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Hemi 2008 Jeep JK8 Trail Machine

V-8 JK8

Stuart A. BourdonPhotographer, Writer

Amid all the excitement of a Jeep pickup truck coming back soon, we thought it would be nice to reflect upon what some have done to fill the gap during the “pickup void” in Jeepdom. The JK8 conversion you see here belongs to Richard Larsen, but not too long ago it was a stock 2008 Jeep Wrangler JKU Sahara. Richard is one of those guys who hungered after a Jeep pickup, got tired of waiting, and decided to create his own. We wheeled with Richard and some buddies for this photo shoot, and you can be assured that what was once a bone-stock JKU is now capable of keeping up with anybody.

Under the Sheetmetal

A TeraFlex long-arm kit and ORI STX 14-inch struts help control a Currie RockJock 60 up front and a Currie RockJock High-Pinion 60 rear axle. Both 60s are loaded with 5.38 ARB Air Lockers and spun by JE Reel 1350 driveshafts. A custom PSC hydraulic steering system directs the massive 40/13.50R17 Toyo Open Country M/T tires on 17-inch (3.5-inch backspace) ATX Slab wheels. Rock Hard skidplates stretch to protect a generous amount of the underbody. Cruising range was increased through the installation of a GenRight Crawler fuel tank.

Once the custom frame and suspension work was done, and the wheelbase stretched 10 inches, Richard began looking for that V-8 he had always dreamed about. He found a donor 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 with a still-intact and running 5.7L Hemi V-8 and 545RFE transmission. The Jeep Speed Shop in Cotati, California, helped with the swap. That required custom motor and trans mounts, and a lot of rewiring. An Atlas 2 transfer case was buckled up to the five-speed automatic.

Creative Coachwork

The otherwise normal-looking JK interior has been spruced up with Twisted Stitch’s Vortex XL seat. The carbon fiber and vinyl custom race-style buckets are ultra supportive. A custom rollcage offers perches for a CB and auxiliary switches above. The custom rollcage is the work of Dirty’s Garage in Hesperia, California. Dirty’s also did the JK8 transformation of the JKU using a DV8 Hammer top and bed. The installation workmanship is professional. The finished body was surrounded by armor, including a MetalCloak combo stinger front bumper, Rebel Off Road front corner, and Poison Spyder rear bumper, rear corner guards, and fender flares.

When Richard Larsen first began driving his 2008 Jeep Wrangler JKU Sahara, he was satisfied with its performance, but yearned for more. He dreamed of what it would be like to have a V-8 in his Jeep. He had listened well and learned that swapping a V-8 into a JK was not that simple; it would require many other changes to handle the larger size of the V-8 and its powertrain components, as well as the extra measure of muscle the V-8 would bring. He waited until he was ready and had everything figured out. Then, with help where needed from Dirty’s Garage and Jeep Speed Shop, the complete rebuild of the ’08 JKU Sahara began. Richard’s best advice for anyone tackling a major project like this: “Plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more.”

Why This Jeep

It’s powerful and long-legged, and that helps it wheel like an animal. The body conversion was flawless, and it provided a Jeep enthusiast with the pickup truck he wanted long before his favorite brand began producing them again.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 2008 Jeep Wrangler JKU/DV8 Conversion
Engine: 2008 5.7L Hemi V-8 from Dodge 1500 pickup
Transmission: Chrysler 545RFE 5-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Atlas 2
Suspension: Custom w/ TeraFlex long-arm kit, 14-inch ORI STX struts
Axles: Currie Dana 60, 5.38 ARB Air Lockers (front); Currie Dana 60 High-Pinion, 5.38 ARB Air Lockers (rear)
Wheels: 17-inch ATX Slab
Tires: 40/13.50R17 Toyo Open Country M/T