I’ve actually been into rock crawling since 1996. I was still in high school when I got an old Mitsubishi Montero. I put a basket rack, bumper, lights, and tires on it and that’s when my interest started in offroading that rapidly grew into rock crawling. There were two key ingredients to me becoming what some would consider a hardcore rock crawler. First was finances, I was not able to afford the pursuit of rock crawling until 2006 and that is when I bought my 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. Second was moving to the offroad/rock crawling destination of Big Bear California in 2008. By 2009 I started cutting my teeth on the local trails of Big Bear and that’s when I made the transition to a full blown rock crawler.
Some of my local trails ( John Bull and Gold Mountain) will always hold a special place in my heart. Because of them, I’m the driver I am today. The same can be said for me with Johnson Valley and it’s roll in me becoming what you could call a “hardcore” rock crawler. I can’t even narrow it down to trails I love there. They are all so good! The best I can do is narrow it to my favorite areas of Johnson Valley which are Cougar Buttes and The Hammers. These areas are what spurred my drive to tackle the hardest trails I dare and the driving force to me building The Trail Reaper. If I had to say one trail that I love to run there I’d have to say Sledgehammer because of it’s difficulty and more importantly it’s history! It’s where it all started for Johnson Valley… as OG as hardcore rock crawling gets!
I acquired a 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited with manual transmission. I bought it April of 2007 and I was looking for this model Jeep specifically. I felt it would be the best platform for me to start rock crawling with and it would be able to grow with me as my desire to tackle harder and harder trails increased. It was the last of the TJ series and comes with a 4.0L straight 6 ( good torque), 4:1 Rock Track transfer case, Dana 44 axles, air lockers front and rear, in only the 05 & 06 Rubicon did they offered a 6 speed manual, and last but definitely not least the 103” wheel base the “Unlimited” gives you. The longer wheel base is key for stability and the ability to climb large “steps and water fall” obstacles. I searched high and low for one and finally found one for sale in Tracy California up by San Francisco. I bought it bone stock and started rocking with it as a stock Rubicon. I began building as I wanted to tackle more challenging trails. It currently has a 6” Nth Degree lift, Hydro assist steering, 36” Irok tires, lockers, 4:1 T case, Chrome Molly axle shafts, and lots of body armor.
Now my Jeep will be going through it’s third major transformation, this one being the biggest build yet and it will be called The Trail Reaper!
Axles: We will be swapping the Dana 44 axles out for 1 ton full float axles.
- Front axle: High Pinion Dana 60 with 35 spline inner and outer shafts, chrome molly axle shafts, 5.33 gears, Yukon Zip locker (air), and JHF high steer knuckle conversion.
- Rear axle: Corporate 14 that has been shaved with a Ballistics Fab. kit, Artec axle truss, 5.33 gears, ARB air locker, and converted to disk brakes.
Wheelbase: The axles will be relocated, front axle moved forward and rear axle moved back which will stretch the wheel base to around 112’-115” wheelbase.
Steering: PSC full hydraulic steering system.
Drivetrain: Advance Adapter’s Atlas 4 transfer case with gear ratios of 2.72:1, 3.80:1, 10.34:1, and custom J.E. Real drive shafts.
Suspension: Full custom 4 link double triangulated front and rear suspension links built by CampRock Fabrication, King Shocks 16” 2.5 dual rate coilovers with remote adjustable reservoirs, and King Shocks 2” bumps stops.
Wheels and Tires: Wheels are Fuel Offroad 17” “Anza” beadlock wheels with custom candy red powder coat. Tires are Pit Bull 42” “Rocker” bias ply.
Body: Aluminum Highline fenders, aluminum half doors, aluminum rear corners, and an aftermarket roll cage.
Assembly will be done by CampRock Fabrication.
I will be using this build to further explore the hardcore trails and offroad events the west coast has to offer. As I run these trails and attend these events I’ll be sharing my experience on each trail via video, pictures, and blog as “The Trail Reaper”. I will also be doing posts on equipment we use and test. The Reaper will be our platform to meet and engage the public to what we are doing and hopefully make some friends along the way.