2013 Jeep JK Unlimited
Rubicon Build – “Storm Chaser”
When I was “young”, I was into all sorts of things
automotive…, mostly hot-rods and motorcycles. When I bought my first Jeep in 2009, it was meant to distract
me after rebounding from a difficult divorce and relocation. My first Jeep did just that (distracted
me), and throughout the process I was able to learn a tremendous amount about Jeeps, while building friendships that will
last a lifetime, which is even better.
Selling my last Jeep lasted only a couple of weeks, before I realized
that I’m a Jeep guy, and needed another one to fill the void. I began to reflect on how the first Jeep came to
be, the stages of my build, along with the thought, work, effort, and money that went into it. I wanted my new project
to be the benefit of my trials and errors (in spending), and build an ultimate multi-purpose rig. At the time,
I wanted to start with a brand new 2013 JKUR off of the showroom floor. And so it began…
& Project Start:
Okay! The new 2013 JK Unlimited Rubicons have the new and more powerful
3.6L Penta-star engine, and their new lower geared five-speed automatic transmission. I wanted every imaginable option,
from leather, full navigation, DVD, Bluetooth, U-Connect, Infiniti audio system w/ subwoofer, remote-start, heated seats,
color-matched hardtop & fenders, and 4.10 axle ratios. I had also narrowed down the color options, and decided that
I wanted this new bright white. It looks clean! With the Rubicon package, I started with 4.10 axle ratios, electric
lockers, a 4:1 transfer case, and the electronic sway bar disconnect. This is great, because I would not need to address
these areas, and was able to focus on the heart of the build; a long-arm suspension that would provide the foundation for
the rest of the rig.
After looking for a specifically equipped white JKUR, I found one! Then
I chased it from dealer to dealer, only to be told it was gone. As luck would have it after working with my local dealer,
they found a match and had traded for my very Jeep! I went down and immediately purchased it! When I got it home,
I was driving myself crazy with build-out plans…
The Build Layout
having it for a day, I went over to my friend Jim’s house, and we began taping off the fenders to cut them with a sawzall.
That’s right, on the second day of ownership, we were taking a sawzall to a brand-new $45,000 JK Unlimited
Rubicon with 100 miles on it!
Although I’m very comfortable mechanically, and while I had
intended to install everything myself, due to time limitations of an upcoming event and my daughter coming out to visit, I
decided to bring the rig to my friend Gary Graham, owner of Extreme Motorsports in Brentwood, CA. Gary has 25-years
of experience in lifting, fabricating, and building trucks for recreational and professional racing use. After he did
the suspension on my first rig, and after learning how detailed he is, I decided to take my new Jeep to him. Gary did
not disappoint. We started talking and just like last time, he shot me straight. We agreed on the specificity
of what it was that I wanted to build; the outcome of which was a full-flexing rig with an RTI articulation score of 1000
or greater, and it had to be done within one week. After some discussion, we made an agreement and I turned
over the keys.
For the suspension & steering, I went with the Synergy Stage IV Long-Arm Suspension,
and made some tweaks with spring length to achieve the desired ride height and vehicle rake. Extreme Motorsports dialed
in the lift, bump stops, and droop, and really did a nice job. After getting the rig back, I attended the second annual
RTI Competition and scored third in Nor-Cal, with an RTI score of 1030 (later tuned to a 1060). I was very satisfied,
as I was looking for the ultimate dual-purpose rig, that could provide the luxury and creature comforts when it wasn’t
be used off-road, yet high-performance capability for off-road use.
For the rear bumper, I wanted to
go with a rear bumper delete for purely aesthetic reasons, and had my friend J-Mac cap the frame rails for strength and appearance.
We installed rocker armor, he clocked the sway-bar disconnect motor, fabricated a custom microphone mount for my CB, and made
several other key adjustments to my rig. J-Mac’s work is super clean. I hadn’t landed on
the long-term design for my front bumper option, and although I had several ideas, I opted to trim the full-width front bumper
to provide clearance for full articulation.
For rock sliders, I called up Paul at
5150 Fabrications and told him what I was looking for. On the first visit, he had not only prepped for my visit by mocking
up some tubing, but designed it all in one fell swoop. I picked them up on a second visit, off to powder-coat, and J-Mac
welded them on for me.
For undercarriage protection, I installed the River Raider Off-Road Skid
Plate System, which covers all critical areas underneath the rig, including (Oil Pan, Transmission Pan, & Transfer Case).
I’ve had good luck with Superchips, when it comes to calibrating the computer to new tire sizes, axle ratios, etc.,
so I opted for the Superchips FlashCal. I relocated the license plate onto a Poison Spyder Tramp Stamp, used an LED
brake & license plate light to stay legal, used a Poison Spyder license plate delete plug for the body, and installed
my CB antenna mount (Teraflex) here also. It is a very clean look. The white Firestik looks good! I ran an audio cable
from the output of the CB box, to an Icon external speaker (very high-quality speaker), which I cleanly mounted on the front
side of the factory sound-bar. This provides loud, clear, CB sound, while still being able to listen to music from the
I have taken the rig on three shake-down runs to get everything completely dialed in after the suspension
settled; a Rubicon Trail run, a Snow run near Bear Valley, and a Pismo Beach Dunes run. It performed flawlessly in each
environment, and impressed me right away! While this rig only has a little over 8,000 miles on it, I can say with
confidence that it is completely tuned, dialed in, and provides the ultimate balance between comfort and off-road performance!
With over 60k invested along with a lot of attention to detail and love, this rig is “like new” and has a lifetime
ahead of it for someone.
Here is a detailed “build list” of everything that I have
on this rig for reference:
Build Detail (current):
Spyderlock bead-lock wheels 17”, powder-coated in semi-flat black with fully-functional TPMS sensors
installed (spare wheel available for $200)
Nitto 37 x 12.50 x 17 Mud Terrains
Nitro Front Axle
Synergy Suspension Long-Arm Suspension System
Synergy Suspension Steering Components
Suspension Rear Upper Shock Relocation Brackets
Synergy Suspension Front Lower Shock Relocation Brackets
Suspension Rear Sway Bar Relocation Brackets
Synergy Suspension Sector Shaft Brace & Upper Track
Synergy Suspension Lower Track Bar Bracket
Synergy Suspension Lower Control Arm
Skids & C-Gussets (welded)
Extended/Braided Brake Lines
Fox 2.0 Remote Reservoir
Fox Steering Stabilizer w/ Polished Tie-Rod Mount
Coast 1310 Front & Rear Driveshafts
Cat-Back Exhaust + inline muffler
Superchips FlashCal Programmer
River Raider Off-Road
Skid Plate System (Oil Pan, Transmission, & Transfer Case Set)
Poison Spyder Aluminum Rocker Armor,
powder-coated to match body paint w/ black accent underneath the spyder logo
Poison Spyder Differential
Covers (painted Satin Black)
Poison Spyder Third Brake Light/License Plate Mount
Cobra 75 CB w/ External
Speaker / 3' Firestik / Teraflex Antenna Mount / Custom Mic Mount
Custom Black Grill Insert Mesh
Fabrication Sinister Series Rock Rails
MOPAR Grab Handles (Front & Rear)
brake lines and emergency brake lines for full travel & function during articulation
Capped rear frame
rails for added strength and clean appearance
Clocked rear spring perches to align spring compression
tuned suspension system, resulting in ideal driving comfort & response, along with maximum performance off-road; the ultimate
dual-purpose off-road rig!