New Jeep Chopfest
Every year Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé leads us on a weeklong on- and off-road adventure through the craziest trails he can find in a random portion of the U.S., and every year we build something new and outrageous to lead the group with. A year ago we built a very cool fullsize 4x4 pickup to lead the Ultimate Adventure (“Ultimate F-150,” July ’11–Jan. ’12). It worked great, but if there was one thing that we would have changed it would have been the size. It had a huge wheelbase, and though capable, it wasn’t the best vehicle for weaving through tight trail obstacles. This year we decided a small two-door Jeep Wrangler would be our lead machine wherever Péwé decides to take us, and we’d build it to be nimble to twist around obstacles.
You saw the two-door ’12 Wrangler Rubicon being built in Toledo in the Aug. ’12 issue (“OJ the Ultimate Orange Jeep,” part 1) and then fixed up in Sept. ’12 with a Zone 4-inch suspension and 35-inch Nittos. This worked great for trail wheeling in Moab (“Moab Mecca,” Aug. ’12). It has lockers, GenRight aluminum fenders, and a Warn winch in a Synergy front bumper and easily could have passed tech inspection for the UA. The problem is it would look like every other Jeep on the trail, and we wanted something that would be twice as capable as a standard Jeep JK and somehow stand out from the crowd—a tall order indeed.
Our next step was hauling OJ to the Hazzard Fabworx shop near Spokane. Proprietor Luke Shuman and Employee of the Month (every month) Rocky Dorame listened to our most harebrained idea ever for an Ultimate Adventure build and signed on wholeheartedly. These guys make a living building everything from street-driven diesel trucks to desert-bombing, rock-racing buggies. They aren’t afraid of a challenge and were more than willing to help chop our Jeep in half with just 3,000 miles on the odometer.
Our little OJ is getting stretched, a fair bit of body modification too (as you’ll see), and most importantly the ability to steer front and rear. Our goal is a Jeep that can weave through trees and boulders like a snake while still cruising down the road like a Jeep just off the showroom floor.
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