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First Jeep Wrangler JL Built Sets Bar High


Cole QuinnellPhotographer, Writer

Once every 10 years. That’s how often the Jeep designers and engineers get the opportunity to reinvent the Wrangler. The same is true for enthusiasts and aftermarket companies. The Jeep JL is an all-new blank canvas for us to make what we want. Even though it looks a lot like a JK, it’s not. Just about everything except the tires will require some reengineering to fit and work correctly. The new canvas also means a rare opportunity for our Dirt Every Day TV show to cover a buildup of this newest Wrangler that pretty much sets the standard for Wrangler JL buildups to come.

The team at Dynatrac seized the opportunity, building its 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL, named CODE1, not only in record time but also with a vision for what the new JL could be: a build that will stand out and be instantly recognizable for all of the right reasons. The basis for CODE1 actually began more than a year ago. At that time, Tony Carvallo was the Jeep Wrangler product planner at FCA. His primary job was to define what the new JL would be. An avid off-road enthusiast, he defended things that make the Jeep Wrangler one of the best off-road vehicles out of the box. He worked with the designers and engineers to protect for the upgrades and modifications that he knew people would want to make.

To lead those modifications, Carvallo, by now a Dynatrac employee, helped come up with a plan to build this JL into a 42-inch-shod monster that balanced that which was simple, effective, and in your face. The Jeep concept took on its final form in some rough sketches: a long-wheelbase two-door built for overlanding and rockcrawling. And yes, sitting on 42-inch-tall Maxxis Trepador tires and sporting a pair of seriously beefy Dynatrac ProRock axles. The long-wheelbase two-door option was missing from the Jeep order form, so the company purchased a four-door and planned to fill in the rear door to create the look and function. As soon as the new production JLs started rolling off the assembly line, Carvallo and Dirt Every Day’s host, Fred Williams, flew to Michigan and started circling Jeep dealerships like hungry hawks looking for a warm meal.

They purchased a silver Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport at Dave Dennis Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Dayton, Ohio, and made a cross-country run for the Dynatrac facility in Huntington Beach that would have made Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise proud.

To make the shooting schedule for the planned Dirt Every Day episode, they would have only eight days to go from factory to finished. For a normal JK build, that wouldn’t be too bad, but this wasn’t a typical build. What’s more, even though some companies had a head start on engineering components for the JL, this would be the first production vehicle to fit these new aftermarket parts. And much of what would be done to this Jeep would be custom anyway.

A project like this doesn’t happen without vision, planning, and a whole lot of coffee and elbow grease. It also requires some great partners who are willing to make parts at a moments’ notice, drive them to the worksite, and, in some cases, lend a hand installing them. Every ounce of help was needed. The final modifications to CODE1 were made the morning that we headed out to Johnson Valley for the photo and video shoot, which also served as a test session for the complete vehicle.

While there was quite a bit of nervousness as the team pointed the massive tires toward the first trail, CODE1 impressed everyone as it crawled with ease over massive boulders on the Chocalate Thunder and Turkey Claw trails. We think that CODE1 not only achieved the goal of being the first JL built, but it will be an iconic build that will be as memorable and cool years from now as it is today.

Tech Specs

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport
Engine: 3.6L Pentastar V-6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Rock-Trac with 2.72:1 ratio
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock XD60 10.1-inch diff, 5.38 gears, and Eaton ELocker
Rear Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 80 11 1/4-inch diff, 5.38 gears, and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Evo Mfg. 4-inch Extreme Overlanding system with Fox 2.0 adjustable remote-reservoir shocks
Tires & Wheels: 42x14.5-17LT Maxxis Trepador on 17x9 Method Race Wheels beadlock
Steering: Factory
Other Stuff: Baja Design LP9 LED off-road driving lights, Evo Mfg. front and rear bumpers, Warn Zeon 10s winch, HANS PowerNet off-grid PowerPack and Solar Suitcase, Goose-Gear sliding cargo storage system, custom Bestop soft top, and Mopar fender flares and rock sliders