Wrangler Rubicon King
This Wrangler, the only six-speed manual here, made its debut at last year's SEMA show in Kubota orange paint. The shortened exhaust sounds like a Kubota tractor at low revs and an outboard motor when it's wound up. You need the revs to overcome the 37-inch T/A Krawlers and Mopar/Hutchinson beadlock-style wheels.
Both of those issues will go away when it returns to the ORT shop, where a 392 Hemi crate engine is waiting for installation; the gearbox is yet to be determined as a Viper six-speed is geared too tall and the standard 'box will soon succumb to the pressure.
The Wrangler Rubicon King uses an American Expedition Vehicles hood, which has vents on the sides and across the fan ahead of a power dome; don't park this outside if there's a chance of snow or rain. If it freezes, it'll blow the belts off when you start it. Other cosmetic changes include more CJ-like rollbar curves, a spare instead of a back seat, rear corner plates, trimmed front fender and grille, and headlamps that incorporate turn signals since the stock bits were cut off.
Underneath, the King is all Rubicon, except for a Superlift four-inch system and the oversize tires. It runs a Warn 9.0RC rockcrawling winch, mil-spec tow shackles, and our favorite, a radio delete panel. With lots of travel in suspension and sidewall, no roof, and a manual gearbox, this was the softest slow-ride trail buggy here and generally worked feet free.
The Limit for Unlimited
Also unveiled at SEMA was this Rubicon Unlimited, shown with a 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel, next to a sign that said it had a 4.2-liter V-6 diesel. In Moab, it had neither of the above, instead running the stock powertrain. However, the 3.0 will go back under the hood; perhaps a Cummins 4.2-liter V-6 will find its way in when Jeep has a gearbox capable of handling it.
Affectionately called 50K in reference to a pricing exercise to see how expensive they could make a Jeep (Grand Cherokees reach about $47,000), this Unlimited is finished in monochrome Rolex silver, including the removable panel roof, and has projector headlamps. It runs stock Rubicon axles, a small lift to accommodate 35-inch Mud-Terrains on custom 18-inch Taneisya aluminum wheels, a Warn 9.5ti winch, AEV front bumper, spare-carrying Mopar rear bumper, Katzkin leather seats, and GPS/satellite radio. ORT made a minor mod with big implications: It wired the locker switches independently, allowing a locked rear in 2WD or 4-Hi.
The Unlimited had no trouble keeping up, aided in many places by having the longest wheelbase in the group. It didn't attract as much attention as some of the others, but keeping a low profile isn't such a bad thing.