A Jeep Built for the Road Less Traveled – New Mexico Backroads’ 2012 JK Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Retracing the Historic Butterfield Trail (Fall 2015 Overland Journal)
A four-wheel drive professional doesn’t cross their fingers in hopes that the terrain ahead will be forgiving, or that an avoidable mechanical issue won’t present itself at the worst possible moment. Instead, they ensure their vehicle and skills are up to task when operating far from the beaten path. Each year, my fieldwork, guiding, training, and scouting calls for over 15,000 miles of travel in the New Mexico Backroads’ (NMBR) Rubicon. Whether leading a multimillion-dollar treasure hunt north of Santa Fe, photographing wildland fire crews battling flames in the Gila National Forest, or scouting backcountry along the U.S.–Mexico border, the focus is on providing services where pavement does not exist. The Rubicon serves as my primary transport and base camp for all operations. Its build theme and upgrades have centered on balancing three characteristics: reliability, capability, and versatility.
NMBR Rubicon tackling the Dusy Ershim Trail (photo courtesy of AEV Conversions)
“Overall, the best builds are well thought-out yet simple; they don’t over-complicate function or attempt to reinvent the wheel.”
|Tackling NMBR's 4-Day Camino del Tesoro Overland route (New Mexico)|
|Engineer Pass - San Juan Mountains (Colorado)|
The NMBR Rubicon was built for dual purposes: technical trail running and long-distance, self-supported off-pavement travel. From winch mounts to tire carriers, and wheels to roof racks, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to see firsthand which aftermarket products work well and which need improvement. Overall, the best ones are well-thought-out yet simple; they don’t overcomplicate function or attempt to reinvent the wheel. And so, the ideology of the build began to take shape.
|Broad Canyon Trail (New Mexico)|
|Comb Ridge wanderings (Utah)|
|NMBR built sleeping platform and cargo deck|
While the outside of the Rubicon looks like most any other AEV-equipped JKUR, the inside contains a custom sleeping platform and cargo deck I built to maximize storage space and mount an ARB fridge to. Having grown up working for my Dad’s construction company, I developed carpentry skills and an understanding for practical configuration early on. After months of designing, fabricating, and field-testing a number of prototypes, the perfected interior platform/deck was born.
|Home on the range (New Mexico)|
|Flexing out the AEV 4.5 DualSport Suspension (New Mexico)|
Since the initial build the suspension has been swapped to AEV’s 4.5-inch system to accommodate 37-inch BFG KO2 tires. The up-sized suspension and tires provide additional ground clearance and capability. AEV’s corner guards (painted to match the body), rear differential skid, differential covers, Salta wheels, and raised air intake were added at the same time. Heavy-duty steering linkage and ball joints were installed to keep the 37-inch tires pointed in the right direction.
|Borderland near US/MEX border (Texas)|
2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Platform: Pentastar 3.6L V6 engine with 5-speed automatic transmission; Rock-Trac 4:1 transfer case; Front/rear locking differentials; Front sway bar disconnect system; Dana 44 heavy-duty front/rear axles; Hill decent control; Skid plates for fuel tank and transfer case; Rubicon rock rails
Wheels & Tires: -American Expedition Vehicles Salta Wheels (17”x8.5”, Cast Aluminum, +10mm Offset, 5x5 Bolt Pattern, 5.2” Backspacing, Black Powdercoat Finish) -BF Goodrich KO2 All-Terrain Tires (37/12.5R17)
Bumpers & Armor: -American Expedition Vehicles JK Premium Front Bumper -American Expedition Vehicles JK Front Skid Plate 1/8 Steel -American Expedition Vehicles JK Rear Bumper & Tire Carrier -American Expedition Vehicles Rear Corner Guards -American Expedition Vehicles JK Differential Covers -American Expedition Vehicles JK Rear Differential Skid -Poison Spider Customs Evaporation Canister Skid Plate 3/16 Steel
Recovery: -WARN 9.5 CTI winch (Rated Single-line pull: 9,500 lbs.) -WARN Spydura Synthetic Winch Rope (100' of 3/8" diameter) with Hawse Fairlead -American Expedition Vehicles Hi-Lift Jack/Pull-Pal Mount -Hi-Lift Jack (48”) -Pull-Pal
Other Accessories: -American Expedition Vehicles ProCal Module -American Expedition Vehicles Heat Reduction Hood -American Expedition Vehicles Fuel Caddy (10.2 Gallon Capacity) -ARB High Performance 12 Volt Air Compressor (CKMA12) -ARB 50 Quart Fridge/Freezer & Slide -NMBR Built JK Sleeping Platform & Cargo Deck with Hatch Accessible Under Storage -AT Interior Cargo Rack -Outback Tailgate Mounted Table & Slide-out Cutting Board -Carolina Metal Masters Grab Bar with 1-Inch Ball Stud for RAM Mounts System -aFe High-Clearance Exhaust & Y-Pipe