Issue 09 Falken JK Recon – Extreme Rock Crawler Patrick Vuong Join the Conversation 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 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 Notice: We Found Bulk Ammo In Stock: SK Flatnose Target .22 LR 50ct $7.95 creedmoorsports.comSK Flatnose Match .22 LR 50ct $9.95 creedmoorsports.com RWS .22 LR R50 50ct $16.50 creedmoorsports.comCreedmoor .223 55gr HPBT 20ct $21.95 creedmoorsports.comVolume Discounts Available. Free Shipping on orders over $99 with code "FREESHIP" Disclosure: These links are affiliate links. Caribou Media Group earns a commission from qualifying purchases. Thank you! 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 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 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 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 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 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. 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