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Hemi-Power Jeep JK For Oregon Adventures

Iron Mistress

Bruce W. SmithPhotographer, Writer

Seeing purpose-built rockcrawlers making their way along a mountain path strewn with thigh-high boulders that wind through tall firs isn’t out of the ordinary in northwestern Oregon. But when you see a high-fender Wrangler JK working its way over the same rugged terrain, lights blazing while its suspension and mud tires walk over the big rocks with seaming ease, that’s a different story. When it gets closer, a lot of details become clear that make this JK special. It’s a Hemi-powered, Anvil clear-coat 2014 JK that’s been taken to a higher level of performance than when it left American Expedition Vehicle’s (AEV) facility two years earlier.

Julious Griffith is the second owner. He wanted a four-door JK that could travel wherever his adventurous mind lead regardless of the season or the terrain. When he spotted this one for sale, with very low miles, he was hooked. “I’m not a mechanic and this is my first Jeep,” says the self-employed Oregonian. “So I did a lot of research on the Internet, watched hours of YouTube videos, and gleaned as much information as I could from Mike Dunks at Dunks Performance in Springfield, Oregon, on what would make it into a bullet-proof Pacific Northwest expedition rig. The ‘Iron Mistress’ is a result of those efforts.”

The 4.5-inch Stage 4 long-travel Synergy suspension allows the 40x13.50R17 Nitto’s under the Iron Mistress to stay planted on Terra Firma in tough situations. A Poison Spyder front bumper adds protection, and Synergy steering components keep it on the straight and narrow.

The AEV 3.5-inch suspension has been replaced with a 4.5-inch Stage 4 Long Travel Synergy kit with Currie’s Antirock sway bar system so the suspension travel is maximized off-road. Iron Mistress’ ride is smooth on- and off-road.

To maximize suspension travel and ground clearance, while maintaining the JK’s ride quality, Dunks swapped out the 3.5-inch AEV underpinnings for a 4.5-inch Stage 4 Long Travel Synergy suspension damped by Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks. Synergy steering upgrades were also added along with Currie’s Antirock front sway bar kit.

The “Iron Mistress” has also had the Dana 44s swapped out for beefier Ultimate Dana 60s with 5.38s and electric lockers. The larger housings cleared the path for 17-inch beadlock Method wheels, wrapped with 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts so Griffith could air way down and still have plenty of ground clearance.

A 4x4 sPOD switch panel above the rearview mirror controls the lights and lockers and shows air pressure to an on-board air system. The programmable controller is mounted in the engine compartment.

The stout tire carrier is a Poison Spyder body-mount design that can handle the weight of a 40-inch mud tire, Hi-Lift jack, and Roto-Pax containers carrying water, fuel and an emergency kit.

Adding Poison Spyder’s high-fenders helped solve any tire clearance issues when the suspension was working to its fullest, while Poison Spyder’s frame-mounted Rocker Knockers and Corner Crusher armor were added to protect the Iron Mistress’ most vulnerable body parts.

The AEV winch bumper was changed out as well, replaced with a Poison Spyder RockBrawler to house the Warn Zeon 10S winch, which this Oregon adventurer says has already seen action several times as he tackled new off-road challenges around the state. The rear of the Iron Mistress is set up to be just as functional, with a Poison Spyder Rear bumper supporting a matching body-mount tire carrier, a brace of Roto-Pax emergency/water/fuel storage packs, and a Hi-Lift.

Open the rear gate and a Front Runner Cargo Slide is mounted in lieu of the second-row seat to keep gear bags, a tool box, and an ARB Portable Twin Air Compressor kit handy. Between the slide-out and heated AEV front seats is an ARB Freezer/Fridge and a National Luna portable power pack to ensure there’s always an ample supply of 12V juice. The tools and gear is all about being self-sufficient on the trail.

Griffith loves to wheel day or night, so the Jeep is equipped with a 50-inch Rigid Industries LED spot/flood amber/white combo LED lightbar on the roof, along with a pair of square D-Series Rigid LEDs at each corner of the front window. Rigid LED rock lights help to see what’s underneath, while LED backup lights and an amber lightbar on the winch bumper add more illumination to the surroundings.

The Iron Mistress is outfitted with the 390hp 5.7L VVT Hemi V-8, which was installed by AEV during the Wrangler’s first round of mods. The Hemi is stock and runs a single exhaust so it’s quiet on and off-road.

Horsepower and torque are never an issue, either. Pop open the special AEV Heat Reduction hood and in place of the typical JK Wrangler V-6 is a 5.7L Hemi backed with a five-speed Chrysler automatic. The AEV implant, ordered by the first owner, looks and runs like it rolled out of Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio, assembly plant. AEV also upgraded the cooling system and exhaust when they did the in-house V-8 swap.

“It’s nice having the power of the Hemi when towing the trailer, getting around slower-moving traffic, or off-road,” says Griffith of his AEV JK’s performance. “I drive it just about every day. Every upgrade Mike suggested I have done worked perfectly for what I need.”

A customized Schutt Industries’ Xventure XV-2 off-road trailer provides everything needed to set up a nice base camp. The trailer, which runs 37-inch Nitto M/Ts, has been upfitted by 99 West Trailers so it contains everything from a pop-up tent to a full galley to a heated shower system

No expedition vehicle is complete without a way for the explorers to set up a base camp. Griffith looked at a number of options, finally settling on a customized Xventure XV-2 trailer outfitted for off-road camping by 99 West Trailers in Sherwood, Oregon. The XV-2 is built on a high-clearance, military-grade chassis with a weldless huck-bolt all-aluminum body painted to match the Iron Mistress and a heavy-duty single axle running 37-inch Nittos on Method beadlocks.

99 West Trailers sprayed the interior and bottom with a bedliner coating, added an on-demand hot-water system for the shower and sink, fed by a 22-gallon armor-plated freshwater tank under the floor. There’s an external galley table and RV-style three-burner propane stove, the tank sitting on the tongue. It also features military-grade tie-downs and wiring, Rigid LED rock, cargo, bed and rack lights, and an adjustable height rack system that supports a James Baroud USA Grand Raid XXL tent. The tent pops up in seconds to access a comfy queen-sized foam mattress.

When it’s all set up for camp, an OZ Tent’s Foxwing awning to keep the elements at bay, and a large storage locker at the front with an ARB fridge to keep supplies and provisions at the ready. The Xventure trailer let’s Griffith whip up a meal and relax while planning the next off-road adventures behind the wheel of the Iron Mistress.

Vehicle: 2014 AEV Wrangler JK
Engine: 2014 395hp 5.7L Hemi
Transmission: Chrysler 5-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NV241
Suspension: Synergy Stage 4 4.5-inch with Fox 2.0 Performance Series Shocks
Axles: Front: Ultimate Dana 60, 5.38 gears, Dana E-locker, chromoly ’shafts, Warn Premium hubs
Rear: Ultimate Dana 60, 5.38 gears, Dana E-locker, chromoly ’shafts
Steering: Stock with Synergy steering correction kit, tie-rod and Fox ATS stabilizer
Wheels: 17x9 Method 105 beadlocks
Tires: 40x13.50R17LT Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts
Trailer: Schutt Xventure XV-2 customized by 99 West Trailers
Built For: Rock trails, dunes, and backcountry exploring

An Ultimate Dana 60 with electric locker handles the power transfer to the big Nittos up front while a Fox ATS steering stabilizer maintains its excellent off-road and on-highway driving manners.

The Dana 44s have been replaced by Ultimate Dana 60s so the owner doesn’t have to worry about reliability when pushing the AEV JK to the limits. Axles run 5.38 gearing and electric lockers with nickel chromoly 35-spline ’shafts.

Fox 2.0 Performance Series remote-reservoir shocks control the long-travel suspension. The Ultimate 60s come with heavy-duty dual-caliper disc brakes, which work well to stop the massive tires.

All of the basic off-road gear is stored on a Front Runner slide-out tray: air compressor, tools, winching gear, and air hose. The owner has already started designing a second-level storage system to span the back of his Wrangler.

This is typical of how the Iron Mistress is used, heading out into Oregon’s deep woods and exploring new trails with the custom Xventure off-road trailer in tow.

An ARB Fridge/Freezer keeps food and beverages cold while a National Luna power pack stores an ample amount of 12V juice to meet needs when the rig is parked.

A customized Schutt Industries’ Xventure XV-2 off-road trailer provides everything needed to set up a nice base camp. The trailer, which runs 37-inch Nitto M/Ts, has been upfitted by 99 West Trailers so it contains everything from a pop-up tent to a full galley to a heated shower system

The Iron Mistress is a great example of a Jeep and trailer combo set up for exploring the wilds and being self-reliant for long periods of time.

Griffith is not afraid to get the Iron Mistress dirty either. Living in Oregon, it’s nearly impossible to not find much on the trail, and the Hemi-powered JK has nor trouble getting itself and the trailer behind it anywhere its driver wants to go.

The Iron Mistress is quiet, so the only giveaway that it’s not your typical six-banger JK is the 5.7L V-8 emblems just behind each front fender.

Low-angle lighting is supplied by a Rigid Industries LED lightbar with an amber filter cover for driving in fog and rain. The lightbar is mounted in front of the Warn Zeon 10S model winch nested in the Poison Spyder bumper.

The programmable 4x4 sPOD controller’s wiring runs the 4x4 sPOD switch panel in the cabin that controls the Ultimate 60 lockers and LED lights. The switch panel is mounted above the rearview mirror for easy access.

Dunks Performance in Springfield, Oregon, handled all of the post-AEV upgrades on the Iron Mistress.

Fox 2.0 Performance Series Shocks handle the rigors of off-road travel and the 40-inch tires.

Having the power of a 5.7L Hemi under the hood is a nice feature for a JK that’s loaded with upgrades and tows a custom off-road trailer on many outings.