These are the mods that allow you to enjoy your 6.7L Power Stroke’s added power legally, without attracting attention from Big Brother.
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 392 6x6 on 40-inch Tires
If you want to build a Jeep Gladiator that stands out, you’ll need more than big tires and a bed rack to grab attention. Unlike most new pickup platforms, the aftermarket wasted little time making the Gladiator a priority. Given the Gladiator shares so much DNA with the Wrangler, it was no surprise that its popularity with the aftermarket has been thriving. Based out of Miami, Florida, Roco 4x4 has been customizing off-road vehicles for decades.
With the popularity of the Gladiator platform very evident, the Roco team decided to invest in one all their own. Starting off with a 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, Roco 4x4 wasted little time in dismantling the Jeep as soon as it rolled into the shop. Wanting to grab attention and push limits of the new platform, the team devised a build plan that would increase the Gladiator’s potential exponentially.
With a 392 V8 engine under the hood, dual 9-inch rear axles, and six 40-inch-tall Nitto Trail Grapplers, this Gladiator is far beyond your run-of-the-mill overland build. While it was partly built to get your attention, this JT was built with a variety of domestic and international off-road destinations in mind. We recently got a chance to check out the build at the 2023 Jeep Beach event in Daytona Beach, Florida.
In House Build
While 6x6 conversions are not something the full-service off-road shop specializes in, Roco 4x4 took this project on from start to finish. This included the monumental task of building the custom stretch conversion to accommodate the extra rear axle.
Powering six 40-inch-tall tires was a lot to ask from the factory 3.6L V6. So, it was pulled and a 392ci V8 was swapped in along with a stronger 8-speed automatic transmission. Splitting the power between the drivelines is the original 241OR transfer case.
Power to All Wheels
The rear axle assemblies come from Currie. Each is fit with 4.88 differential gears and an ARB Air Locker. The factory-style four-link suspension with track bar is used on both axles.
The first fabricated housing uses a pass-through gear which powers the next driveline. Both axle housings use low-pinion 9-inch third members.
Four Fox air bumps, JKS lift coils, and Fox 3.0 shocks make up the rear suspension. The factory rear sway bar was also used to regulate body roll.
Front For Now
At the time we shot this, the Jeep was still running the factory Dana 44 Rubicon axle. The current plan is to replace this with a Currie fabricated housing to match the rears. A draglink and tie-rod upgrade came via RPM Steering, while a Fox through-shaft stabilizer helps keep the Jeep tracking straight.
Acos adjustable coil spacers work with JKS 3-inch lift springs to provide lift up front. Control arm drops work with adjustable JKS arms to improve the suspension geometry and overall strength. As is the case in the rear, Fox 3.0 shocks with DSC adjusters make it easy to dial in the ride on-road and off.
Roco 4x4 has been a long-time distributer (and user) of Nitto tires. When it came time to put six tires under the Gladiator, the decision wasn’t which brand to use, but which Grappler was the best fit for the build. Given the mix of highway and serious trail use this JT is built for, they opted for a 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler. These are mounted on 17-inch Method beadlocks.
Giving the Trail Grapplers some added breathing room is an AEV stubby series front bumper. It’s outfitted with a Mile Marker 9,000lb winch, Baja Designs lightbar, and AEV 7000 series off-road lights.
With a massive bed stretch, there’s plenty of room for gear. The bed rack and cargo slider come from Front Runner. When the Roco crew gets done hanging ten, they can grab a beverage from the Dometic fridge. For cargo that you need to keep out of the elements, there are two large Pelican cases.
Rack It Up
A Front Runner roof rack provides additional space for hauling gear, while LP4 LED lights from Baja Designs increase nighttime visibility. Note the air deflector mounted on the bottom of the rack which cuts down on wind nose.
The Gladiator received two main interior upgrades. The first was an entire sound system and head unit boost from Alpine. They next were the custom leather seats.
Wrapping up the exterior mods is a steel hood from a Mojave Gladiator. The rear fenders of the Jeep are a one-off upgrade, that match with the overall high-arch style of the front.
Going The Distance
Making it easier to climb in and out of are a set of retractable steps from AMP Research. In the event that six-wheels isn’t enough to get the job done (or the vehicle behind needs a little assistance), there’s a 16,000lb Mile Marker rear winch out back.
Trails and Troubles On Our Last Trip Of Summer
The Last Van Standing: 2014 Ford E-350 4x4 By Ujoint Offroad
For as long as we’ve been immersed in car culture, we’ve heard the same phrase time and time again: "They don’t build them like they used to." Whether it’s referencing style, reliability, build quality, or overall complexity of modern vehicles, the saying rings true in many ways. For fans of the Ford Econoline van, it means something a little different.
In 2014, Ford announced that this would be the last year of the full-bodied Econoline. While the Econoline still exists today, it can only be ordered as a cutaway chassis. At this point, a 2014 E-Series is an extremely sought-after item. Finding one with low miles and the coveted V10 engine is becoming increasingly more difficult. However, it’s something that Chris Steuber managed to do.
Not only does the E-350 you see here have the V10, but it was found with less than 10,000 miles on the odometer. As the owner of Ujoint Offroad, which specializes in Ford E-Series 4x4 conversions and upgrades, Steuber wasted no time getting it outfitted with the company’s latest offerings. With 37-inch-tall Nitto Tire Recon Grappler A/T’s underneath, Dana 60 axles, and seating for 12, this van serves as the ultimate multipurpose rig for Steuber’s needs. While you can watch this van in action on our YouTube channel, here, we’re breaking down this last of a kind build.
Steuber has owned and built countless vans over the years. But his favorite engine by far is the V10. While the fuel economy isn’t anything to write home about, the power and reliability of the 6.8L is well worth the price of entry.
Aside from the power, another selling point of the V10 is the 5R110 automatic transmission that comes behind it. To date, Steuber states it’s been the strongest and most reliable E-series transmission he’s found. Another benefit is that you can easily mate it with a NV271 transfer case, which cuts down on the complexity and conversion time of making the van four-wheel drive.
Converting the van from 2WD to 4WD is fairly easy as the Ujoint conversion kit uses bolt-on leaf-spring mounts to secure a live-axle. This setup also pushes the wheelbase forward a few inches to allow room for a much larger than stock tire.
Ujoint uses high-pinon Dana 60 front axles on its conversions, which provides tremendous strength, and it works with Ford’s roll stability control system. This particular axle was upfitted with 4.88 differential gears, a Detroit Truetrac, Spyntec hub conversion, and massive SSBC brake kit. A crossover steering system makes it easier to control the 37 tires while a set of 6-inch lift springs and Fox 2.0 reservoir shocks provide altitude and comfort.
The original low-pinon Dana 60 rear resides outback and is fit with a matching 4.88 gearset that works with the stock limit-slip differential. Like the front, upgraded differential covers were installed. For times when Steuber needs to use the van for towing, the Ujoint overland air bag kit is there to help. Since the bottom of the air bag is not mounted to the leaf springs, the suspension travel is not limited to the bag length. This is ideal for getting the most suspension performance on the trail.
Tires are always a critical part of the build equation. This is true from both a looks and performance aspect. At the time we shot the van, the Nitto Tire Recon Grappler A/T’s under the van had just over 10,000 miles on them. Steuber states that he loves the Recon Grapplers. His two biggest praises were how quiet they are and how well they perform in a variety of conditions. While his previous van had this same Recon Grappler in a 35-inch, these are a 37x12.50R17. Securing the tires in place are 17x8.5 G400 wheels from Innov8 racing.
Up top, you’ll find Ujoint’s all-aluminum roof rack with a full flooring system. Steuber states that the flooring upgrade not only increases cargo capacity but helps tremendously with keeping the interior temps down in the summer. To access the top, a ladder from Aluminess was installed.
The Baja Approach
One of biggest changes to come out of Ujoint recently has been the expansion of the bumper line. This is the company’s latest Baja-inspired bumper. Weighing in at just 65 pounds, the aluminum bumper provides an increase in strength and approach angle without a major weight penalty. Along with an assortment of Baja Designs lighting, you’ll find a Warn VR-12s winch, Factory 55 Prolink, Agency 6 fairlead, OBA port and Anderson connector.
The back bumper is a dual swing out which provides a secure place for the full-size spare and a massive Pelican case. Ujoint designed the bumper to be frame mounted using 3/16-inch steel. To provide a clean finish to the bumper, Ujoint covers the powder coated steel section with an aluminum skin.
Entry and Awing
With six inches of lift and true-to-size 37’s, the van has a fairly tall step-in height. To make entry a little easier for his family, Steuber installed Ujoint aluminum steps. For those long days in the sun camping, a 270-degree awning from Kinsmen is there to provide shade.
On The Trail
For normal driving, the van relies on a Hellwig front sway bar to keep any bodyroll in check. For the trail, Steuber simply disconnects a link to allow the front suspension to move freely.
Given the amount of exterior lighting the van has, Steuber needed a simple and clean way to control it all. The solution comes from sPOD. Using the sPOD controller and Ujoint driver’s door switch mount, Steuber can easily access his controls, while having limited wiring coming into the van.
Seating For 12
With four children, it’s easy to run out of seating and storage with most vehicles. This E-350 can easily fit 12 passengers and that’s with one of the benches removed.
Despite the long body, the van’s wheelbase is only a few inches longer than a Jeep Gladiator, which keeps it fairly maneuverable. While this van isn’t meant to be a hardcore rock crawler, it has excellent off-road chops.
Inside the invite-only, Ford Performance Racing School driving program for Explorer ST buyers.
Meet Mullet: An LS6-Powered '87 Chevy El Camino Built to be Driven
While many General Motors cars of the 1980s aren't looked back on as fondly as the cars of the '50s or '60s, this era did produce some of the most under-appreciated and capable enthusiast platforms out there — especially when it comes to modification potential.
And for evidence of this, look no further than Scott Chaney's 1987 Chevrolet El Camino SS.
Though well known among the Chevy faithful, the fifth generation El Camino, sold from 1978 to 1987 is a vehicle we quite don't think gets the credit it deserves from the enthusiast.
It's sleek looking, lighter, and smaller than the El Caminos that came before it. And like the rest of the cars built on GM's G-body platform, it enjoys vast aftermarket support and is a wide-open canvas for owners to build upon.
The Best Birthday Present
For Scott, his love affair with this generation of El Camino started early. He owned a '78 during in high school, and that El Camino was the car that he and his wife Carol had when they dated and later got married.
Fast forward to Scott's 50th birthday, and Carol and their two daughters decided an '87 El Camino would be the perfect present for dad and a way to enjoy new family adventures.
The previous owner had modified the car, but like many projects, it needed finishing. So over the course of about nine months, Scott worked all the bugs out of the car, and made several changes to make the El Camino his own.
Being a paint and body expert by trade, Scott gave the El Camino a nice refresh at his shop Chaney Autoworks in Franklin, Kentucky, and added a subtle cowl hood while he was at it.
Though they had a fairly "sporty" look to them, the El Caminos of the 1980s were never known for great performance in stock form. But that's nothing a little LS swap can't fix. Scott's car is powered by a 5.7 liter LS6 V8, to be specific, the same engine that put the C5 Corvette Z06 on the map during the early 2000s.
Though stout from the factory, the LS6 has been hopped up a bit with a Holley intake, Comp cam, Hooker headers, Flowmaster exhaust and a few other upgrades.
Scott says the setup is good for about 460 horsepower, which if you're wondering, is over three times the power the El Camino made when it left the factory with its 4.3L V6 back in '87.
The LS6 is mated a 4L60E automatic from a 2001 Camaro, and a modified shifter from a 2010 Camaro helps give the El Camino's cabin a more aggressive attitude.
Of course, you don't want one-wheel peels after all of that, so the rear end has been upgraded with a Moser Muscle Pack 12-bolt with a 3.73 Eaton limited slip.
The Right Stance
When Scott got the El Camino, it sat high on a set of massive 22-inch wheels. And one of the biggest things he wanted to change was the stance.
The '80s El Camino usually looks best when it's low to the ground, so on went a set of Viking coilovers up front and two-inch drop springs in the rear with Viking double adjustable shocks all the way around. Wilwood brakes, meanwhile, are there when it's time to slow down.
Wanting a wheel that could handle modern performance rubber but with a look fitting for the old-school El Camino, Scott went with a staggered set of 17-inch Torqlite wheels from American Racing.
And speaking of modern performance rubber, it was the Nitto NT555 G2 that hit the mark as a tire that could handle everything the El Camino would be doing, from daily driving to long road trips, burnout competitions and more.
The G2s measure 245/45R17 up front and 255/50R17 in the rear, and the stagger gives the car a subtle but effective rake that hits just right.
Miles of Fun
Owing to the El Camino's everlasting blue-collar appeal and "party in the rear" capability to roast tires, Scott's daughters quickly dubbed the car "Mullet."
Scott says that over the past year and a half, he's put over 12,000 miles on Mullet, which is more than many people put on their modern cars these days.
And those miles include trips to car shows like the Goodguys Nashville Nationals where Scott brought home the Modern Muscle Award and Holley LS Fest where Scott and Mullet let it rip in the burnout competition.
With this project Scott hasn't just shown the potential of the G-Body El Camino, he's built a unique, tasteful and quick street machine that gets driven hard and driven often. Just as it should be.