Lord Al Sorna's 2014 JKUR All-Purpose Build

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
Greetings fellow RME members! I would like to introduce my Jeep:


I purchased the Jeep July 18th, 2014 with 16 miles on the odometer. This is the first new vehicle I have owned, and has proven to be wonderfully fun and comfortable to cruise around in both on and off road. I look forward to making tasteful modifications to create my ultimate 4x4 adventure vehicle. The series of considerations that brought me to this vehicle purchase are extensive and included an extravagant Excel sheet with many columns :rolleyes:. The overarching idea is that I want to build a 4x4 that can do it all, and do it all well.


My passion for off-road adventure has manifested into two branches over time: backcountry travel AND technical 4x4 trails. I decided the time was right to build the holy grail - a vehicle that was comfortable to travel in all day on the highway or on less technical roads and trails, be able to pull my off-road trailer, and still be capable of navigating the upper echelon of difficult 4x4 trails. Initial must-haves included a solid front axle, AC, enough room for four people and our two large dogs, best possible fuel economy, and good aftermarket support. Vehicles that fell into this category were already very limited, but the list was further boiled down to an 80 series Cruiser, or the JK Unlimited. Factors that helped me make the final decision included: low vs. high mileage, warranty, removable top (LOVE), fuel economy, and the robust factory equipment package of the Rubicon.

Thanks for checking out my rig RME!


Current Modifications:
Teraflex 2.5 Coil Lift
Teraflex 1" Coil Spacers F/R
Teraflex Monster Front Track Bar
Fox 2.0 Remote Resi w/ Compression Adjusters
35 x 12.50 Goodyear MT/R's
Cragar Street Lock 15" Wheels
ARB front Stubby Bumper
OR-Fab Rear Jerry Can Carrier
Re-built Warn 9500HSi w/ custom paint - Smittybuilt Hybrid Line - Warn Hawse Fairlead
4.56 Nitro Gear R&P Swap
ARB Twin Compressor on MORE Mounting Bracket w/ Remote Line to Front Bumper
Welded ACE Engineering C-Gussets and LCA Skid Plates to front Dana 44
Carolina Metal Masters JK Grab Bar
Infinity Front Tweeters / Dynamat in Speaker Enclosures
Angry Offroad Paracord Grab Handles
Daystar Hood Wranglers
Off Road Evolution Rockstar Skids
AEV Geometry Correction Brackets
 

Greg

Scope Creep
Admin
Welcome to RME, the JKU looks great! Stick around, it's about to warm up and there will be plenty of upcoming trips.

What kind of mileage are you seeing with 35's & 4.56's?
 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
Thanks for the warm welcome all, and the compliments. It is nice to be reassured that you have *some* good taste...

Greg, I am seeing 15-16 doing 75 on the interstate average. With a nasty headwind it will be 12-13, tailwind more. For this drivetrain the best choice for mileage would probably have been 4.10's, but I wanted the extra pep/power for towing my trailer and I am happy with the decision. Lets play some catch-up...

FYI These are snippets taken from my original build thread on Expedition Portal here.
 
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Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
The day I brought her home:



First Trip - Dinosaur National Monument:


The first modifications:
Audio:
Overall I was very pleased with the quality of the factory Alpine system in the Jeep, with one big exception: The front tweeters. To my ear, there was a brutally obvious cutoff at the top of the frequency range that really made things lackluster and dull. I elected to replace the factory tweeters with a pair of Infinity Reference 1031t's 2-ohm. Installation was very straightforward, and only required slight trimming with a dremel to fit the supplied escutcheon. After careful trimming, the mounting assembly popped right in the tombstone with a tight interference fit, and gave me a factory-quality final appearance. I tucked the supplied crossovers into the dash and connected to factory wires. High-range extension, vocals, and overall clarity were improved DRAMATICALLY with this install.



As an additional part to the audio system upgrade, I added Dynamat and polyfill to the insides of both the subwoofer and sound bar enclosures:




This upgrade was WELL worth it! Bass response is tighter and cleaner, with less "muddy" sounding midbass. It actually feels like there is a sub behind the rear seat now, and it got my mirrors shaking! When the time comes for me to get into the dash to get a power supply for the GPS, I will do this to the front speaker enclosures as well.
These two easy modifications completely transformed the clarity and richness of the stock system, and I am extremely pleased with the results.




We also found some custom paracord grab handles and zipper pulls at http://www.angryoffroad.com/ and I installed a full set. These are a fun and functional touch, and they are extremely well made!



Lastly,

Billet Aluminum JK Grab Bar from Carolina Metal Masters. Provides a rigid 1" ball for use with RAM mounts, and I have installed in preparation for mounting up my GPS. This beast is gorgeous, and extremely sturdy.
 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
Wheel & Tire Package - I choose to go down to a 15" wheels for a few reasons, and I am very happy with the decision. First and most importantly, I wanted the most sidewall height I could get out of my given tire diameter (35") to promote tire flexibility and shock absorption when aired down. Secondly, the cost of tires for a 15" rim is close to $100 per tire less than any equivelant size on a 16" or 17", which made the cost of the tire AND wheel package roughly the same as just tires for a 17". This will also have a significant impact on the cost of new tire sets in the future. For wheels, I choose the black steel street locks based on cost, durability, and my liking of the appearance. Super utilitarian and a little old-school, but rugged as hell. The 35x12.50 MT/R's are big, wide tires with a huge footprint, and in the few trail days I have with them and the highway miles getting there I consider them the perfect choice. Highway manners and road noise are great with these tires, to a surprising degree. I wasn't too sure how profound the effect would be of running rubber this big, but on the JK they are very much at home, and do not detract from the driving experience or handling at all. On the Moab trails, they blew my mind out my nose and all over the dash. It's like driving with marshmallows covered in fly paper strapped to your axles: plush and sticky. :cool:


Suspension -

From the start, I knew I wanted a high-end tunable shock on this truck with remote reservoirs for cooling and additional oil capacity. I do a lot of high-speed overland style driving in UT (my favorite example being the Hole in the Rock Road, outside of Escalante- 60 miles of insane washboarding, dips, and drainage cuts/holes). I had experienced plenty of shock fade on my Tacoma through my travels and knew the upgrade would be worth it for me. I choose the Fox 2.0 shocks with with compression clickers for this application and now love them. In the beginning, however, I did not. The shock stiffness for my vehicle and driving style, amplified by the relatively stiff Teraflex springs, was never "harsh" but it was very, very "stiff". Out of the box these shocks are valved at 20/90 (listed as a percentage of available damping by design of the shock comp/reb.) The compression is set at the lowest possible because of the adjuster, but rebound was almost at the maximum. I knew this wasn't right for my application, so I got the parts and changed the rebound valve stacks to 45's in all four corners. Night and day.

With this change, the suspension was allowed to rebound faster to conform with the terrain. It was soaking up washboards/cobble/holes 100% better, and this is the terrain that I was tuning for because 80% of my off highway driving is higher speed on dirt roads. I was fully prepared to do multiple tuning changes on these shocks, but based on the improvement I do not think that will be necessary, especially with on-the-fly compression adjustability. Time will tell, and I am sure I will mess with tuning more in the future.


The Teraflex kit has proven to be a great choice, and the price was right. I like the strength and reinforcing design of the rear raised track bar mount, and the overall quality of hardware included. I choose to go with the adjustable front track bar as well, and am glad I did to properly center my axle. Out of the gate I can say the springs were very stiff, and even now this would be my main criticism. With some break in time, the added weight of the front bumper and winch, a full load for a 4x4 trip, and the heavy spare on the back things smooth out a whole lot and it is now apparent that the springs are designed for handling a lot of gear (which is good). The bumpstops are in the perfect spot for 35" tires and stock fenders, but really restrict uptravel in the front. I found it pretty easy to hit the stops on ledges/big street drainages/etc. To help this, I am going to install Teraflex 1" coil spacers on all four corners, with AEV front geometry correction brackets to eek out an extra inch of ride height and uptravel. This will put the suspension back to where it was before the springs settled, or slightly higher, but still work well in the range of my shocks and limits of factory components. A 3/4" shorter bumpstop extension is also avaliable from Teraflex, but this would require fender trimming or high-clearance fenders.


Other Thoughts
The 4.56 was the right choice for 35" tires and the 3.6L drivetrain.. It restored my RPMs close to the factory range, and made the Jeep super peppy to cruise around in again. Crawl ratio in 4-lo is akin to a farm implement, which I am enthusiastic about. They haven't been totally through the break-in yet so no fuel economy updates. (Was getitng 16 on the highway with stock 3.73 R&P and 35's).


I really like ARB's stubby bar. Its an ARB... enough said.


This is now the most fun vehicle I have ever owned, and already is meeting or exceeding all of the goals I started with. It drives down the highway with no drama, just like it did from the factory and rides great. I walked it up Moab Rim and Poison Spider Mesa last weekend on its first off-road test with surprising ease, which completely meets the trail difficulty goal. I am extremely happy with the base vehicle itself, and the modifications I have chosen for it have really amplified the driving experience.


 
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Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
I Installed additional modifications to the Jeep in my process of doing some finer tuning/building:


I added the 1" Teraflex coil spacers on all four corners, with AEV Geometry Correction Brackets in front and Off Road Evo "Rockstar" lower shock mount / skids in the rear. I really like the slightly taller ride height, and having that extra inch of compression travel has proven to be very beneficial. The few tests I have done at-speed on local street drainages have not caused contact with the bumpstops post-spacer, so I consider my line of thinking on this sound.







The AEV brackets worked very well on my Jeep and this was a good decision. Washboard and small/fast bump compliance is noticeably improved with this component, as the chatter and feedback coming through the suspension and body is reduced. Steering response is also a lot more linear, predictable, and solid, and a little less "fidgety." At $100 for the set, if they do in fact take a big hit off road and can't survive I will not consider it a catastrophic repair.



The Evo Rockstars have proven to be a cool little upgrade in the context of my build. Based on the length and available travel of my Fox 2.0's and the rear bump stop extension in the Teraflex kit, I had about 2" of shock travel still avaliable at full compression. The Evo brackets raise the lower shock mounting location and bottom of the axle brackets up 1.5", and have nicely fabricated skid plating on the bottoms for added protection. This was perfect to get me an extra 1.5" of down travel and added ground clearance, with no other compromises. I does require cutting and grinding on the lower shock brackets, which doesn't bother me but may some.


Took the jeep to my "RTI Hill" to verify rear suspension movement.. Everything looks good, still have about 3/4" of shock travel left at the bumpstops, which is good to account for mushing of the foam puck. Extra extension travel looks good, now dropping a full 35 below the body line, and tire still had a little bit of pressure on it with the front sway bar connected. Stoke is high!






I also drove it to the coffee shop this morning and nothing fell off, which tells me I put the bolts back in the right holes. I found this to be a positive.


I am really feeling like the suspension on this truck is 100% dialed-in now, and ready for some long-haul 4x4 trips throughout the west! :D
 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
I have completed the hitch raise and minimalist rear bumper setup I had planned:

I performed surgery on the factory receiver assembly to strip the unwanted brackets and parts, leaving me with the receiver tube. I used some of the cut metal to weld on a nice "goatee" for the bottom lip of the hitch to help it slide over ledges. Then, measuring 8x and cutting once, I cut in a pocket to the factory crossmember. I then fully welded the hitch into the pocket. You can also see the Off Road Evolution D-ring mounts that trim out the frame ends.



To add strength, lateral support, and further tie into the crossmember reinforcing I cut an 8" circle to use on top and bottom. This created a nice finished look, and this assembly is NOT moving...



To finish out the rear I used Off Road Evo's trim plate assembly. I had to trim the area around my receiver hitch raise about 1/2" up, and I drilled the hole for and mounted a 7-way trailer plug in the piece. The trailer plug fits between the bottom of the body and the top of the crossmember with ZERO room to spare, but it ended up lining up very well with the top corner of the trim piece. *Almost* like I planned it that way... I also painted the exposed portion of the tub below the tailgate flat black, which I ended up liking the look of a lot.



I now have excellent clearance and departure angle back there with nothing hanging below the bottom of the crossmember.


I will follow this up with OR-Fab's tire carrier, with a few custom touches to finish out the rear - coming soon. Also, I will be fabricating a pair of mounts for removable mudflaps.


I drove the Jeep to Phoenix for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it proved to be very comfortable and easy to drive on the road. (11 hrs each way) Once I got there, I stripped down the top and removed the doors, and the vehicle was a real treat to just cruise around town in. I did not log any off-highway miles, but it was extremely important to me I did not impact the highway driveability of the vehicle and this was a great test of how it performed on a long distance trip.
 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
Skiing has been a total bust, so it has lit the fire of spring 4x4 work a little early. I have added the planned OR-Fab Tire / Gerry Can carrier and am very happy with this modification, which completes the tail section. The rack is super solid, latches and swings smoothly and easily, and holds a lot of essentials.





It moves the spare up 5.5", which nets plenty of ground clearance and clearance for the raised hitch. I mounted an Adventure Trailers jerry can holder to the rack using carriage bolts, which I had from my previous rig. It has already been modified slightly to allow clearance for the spout on the bottom of my Frontrunner water jug. I LOVE this water setup, just flick the valve on the hose bib for water and Voila! On the OR-Fab rack it works great, as you can access the spout with the assembly both closed and open. I have also mounted up my High-Lift on the rack, and a full-sized D-handle shovel for "Plan B" situations. Mounting is super solid, and nothing rattles :D






The only thing I want to do to this is add an ammo can to hold extra recovery gear. I have to locate the right size can for this though, as they are somewhat rare, but there is one similar in size to a gerry can. I will keep this second slot flexible as well, so that I may add a 5 gal fuel can if needed for certain trips.


As a side note, with the extra weight on the back the Teraflex springs are riding worlds better, and the overall ride quality is very good. With the adjustable shocks I can dial in the ride for crawling slowly on rough terrain, or stiffen everything SIGNIFICANTLY for hauling it down dirt roads. The adjustments are very noticable and effective. Set on "1" I might be bottoming out hard on the larger dips / ledges at 15 - 20 mph but the ride is super supple. Set on "4/5" I can be doing the same road at 50 - 60 with total confidence, comfort, and stability. I have yet to need level "6". That could get crazy.
 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
The latest photos were shot on a long weekend my girlfriend Lauren and I had in Kanab for the long Valentines/President's Day weekend. The weather was perfect for desert hiking (weird in Feb but we went with it...) We had a GREAT time, and explored an area we had passed through frequently on the highway but had never really "seen."
I am going to do a full writeup sooner than later, but until then:

Cottonwood Road, just north of Hwy 89 between Kanab, UT and Page, AZ.



Red Canyon, aka Peek-A-Boo just north of Kanab, UT. Access to this spot included about 4 miles of fun 4x4 sand roads and cruising down a neat dry wash until it dead-ended at the mouth of this slot canyon.



Jeeping our way across Coyote Buttes South, with "The Teepees" pictured.
 

nnnnnate

Well-Known Member
Location
WVC, UT
This is a great write up, thanks for taking the time to post it up. It sounds like we are at the same wavelength with what we want out of our Jeeps. You're a little farther into your build than I am but thats mainly because I can't decide what I want for the remaining things.

I agree about the gears. I've got a '13 JK manual sport that started with 3.10s and had Skippy install 4.56s and an e-lockers in the rear for me. It was a pretty big leap and I was worried I had gone too low at first but am super happy with my choice now. I did run used 35s for a little bit and was still getting 16/17 mpg mixed driving. In the end though I didn't need the 35s and dropped back down to Rubi take offs.

I keep going back and forth on bumpers. Most days I would really like a full width front (ARB or the JCR Offroad Vanguard) but some days I think I'd be happy with a ARB stubby. The real problem is that there are so many options.

Do you have any info on your trailer?
 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
Nice looking rig and welcome to the forum.
Thanks!

This is a great write up, thanks for taking the time to post it up. It sounds like we are at the same wavelength with what we want out of our Jeeps. You're a little farther into your build than I am but thats mainly because I can't decide what I want for the remaining things.
Thanks mate. I am extremely happy with this level of "build" on my Jeep and like to think my head was in the right place when I made the plans. There are a LOT of options for the JK, which is awesome but can be a little daunting.

I keep going back and forth on bumpers. Most days I would really like a full width front (ARB or the JCR Offroad Vanguard) but some days I think I'd be happy with a ARB stubby. The real problem is that there are so many options.
So true. Maybe split the difference with a mid-width brawler bumper from Poison Spider? :) If you wanna see the ARB in-person let me know.

Do you have any info on your trailer?
I do, and see you have your own trailer project going. I fabbed this whole thing from scratch last year, based loosely on an Adventure Trailers Horizon trailer. I got all the steel from the sirplus side at Wasatch Steel, which made the cost very reasonable. It has a Maxi-Coupler Hitch, Dee-Zee Aluminum topsider toolboxes on the fenders, a Harbor Freight tongue box, Autohome Overland RTT... Axle assy came fron Henderson in SLC, and I elected to put trailer brakes in it. I have a set of shorty RV shocks on the axle, which I TOTALLY recommend. I haven't done a build page for this guy yet, but will. In the mean time if you have any questions whatsoever please do not hesitate to ask!

A great local resource is State Trailer Supply in West Valley. They have all the various bits you need to complete a finished product in-stock, and walking around that store will get the ideas going.
 
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BCGPER

Starting Another Thread
Location
Sunny Arizona
Keep in mind, when it comes safety inspection time the state says full width. Bumper has to be equal to the centerline of the tire.

I keep going back and forth on bumpers. Most days I would really like a full width front (ARB or the JCR Offroad Vanguard) but some days I think I'd be happy with a ARB stubby. The real problem is that there are so many options.
 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
UPDATES!



I have added a rock light circuit that included two nice LED lights from Amazon that are rear-facing, as well as 6 single leds mounted in the bumper / on the back side of the front crash bar.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00G8R69RC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LC06RWM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1


The pair of Nilights are super sturdy, and BRIGHT! I have them fitted to the top bar on my rear cargo rack, just outside the spare. This gives me a huge amount of light behind the rig for things like night runs, backing at night, camp activities, and keeping an eye on my trailer to make sure it is behaving itself.




The Eagle-Eyes are tucked under the ARB in some very well protected spots. There are 6 total, third mounting position is barely shown in photo in the back of the u-shaped crash bar (bottom right) and splashes light under the truck. The one on the sides of the bumper give me a perfect angle to illuminate what is directly in front of the front tires, and chances are very slim anything can reach up to grab one of these (and if something does I have extras).



The results are good usable light around the perimeter and underside of the rig. The photos don't show it, but there is plenty of light that cascades toward the rear axle and underside from this combo, so I do not feel the need to add anything back there. Love the results, and the lights were very inexpensive!

 

Lord Al Sorna

Harebrained Scheming
Location
Park City
In other news,
I found and decided to go with a Rampage Trail Can/Storage box that is super stealth, and an easy solution to get me that extra storage space on the rear for recovery gear. I want to fab up a mount that supports the can over the full width of the base for this, as the off-center mount puts a lot of stress on the lid and hinge. Currently stashed battery cables, two tow straps, a tree saver, and extra shackles in there with room to spare, and I love that at first glance it looks like a water jug (I painted it).





Last small addition is a set of safari mirrors from Rugged Ridge for doorless cruising. I am taking the Jeep down to AZ in about a week, and have every intention of stripping her down in the nice weather! These seem like a nice solution. You leave the brackets on 24/7 and the mirror arms screw on easily with a thumb screw. The bracket has a nice foam backer to protect the paint underneath.

 

nnnnnate

Well-Known Member
Location
WVC, UT
I'm afraid I wouldn't have the self control to drive "safely" in that stream with my top and doors off. Thanks for sharing the pics, they are awesome.
 
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