Ahead of a possible reveal at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show in January, we’re excited to release our 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (JLU) and Pickup (JT) renderings which we believe provide an accurate preview of next generation (JL) Wrangler.
Our renderings represent a composite from months of insider source tips, leaks, research and spy photo revelations and analysis. They were modeled from our real life prototypes photos. The major highlights include:
Fixed roof structure with large removable roof panels and removable back windows (from insider sources and previewed in early concept proposal)
Multi-configuration roof as seen in early concept model: full-width panels removed, center piece removed, and all panels installed
Roof/top with angled rear pillar and angled windows (previewed in spy pics and early concept proposal)
More raked windshield
Longer hood (accommodates new 8 speed auto, will be made from aluminum, and may have already been leaked)
Hood bulge/vent – possibly to provide air for 4 cyl turbo and/or diesel (seen in spy photos and early concept proposal)
LED headlights (seen in spy photos and already introduced on current 2017 Wrangler)
Headlights slightly recessed into outer most grille slats (a la CJ Wrangler)
Front grille with “kink” leading to angled top portion (a la TJ Wrangler, seen in spy pics)
European style front bumper (longer and extends up to meet fender flares)
LED turn signal light strips, integrated into fender flares (seen in spy pics)
Foglights located more inwards of headlights
New Goodyear tires (switch from current BFGoodrich tires, seen in spy pics)
Retains exposed exterior door hinge mechanism and removable doors
Similar door cut-lines as current model
Tail lights featuring “X” design (seen in the leaked dealer meeting images)
Our JL Wrangler concept also reflects some speculated/rumored features, including:
Flip up/over rear window (based on patent drawings)
Vents behind front wheel flares (helps wheel well air flow while adding some design flair)
As we can see, the JL Wrangler design will be more evolutionary than revolutionary, which is no surprise given the continued strong sales of the current JK Wrangler model. The biggest changes will come in the form of the new fixed roof / removable panel structure and “under the skin” where the Wrangler will receive all new engine options (Pentastar V6, Hurricane Turbo 4, and a 3.0L Diesel) and a new 8 speed transmission.
Wrangler Pickup (JT) With Multiple Piece Removable Roof
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Hellcat in the Grand Cherokee, Now the Ram, That means the Wrangler is next right??
Ram just got serious about competing with the 2017 Ford Motor Company F-150 Raptor.
The truckmaker unveiled Thursday its Ram Rebel TRX concept, powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that makes 575 horsepower. Yup, that 6.2-liter supercharged V-8.
This may be as close as we’ll get to a factory Hellcat Ram 1500, and goodness, is it loud. (Click the video to hear it scream.)
Head of Ram in the U.S. Jim Morrison told us that it’s a concept—for now—and that Ram would consider a future production version. Considering the Ram is entering the last couple years of its life cycle, we wouldn’t be wholly shocked to see something actually hit the streets, but for now, it’s only a “design study.”
(Eds note: The “concept” is a fully engineered example that can run, so yeah right.)
The monster engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic like the other Hellcats, and uses many off-the-shelf Ram parts to manage the massive tires and power. The front axle is the same as the Ram 1500’s front, and the rear suspension is the same link coil setup as the street truck—even down to the same hard points on the frame.
Of course, not everything is the same, including massive six-piston front and rear stoppers to arrest all that motion.
For now, Morrison says it goes 100 mph anywhere, and judging by the chunky 37-inch tires, 13 in of wheel travel, bypass shocks, and beefed up suspension, we’re totally buying it.
The Hellcat engine is pushed back further on the front shocks, engineers say, for better weight distribution and ass-hauling capability. What the truck.
Engineered in Australia, the ARB Intensity LED light range has been specifically designed to meet the demanding requirements of 4WDers throughout the world. From producing white light that is the closest possible imitation of sunlight, to a virtually indestructible polycarbonate lens, these lights are the premium choice.
Unlike high intensity discharge (HID) lights, the LED range does not require time to warm up, and performs brilliantly on corrugated roads by producing a broad field of light that helps diffuse vibration.
Submersible to 3m, the ARB Intensity LED lights have been vibration tested to military specifications to ensure they can withstand extended periods of heavy corrugations and extreme conditions to keep the road ahead brightly lit.
Check out this video to for a quick look at the ARB Intensity Lights!
Nitto’s 2016 JK Experience Alaska presented by Discount Tire was incredible. While the last frontier made for a larger-than-life backdrop, the focus of the trip would be the Jeeps and people in them.
The 14 Wranglers attending JKX Alaska would be filled with a mix of invited guest and sponsors. All of which were looking to test their JKs against some of the most unforgivable roads and trails on the planet. Here, we’re giving some background on each of the participants and how their Jeeps were built to handle this Experience.
Looking for a good place to get a great deal on aftermarket Jeep parts? Well, look no further thanNorthridge 4×4. The retail outlet is known for stellar prices on extremely in-demand components. They are also stocked with actual off-road enthusiasts who work there, like Eric Johnson. While Johnson is a full-time employee with Northridge, that isn’t a company Jeep he’s thrashing on the trails. No, it’s actually his personal JK! He, along with professional videographer David Page, are excellent examples of two people who love their jobs. We’re looking forward to seeing the footage from the Northridge 4×4 crew later this year.
Driver: Eric Johnson Co-driver: David Page Representing: Northridge 4×4 Stomping grounds: Gig Harbor, Washington Model: 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.6L Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: NVG241 Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 44, ARB Air Locker, RCV Performance axleshafts, 4.88 gears Rear axle: Dana 44, 35-spline ARB Air Locker, Nitro chromoly axleshafts, 4.88 gears Suspension: AEV 4.5-in, JKS adjustable front track bar, EVO Mfg. Rock Star rear LCA skids, Hellwig HD sway bars, Bilstein shocks Tires: 37×12.50 M/T Wheels: 17×10 TrailReady beadlock Armor: AEV bumpers, LOD sliders, EVO Mfg. skidplates Misc: Poison Spyder Customs ‘cage, Synergy steering upgrade, KC Carbon POD HID lights, Warn Zeon winch, ARB cargo roller drawer system, ARB Fridge Freeze, AEV hood and snorkel, AEV 10-gal fuel caddy, Hi-Lift Jack, Fox ATS steering stabilizer, EBC brake pads, Hawk front brake rotors
As the title sponsor of JK Experience, Nitto Tire not only believes in the durability of its Grapplerfamily line, but the enthusiasts who put the tires to use. For the JKX Alaska trip, Nitto team driver and two-time King of the Hammers champion Loren Healy brought out his Family Dragon for the trip. His JK is fit with many of the same components that allow his Ultra4 racer to survive routine abuse.
Driver: Loren Healy Co-driver: Chris Corbett, Gene Mooneyham Representing: Nitto Tire Stomping grounds: Farmington, New Mexico Model: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.6L Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: Atlas II, 4.3:1 low range Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, Spidertrax 300M axleshafts, ARB Air Locker, 5.43 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 80, ARB Air Locker, 5.43 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Double Throwdown, EVO Lever rear, EVO high-clearance long arm, PAC sway bars Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17×9 KMC XD229 Machete Crawl beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. bumpers, sliders, Rock Skins, and tire carrier Misc: sPOD, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, Rigid Industries headlights and lightbars, DynoMax exhaust, J.E. Reel driveshafts, Warn PowerPlant
Spending serious time off-road can be hard on your Jeep’s wheels. Thankfully, KMC has developed a line of race-proven and battle-tested wheels for you to enjoy. KMC rep Russ Huff was piloting his personal JK on the trip, which had KMC’s all-new 17-inch Machete Crawl beadlocks. This cast-aluminum wheel is built with an assortment of off-road centric features. These include two valve stem locations, a thick beadlock ring with holes designed to let water and debris escape, and a 3.50 inches of backspacing.
Driver: Russ Huff Co-driver: Brian Hogue Representing: KMC Wheels Stomping grounds: Fontana, California Model: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Engine: 3.6L Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: NVG241OR Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 80, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Double Throwdown, EVO Lever rear, EVO high-clearance long arm, Currie Antirock rear Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17×9 KMC XD229 Machete Crawl beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. sliders, front bumper, rear fascia, and tire carrier Misc: Rock Hard 4×4 ‘cage, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, Truck-Lite LED headlights, Rigid aux. lighting, Warn 9.5cti winch, ARB Fridge Freezer
JK Experience founder and EVO boss Mel Wade has spent some serious time in Alaska this year with his 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. After completing the Alcan 5000 earlier this year, he left his JK in Alaska so he could use it as a pre-run vehicle for JKX. To get the Jeep ready for the main event, he laced on a new set of Nitto’s 37×12.50R17 Ridge Grappler tires and KMC Machete Crawl beadlocks. The new treads and his EVO-built Jeep served him well throughout the week. His take on the new tires? By the end of the week, he stated he was extremely impressed both on-road and off. Noting that they were especially quiet and smooth on the rough Alaskan roads.
Driver: Mel Wade Co-driver: Lisa Wade, Rick Péwé Representing: EVO Mfg. Stomping grounds: Long Beach, California Model: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon (10th Anniversary edition) Engine: 3.6L Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: NVG241 Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 44, RCV axleshafts, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dana 44, stock E-Locker, 5.38 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. bolt-on coilovers Tires: 37×12.50R17 Nitto Ridge Grappler Wheels: 17×9 KMC XD229 Machete Crawl beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. sliders, skidplates, and bumpers Misc: Warn winch, Truck-Lite LED headlights, Rigid fog lights, MCE Fenders, custom aux. fuel tank, MasterCraft Safety seats, ARB cargo roller drawer system, ARB Fridge Freeze
For over 25 years, Dynatrac has built some of the toughest axles on the planet. With the company created out of a need for a more durable axle to survive larger tires and extreme off-road conditions, the premier axle company continues to evolve its brand and product line. For JKX Alaska, company founder Jim McGean took the wheel of Dynatrac’s 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Always looking to improve upon the legendary axle strength, Dynatrac equipped its JK with the all-new ProRock XD60 axles, which are the company’s lightest and strongest 60 offering to date. These ultra-high clearance bolt-in JK axle assemblies host the latest breakthroughs in axle-building technology. Some of the new XD features include 10.1-inch ring gears, larger carrier and pinion bearings (over a standard Dana 60), and industry exclusive 3.75-inch axletubes.
Driver: Jim McGean Co-driver: Hal Grace, Lance Riddle Representing: Dynatrac Stomping grounds: Huntington Beach, California Model: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.6L Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: NVG241 Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock XD60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock XD60, Auburn Gear Electric Ected MAX, 5.38 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Enforcer kit Tires: 39×13.50R17 M/T Wheels: 17-inch TrailReady beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. front bumper, skidplates, and tire carrier, Mopar rock rails Misc: Mopar high-clearance fenders, Warn PowerPlant, Truck-Lite LED head- and taillights, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, J.E. Reel driveshafts
Revolution Gear & Axle
You know you’re going to have a fun week when the driver of Revolution Gear’s JK shows up in a bear costume. Always up for a smile and a laugh, the crew from Revolution Gear & Axle made the most of their week in Alaska. Specializing in differential gears and chromoly axleshaft upgrades for a number of Jeeps and trucks, Revolution is becoming one of the go-to sources for aftermarket differential parts.
Driver: Michael Nadel Co-driver: Richard Kolber Representing: Revolution Gear & Axle Stomping grounds: Toms River, New Jersey Model: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.6L w/Edelbrock supercharger Transmission: Six-spd manual Transfer case: Atlas II, 5.0:1 low range Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 80, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Suspension: Clayton 4.5-in long-arm, ORO SwayLoc front sway bar, Currie Antirock rear, JRI shocks Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17×10 B.A.D. Eklipse Armor: Rock-Slide Engineering front bumper, GenRight rear bumper, LOD sliders, Clayton skidplates Misc: Poison Spyder Customs ‘cage, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, J.E. Reel driveshafts, Mac’s tool storage, ARB recovery gear
What if we told you that you had two weeks to buy a new Jeep, build it, and drive it to Alaska for a weeklong ‘wheeling trip? Sound crazy? Well, it’s just what ARB did. With the right parts in stock and a little luck on their side, the team at ARB’s Washington branch pulled it off. While ARB is well known for its nearly indestructible selectable Air Lockers, the company also offers bumpers, auxiliary lighting, and even storage solutions for Jeeps and many fullsize trucks. The company equipped its 2016 JK with the all-new 4-inch Old Man Emu lift with internal bypass shocks, which they were able to fine-tune for each of the many on- and off-road conditions Alaska threw at it.
Driver: Scott Frary Co-driver: Steven Bisig Representing: ARB Stomping grounds: Auburn, Washington Model: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.6L Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: NVG241 Front axle: Dana Ultimate 60, ARB Air Locker, 4.88 gears Rear axle: Dana Ultimate 60, ARB Air Locker, 4.88 gears Suspension: Old Man Emu 4-in, OME BP-51 internal-bypass shocks Tires: 37×12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17-in TrailReady HD beadlock Armor: ARB bumpers and sliders Misc: ARB AR21 Intensity LED lights, Warn Zeon winch, MCE fenders, ARB Fridge Freeze, ARB twin air compressor, AEV ProCal, Rhino-Rack, Hi-Lift Jack, ARB recovery gear, Tom Woods Custom Drive Shafts
Every JKX at least one rig gets the highly coveted hard-luck award. This year, it went to Tactical Off-Road owner’s C.J. and Tawnie Breaux. While some of their Jeeps issues required creative fixes, at the end of the day, the two were able to complete the entire Experience from start to finish. Through it all, the Houston, Texas, husband and wife team kept a great attitude and enjoyed the trip. You can see more photos of their Jeep in action from the Texas Jeep Xperience held earlier this year.
Driver: C.J. Breaux Co-driver: Tawnie Breaux Representing: Tactical Off-Road Stomping grounds: Houston, Texas Model: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.6L w/Magnuson supercharger Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: NVG241OR Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 80, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Double Throwdown, EVO Lever rear, EVO high-clearance long arm, Currie Antirock Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17×9 ATX Slab beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. bumpers, tire carrier, and sliders Misc: 1-in body lift, Poison Spyder Customs ‘cage, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, J.W. Speaker headlights, Rigid lightbar and aux. lights, Corbeau Baja seats, sPOD, Lowrance GPS, ARB Fridge Freeze, Warn Zeon winch, Rack Works roof rack
Chris Larsen is another veteran of the JK Experience and someone who’s spent plenty of time behind the wheel of his well-built JK. As the only Canadian in the group, he gifted the group with the occasional “eh” on the radio. Despite having the power-challenged 3.8L V-6, Larsen kept pace with the group all week.
Driver: Chris Larsen Co-driver: Carl Pinamonti Representing: Invited guest Stomping grounds: Calgary, Alberta, Canada Model: 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Engine: 3.8L Transmission: 42RLE Transfer case: NVG241OR Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, RCV Performance axleshafts, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Double Throwdown, EVO Lever rear, EVO high-clearance long arm Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17×9 ATX Slab beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. front bumper and tire carrier, LOD sliders Misc: Rock Hard 4×4 ‘cage, Truck-Lite LED headlights, Rigid aux. lights, MasterCraft Safety seats, Warn winch, Rampage soft top, Tuff security deck, ARB Fridge Freeze, J.E. Reel driveshafts
Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ
If you follow EVO founder Mel Wade on any of his social media accounts, you’ll know how much of a fan of BBQ he is (specifically beef ribs if any of you want to butter him up). With this being the case, it was only a matter of time before he found a BBQ joint that had an owner as enthusiastic about Jeeps as he was about ribs. Thus, we present to you JK Experience’s first BBQ sponsor, Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ. Some of you may recall, JKX actually stopped by one of Smokin’ Dave’s locations on last year’s West Coast JKX.
Driver: David Oehlman Co-driver: Ben Cartwright Representing: Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ Stomping grounds: Lyons, Colorado Model: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 5.7L Hemi V-8 Transmission: NSG370 Transfer case: Atlas II, 4:1 low range Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, RCV Performance axleshafts, 5.13 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Double Throwdown, EVO Lever rear, EVO high-clearance long arm, Currie Antirock sway bars Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Mud Grappler Wheels: 17×9 ATX Slab beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. front bumper, tire carrier, and sliders, TnT Guardian rear bumper Misc: Poison Spyder Customs ‘cage, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist steering, Rigid lights, Warn Zeon winch, Mac tool chest, ARB air compressor, AEV snorkel
Help Find This Jeep!
Oregon friends David Retzloff and Bobby Van Horn had the time of their lives in Alaska. With practically no problems out of his Jeep over the week, Retzloff couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Unfortunately, just a day into his drive home, his JK, along with his Ford Super Duty tow rig and trailer were stolen outside of Cache Creek, Canada. As of writing this, they have found his Super Duty, but the Jeep and trailer are still MIA. Hopefully, his JK will turn up soon.
Driver: David Retzloff Co-driver: Bobby Van Horn Representing: Invited guest Stomping grounds: Hillsboro, Oregon Model: 2009 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.8L Transmission: Six-spd manual Transfer case: Atlas II, 5:1 low range Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 80, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. bolt-on coilovers, EVO-Lever rear, Currie Antirock Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17×9 ATX Slab beadlock Armor: Olympic 4×4 front bumper, EVO Mfg. sliders and tire carrier Misc: Daystar 1-in body lift, Rock Hard 4×4 ‘cage, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, Truck-Lite LED headlights, Warn Zeon 10-s winch, Rugged Ridge snorkel, ARB Fridge Freeze
The Great 8
There’s something about the look of a JK-8 conversion that we just can’t get enough of. While technically, not a factory two door, Wayne Judkins was the only conversion pickup on our trip. The unique styling and bulletproof running gear proved to be a solid combination all week long. His rig only makes us wish the long rumored Wrangler pickup would hurry up and become a reality.
Driver: Wayne Judkins Co-driver: John E. Kobert Representing: Invited guest Stomping grounds: Eldridge, Iowa Model: 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.8L Transmission: Six-spd manual Transfer case: RubiCrawler w/Atlas, 4.3:1 low range Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac ProRock 80, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Double Throwdown, EVO Lever rear, EVO high-clearance long arm, Currie Antirock Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Mud Grappler Wheels: 17×9 ATX Slab beadlock Armor: Poison Spyder Customs front bumper, EVO Mfg. Rock Skins and sliders Misc: Mopar JK-8 conversion, Warn winch, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, Rock Hard 4×4 ‘cage, Corbeau seats, Warn winch
The Experienced Jeeper
As the only person to have attended every JK Experience to date, Randy Byers is no stranger to adventure. For those that follow the JKX series, you’re probably used to seeing the Euless, Texas, native behind the wheel of his silver Hemi-powered JK. While he still has that rig, he opted to bring out his slightly tamer JK for this high-mileage trip. As is always the case, Byers gets it done behind the wheel like a pro.
Driver: Randy Byers Co-driver: Terry Byers Representing: The legacy of JKX! Stomping grounds: Euless, Texas Model: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine: 3.6L Transmission: WA580 Transfer case: Atlas II, 4.3:1 low range Front axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Rear axle: Dynatrac Trail Series 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 gears Suspension: EVO Mfg. Double Throwdown, EVO Lever rear, EVO high-clearance long arm, Currie Antirock rear Tires: 40×13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler Wheels: 17×9 ATX Slab beadlock Armor: EVO Mfg. front bumper, sliders, and tire carrier Misc: Poison Spyder Customs ‘cage, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, Rigid aux. lights, Warn winch, ARB cargo roller drawer system, 18-gal aux fuel tank
Chris Durham has been in the off-road industry for decades. While his professional rockcrawling days are behind him, he still remains active in the off-road community. The South Carolina native drove his Jeep to Alaska and is driving it back. You read that correctly. He’s a madman for sure. It’s hard to call Durham’s rig a JK. In fact, Durham calls it the Roadster. It sits on a modified Jeep Wrangler TJ chassis and just about every inch of what was once a stock two-door JK body has been modified in one way or another. Its super low, incredibly stable, and a blast to watch on the trail with the talented ‘wheelman in the seat. Since Durham was technically on the trip to lend a helping hand as part of the EVO support crew, we’ll give his JK-ish rig a pass.
Driver: Chris Durhan Co-driver: Kelly Carter Representing: EVO crew Stomping grounds: Pickens, South Carolina Model: 2010 Jeep Wrangler Engine: 5.9L Mopar V-8 Transmission: 904 Transfer case: Atlas II, 3.0:1 low range Front axle: High-pinion Dana 60, Dynatrac hubs, Detroit Locker, CTM U-joints, TEN chromoly axleshafts, 4.56 gears Rear axle: GM 14-bolt, shaved, Detroit Locker, 4.56 gears Suspension: Custom 3-link front w/track bar, 4-link rear, stock TJ coil springs w/ACOS adjustable mounts and bumpstops, Currie Antirock rear, Zone Off-Road shocks Tires: 38×13.50R17 M/T Wheels: 17×9 Walk Evans beadlock Armor: Modified EVO Mfg. skins, Savvy front bumper, Chris Durham Motorsports rear bumper Misc: Custom ‘cage, chopped doors, windshield, and custom soft top, Warn Zeon winch, Premier Power onboard welder, custom fuel tank and dash, MasterCraft Safety seats, Tom Woods Custom Drive Shafts
Logging just under 2,000 miles, the 2016 NittoJK Experience Alaskapresented byDiscount Tire covered the most ground in the history of JKX. Luckily, we were there to document all of it. While there’s still more detailed JK Experience articles to come, we decided to put together a gallery of some of our favorite snapshots of the trip.
What began in 2009 as a trip to showcase the off-road prowess and overall versatility of the 2007 to current Jeep Wrangler JK has become one of the most iconic ‘wheeling trips in the nation.
After traversing many of the lower 48 states in previous years, for 2016, JK Experience creator Mel Wade set his sights north, way north. To prove out what has undoubtedly become the most capable four-door Jeep ever produced, the Nitto JK Experience presented by Discount Tire traveled to the last frontier, Alaska. This year’s week-long adventure would take its participants on an unforgettable trek through rarely seen Alaskan backcountry and log nearly 2,000 miles along the way.
We know you’re interested in seeing just what went down, so we’re giving you a recap of the week’s experience. We’ll have more JKX Alaska coverage coming to you soon. So, be sure to check back for more in-depth coverage of how each day unfolded.
Any way you spin it, getting a vehicle to Alaska has its logistical challenges. With participants coming in from as far east as New Jersey and South Carolina, most opted to ship or trailer their Jeeps to the start of JKX in Anchorage. Check in consisted mostly of simple formalities and swag-bag handouts. There’s also a few wavers to sign in case you become a grizzly bear’s brunch along the way.
Mt. Baldy (Day 1)
In what would set the tone for the week, the group awoke to cloudy skies and steady rainfall. Leaving our plush digs at the Anchorage Hilton, we hit the Glenn Highway and headed north. After a cruise through one of the more populated areas of Alaska, we made our way to a rural gas station. There, we’d meet with our trail guide for the day, Cory Peterson. Peterson was one of the key resources for the Alaska Off-Road Warriors show on the History channel, and is an expert on the Alaska trail system.
Our trail for the day would be Mt. Baldy. It’s a popular hiking and OHV trail that has an off-shoot that leads to a B-52 bomber that crashed during World War II. JK Experience creator Mel Wade wasted no time getting the group in some serious slop. Wade equipped his 2013 JK Unlimited Rubicon withNitto’sall-newRidge Grappler tires for the trip. Just a few minutes into the trail, the 37×12.50R17hybrid all-terrain/mud-terrain treads were proving their place in the Grappler family.
The first real challenge of the day would be a steep hillclimb that required a gracious amount of skinny pedal to successfully top. (Check out our Facebook live video archives to see how extremely slick the ‘climbs were). For those that couldn’t quite make it on their own, they winched. Invited Canadian guest Chris Larsen gave it everything his 2010 JK had when it was his turn to go. Thankfully, the 40-inch Trail Grapplers did their part to keep the Jeep moving forward.
Mt. Baldy trail is mostly wooded on the lower half and winds through a series of hills and deep mud crossings. The two New Jersey natives in the Revolution Gear & Axle JK found their rhythm early on in the slick stuff and had little trouble making it through the trail.
David Retzloff, and his co-driver Bobby Van Horn, hauled the Dynatrac and EVO-equipped 2009 JK up from Hillsboro, Oregon. One of the few manual transmission Jeeps on the trip, Retzloff was able to pick the right gear for the job when ‘crawling wasn’t an option. While Retzloff’s JKX week was trouble free, on his drive home, his tow rig, trailer, and JK were stolen in Canada. If you hear or see anything, please call the authorities and/or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mt. Baldy trail gets its name from the bare peak at the top of the mountain. With so much rain, the trail conditions deteriorated quickly. Ultimately, we were not able to complete the trail as was originally planned due to time constraints and trail conditions.
One of the reasons for the time sensitivity was our stop by the Transportation & Industry Museum of Alaska. This history-rich compound was incredible, and filled with vintage trains, automobiles, and airplanes.
We don’t want to spoil all of the luster of the museum by showing you all of the neat stuff they have, but we have to at least show you two of the vintage Jeeps on hand. Yes, that’s factory-hardtop CJ mail Jeep that was specially made for the Alaskan mail service. The other is a CJ-3B fire truck. We want both.
One Denali, No Escalades (Day 2)
We start off day two of JKX checking out from the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. This picturesque resort sits on the south side of Denali Mountain. This day would be a road day of sorts, with a stop by Denali National Park, and a little ‘wheeling mixed in to keep everyone on their toes. Heading out from the hotel, the group topped off with fuel and continued north through the winding countryside.
While you can’t conquer the Denali Mountain by Jeep, there are plenty of opportunities to get some photos of the 20,000ft-tall peak with your rig in it. According to the locals, on 30 percent of the people who visit Alaska get to see Denali in its entirety. Sadly, we wouldn’t be part of the group as the cloud cover would hide its southern side that peaks at 20,320ft.
Exiting our photo stop, we hit a private trail for a quick jaunt through the forest. It weaved us through the woods a short ways, eventually dumping the group back onto the highway.
Hitting a mix of rain and clouds, we continued our long trek north. This beautiful drive through Alaska is made all the more impressive by the fact that we were managing highway speeds with a group of Jeeps of which the smallest tire was 37 inches tall. A testament to the on-road refinement the JKs bring to the table.
Our landing pad for the evening would be the Denali Grizzly Bear resort. Oddly enough, we didn’t see any grizzly bears there on vacation…..
Since we arrived at the resort with plenty of daylight left, a portion of the group opted to make good use of the riverfront and head out on a whitewater rafting adventure. We’ll save that spectacle and hilarious experience for you to view on video.
Into The Wild (Day 3)
In Alaska, we learned that “road” doesn’t mean that you’ll find pavement, or a passible path. On day three, we found ourselves on the Stampede Trail. Located west of Healy, Alaska, it’s a road made famous by the book and movie adaptation Into The Wild. It’s where the famous Magic Bus still rest and you can come face to face with an impassible river.
Extremely remote, Stampede road starts out as a tight, but relatively easy trail. Standing water is your biggest threat early on.
However, the trail dynamic rapidly changes as you drive onto the muskeg. This incredibly water-rich bog can quickly become a seemingly bottomless pit once you break through the top layer. ARB, along with many others in the group, would get ample opportunity to put its Warn recovery winch to work on this day.
Since we were aiming to tread as lightly as possible, we kept our contact patch on the trail limited. Doing so meant the guys farther in the pack had to use horsepower and momentum to make it through. Dave Oehlman of Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ put his Hemi V-8 and 40-inch Mud Grapplers to work to get through the thick, brown slop.
Depending on the time of the year, the Teklanika River can be too dangerous to cross. While relatively calm, we found it too deep to forward on this day. The famous Magic Bus from Into The Wild is actually on the other side of the river, so we were not able to make it over. This served as a nice rest stop and turnaround point for the group.
The pace leaving the trail was similar to heading out, slow and deliberate. Virtually every rig had added weight in mud. Tactical Off-Road owner’s C.J. and Tawnie Breaux had a few minor issues with their Supercharged 2013 Wrangler Unlimited during the week, but thankfully the EVO support crew was able to keep them moving along.
The Road to Prudhoe Bay (Day 4)
If you manage to bring your four-wheel drive all the way to Alaska, there’s one bucket list item that you must force yourself to do. That is, you must drive to the tip of the world and see Prudhoe Bay. The road is brutal, fuel stops sparse, and the likelihood of you needing a new windshield by the time the round-trip journey is over is around 90 percent. In fact, by the time we made it to our camp in Deadhorse, every Jeep in our group would have a damaged windshield.
If you want to drive north as far as you possibly can in North America, the Dalton Highway is the way to get there. The road was built in sections starting in the 1970s and wasn’t opened entirely to the public until 1994. The highway still serves as a critical channel for those servicing pump stations along the trans-Alaska pipeline and to carry supplies to oil fields at Prudhoe Bay.
This is as far north as many tourist dare to travel. From here, you still have another 305 miles to drive north to Prudhoe Bay.
Just as incredible as the scenery, is the engineering marvel that is the trans-Alaska pipeline. With Prudhoe Bay currently producing around 500,000 barrels of oil a day, that’s a lot of crude to get from one place to another.
Our digs for the evening would be in Deadhorse, which is just a few miles south of Prudhoe Bay. These dorm-style lodging camps were all over and house an array of oil field works and tourist that come through the area. Hilton it is not, but it’s much better than chancing camping only to become a polar bear purée.
The North Pole (Day 5)
If you’ve come this far, you might as well get your feet wet in the Arctic Ocean. Even in the summer, it’s extremely cold. In order to actually see the Arctic Ocean, you’ll hop on a tour bus and get trekked out through the oil field camps to a northern access point. We were hoping to see Russia, a polar bear, or Sarah Palin’s house, but didn’t have any luck.
Our group felt a little less hardcore on our journey back down the Dalton Highway when we ran into Bob Kehn and his 1920 Ford Model A roadster pickup. Kehn had been on the road for 21 days when we crossed paths. His starting point of his journey was Key West, Florida!
After over 400-plus miles on the road, we made it to the North Pole! Yes. This is North Pole, Alaska, and they embrace the Christmas theme as wholeheartedly as you would expect. The group still found it a little odd that we had to drive south to get to the North Pole. Another fun note, we got in close to midnight and still had ample daylight.
Red Rock Canyon (Day 6)
Saying goodbye to Christmas in July, we got back on a windy two-lane highway to feed us to our next trailhead. Today’s journey would drop us into the Rainbow Ridge area, a spot named for the assortment of colors you’ll find as a result of the volcanic rock along the mountain side. This narrow trail would also thread the group to the Castner glacier.
A long winding ridge snakes along the side of the mountain and is your only option for getting to this portion of the Castner glacier by vehicle. At times, the trail was just the width of KMC Wheels JK.
We drove up as far as we could safely, then hiked up to check out some of the stunning ice caves and glacial formations. Some of you might recognize this JK as The Family Dragon. It’s two-time KOH champion and Ultra4 racer Loren Healy’s personal Wrangler.
Just up the road, we stopped by the path to the Gulkana glacier. To access the glacier, you must pass over what we’ll refer to as a very weathered suspension bridge. It’s definitely worth the hike if you ever find yourself in south-central Alaska.
Knik Glacier (Final Day)
The final day of JKX would send us to the Knik River Public Use Area. It’s over 250,000 acres of state and federally owned land that offers places to fish, shoot, hike, and use your OHV and four-wheel drive. It’s extremely wet and had those lacking snorkels in the group a little worried. Aside from the deep water, the ‘wheeling wasn’t overly extreme, but you would be hard-pressed to find a place as scenic.
Mud and deep water were in abundance. Thankfully, Northridge 4×4’s Eric Johnson knew how to navigate through the murky waters. Johnson, along with cameraman extraordinaire David Page were always there to lend a hand on the trail and we’re looking forward to seeing some of their footage from the event. (See last year’s JKX video series from Northridge).
Fording water can be pretty tricky and especially hazardous. With so many water bodies flowing around and through the area, you’ll have no choice but to pick a shallow spot and make your way through. Thankfully, everyone in our group managed to keep the air out of the intake and aside from a few electronic issues, no one suffered any major water damage.
JKX has been a proving ground for new Wrangler products for years. Dynatrac’s motto is “Confidence to Explore” and with the majority of the group running the company’s hardware below, they were proving the mantra true all week. In fact, we had zero axle failures over the course of the trip.
If there was ever a way to put JKX into one photo, this was it. Located a little over 50 miles from Anchorage, we found our final site for the trip would be the Knik Glacier. With a five-mile-wide face and a sea of ice at the base, it’s truly a site to see. Those brave enough to trek out found themselves a bit wet at the end, but we couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up such a monumental week.
The group had limped into Glen Allen as wheel speed sensors had plagued us again as well as a driveline issue. It was going to take some serious ingenuity to get the JK from Tactical Jeeps back the road…luckily Mel has some of the best wrenches in the nation on these trips. Kelly Carter from Low Range 4×4 and Russ Huff took a look at the situation and found that the JK would need a new driveline and as luck would have it there was one on the trip but it was going to require some serious fab work to convert it from an Atlas transfer case to the stock JK case. A local CAT service trucked pulled into the hotel parking lot about the time they realized that Russ had brought every tool needed for this fix in his JK. The driver graciously gave us his service truck and everyone went to work. It would require milling down a flange to fit the stock t-case and then re drilling and tapping the part for bolts. It was going to take some real thinking and backyard machining to make this work.
When it was all said and done the part worked flawlessly and the machine work was even balanced and didn’t vibrate. With the repairs complete, we had our last drivers meeting of the trip. Mel told us to expect to use the snorkles and that we’d be doing some roads miles to the next wheeling place and then from there back to Anchorage where the group would be attending a meet and great for locals to come meet the MFG’s and the drivers and see the rigs of the JK Experience.
We pulled out of the parking lot and all of us had that overwhelming feeling of almost sadness. We’d been on the most amazing adventure and covered almost 2000 miles in seven days and worked through the harshest mechanical and weather conditions. No one wanted the journey to end but if it had to end we knew it was going to be amazing. As we reached the parking lot of the Knik Recreation area everyone aired down for high speeds on gravel and mud and rock. Eric and CJ decided they were going to make the trek up river in a burned out Subaru instead of their built JK’s.
Once everyone was ready, we had a quick drivers meeting to talk about the river crossing and that we’d be going up the river 25 miles to an ending location and then back down. We turned out of the parking lot and headed up the vast valley of the Knik River.
As we forded a river channel after a mud bog, we were slowly making our way toward the 25 mile goal. You couldn’t really see what was on the other side of this earthen dike, but you could see snow over the top and everyone started motoring!
Once the Jk made the final few feet to reveal what was not the other side, we were all blown away with the beauty nature had placed in from of us. We were at the foot of the Knik Glacier, and how fitting and cool that this spot was the end of the JK Experience. Mel had told us from day one that he had worked his ass off to find the best locations for us to experience and this was the culmination of all his and his teams hard work.
As everyone got out of their rigs, they were almost speechless at the vast beauty that we were witnessing. There are very few places like this on this great planet and were considered ourselves so lucky to be able to be apart of such a grand experience.
Randy Byers, who has been on every JK Expense since day one, said it best “there have been some amazing locations but this moment I will remember for the rest of my life”. Mel had started the JK Experience to showcase what could actually be done in a JK but the trips became so much more than that, the became a platform to blow people away with the beauty of our great country. It became a place for like-minded individuals to get together and became life long friends. It became a place for Sponsors and MFG’s to be on the same playing field as their customers, and it became a place for the inexperienced to be educated by the best the wheeling world has to offer. We covered right at 2000 miles and ran some of Alaska’s toughest terrain, its most dangerous highways, and saw some the most beautiful country we’ve ever witnessed. From the bottom of Alaska to the top, this trip has been amazing.
We, as Northridge 4×4, became a sponsor of this great event to let you know what the parts you buy from us can do, we also wanted you the customers and fans to know we are serious about understanding our parts and not just the part numbers. We set out on this 2000 mile Alaska JK Experience in probably our least built JK, in comparison to some of our other builds, to prove that we carry the best parts from the budget based builds to the most extreme built JK. Its been an honor to cover these events for the past year and we can’t wait to see what Mel Wade has in store for the JL Experience. Thank you for following us on all of our local feeds and look out for the video’s we have coming in the near future!