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Jeep Wrangler (1992)

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Dodge Ram 3500 (2006)

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Jeep XJ Cherokee 4WD Sport 4-door (1999)

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Dodge Dakota (1988)

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Dodge Ram 3500 Cummins Quad-Cab 4x4 S...

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Questions About the Rubicon Trail

off-road travel backcountry routes 4x4 4x4 travel trail conditions

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#1 biggman100

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 04:29 PM

I know this is considered a popular off road place to visit, but after what you said in another post about short wheelbase vehicles being better there, i have a couple questions. Is the Rubicon something that a medium, or even long wheel base vehicle, such as my 1994 Dakota, or your 05 Ram, wouldn't be able to do? I hear people say that a jeep or dune buggies are the best vehicle for the Rubicon, so what would be the drawbacks to a vehicle like my 1994 Dakota? And what are the minimum reccomended upgrades to any vehicle that would run the Rubicon Trail?



#2 Moses Ludel

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 10:15 PM

As I've shared in other posts, the 2007-up Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited changed the "rules" about Rubicon Trail wheelbase requirements.  In four-door Rubicon Edition form, this Jeep has a 116" wheelbase and is "capable" of doing the Rubicon Trail.  "Capable" and "optimal" are two different things, and this wheelbase is "optimal" only with 37" or larger diameter tires.

 

When you use oversized tires, today essential for any vehicle attempting the Rubicon Trail, you need to widen the vehicle's track width to compensate for the lift required to install the oversized tires.  For that reason, the typical hardcore trail running vehicle now has wider axles and/or wheels to get the center-of-gravity back into shape and help prevent an instant rollover on side slopes and off-camber terrain. 

 

So, can I take the '05 3500 Ram Quad-Cab 4x4 at 140.5" wheelbase through the Rubicon?  It would possibly make it through in one piece and still have a life left if I went to 40"-44" tires, lifted the truck and widened the track width accordingly for C.G., and found a way around the tighter corners without ripping the body apart on the granite boulders.  This last point must be taken seriously, as the Rubicon Trail is not a road in many places, it is a pile of jagged granite rocks.  Tight and twisty areas are simply impossible for a long wheelbase vehicle to negotiate without sheet metal damage.  This is the reason for hundreds of pounds of "body armor" and rocker sill protection on trail vehicles equipped for the Rubicon Trail. 

 

A Jeep CJ, YJ, TJ or JK, the Land Cruiser FJ40, Scout and Scout II, Suzuki Samurai, Toyota mini-4x4 pickup and the Land Rover Discovery have each been considered "Rubicon material" with various degrees of modification.  Today, however, there are many purpose built rock buggies with ground clearance, suspension wheel travel, track width and wheelbase length specifically designed for trails like the Rubicon. When traveling these routes, the rock crawlers and buggies now dominate the landscape.  Even some semi-stock appearing vehicles are, underneath it all, actually in this rock buggy category.

 

RareCJ8 has a representative CJ8 Scrambler that frequents the Rubicon Trail and similar challenges.  This vehicle has massive 3/4-ton truck axles with a wide wheel track, a fresh 4.6L stroker inline six and major gear train and axle traction upgrades.  See the HD videos for details! 

 

Your Dakota, if in the neighborhood of 130" wheelbase, would need a lift to accommodate at least 37" tires and wide-track wheels in order to attempt this trail.  The IFS front drive system would likely get tossed in favor of a custom link-and-coil suspension with a beam axle or leaf springs and a beam axle replacement, minimum Dana 44.  The rear axle would wind up a wider Dana 44 or more likely a wide 60 with suitable springs and shocks all around.  RareCJ8's Jeep Scrambler provides some idea of the modifications needed. 

 

A lot of body armor and skid protection would be added.  The AX15 might be dropped for an NV4500 truck box, and the transfer case would change to an Atlas II from Advance Adapters.  With all the added weight and massive axles and tires, a 5.2L or 5.9L V-8 would make better sense, too.

 

I could go on and on, but the point is that the Rubicon Trail is not a road in many places, it's a mosaic of large granite rocks.  The bypasses make travel a bit easier for the lesser equipped vehicles.  Road conditions and obstacles can change abruptly.  Those who do the Rubicon Trail must have a very good reason to do so...For a glimpse of the trail and the variety of vehicles on that route, see my 2010, 2011 and 2012 Wheelers for the Wounded Rubicon Super Event coverage in HD videos.  All three years of trail footage get the point across...

 

Moses  



#3 biggman100

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:13 PM

Thank you for that, Moses. Now i have a better understanding of why people always talk about only doing this with certain vehicles. I have heard over the years why a vehicle would be better, but never a real explanation of why, just that, say a Jeep CJ5 or CJ7, or trail buggy would be better. After your explanation, i see where it would be more advantageous to just build a purpose built, shorter wheelbase vehicle, instead of modifying a mid-size or full size truck.





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