We were on a mission. It was called Jp Week to Wheelin’. The concept was based on the idea that it would be challenging and fun to rebuild a beat-up and tired Jeep in a week, do it live with almost hourly social media and online video updates and daily video wrap-ups covering our wins and losses each day, and then a closing video episode in which we take our newly rebuilt Jeep and go wheelin’ to show off its brand-new equipment.
Here’s what we did. It occurred to us that due to the recent introduction of the new Jeep JL Wrangler a large number of used Jeep Wrangler JKs will be soon be on the market. We just happen to have a 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK that had been built up over a period of years, ridden hard for nearly a decade, and then put out to pasture. Much like you might find for sale, the forgotten rig needed a complete rebuild to return it to its former glory and off-road capability. We were bound and determined to do just that—to create a roadster-style Jeep with rockcrawling capabilities, as well as comfortable highway manners.
Sounds easy, right? Well, sort of. There were multiple obstacles to overcome working with somebody else’s project, and that included our fair share of broken, corroded, or missing-part low points from which we pulled together and rose above. However, we had excellent sponsors involved who helped us with all sorts of great parts and accessories for the rapid transformation of a 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK, from junkyard dog to leader of the pack. We had the use of our well-stocked tech center with a lift and all the tools we needed for wrenching and fabricating. And we had a crew of consummate professionals turning tools to get the job done right.
Follow along as we take you on a highlight tour of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK’s transformation. What did it feel like Saturday as we wheeled our creation in some local canyons? It was the culmination of five long days (and some nights) and the thrill of knowing that it all worked very well and looked good doing it. You can also see all the details in the six daily wrap up videos available for your viewing pleasure on jpmagazine.com and fourwheeler.com. And there will be more Week to Wheelin’ builds, so stay tuned! What would you like to see?
In less than a week, we rebuilt the forgotten rig and restored it to its former glory and off-road capability, and we did it all live online and on social media. The new rig rides on Shelby by Drake CS25 Jeep 5-spoke 17x9 wheels and Falken Wildpeak 37x12.50R17LT tires. Inner fenders are from Rusty's Off Road. And yes, those are MOPAR half-doors.
Underpinning our Jp Week to Wheelin’ JK rebuild was axle beef from Dynatrac. Up front is our JK’s original Dynatrac ProRock 44 that luckily was in good shape internally. It was cleaned up and its Rubicon locker was rebuilt with 5.13 gears, all new seals, and new hardware. A set of Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Balljoints was added. Rusty’s Off Road JK 3.25-inch Long Travel Kit swings the front and rear axles. Up front we also kept the factory quick-disconnect antisway bar and the aftermarket air bumps and hydraulic steering setup, because they all still worked.
This is the debut of the new Dynatrac standard-cut semi-float ProRock XD60 rear axle; it was not even shown at the 2017 SEMA Show. The choice was a no-brainer because it’s made in the USA (like all Dynatrac axles), and it matches the track width of the front ProRock 44 axle. The new XD60 uses a 10.2-inch ring gear and larger differential than old-style Dana 60s, and 35-spline shafts featuring a proprietary heat-treat for maximum twist resistance. The standard-cut (low pinion) design is the strongest design for rear-axle applications, and it is available with the 5x5 JK lug pattern to allow a broad field of wheel choices. It carries a 5.13-ratio Auburn Gear ECTED Max electric locker (made from 9310 heat-treated billet steel) that offers limited-slip and fully locked modes. Hoses and fittings from Earl’s Performance Plumbing were used to vent both axles, and if you noticed that red rear bumpstop, it’s part of our extensive use of Energy Suspension’s polyurethane products such as a full body mount replacement kit to help refresh our Jp Week to Wheelin’ JK.
Rusty’s Off-Road Products offers the JK 3.25-inch Long Travel Kit that comes complete with its massive 2-inch DOM tubing adjustable front and rear control arms, rebuildable Rusty’s Forged Flex Joints, brackets that are laser-cut CNC-formed 1/4-inch steel, coils, and shocks. And when they say this is a bolt-on kit, it really is. There was some drilling on the frame for control arm brackets, but no welding was required. While the stock lower control arm mounts don’t interfere with the new suspension, we cut them off the frame to keep them from being terrain catchers. The Rusty’s JK 3.5-inch Long Travel Kit provided a high level of ride quality on the highway, and as can be seen (http://www.fourwheeler.com/videos/week-to-wheelin-day-6) performed exceedingly well off-road with good balance and control, and no hint of bucking when rock crawling.
Quite possibly the easiest part of our Jp Week to Wheelin’ JK rebuild had to be the Hooker Blackheart 70505401-RHKR Cat-Back Exhaust system. Designed to install easily, and fit perfectly tucked up and out of the way under the rear frame box, the Hooker Blackheart cat-back did just that. The entire job was over before we knew it.
A Rusty’s Off Road Trail Front Bumper was a good choice, as all the company’s products are made in the USA from top-notch materials. The stubby-style bumper with a prerunner-style bar worked well for the Jp Week to Wheelin’ JK project because it’s built from powdercoated 3/16-inch steel and offered with sturdy D-ring recovery points. The bar leans forward a few inches and stands at about two-thirds the hood height to protect a winch, and it was a perfect place for us to mount a J.W. Speaker LED lightbar. We also installed J.W. Speaker 8700 Evolution J2 7-inch round LED headlights and 239 J2 Series LED front turn signals. ComeUp USA has been building industrial hoists to ISO standards since 1974 and also offers a full line of recreational winches, including our Seal Gen 9.5RSI with its patented cone brake at the end of the barrel, waterproof operation, and LED function and warning indicators on top of the winch.
The Jeep JK’s flank is protected by a powdercoated 3/16-inch laser-cut steel Rusty’s rear bumper, form-fitted to the JK’s tub and offering two D-ring mounts. A Rusty’s rear tire carrier easily handles the massive 37/12.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/Ts wrapped around Carroll Shelby CS25 Jeep 5 Spoke 17x9 wheels. The J.W. Speaker 279 J Series LED Tail Lights were a plug-and-play installation. Some of the Drake Off Road exterior items we used, such as the fuel filler cover, door handle inserts, and the fire extinguisher quick-mount can be seen here too. We also sourced the new skinny fender flares for the front and rear, as well as rockers and front inner fenders from Rusty’s Off Road.
Behind the wheels and tires you'll find the EBC Brakes GD Series rotors we chose to go with on the Jp Week to Wheelin’ JK rebuild. We kept the factory calipers and brackets so we could find brake parts virtually anywhere. However, the upgrade to EBC Brakes’ GD Series dimpled and slotted rotors act to keep the brakes cooler and help prevent brake fade, and the discs feature a corrosion-resistant coating. The Extra Duty Truck/Jeep pads from EBC Brakes are designed specifically for heavier vehicles, and offer noiseless operation and superior performance.
Among the handful of exterior and interior accessories we used from Drake Off Road, the turnbuckle-adjustable and safety-pinned hood hold downs were deemed the most useful. Replacing the factory rubber units with these Drake Off Road hold downs not only gave the Jeep a touch of class, but kept our new AEV heat reduction engine hood from experiencing any hint of the dreaded “Jeep hood lift” on the highway.
The interior refresh began with a comfortable pair of seats that fit the roadster concept we were going for with this Jp Week to Wheelin’ Jeep JK rebuild. We chose to go with a set of Pro-90 Lowback ProCar by Scat seats that provided a vintage off-road vehicle look, and were superbly comfortable in a black vinyl/red velour combination.
From the automotive electronics aisle we selected a couple of goodies: the Painless Wiring Trail Rocker and the Superchips Traildash2. The Trail Rocker overhead unit can be used to control a multitude of electrical accessories (our choice for the front J.W. Speaker lightbar for a start), and it incorporates high-quality wiring, a sealed switch panel with LED weatherproof switches, and a weather-resistant housing for its underhood power center and connections. Superchips’ Traildash2 (P/N 42050) is a full-scope in-cabin performance programmer and monitor combo with a 5-inch full color touch display, and among its many uses are things we like such as idle adjust for times when more juice from the alternator is required, performance tunes, speedometer correction, and TPMS threshold adjustments.
We plan on really enjoying the Rampage TrailView Tonneau Top this summer. The TrailView features one-handed holdback of the soft tops’s section directly above the front seats, while the rest of the tonneau-style top remains intact, enclosing the rear cargo area of the two-door JK, as well as offering a rear window for visibility that keeps buffeting winds from disturbing the cabin area.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647