2012 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Rocklander Goes Wherever It Wants

A cross between rockcrawler and overlander, this Jeep goes wherever it wants

Rockcrawlers and overlanders seem like they might be two completely different branches of the off-road enthusiast tree. One enjoys tackling difficult trail obstacles, and therefore builds a rig that has as much wheel travel and axle articulation as possible, with low gearing to creep over big rocks. The other seeks to travel dirt roads and off-road trails deep into the wilds, explores new places, and camps independently under the stars. These rigs are built for long-distance travel, with enhanced overnighting and livability upgrades.

These two schools of thought don't sound too far apart when you think about it, and they appear to have very similar mindsets and completely compatible objectives. Jim and Deb Kriegshauser couldn't agree more. Their Jeep is masterfully created to cross that line and embrace both camps. What began as a stock 2012 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon was transformed slowly over a long period of time and in stages. Each and every step of the way, a generous amount of wheeling occurred before moving on to the next major upgrade. Any changes, adjustments, or tuning needed on the newly finished work was accomplished before more major work was performed.

The rockcrawling overlander we dubbed "Rocklander" tackled the Rubicon Trail carrying an Ursa Minor J30 pop-up camper that replaced the factory hardtop. It's lightweight and low key yet filled with overnighting amenities. The Orange Crush Jeep JKU featured a 4.5-inch MetalCloak suspension system with custom-tuned 6Pak shocks, Ultimate Dana 60s with 5.38 gears, and BFGoodrich 39x13.50R17 Mud-Terrain KM3 rubber wrapped around Monster RT Black 17x8.5 wheels with an 8x6.5 bolt pattern and 4.75 inches of backspace.

Along the way they sought the advice of shops that came recommended by those they met on the trail. In those early days, Jones Jeeps of Marble Falls, Texas, helped keep them on course and out of trouble with the build. The list of upgrades to this Jeep includes nearly 100 items, and we have room here to give you just an overview. There was plenty more done to the Jeep JKU as the years went on, and even an engine swap was done much farther down the road, but you'll have to look through the photos for that.

The final result (who's kidding—no Jeep is ever "done") of that patience and meticulous attention to detail is the rockcrawling overlander you see before you. They have been to dozens of off-road hot spots across North America in the last few years, stretching from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, to Anza-Borrego, California. We spent three days on the Rubicon Trail with Jim and Deb during a recent Modern Jeeper Adventures trip and watched them easily tackle the trail during the day and then relax in luxury with all the creature comforts in the evenings. I hate to admit my envy, but looking back and forth from my small tent on the ground to that comfortable four-wheel-drive cabin on wheels made me think having the best of both worlds just might be better.

Front suspension mods began with a MetalCloak 4.5-inch kit that included the company's 6Pak shocks, True Dual Rate coil springs, Duroflex control arms, and a Duroflex chromoly front track bar. Fox 2.0 IFP bumpstops are part of the mix. Swinging on that is an Ultimate Dana 60 front axle with a 5.38 Eaton ELocker. A JKS sector shaft and track bar brace, Rock Krawler Off Road Pro drag link and tie rod, and PSC hydraulic-assist system for 1-ton axles work to firmly direct the 39-inch tires.
The rear end sports an Ultimate Dana 60 axle with a 5.38 Eaton ELocker hung by a 4.5-inch MetalCloak suspension kit with 6Pak shocks, True Dual Rate coils (snugged in with Artec spring perches and retainers), Duroflex control arms, and a Duroflex rear chromoly track bar. Fox 2.0 IFP bumpstops and Hellwig antisway bars work to limit and control movement in the rear end.
Ready for anything day or night, the Orange Crush JKU leads with a Warn Zeon 10-S Platinum winch that was corralled into a MetalCloak Frame-Built front bumper with 46-inch Crawler Caps and a Mid Stinger, and then is roped to a Factor 55 UltraHook. Accessory lighting to punch through the darkness includes J.W. Speaker LED headlights and two LED auxiliary lights, a 20.5-inch Vision X Xmitter Prime Xtreme LED lightbar with a mixed beam pattern, and Rigid D-Series 20-degree flood LED cornering lights.
When we said engine swap, we bet you thought V-8, right? Well, it's subtle, but it's not the 3.6L that was in 2012 Jeep JKU when they got it. After about 125,000 miles, the old V-6 began to show its age, so a fresh 3.6L from a 2017 Jeep JKU donor with just under 900 miles on it was located and transplanted by Dixie 4 Wheel Drive in St. George, Utah. Crawlur Offroad in Indio, California, helped with fine-tuning the setup. In the corner you can see the Genesis Offroad dual battery system (loaded with twin Odyssey Extreme batteries) that includes the G Screen Monitoring System and Digital Air Pressure Sensor so you can monitor and control batteries and your onboard auxiliary air system from in the cab.
Out back is a Poison Spyder RockBrawler II bumper with a swingout tire carrier. Strapped to it are twin RotopaX 3-gallon red fuel containers and a 39-inch spare tire.
The new and really trick DMOS Delta Shovel is collapsible, easy to use, sturdy as heck, and super lightweight. It sits in a custom mount on the end of the Poison Spyder RockBrawler II swing-out tire carrier.
An ARB hydraulic jack and an AT Overland 5-pound propane tank sit in custom mounts built by Crawlur Offroad on the passenger-side rear corner of the Kriegshauser's Jeep JKU rockcrawling overlander.
With the rear tailgate opened up, a full service and fully equipped kitchen can be slid out on rails. Goose Gear created the custom setup for the Kriegshausers, including the Goose Gear plate system, side cubbies, 40/60 platforms, CampKitchen and Single Drawer Module, National Luna Weekender fridge/freezer, and Partner Steel two-burner propane gas stove.
The pilot and co-pilot's cabin inside the Kriegshauser's Jeep JKU overlander is fully outfitted with communications and navigation equipment, a Rock Hard 4x4 rollcage, and stock seats upgraded with two-tone black and orange Katzkin leather. An sPOD 6-Switch Panel with dual-lit LED amber switches puts control of the electrical accessories within easy reach.
It's happy hour once camp is all set up. The Ursa Minor Vehicles J30 pop-up camper with an ARB aluminum-encased rear awning is the perfect location for it with amenities such as the Goose Gear kitchen setup, 12V outlets and dual USB ports throughout the camper, a built-in voltage meter to keep track of power usage, and LED lighting in the rear load bay. A Yakima SkyLine rack on the camper's top holds the Maxtrax Safety Orange vehicle recovery boards, and white two-gallon RotopaX water containers are hitched to the front doors of the Jeep. For all the details on this build, check out the Kriegshausers' website at trail-nut.com.
Camp set up
A "park power" hookup receptacle in the panel just forward of the driver-side door allows the Kriegshausers to take advantage of a 120V charge-up when they do (on those rare occasions) end up near civilization.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: 2012 Jeep Wrangler JKU Rubicon
Engine: 3.6L Pentastar V-6 from a 2017 Jeep Wrangler donor
Transmission: A580 five-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Rock-Trac NV241 (4:1 low range)
Axles: Ultimate Dana 60 with 5.38 Eaton ELocker (front); Ultimate Dana 60 with 5.38 Eaton ELocker (rear)
Suspension: MetalCloak Game-Changer 4.5-inch system, custom-tuned 6Pak shocks, Dual Rate coil springs, Fox 2.0 IFP bumpstops
Wheels: Monster RT Black 17x8.5
Tires: BFGoodrich 39x13.50R17 Mud-Terrain KM3
Other Cool Stuff: Ursa Minor Vehicles J30 pop-up camper; Goose Gear custom slide-out kitchen; ARB aluminum-encased rear awning; MetalCloak body armor, rocker, fenders, and front bumper; NOCO Genius Gen2 20-amp 2-bank onboard battery charger; and 124V AC port plug with integrated extension cord

Why This Jeep
We like rockcrawling, and we like long-distance four-wheeling and camping along the way (popularly called overlanding all of a sudden). With a rig like this 2012 Orange Crush Jeep JKU, you can do both all in the same adventure, without sleeping on the cold, hard ground. We warm up to that concept more and more every time we see a Jeep like the one driven by Jim and Deb Kriegshauser.

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