Step Child: Lite Brite's Hemi V8 Powered 2018 Jeep JL
If there is one thing we have learned about the Jeep Wrangler, it’s that there really are “no limits” to what modifications can be made to them. When Jeep introduced the four-door Wrangler Unlimited in 2007, it opened up a new world of possibilities, and capabilities, for off-road enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers to take advantage of.
As the platform progressed throughout the years, so did the level of modifications owners were comfortable with making. Now 15 years into the four-dour run, we’re finding out that the possibilities are nearly endless. The “Step Child” is a perfect example of this—a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with almost every factory component removed and replaced with something far more superior.
Kevin and Brittney Williams, of Lite Brite Nation, purchased their Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon new in 2018. With the new Wrangler JL having just been released, the couple was eager to find out just how far they could take their new Rubicon. Although this was their first Jeep, they have a proven past with modifying the vehicles they have owned together and knew that they weren’t going to hold back with this one. When asked where the name came from, Brittney quickly referred to the old saying “beat it like a red-headed step child” and acknowledged the abuse it was likely to face on the trail.
Lite Brite Nation
Kevin and Brittney built the Step Child into the beast that it is today in just two short years, documenting their modifications and adventures along the way on their YouTube channel, Lite Brite Nation. Their channel has quickly garnered popularity amongst Jeep enthusiasts, gaining the support of over 150,000 subscribers and growing daily. But as Kevin and Brittney will admit, “the YouTube channel was a complete accident.” They go on to say to that the original purpose was to document their adventures for family and friends in other parts of the country to see. “And it turns out, a lot of other people enjoyed the videos as well… hundreds of thousands of them.” It’s no surprise why, as they have taken on the toughest trails in the American West and pushed the limits of their fully-built Step Child JL.
When asked what their favorite feature of the Step Child is, Kevin and Brittney replied “THE HEMIIIIIIIII! The sound, the power, it's pretty amazing and definitely the reason that the build turned into a beast.” Boasting a 6.4L V8 motor with 500 HP and 500 FT. LBS. of torque, power is of no concern, and has proved to be more than sufficient to easily turn a set of 40” Nitto Trail Grappler tires.
Kevin and Brittney drive the Step Child across the country in search of the toughest trails they can find. They opted for the 40” Nitto Trail Grappler tire because of its comfortable ride on-road and aggressive off-road performance. So far, the Trail Grappler has performed “insanely well” for them, “on-road, off-road, in the snow, on the rocks, in the wet, and of course at high speeds.” Mated to a set of DirtyLife RoadKill beadlock wheels, the combination has certainly proven itself trail worthy.
The stock front Dana44 axle was removed in favor of Dynatrac’s heavy duty alternative, the XD60. Packed with 5.13 gears and an Eaton E-Locker, it offers plenty of strength underneath the front end of the Step Child. A hydraulic ram assist kit from PSC Steering makes light work of turning the Nitto 40s in the rocks.
Canyon Crawler drive shafts from JE Reel span the distance to and from the 4:1 Rubicon Transfer Case. Out back a Dynatrac 80 axle with an ARB Air Locker and 5.13 gears provides all the strength needed for the high horsepower output of the 392 Hemi.
Smooth as Butter
Triple Rate Springs from Rock Krawler provide 4.5” of lift, the optimal ride height for ample amounts of wheel travel without running into any clearance issues. Bilstein 9200 Bypass shocks take care of the dampening and have both compression and rebound adjustments, which have allowed Brittney and Kevin to really dial the Step Child in to perform exceptionally well while rock crawling and at high-speeds too. A Rock Krawler long arm system helps keep the suspension geometry in spec while the aluminum control arms help to keep the weight down.
To round things off, Brittney & Kevin added a RockJock 4x4 Antirock Sway Bar both in the front and rear to allow for maximum articulation and minimized body roll. The suspension underneath the Step Child is smooth as butter in every terrain.
Adding heavy duty bumpers can often be a double-edged sword. Though the goal is to add protection, more often than not this comes at the cost of additional weight as well. Kevin & Brittney were able to achieve maximum protection as well as better approach and departure angles while keeping weight savings in mind thanks to the aluminum front and rear bumpers provided by Next Venture Motorsports (NVM). They also added a set of NVM’s aluminum skid plates and rear corner armor, addressing all of the vulnerable areas on Step Child. American Adventure Lab’s Hi-Line Fender Kit allows for Kevin & Brittney to run the factory fender flares with additional room to stuff a larger tire. They also opted for American Adventure Lab’s quick release inner fenders, protecting the engine bay up front and rear fender wells. Finally, the couple swapped out their hardtop for Bestop’s Trektop Ultra soft top, taking advantage of the fastback styling and open air experience.
Inside the Step Child you can find a set of PRP seat covers to protect the factory seats and add a clean aesthetic as well. A Rock Hard 4x4 Sport Cage ties into the factory cage to protect the occupants of the Jeep. After all, when conquering iconic, hard core trails such as Back Door in Johnson Valley, it’s best to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. A switch-pros switch panel mounted to the sport cage controls the Baja Designs accessory lights found on the front bumper, which houses a Warn Zeon 10S winch & Factor55 FlatLink for recovery.
It’s clear that Kevin & Brittney thought of nearly everything while building out their JL Wrangler, making for a well-rounded, extremely capable Jeep. The Step Child provides an excellent balance between form & function and we can’t wait to see what insane trail they conquer next with it. Check out Lite Brite Nation on YouTube to keep up with Kevin & Brittney’s adventures.