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The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Falken JK Recon – Extreme Rock Crawler

Falken Designed WildPeak Tires to Conquer Any Terrain If SHTF, and Built a Jeep to Prove It

Photography by Jorge Nunez

No warrior likes the idea of retreating, but let’s be real for a second. If there’s a potential nuclear meltdown as in Fukushima, mass looting and lawlessness like after Hurricane Katrina, or an inbound natural disaster similar to Superstorm Sandy, it’s clear that GTFO is often a good option. And for some, the only option. But how do you bug out when the airport’s shuttered, the freeways are clogged, or the streets are littered with downed power lines?

You’ll need a nimble yet powerful vehicle to get you out of an urban jungle quickly if a FUBAR situation arises. But don’t expect your truck with a measly 3-inch lift kit and stock axles — let alone your Toyota Prius — to do the same job. It takes serious engineering, sizeable resources, and the right platform on which to build a reliable bug-out vehicle that runs on four tires.

Enter the JK Recon. This one-of-a-kind Jeep was built by Falken Tire Corporation to be an extreme rock crawler and, more importantly for our purposes, serve as a survival vehicle when SHTF.

The JK Recon can easily pound dirt or pavement, roll over rubble, scramble over fallen trees, cut through shallow streams, or crawl up the steepest rock faces. It can do so thanks to an arsenal of heavy-duty parts and a set of WildPeak A/T Tires (naturally) wrapped around 18×9.5-inch Raceline RT Monster wheels. This Wrangler can steer clear of and climb over almost any hurdle it might encounter.

Off-Road Origins

The JK Recon was birthed when Falken decided to put its money where its mouth was. The tire manufacturer didn’t want to just claim its WildPeak all-terrains provided an unusually smooth and quiet ride on asphalt while offering tremendous traction in mud, rock, or dirt — Falken wanted to prove it. The best way to do that was to build something with a purpose.

About four years ago, the Falken Off-Road Team decided to enter the King of the Hammers, an annual race held in Johnson Valley, California, that combines desert racing with rock crawling. The team needed a pre-runner that could serve as both a chase vehicle and a service truck to support the racers. And Falken needed a platform to prove WildPeak’s worthiness. So, bam, the JK Recon was conceived.

Falken chose to start its project with an already capable four-wheeler — a new Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. But the company wanted to give the four-door Jeep an extreme makeover to match its future extreme capabilities.

“The most challenging part of the build was making the vehicle different from any other JK on the trail,” says Nestor Cabrera, Falken’s off-road supervisor. “We wanted people to be able to tell this Jeep apart from all the other cookie-cutter Jeeps on the road.”

The custom military desert-tan paintjob definitely helped in that regard, but the changes had to be more than skin deep. So, Falken tasked David Chappelle of Chappelle’s Exhaust and Kustom Shop with turning the Jeep into a hardcore yet versatile pre-runner truck. The El Cajon, California-based fabricator started the transformation by gutting the rear passenger area and installing a custom truck bed. The bed is large enough for a spare tire and two storage compartments that house jacks, tools, supplies, and emergency straps. (The storage area could also be used to secure long-guns and ammo — hey, just saying…)

Kit Up

To get the Falken support team where it needs to be in the desert (chasing race rigs that fly at 100 mph) or on the rocks (winching out trucks stuck on gnarly boulders), the JK Recon’s handling had to be top notch. So, Chappelle installed a PSC Motorsport hydraulic-assist steering kit and a Dana 60 high-steer kit, which consist of a skid plate, custom tie rod, and custom drag link.

Underneath an AEV Heat Reduction Hood, the JK is powered by the stock 3.8L V-6 engine and given a mild boost with the additions of a K&N cold-air intake, a Dynomax exhaust, and a Griffin radiator. Falken’s rig can climb over almost any terrain, in large part because of its Rubicon 4:1 transfer case, ARB Air Lockers, and Dynatrac ProRock 60 High-Pinion axles (both with a 5.38 gear ratio). These heavy-duty components ensure the Jeep maintains aggressive traction in slick, slanted, or tenuous conditions.

But what about on the way down? Without a rugged suspension system, a bug-out vehicle could suffer serious damage to its body and undercarriage, perhaps even becoming inoperable.

Fortunately, the JK Recon sports long-travel coilovers (double bypass) from King Off-Road Racing Shocks in the front and King’s cantilever long-travel coilovers (also double bypass) in the rear. Billet long-arms complete the suspension system. This combo ensures that the Wrangler can absorb harsh landings, whether due to massive whoops in the sand or drop-offs from high boulders. The shocks also help to keep the driver from jostling too much in his MasterCraft Baja RS Seat or unleashing his breakfast all over the dashboard.

Like a plate added to a chest rig, Chappelle outfitted the Jeep with assorted armor: a custom rollcage, custom sliders, a skidplate from ASFIR 4×4, and a 1/4 Pounder Bumper with a stinger from Off Road Evolution. And no chase team would be complete without the right tools to recover its race truck, so he installed the always-reliable Warn 9.5xp winch.

Based on a unique yet strong chassis, powered by a bevy of heavy-duty parts, and rolling on rugged all-terrain meats, the JK Recon is a unique pre-runner that doesn’t just look like a survival vehicle, it rides like one, too. It’s thrived in some of the most brutal terrain in North America, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee to the red rock of Moab, Utah. “This vehicle has conquered every trail that has been placed in its path,” Cabrera says. “It has been the perfect test bed for the WildPeak all-terrain tires.”

It is a formidable mechanized steed — for the streets, on the trails, or in the backcountry — and that makes it the ideal bug-out rig for when shit truly does hit the fan.

Falken JK Recon

Make
Jeep
Model
Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Year
2009
Engine
3.8L V-6
Drivetrain
4WD

Falken JK Recon   Extreme Rock Crawler photo

Tires
This tire is the raison d’etre of the JK Recon. Falken built this Jeep pre-runner to prove that these meats could thrive on any terrain you could drive to.
Make
Falken Tire
Model
WildPeak A/T
Size
37×13.50R18
MSRP
$1,800
URL
www.falkentire.com

Wheels
These forged aluminum beadlocks are meant for hardcore competition, so they’re more than capable for bugging out.
Make
Raceline Wheels
Model
18×9.5 RT-235 Monster Forged
MSRP
$1,500
URL
www.racelinewheels.com

Suspension: Front
The long-travel kit with King coilovers (double bypass) soaks up the abuse of hard landings.
Make
King Off-Road Racing Shocks
Model
Long-travel kit
MSRP
$1,500
URL
www.kingshocks.com

Suspension: Rear
The rear suspension features a cantilever long-travel kit with King coilovers (double bypass).
Make
King Off-Road Racing Shocks
Model
Cantilever long-travel kit
MSRP
$1,500
URL
www.kingshocks.com

Doorsill Guard
These custom-built sliders keep the doorsill from eating rock damage, which could prevent the door from opening or cause body damage during a treacherous climb.
Make
Chappelle’s Exhaust and Kustom Shop
Model
Customer sliders
MSRP
$1,500
URL
www.chappelleskustoms.com

Rollcage
This custom-built ‘cage ensures that the entire rig doesn’t collapse on the driver and passenger in the case of a nasty spill or roll.
Make
Chappelle’s Exhaust and Kustom Shop
Model
Custom rollcage
MSRP
$2,500
URL
www.chappelleskustoms.com

Skidplates (Not Shown)
Like ceramic plates, skidplates keep the guts of the rig from suffering.
Make
ASFIR
Model
Full JK package
MSRP
$1,000
URL
asfir4x4.com

Falken JK Recon   Extreme Rock Crawler photo

Falken JK Recon   Extreme Rock Crawler photo
Rear Bumper
This custom one-off is based on an older version of the JK RockBrawler from Poison Spider and provides sturdy structural armor.
Make
Poison Spider Customs
Model
JK RockBrawler Rear Bumper
MSRP
N/A
URL
shop.poisonspyder.com

Falken JK Recon   Extreme Rock Crawler photo

Front Bumper
The 1/4 Pounder Front JK Bumper from Off Road Evolution provides strength and high clearance, thanks to heavy-duty 1/4-inch-thick ASTM A36 steel construction. This version comes with a stinger, which has a few purposes other than looking like a boner bar: grille guard, tow spot, and rollover prevention, among others.
Make
Off Road Evolution
Model
1/4 Pounder Front JK Bumper
MSRP
$650
URL
www.offroadevolution.com

Axles
The ProRock 60 is practically bulletproof, has no problem managing large tires, and provides more ground clearance than a stock Dana 44.
Make
Dynatrac
Model
JK ProRock 60
MSRP
$15,000
URL
www.dynatrac.com

Hood
This all-steel hood sucks in fresh air to keep everything underneath from overheating.
Make
American Expedition Vehicle
Model
JK Heat Reduction Hood
MSRP
$950
URL
www.aev-conversions.com

Winch
A quick recovery is key whether you’re in competition or survival mode. This workhorse ensures the JK Recon never gets stuck for very long.
Make
Warn Industries, Inc.
Model
9.5xp air station
MSRP
$1,500
URL
www.warn.com

Headlights
These LED headlights give you a clear line of sight in times of poor visibility.
Make
Truck-Lite
Model
7-inch Round LED Headlamp
MSRP
$500
URL
www.truck-lite.com

Falken JK Recon   Extreme Rock Crawler photo
Engine
Having been a proven winner off-road, the stock engine was capable enough as is. Falken didn’t see the need to swap it out or tinker with it.
Make
Jeep
Model
3.8L V-6
MSRP
N/A
URL
www.jeep.com

Auxiliary Power
The sPOD Source allows the accessories to be powered separately from the factory wiring.
Make
Precision Designs
Model
sPOD Source
MSRP
$420
URL
www.4x4spod.com

Battery
Optima has earned a reputation for long-lasting, reliable batteries that are vibration resistant, spill-proof, and mountable in almost any position.
Make
Optima Batteries
Model
Redtop
MSRP
$200
URL
www.optimabatteries.com

Air Intake
For an engine to work to its maximum potential, it needs clean, dry air — a lot of it. K&N delivers.
Make
K&N Engineering
Model
Performance Intake Kit
MSRP
$288
URL
www.knfilters.com

Radiator
The Griffin radiator is made of strong yet lightweight aluminum, helping to keep the weight down while cooling the engine.
Make
Griffin Thermal Products
Model
Radiator
MSRP
$595
URL
www.griffinrad.com

Steering (Not Shown)
Stock steering systems and beefy tires don’t mix, so this hydraulic steering assist kit was installed to make piloting the JK Recon much easier.
Make
PSC Motorsports
Model
Hydraulic steering-assist kit
MSRP
$1,500
URL
www.pscmotorsports.com

Exhaust (Not Shown)
This exhaust lets the JK Recon breathe more efficiently while giving it a gnarly growl.
Make
Dynomax Performance Exhaust
Model
Custom
MSRP
$350
URL
www.dynomax.com

Seats
This race-style seat keeps the driver from bouncing around and comfy for the long haul.
Make
MasterCraft Safety
Model
Baja RS
MSRP
$800
URL
www.mastercraftsafety.com

Glovebox
This secured lockbox could house valuables or a pistol.
Make
Tuffy Security Products
Model
JK Security Glove Box
MSRP
$158
URL
www.tuffyproducts.com

Falken JK Recon   Extreme Rock Crawler photo
Stereo Cover
This ingenious security cover (not shown) hides the stereo or GPS unit when locked in place to prevent thieves from spotting the equipment in the first place. Unlocked, it slides up and away. The top can be used as a tray for maps or sunglasses.
Make
Tuffy Security Products
Model
JK Flip-N-Lock Stereo Cover & Tray
MSRP
$149
URL
www.tuffyproducts.com

Falken JK Recon   Extreme Rock Crawler photo
On-Board Air
Having your own compressed air means you can deflate your tires to the right psi, depending on the terrain, then air up once you’re back on pavement. The Power Tank can also be used for pneumatic tools.
Make
Power Tank
Model
20-pound tank
MSRP
$550
URL
www.powertank.com