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.
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.
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.