IN THE PAST few years the 4WD community has experienced a barrage of new options when it comes to vehicle-based abodes. For many, the concept of slipping out of the driver’s seat and into a living room is very appealing.
Merge this theory with a compact and reliable platform that will go just about anywhere and you’ll have a vehicle that is ready for a jaunt across the Rubicon or around the globe in comfort. American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), running ahead of the curve as it usually does, developed the original Outpost back in 2006.
With another decade of experience building OE-quality conversions under its belt, founder Dave Harriton took it upon himself to create the next generation of the ultimate overland Jeep. Enter the Outpost II.
DRIVETRAIN, SUSPENSION AND ARMOUR
AS ONE of the first companies to offer factory-fit V8 conversions for the Wrangler, powerplant choice was a given.
Custom 4x4: Jeep JK Hemi V8
Popping the bonnet reveals a 5.7-litre HEMI that produces 375hp (280kW) and 390lb-ft (528Nm). Everything from the radiator and wiring loom to fuel lines and battery tray are AEV components.
Assisting with aspiration is AEV’s custom air box, snorkel and pre-filter, and upon close inspection one would lose a bet that the entire ensemble did not roll out of Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio, facility as-is. Aft of the torque converter we find an A580 five-speed automatic transmission, tuned and with shift points modified to accommodate the HEMI’s power curve.
Receiving those ponies out back is Dynatrac’s new high-clearance low-pinion Dana 60 fitted with 4.88:1 gears, an Eaton locking differential and a big brake kit. Up the front rides a Dana 44, also by Dynatrac, with an electric locking differential from a Wrangler Rubicon.
Keeping the axles in place is AEV’s 4.5-inch DualSport suspension. To manage the additional unsprung weight, as well as that of the abode and accessories, Dave incorporated AEV’s high-capacity coil springs, prototype Bilstein 8100 shocks, and a custom .875-inch sway bar. The combination provides near-factory on-road handling, excellent off-road control and articulation in cross-axle terrain like no caravan we’ve seen.
Keeping the rig in contact with the tractive surface is a set of 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM3s and AEV’s 17-inch Borah 356-T6 aluminium wheels with forged beadlock rings. The Borah is a unique concept, as it can be utilised as a true beadlock and can accommodate a traditional non-beadlock mounting.
No trail rig would be complete without proper armour and recovery equipment. Up front is an AEV Premium front bumper fitted with IPF auxiliary lights and a Warn Zeon 10.0 winch wrapped with synthetic rope.
Protecting soft body parts are a pair of full-length Rubicon rock sliders. To protect the tail end of the camper, Dave fabricated a wraparound rear bumper replete with a pair of crank-down stabiliser jacks and weld tabs for an array of Rigid Dually LED lights.
A frame extension from AEV’s Brute Double-Cab was incorporated to support the camper and provide proper attachment points for the rear bumper. This allows for the spare to be mounted under the rear deck, while overall length was increased by 279.4mm over that of a stock four-door Wrangler. A set of MaxTrax secured to the back of the camper and an ARB recovery kit are close at hand if needed.
THERE is a lot to consider when creating a comfortable and functional living space: efficient use of real estate, keeping increased mass to a minimum, and constructing it to withstand the rigours of legitimate off-road travel.
To address the latter, the “house” began with a steel birdcage frame formed from 14- and 16-gauge square tubing, which was tied into the rollbar and floor (to add torsional rigidity) and powdercoated. It was then fitted with CNC-milled polypropylene honeycomb panels and skinned with fibreglass. The result was a rigid box with an R9 insulation rating.
The top opens in clamshell fashion with a pair of electric jacks, revealing a breathable enclosure that provides nearly eight feet (243cm) of headroom. Walking around the Outpost II revealed several storage compartments, a fill cap for the 83-litre water tank, 120-volt shorepower receptacle, an AEV awning, and motion-sensing exterior lights.
Because living on the road is about being one with nature, the pantry, National Luna fridge/freezer and Partner Steel stove are accessible via two additional portals under the awning. While the fridge and pantry are also accessible from the inside, exterior access is handy for stocking provisions after shopping.
Stepping inside is reminiscent of entering a luxury yacht. A laminated hardwood counter rests to starboard, and much of the hardware and accessories are adaptations from the marine industry.
To port is a two-metre couch that converts to a bed, with additional storage and household systems underneath. Keeping occupants warm is an Espar B5 13,500 BTU petrol heater, and the 15-litre hot-water tank is heated and controlled via a marine heat exchanger and thermostatic mixing valve (shorepower can be used as a backup if needed).
To safely vacate spent gases from the heater, the manifold was creatively tied into the vehicle’s exhaust system at the tailpipe. Keeping the system energised is a roof-mounted eNow 265-Watt solar panel, dual Optima Blue Top deep-cycle batteries and a National Luna charge controller.
Other clever touches include a proper closet for hanging clothes, LED interior lighting throughout, ARB twin compressor, custom roof rack, and camper hinges thoughtfully designed to match those of the JK’s hood.
AEV has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a one-room, dirt-floor shop in Missoula, Montana. This success is largely due to its extraordinary attention to detail in every product it produces. This ethos is evident in the Outpost II.
Built not bought on Custom 4x4 reviews
When asked what he would do differently and if the Outpost II will be available as a public offering, founder Dave Harriton said: “I built it for two people and a dog to travel comfortably. As far as manufacturing the Outpost II for retail sale, I’m not sure. We aren’t quite done with it, but I will keep you posted."
From the owner
“I REALLY love the sideways-lifting roof. The space it creates feels like much more than a typical RV or lifting roof. It’s very relaxing and at the same time very functional. If you park with the solar panel facing west, its output is optimised and the insulated walls are taking the heat, leaving the windows and tent in the shade most of the day. I also love the gasoline heater and couch. It’s nice to have a place to escape when the weather turns foul; most small RVs don’t have the space or seating area required to wait out a storm in comfort.”