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The Globex1 LS JK That’s Anything but Cookie Cutter

If you take your 4x4 to an off-road shop for service and build advice, you’re trusting that the guy (or gal) standing across from you is an expert on the topic at hand. This is something that Michael Nadel understands and takes seriously. As the owner of Globex Performance in Toms River, New Jersey, Nadel is not only a shop owner, but an experienced ‘wheeler. Having participated in multiple JK Experience trips and built countless customers' Jeeps, the modern Wrangler platform is something he knows very well.

As many enthusiasts Jeep builds often do, his personal 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has gone through a few phases. In fact, this JK has already spanned the spectrum from basic bolt-on to full-buggy build. While it’s rare for any build to revert back to a tamer machine once it hits buggy status, Nadel missed the thing that made the JK Unlimited platform so desirable in the first place—its on- and off-road versatility. So, he decided to double back and tore the Jeep apart for a three-month do-over.

Finally happy with the new more-street-friendly setup, Nadel took to Moab to shakedown the JK. We were lucky enough to catch up with him on the trail, and see the fresh LS-swapped build in action. 


Modern Power

When you hear crate engine and JK, a Hemi is usually the first thing to come to mind. While LS swaps are not uncommon in the off-road world, they are still pretty unique in the JK platform. This LS3 is pumping out 495hp and 473 lb-ft of torque. Helping to achieve those power levels are headers and a camshaft from GM, which work with a harness and ECU from Speartech. To keep the fuel-injected V8 running cool, a Griffin aluminum radiator was added in the mix.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers engine

Backing the V8 is a GM 6L90e transmission. It takes its marching orders from a Winters shifter that was modified by RADesigns. This seemingly simple, but important, shifter modification gives Nadel the ability to tap-shift the transmission.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers dashboard

A gear-driven Atlas II transfer case sends power to the 1-ton axles thanks to 1350 series CV drivelines from Adam’s Driveshafts. Nadel opted for the 4.3:1 low range for increased gear reduction. To add additional T-case bracing, he picked up a support kit from TMR Customs.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers transfer case

Out back, you’ll find more parts from the General, this time in the form of a 14-bolt axle. To gain some much-needed ground clearance from the 1-ton diff, a Ballistic shave kit was used. Inside of the full-float rearend you’ll find 30-spline chromoly axleshafts from Revolution Gear & Axle, along with an ARB Air Locker and 5.38 gears. The custom axle-truss is used to secure the triangulated aluminum upper control arms.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers axle

Frame Chop

Since the custom rear suspension required Nadel to remove his OE fuel tank, he crafted a new crossmember that supports a 15-gallon Motobilt fuel cell. For simplicity and ease of replacement, the tank uses the stock JK fuel pump.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers fuel cell

As you may have noticed in the previous photo, the rear portion of the JK’s chassis has been modified extensively. A portion of this was done to accommodate the 14-inch travel, 2.5 Internal Bypass series King coilovers. This setup provides the Jeep with 5 inches of upward and 9 inches of downward travel.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers shocks

The front of the Jeep also got its share of chassis work as the front of the frame was trimmed back to increase the approach angle. To accommodate the Warn 9.5ti winch, the grille was chopped a good bit. Despite the tight fit, there was still room for a B&M transmission cooler and factory A/C condenser. Creating a practical lighting upgrade are the LED lights from JW Speaker, while the green Flatlink shackle comes from Factor55. 

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers gille

Taking the place of the original Dana 30 is Dynatrac ProRock 60 front axle. It’s been outfitted with RCV Performance axleshafts, an ARB Air Locker, DynaLoc hubs and 5.38 gears. To increase the steering performance, he installed one of PSC Motorsports' Big Bore XD steering gears with ram assist.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers front axle

Like the rear, the front suspension uses aluminum links fit with Rock Krawler joints. The front setup is a three link with track bar, which nets 14 inches of travel thanks to King 2.5 Internal Bypass shocks.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers front suspension

Dream Dash

While the LS swap is nicely executed, the hand-built dash is our favorite part of this build. It integrates nicely with the ‘cage built by New Development Fabrication. To get cold air to blow from the vents, he had an HVAC system from Restomod Air installed.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers full dashboard

Nadel has a few communication options thanks to a Cobra CB and Yaesu VHF/UHF radio. Keeping everything juiced is an Odyssey dry-cell battery, which has been relocated to the passenger-side kick panel.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers passenger seat

Resting behind the Grant steering wheel is a Racepak IQ3 Street Dash. This works with a Racepak SmartWire system. Since the engine and transmission are controlled by a stand-alone system, it networks to the body control module via a CAN network. This allows the SmartWire to read engine data and control vitals such as the cooling fans and fuel pump based on the engine’s needs.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers steering wheel

MasterCraft Safety suspension seats were used up front, while a PRP suspension bench seat keeps the rear occupants riding in comfort. To reduce interior heat and noise, the carpet was replaced by a Lizard Skin thermal and sound coating layer.  

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers seats

Locked to Grapple

Nadel knew he wanted a 40-inch-tall tire to help the now 118-inch wheelbase work well on the trail. With his extreme trail needs and refined road manner wants, he landed on a best-of-both-worlds tire with the 40x13.50 Nitto Trail Grappler. These heavy-duty mud-terrain radials were paired with a set of 17x9 KMC Machete beadlocks, which allow him to get the most out of the treads at single digit air pressures off-road.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers tire

Gone are the full doors and in their place are a much lighter aluminum set from JCR. Giving the OE sheetmetal a bit of protection are rocker guards and rear corners from MetalCloak.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers Moab

With only a few feet of stock wiring left on the Jeep, it’s safe to say that there’s not a single inch of the JK that hasn’t been modified in some way. While Nadel is still fine-tuning the latest rendition, he’s been extremely pleased with how well it works right out of the gate.

2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-ls-globex-performance-nitto-trail-grapplers front

Want to see more detail shots of the build? Be sure to check out the gallery below. 

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