2013 Jeep Rubicon Unlimited

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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…

Inception & 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

After 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 radio.

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 Sleeves

  • Synergy Suspension Long-Arm Suspension System

  • Synergy Suspension Steering Components

  • Synergy Suspension Rear Upper Shock Relocation Brackets

  • Synergy Suspension Front Lower Shock Relocation Brackets

  • Synergy Suspension Rear Sway Bar Relocation Brackets

  • Synergy Suspension Sector Shaft Brace & Upper Track Bar Brace

  • Synergy Suspension Lower Track Bar Bracket

  • Synergy Suspension Lower Control Arm Skids & C-Gussets (welded)

  • Extended/Braided Brake Lines

  • Fox 2.0 Remote Reservoir Shocks

  • Fox Steering Stabilizer w/ Polished Tie-Rod Mount

  • Coast 1310 Front & Rear Driveshafts

  • Flowmaster 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

  • 5150 Fabrication Sinister Series Rock Rails

  • MOPAR Grab Handles (Front & Rear)

  • Rerouted 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

  • Fully tuned suspension system, resulting in ideal driving comfort & response, along with maximum performance off-road; the ultimate dual-purpose off-road rig!

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