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  • Street-Legal Heavyweight: Finishlinewest's 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Street-Legal Heavyweight: Finishlinewest's 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Sometimes, more is more

John StewartMar 16, 2010
There is a school of thought that espouses lightness in off-road machinery. The theory is, when weight is removed, less power is required and the vehicle can hop up on rocks and maneuver around obstacles with less effort, resulting in surprising performance, less cost, and less component breakage. We've even known a few people who make it work.
Photo 2/21
The Jeep you see here is not one of those. It is the product of a firm belief that there is no substitute for thicker steel and heavier components, and if you need more power, quit complaining and get more power. It's definitely heavily built, and definitely powerful, with drivetrain components upgraded all the way down the line, from output shaft to hub. And while it is carefully calculated to remain technically street-legal, it's built to within an inch of becoming a trailer-only monster Jeep. No, this is not about the theoretical elegance of lightness. This Jeep is about the certain advantages of more power, more ground clearance, more axle, and more tire, plus extensive armor hardening. Suspension travel is extreme, even when the anti-roll bars remain linked, and with two Detroits in place, this Jeep will go where you point it.
Photo 3/21   |   Under the hood resides a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, salvaged from a 2009 Grand Cherokee, with all smog controls intact. Note Optima auxiliary battery and K&N intake.
Like a lot of Jeeps, this one is always changing, and even now sports a few prototype parts from owner Andy Cohen's company, Finishlinewest, which has been outfitting a variety of image vehicles with custom-designed parts since 1983. These include side armor bolder-basher pieces, and removable extra-wide fender covers that help keep the rig street-legal.
Photo 4/21
We drove this 2008 Jeep almost 500 miles over a period of three days, which included some urban driving and quite a bit of time on the highway. With anything this heavily modified, there are bound to be a few quirks, but in its element, this rig is a thing of beauty.
As you might expect, driving this particular Wrangler Unlimited on the highway takes some getting used to. It's noisy at speed with the V-8 at full song, and visibility is marginal with the soft top and rear spare carrier obscuring the rear view. Mileage is spectacularly poor--somewhere around 11 mpg. However, unlike some Jeeps we've been in, it stays in its lane at higher speeds, actually rides comfortably, and has good enough seats to stay in the saddle until the tank is empty. Highway mileage is about the same as a lot of tow vehicles, so driving to an event would make sense. And once there, brother, you're in business.
Photo 5/21   |   Photo by Melissa Spiering
The term "unstoppable" is never actually true, but it would take an insanely steep, rocky trail to stymie this rig. With a 9500-pound winch, lockers at both ends, dual batteries, full-size spare readily accessible, and a suspension that can put tires on top of boulders, we would expect to make steady progress wherever we pointed it, one way or another.
Photo 6/21
We did have a chance to do some moderately challenging 'wheeling in the California State OHV area at Gorman, where we took a few photos of the 2008 JK in its element. It's not always easy to drive someone else's Jeep, especially when it's been heavily modified, and we were out there alone, with no tools, hustling to beat an incoming storm. So we took it easy. Still, there are a few pretty good obstacles at Gorman, including a narrow rock sluice, a couple of very steep hill climbs, and a deeply rutted unauthorized uphill route so dug out that usually one tire ends up five feet in the air. This JK walked all of it in 2WD, on ground clearance and rear locker alone. We never pulled the pins on the anti-roll bar links, never turned the front hubs to "lock," and never took so much as one psi out of the tires. We just never needed it. Wherever we went, all four tires stayed on the ground. So we know it will take some extreme terrain before you get to back-up-and-try-a-different-line territory.
Photo 7/21   |   Tires are 37-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R, mounted on 17-inch Race Line beadlock wheels. Hubs are manual units.
While we were there, we blasted about a bit on the deserted dirt roads, and that was fun, but this rig is not a racer or a pre-runner--much more of a go-slow-but-never-stop rock crusher. Here are a few of the particulars:
Tires:
37x12.50R17LT load range D Goodyear Wrangler MT/R on 17-inch cast alloy Race Line wheels, beadlocked, with manual hubs. With these tires, ground clearance is in the neighborhood of 18 inches at the front diff and 14 inches at the rear shock mounts.
Suspension:
FLW Stonehenge UberFlex 4-inch lift. The system uses four progressively wound coils for a good combination of street ride and off-road flex. Control arms are standard length, with Currie Johnny Joints at both ends. Shocks are Fox piggyback Racing Shox, sized and valved to spec. The trackbars are adjustable, with Johnny Joints at the axle ends and Delrin bushings at the frame end. Stainless steel brake lines, extended to allow for full droop, are from Crown. Two JKS anti-roll bar disconnects are on the front, while two JKS rear anti-roll bar extensions are at the rear. Stonehenge pieces are silver vein powdercoated, except those that might need to be welded. Owner Andy Cohen says he's never had it on an RTI ramp, but just by looking at it, if we had to guess, we'd expect to see this Jeep ramp in the 800 range, give or take 100.
Photo 8/21   |   We wanted to pull the pins and head for The Hammers...but we didn't. The Fox reservoir Shox have been sized and tuned for the vehicle.
Steering:
A Currie drop pitman arm keeps the geometry right. We noticed a flat spot in the steering assist during parking maneuvers with the engine idling at low rpm, not uncommon with the longer heavier axles and 37-inch rubber. A higher output steering pump is in the works, but full hydraulic ram steering is out, since that would put this JK on the trailer.
Engine:
A standard 5.7-liter Hemi produces 389 pound-feet of torque and 357 hp at the flywheel; this one has a K&N intake and cat-back exhaust. A Source S-Pod wiring block handles upgraded electrical requirements. The engine comes from a 2009 Grand Cherokee, with all smog controls retained so the JK will pass smog tests. It fits under the hood with enough room for a second battery, an Optima yellow top. With the available power and the low gearing, and a multi-speed automatic transmission, this Jeep moves out readily at part throttle. We found few occasions that required us to operate much above 2000 rpm. We were warned that the cooling system still needed to be recalibrated, and to keep an eye on the water temp and transmission temp gauges on the dash. We noticed one period when the trans temp started to creep up as we powered up the Cajon pass, doing 75 mph on the way to 4000 feet at Gorman, but when we locked up the torque converter, the temp needle bounced down.
Photo 9/21   |   Photo by Melissa Spiering
Front winch bumper:
The Stonehenge PreRunner bumper is constructed of 1-¾-inch, 1.20-wall tubing with facing made from ¼-inch steel. It accommodates a Warn Powerplant winch/compressor combo, mounted on ¼-inch steel winch plate, tied into the frame. The skidplate is made from ¼-inch steel and has cutouts for two LED rock lights. The D-ring mounts are one inch thick.
Photo 10/21
Rear bumper:
The Stonehenge G4 rear bumper assembly is designed to hold the spare tire, flat fuel can mounts, and a Kolpin four-gallon fuel or water pack. Two built in red LED taillights act as brake lights, so rock-magnet factory taillights can be removed for trail use. The swing-out tire carrier can accommodate up to 42-inch tires and Hi-Lift Jack, plus a CB antenna mount. Two clear LED rock lights are built in, and a bracket relocates the license plate. The rear bumper also has a bracket useful for hanging quick-release mud flaps, an inexpensive and practical way to comply with street requirements.
Photo 11/21   |   The rear bumper assembly includes a swing-out tire carrier, Hi-Lift jack mount, and space for a Kolpin four-gallon gas carrier. LED rock lights are built in.
Axles:
One-ton Currie Rock Jock Dana 60 front and rear axles are set up with 5.13 gears and Detroit lockers. These are full-floating axles with manual hubs, in full width, so the JK operates with a significantly wider stance and the ability to roll free even when a shaft is broken. The new bolt pattern is 5 on 5 1/2.
Photo 12/21   |   Full-width Currie Dana 60 Rock Jock axles are used front and rear, so this is not an exceptionally narrow rig. It might be wide for some situations, but the axle length does enhance stability and permit greater wheel travel.
Armor:
The rocker panel area has been heavily reinforced with panels laser cut from 3/16ths steel. Further protection is afforded by use of triple-beam rock rails made from 1.75-inch, .151-wall tubing mounted using 1/4-inch steel brackets.
Interior:
Highlights include Mastercraft RS seats with a Mastercraft Baja Bench seat in the rear, CB, GPS, and Drake billet aluminum pieces replacing stock. Doors are rare half-doors, no longer offered on the Unlimited, with a Bestop soft top. Truck Vault rear cargo boxes are there to house any cargo that needs special care.
Photo 13/21   |   Protective armor between the wheelwells includes an exceptionally solid rock rail system and "boulder basher" side armor pieces.
Visibility:
Along with four LED rock lights, the standard headlights have been replaced with Trucklight LED headlights and supplemented with six nine-inch Anzo HID lights, four of which are mounted on a Stonehenge Series Trophy Truck light bar. The side mirrors have been replaced with outboard-mounted round mirrors, a must for keeping tabs on nearby vehicles on the highway.
Owner Andy Cohen allows that he still has some work to do on this makeover. He's still not positive that the cooling hardware is ideally upgraded, and he already has an idea for a new steering setup, with new hoses. Meanwhile, everyone who sees the rig goes ape. We had people walking up to us at gas stations, flashing the V-sign on the highway, and kids waving madly out the back windows of their family sedans. And on two occasions we noticed California CHP officers giving us the once over, then moving on. And we'll confess: Just for a moment, we wished it was ours.
SOURCE:
Finishlinewest (FLW)
11761 Farmington St.
Oak Hills, CA 92344
760/885-6054
www.finishlinewest.com

2015 Jeep Wrangler Specifications

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Fair Market Price $22,570
MSRP $22,995
Editors' Overall Rating
Mileage 17 City / 21 Highway
Engine 3.6L V6
Horse Power 285 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque 260 ft lb of torque @ 4,800 rpm
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2015 Jeep Wrangler

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MSRP: $22,995
Mileage: 17 / 21
Engine: 3.6L V6
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