Well, with 2020 behind and the unknowns of 2021 upon us, one thing we can all get excited about would be building your own Ultimate Hunting Vehicle, right? We all have plenty of reasons to max out a hunting vehicle, but we don’t all have unlimited budgets.
Given our prior Ultimate Hunting Vehicle (UHV), some thought we went too far. Others thought we didn’t go far enough. Either way, it’s 2021 and a new UHV build is something you could actually have some control over.
Defining the “Ultimate Hunting Vehicle”
The Ultimate Hunting Vehicle, for our purposes, is capable enough to take you anywhere you’d imagine hunting and get you home again. It needs no trailer and additional vehicle to get you there and back.
For 2021, we’re starting with a blank slate. When we started building the prior UHV, we rationalized that starting with a used four-door Jeep Rubicon was the ideal move. With the price of entry there roughly half what a similarly equipped Rubicon would cost, this seemed like a no-brainer. With the money saved, we could really take a deep dive into mods that would make an already cool jeep into a vehicle worthy of the “Ultimate Hunting Vehicle” moniker.
All that was proved pretty accurate. But like with any project with unknowns, the surprises kept showing up and complicating things. For example, you might recall that we beefed up the front end a lot. A whole lot. In the process we found that the prior owner of our 2012 Rubicon UHV had made some changes that forced us to some creative thinking to deal with the track bar relocation bracket. Little things, those pesky unknowns you deal with on a previously owned, previously modified vehicle, kept popping up.
We discovered that the fantastically capable UHV had been recalled for head issues associated with the first year Jeep put the 3.6 liter engine in the Wrangler. Something there just never seemed right, and the parade of people who chased the issues was long.
In the end, the Ultimate Hunting Vehicle, while capable enough to get us anywhere and back, seemed to suffer from a crippling cancer. Capable is one thing, reliable another. So the hunt for a brand new JLU Rubicon commenced.
But why not a truck as the UHV?
Truck vs. Jeep
I readily admit that I like what some might call “the Jeep life”. I like the idea that you can remove the top and doors for a one of a kind adventure experience. The new Ford Bronco might give jeeps a run for their money, but the launch remains delayed and I have resolved to never buy another first year model vehicle.
What about trucks? Would they make superior “Ultimate Hunting Vehicle” platforms? It depends.
Trucks are often a lot bigger, harder to get in and out of tight spots in the high country. “Great,” you say, “But I don’t live anywhere near the mountains.” That’s fair, but if you’re a flatland hog hunter you’ll find that with the doors off a four-door Wrangler, you’ll slip more quietly into those pig filled fields. Now, a properly lifted and equipped Gladiator pickup would certainly be a contender here, but the internal storage and associated security of the Wrangler proved persuasive to me. Oh, and the Gladiator would be a first year model, so I have to pass anyway.
Picking the Engine
The JL jeeps and the I4 turbocharged engine have been out and (hopefully) perfected for several years now. Note that I live at 7000 feet now, and what seemed like reasonable power in Texas on my 2012 Rubicon didn’t seem so acceptable at elevation. I’d already owned the normally aspirated (not turbo) 3.6-liter engine, and didn’t want to go that route again. Turbocharged engines maintain their power at elevation. Factor all that together and selecting the four cylinder I4 turbocharged engine made perfect sense to me.
What about diesel? While I love the idea, the $4500 premium for that engine proved a bridge too far for me. The benefits of the money spent just didn’t balance out. Oh, and it would be a first model year engine. Pass.
Standard vs. Auto Transmission
Some purists will argue the need for a standard transmission. I, too, love the fun of driving those. But today, I’d speculate that fewer and fewer people know how to drive them, much less in the back country where we’d hunt. Going with a standard transmission would limit us when it comes to back up drivers. That alone dictates going with the automatic transmission.
With a brand new 2021 Rubicon Wrangler as our blank canvass, we’ll show you some inexpensive upgrades you’ll want to add. Then we’ll look at hardening your UHV for the places you’ll take it. The debate about tire size and lift still rages, we’ll jump into that. And whether your UHV plans include a Jeep, a truck or even a buggy or UTV, you’ll find ideas in Part 2 that you’ll want to implement.
One last thing, we’re doing a video series on this [Reloaded] 2021 UHV build. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for that.