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PROJECT GOBI – This JK Is Worthy of a Second Look PROJECT GOBI – This JK Is Worthy of a Second Look
Lifted JK Wranglers with big tires are everywhere. So much so, they seldom invite a glance from jeepers anymore. This Gobi tan-colored 2017 Wrangler... PROJECT GOBI – This JK Is Worthy of a Second Look

Lifted JK Wranglers with big tires are everywhere. So much so, they seldom invite a glance from jeepers anymore. This Gobi tan-colored 2017 Wrangler isn’t one of them. It deserves not only a second look; it’s earned a close inspection.

Built to be a competent backcountry explorer as well as a daily driver running (only) 35” tires, Project Gobi’s not a budget build. It addresses the JK’s weaknesses using some of the best parts available today.

Check out the photos to see why Project Gobi is close inspection-worthy . . .



– Vehicle: 2017 Jeep Wrangler Sport S

– Engine: Jeep 3.6 VVT V6

– Induction: MPFI

– Transmission: WA580 5-speed automatic

– Transfer case low range ratio: 2.72:1

– Front end: Carbon/Currie JK Dana 44, Carbon axles shafts, Synergy ball joints

– Rear end: Jeep Dana 44, Carbon axle shafts

– Ring and Pinion: 4.56 Carbon Black gears

– Front Differential: Eaton 4-pinion ELocker

– Rear Differential: Eaton 4-pinion ELocker

– Suspension: Teraflex 2.5” coils, Falcon 3.3 shock absorbers, RockJock Johnny Joint adjustable control arms

– Tires: 35×12.50R17/E KM3 Mud-Terrain T/A

– Wheels/Backspacing: 17×8.5” Stealth Custom Series (SCS) K5 wheels with OMF Performance beadlocks/ 4.3”; 17×9″ Rugged Ridge Jesse Spade wheels/ 4.5”


Jeremy Thompson, owner of Eminence Off Road in Washington, Utah, went right to work installing Project Gobi’s suspension and steering components. Jeremy knows how to make 4x4s work with very few “bugs” to fix after the job’s done.


Teraflex 2.5” linear coil springs, 2.5” progressive bump stop kit, and Falcon Series 3.3 Fast Adjust Piggyback Shock Absorbers were chosen because of their quality and the way they work. The Falcon shocks feature a three-position Fast Adjust Knob to change the damping settings, while the middle setting has an eight-position micro adjust dial for more precise tuning between soft and firm. RockJock by John Currie Antirock sway bars feature forged Chromoly sway bar arms and billet aluminum frame brackets. We chose four-door JK Unlimited Antirock arms for more stability on-road.


RockJock aluminum lower control arms are constructed of CNC machined billet 6061-T6. 4130 Chromoly skid plates bolt-on so they may be replaced in the future if they’re damaged. Arms are double adjustable via right hand/left hand 1 1/4″ thread Johnny Joint® rod ends and grade 8 pinch bolts at each end. The RockJock Johnny Joint upper control arms are aluminum and double adjustable, too. All control arms can be adjusted on the Jeep.


Even when the JK’s ABS, ESC, and traction control are defeated with the OE switch, they never are completely shut down. This can cause problems when you’re in the backcountry at the bottom of a sand dune you have to climb to get home. Jeremy installed this switch that completely defeats all electronic nannies. Once the switch is turned off and the ignition key cycled, all is returned to OEM functions.


Odyssey Extreme Series batteries employ dry cell Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) technology to contain acid, allowing the battery to be installed even on its side. Even at very low temperatures, ODYSSEY Extreme Series batteries have the power to provide engine-cranking pulses in excess of 2250 amps for 5 seconds – double to triple that of equally sized conventional batteries. They can handle 400 charge-discharge cycles to 80% depth of discharge, making them outstanding batteries on vehicles with winches installed.


The ARB twin air compressor on a Metalcloak mounting bracket and sPOD Source power distribution box nestle perfectly under Project Gobi’s hood. The sPOD makes installing electrical accessories such as lights, compressors, radios, etc., easy and clean.


sPOD’s LED switch panel in the Jeep looks and works great.


A long day exploring is made easier with a comfortable interior. These Mopar hardtop insulation panels not only help control interior temperature extremes, they also quiet it down a bit.


Rugged Ridge accessories also upgrade the Wrangler’s interior. These slush mats front and rear work well at keeping backcountry mud, rocks, and dirt at bay. Rugged Ridge also supplied a center console cover and a cell phone mount.


While Project Gobi is usually wearing beadlock wheels, they’re difficult to mount/dismount quickly when doing tire testing. We use Rugged Ridge’s 17×9” Jesse Spade wheels that have 4.5” of backspacing and are hub centric for tire testing duty.


2012 and later JK Wranglers have a brake vacuum pump mounted on the frame that needs to be relocated for most bumper installations. If it’s mounted under the hood, the pump can be heard cycling in the cab. EVO MFG’s JK vacuum pump relocation bracket moves the pump back on the frame. No plumbing or wiring changes are needed.


Expedition One’s Core Series bumper doesn’t overpower the front of the Jeep, yet still has room for large winches and fog lights. Project Gobi sports a powerful and reliable Warn ZEON 10-S winch, Epic winch hook, Epic hawse fairlead, and Baja Designs Squadron Sport fog pocket LED lights. Baja Designs Squadron Pro off-road LED lights provide additional nighttime illumination (with 4,900 lumens each). Both Squadron Pro and Squadron Sport lights have available interchangeable lenses for driving, wide cornering, spot, work light, or combo beam configuration. Jeep/Mopar LED headlights are a big improvement over stock. Daystar Hood Wranglers keep the hood from bouncing up and down on the interstate.


Rocker guards from Expedition One provide rock protection and a step.


A Teraflex JK Alpha HD Hinged Spare Tire Carrier and Alpha HD Adjustable Spare Tire Mounting Kit reinforce the JK tailgate hinge and carry the 35” spare with no rattles or issues. Teraflex’s accessory bracket allows a 2-gallon Rotopax container to be cleanly carried.


Brian Hartman and Austin Stobaugh at Carbon Off-Road assemble Project Gobi’s Carbon Currie Dana 44 front end. They do more than bolt in parts and set up the gears. The housings sometimes need the oil passages to be cleaned up, as this one did. Brian quickly ground some casting residue away ensuring smooth oil flow. The gears set up perfectly.


JK Wrangler’s front housings are weak and have been since inception. The best fix is to replace them with aftermarket housings. Carbon Off-Road’s JK Dana 44 is much stronger than stock. Project Gobi’s has Carbon Black 4.56 gears, Eaton 4-pinion ELocker, Carbon axle shafts, Synergy ball joints, and a Carbon high-strength Ductile Iron diff cover. The heavy-duty RockJock Currectlync 1.5″ tie rod and 1.3″ drag link feature forged tie rod ends, premium jam nuts, and adjuster – much stronger than OEM.



Carbon Off Road rebuilt the JK Dana 44 rear end with Carbon Black 4.56 gears, Eaton 4-pinion ELocker, and a Carbon Chromoly axle shaft kit. The rear RockJock Johnny Joint adjustable track bar also works on stock and lifted Jeeps. A rear RockJock Antirock swaybar isn’t seen here. The Falcon shocks can be dragged over rocks with no harm, but we added Teraflex aluminum skid plates for added protection.


A set of five 35×12.50R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 tires are mounted on Stealth Custom Series (SCS) K5 wheels with OMF Performance beadlocks, balanced by Hurricane Tire Pros. While SCS is well known in the Toyota and SxS markets for their quality wheels, the great-looking K5 is their first for Jeeps. They feature a 5×5″ bolt pattern, are hub-centric, and have 4.3″ backspacing. SCS’ quality is noticeable. OMF Performance offers a number of real beadlock ring styles. I chose their Super Lite Drain Flush Mount rings so water won’t collect behind them and the flush-mounted bolt heads are protected.


While at first glance Project Gobi is just another JK Wrangler on 35” tires, it’s balanced, sits well, and works off-road and on. It’s certainly worth a close inspection.




Phil Howell Contributing Editor

As past Editor-n-Chief of 4Wheel Drive & Sport Utility and Off-Road Magazines, and co-host of the Outdoor Channel's Four Wheeler TV, Phil's been participating and bringing four-wheeling action to the world for over half a century.

  • Del Albright

    March 20, 2020 #1 Author

    Wow, Phil. What a project! And a beautiful Jeep.


  • Bruce Barnard

    March 21, 2020 #2 Author

    Awesome build! What was the project cost?


    • Phil

      March 21, 2020 #3 Author

      This wasn’t a budget build. The parts alone exceeded 25 grand. It was worth it, though, as the total project, including the Wrangler itself, wasn’t as much as a new JL Rubicon.


    • Jp

      March 22, 2020 #4 Author

      This is a great build! What front bumper is that?


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