrac ProRock 60 stuffed with 5.13 gears and an ARB Air Locker while the rear axle is a Dynatrac Trail Series Dana 60 with the same gears and locker. Brakes are Ford F-450 rotors and calipers with the factory Jeep brake master and booster.
Body and Interior
One of the first things you notice about the Jeep is the paint but that green is the ’08 factory Rescue Green. TMD in Cheyenne, Wyoming, applied the purple, orange, and yellow flames on the hood. The front fenders are Poison Spyder Customs flares while the rear are custom high-clearance T&T Customs to help accommodate the wheelbase stretch and 43-inch tires. The front bumper is an off-the-shelf T&T Guardian unit while the rear is a custom T&T Guardian bumper made to work with the larger-than-normal fender flares. T&T Guardian Sliders protect the side of the body.
Good, Bad, and What It’s For
The bigger fender openings allow for a lower center of gravity than what you might expect for a Jeep running this size of tire. That translates into better performance both on- and off-road. Of course, we’d rather see a manual transmission behind that big V-8 but we get that Pat wanted to wheel Volkswagen-sized rocks and the slushbox makes that sort of thing easier.
Why I Wrote This Feature
It’s a good-looking Jeep that gets beat hard and still has a lot of the little day-to-day things taken care of as well. Things like the speaker pods built into the roll bar, the rear removable floor for easier access to the winch, rear coilover location, and the removable B pillar all show that a lot of thought or a lot of trial and error went into building this Jeep. We normally don’t see this level of refinement on Jeeps that have been running around for 10 years, much less for just two short years.
Vehicle: 2008 Wrangler Unlimited
Engine: 2008 5.7L Hemi V-8
Transmission: ’08 545RFE
Transfer Case: 5:1 Atlas II
Suspension: T&T Customs long-arm with Off Road Evolution coilovers
Axles: Dynatrac ProRock 60 (front); Dynatrac Trail Series 60 (rear)
Wheels: TrailReady HD20
Tires: 43x14.50-20 Interco TSL SX
Built For: Rockcrawling, going fast in the desert, and still working well on-road.