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A Custom 2012 Jeep Wrangler Powered by a 392 HEMI V8 Crate Motor Ready for the Trails

The pandemic provided a lot of people with some down time to pursue partially finished projects from years past, and this HEMI-powered Jeep is no different. The car was originally built by Joe Napoleon for the SEMA Show back in 2012, but the car had very few miles on the local trails of Houston, Texas due to the group of guys building it at Turnkey Industries being very involved in motorsports over the past several years.

Joe Napoleon's Hemi-powered Jeep Wrangler is ready for the trails!

If the name Napoleon Motorsports rings a bell, it might be from the Electric Camaro drift car that Travis Reeder piloted during the 2019 season of Formula Drift, or from the numerous years of racing Chevy Camaros in Trans Am racing. With the motorsports world slowing down due to the pandemic, this 2012 Jeep was rolled out of the depths of the Turnkey Industries warehouse, was refreshed, and taken to the trails. 

Joe Napoleon's 2012 Jeep Wrangler was originally built for SEMA in 2013, but recently was dusted off during the pandemic

Swapped for SEMA 

The initial project started back in 2012, with a fresh V6-based Jeep Wrangler chassis from Dodge and the desire to drop a V8 conversion into the vehicle. While V8 swaps into Jeeps seem to be happening quite often these days (like this Chevy LS-swapped Jeep we featured last year), the only options back in 2012 were one-off fabrication projects, and information sharing on how to make it work just wasn’t happening. Napoleon Motorsports is the motorsports division of the team, but Turnkey Industries is the prototyping, skunkworks, and production fabrication side of the business. Turnkey forged a relationship with Dodge Chrysler Jeep to craft together the frame, wiring, crate engine, components, and all the details needed to debut the car for the 2012 SEMA show. The car was initially fired up just hours before it was scheduled to leave for the show, and while there was an initial tour of promotion and publicity for the vehicle, it has largely sat since then while the team went racing.

The HEMI 392 crate engine looks right at home in the bay of this Jeep Wrangler

Swapping a Hemi V8

The vehicle first rolled into the Turnkey Industries shop as a running V6 chassis, and was promptly stripped down to a shell. The 392 Hemi engine came as a crate motor that can be purchased at your local Dodge dealership at the time, and while some Jeep Grand Cherokee’s were available with the larger V8 engine, the JK era Jeep Wrangler only had wimpier V6 engine options, which weren’t sufficient for the trail plans that Napoleon had for the vehicle. Turnkey worked closely with Dodge to understand which components could be re-used, and which needed to be swapped over to the V8 version of the vehicle, and was able to get the swap running within the rails of the Wrangler engine bay fairly easily. It helps when you have a team of motorsports-minded individuals who can swap engines in an afternoon to make the conversion easier! Since the 6.4L engine was originally dropped into the engine bay back in 2012, it has ran smoothly and flawlessly ever since, delivering 470 ponies and 465 lb-ft of torque to the axles effortlessly.

The 470 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque power this Jeep Wrangler through the toughest terrain around

Long Arms and Trail-Ready

While many Jeep Wranglers never see dirt trails, Napoleon and his team knew this chassis would see plenty of dirt and built the chassis appropriately. First up on the list was improving the shock travel, which was achieved with a set of ELKAS shocks that utilize remote reservoirs.

A slew of TERRAFLEX parts help improve the articulation on this Jeep Wrangler

Napoleon and his team went with a small lift to ensure they could fit 40” tires under the fenders, but were aiming to keep the center of gravity as low as possible for trail action. A set of TERRAFLEX long arms were added both front and rear, and complimented them with a TERRAFLEX rear sway bar upgrade, TERRAFLEX front sway bar disconnect, and TERRAFLEX speed bumps.

TERRAFLEX springs and remote-reservoir shocks provide the suspension travel on this HEMI-powered Jeep Wrangler

Underbelly Cameras?

Cruising the trails is typically fairly easy, but every now and then, off-roading encounters the occasional snag. Napoleon and his team installed 4 underbelly cameras monitoring each wheel, so if the going gets tough, the cameras can help the driver determine what it will take to navigate past the obstacle. The video feed is piped into the Kenwood in-dash head unit, which also powers the Focal speakers, amp, and subwoofer that belt out tunes while cruising the trails.

Looking the Part

Napoelon’s Wrangler was built with function at the top of the priority list, but that doesn’t mean the Jeep was going to look anywhere near stock. Up front, a Smittybuilt steel bumper replaced the stock polyurethane piece to provide more ground clearance as well as house the large WARN winch for righting the Wrangler from any awkward situations. Out back, a NEMESIS bumper has LED lights embedded in the corners to help illuminate any potential obstacles. NEMESIS aluminum fenders help keep the mud off the bodywork, while a Rigid light bar keeps the trails lit in front. The entire exterior was wrapped in a Desert Storm Tan vinyl wrap, which helps offset the matte black bumpers, fenders, and other accent pieces.

The NEMESIS rear bumper has embedded LED lighting to view any potential obstacles around this Jeep Wrangler

Under the fenders, a set of KMC XD131 offroad wheels were ordered in 17” sizing, and promptly wrapped in Nitto Trail Grappler 40” x 13.5” x 17” Tires. These tires are renown for their dual-purpose abilities to grip well on asphalt while still providing traction on the trail, and tires that we have used on several of our own off-roading rigs. Napoleon mentioned that the Trail Grappler tire is a must-have for the casual off-road enthusiast, and the 40” tire was always the desired sizing for this Wrangler.

A set of KMC XD 131 wheels are wrapped in Nitto Trail Grappler tires for off-road duty on this Jeep Wrangler

Enjoying the journey

This Wrangler build didn’t get the proper trail break-in when it was completed as Napolean Motorsports was focused on the racing side of the business, but the recent break in the schedule allowed the team to enjoy some socially-distanced trail exploring around the Houston area. 

The Smittybuilt front bumper now holds a WARN winch on this HEMI-powered Jeep Wrangler

The main warehouse for both Turnkey Industries and Napoleon Motorsports sits adjacent to a lot that might have been used for some occasional off-roading type activities during the pandemic. This 392 HEMI powered Jeep Wrangler may or may not have been involved in said off-roading activities. That being said, this rig definitely feels ready for many trail adventures ahead!  

Joe Napoleon's HEMI-powered Jeep Wrangler is wrapped in Desert Tan, and trimmed out in matte black bumpers and fenders

Specs: Joe Napoleon’s 2012 Jeep Wrangler Hemi

Hometown: Houston, Texas
Engine & Drivetrain: 6.4L 392 HEMI factory crate motor w/ 470HP/465 Torque, Atlas transfer case, Factory 5 spd automatic
Suspension: Terraflex INVERTED Dana 60's, 5.38:1 gears, Air lockers, HOWE hydraulic steering assist, TERRAFLEX long arms front/rear, TERRAFLEX rear sway bar, TERRAFLEX front sway bar disconnect, TERRAFLEX speed bumps, ELKAS shocks with remote reservoirs
Wheels & Tires: KMC XD Off Road 17” Wheels, Nitto Trail Grappler 40” x 13.5” x 17” NT05 Tires
Exterior: NEMISIS rocker guards, NEMISIS Aluminum fenders, Smitty Front bumper, NEMISIS rear bumper, Mid Skid plate, Fuel tank skid plate, RIGID light bar/2-A pillar, Dessert Storm tan wrap
Electronics Kenwood Head Unit w/ Bluetooth, Focal Subwoofer & amp setup, 4-under chassis tire cameras, POD Power package, Warn Dual force winch/air package
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