Following the installation of the roof-rack the next accessory to be installed was an ARB Deluxe Bar. As a very regular rural driver travelling often at night in remote areas frontal protection is a ‘must’. The amount of kangaroos on the road can be quite dangerous at times so a good bullbar was high on my list of accessories. With previous vehicles I have had an abundance of choice when it came to frontal protection and have had no problems finding good quality bars having high levels of protection and the ability to house a number of other accessories such as driving lights and winches. The Wrangler on the other hand, does not seem to be so well catered for from the main 4wd aftermarket companies here in Australia. The main problem for me was finding a bar that offered good protection in the event of animal strikes. There seems to be an abundance of bars available from the US market but these are mostly designed for the hard-core off-roading that you find in the USA, not the type of touring associated with a lot of local 4wding.
It seems, given the abundance of them, that bars that have no hoops or just a small centre hoop are most popular with Wranglers. While they may look good, and can support winches and a couple of driving lights, they don’t offer a lot of protection for quite large areas of the front of the vehicle (e.g. headlights, upper grille etc). The best that I could find was the ARB Deluxe Bar (pictured).
Overall, I am pretty happy with the bar. The hoop could have been a bit bigger so that I could fit some decent sized driving lights in it. The original fog-lights were retained, which is nice but I will be replacing them hopefully. There are four mounting points for accessories (lights, antennas etc) and place for a winch. There are also jack-points for using a high-lift jack. The quality of the bar is very good, which you would expect from a brand like ARB. Overall, this rates as a 4 out of 5 for me – a bit more extra protection from animal strikes would have seen a 5 out of 5.
Review: Rhino Racks Backbone system (3.5 out of 5)
Much as I would like to start off by putting better tyres, a lift, bullbar etc on the Jeep the first thing that I really need to get sorted out is a roof rack. With the Wrangler there’s a lot to consider. With the hard top, soft top and no top you really need to think about how you are going to use the vehicle. I carry surf/sup boards on average 2-3 times/week so a roof rack is essential. Trying to find a rack that works for both soft and hard tops is quite difficult. There are a few options around but none of them was practical for me. These are the exo-skeleton style racks which have support bars running up the outside of the vehicle to the roof. Taking the hard top off typically requires uncoupling the front and then lifting the bars back on rear hinges leaving the rack bars pointing quite high up into the air. I have a pulley setup in my garage which I intend to use to lift the hardtop off but the roof in the garage is too low to allow these exo-skeleton racks to be lifted back inside the garage.
The best option that I have found to-date and installed is the Rhino Rack backbone system. It has a decent carrying load supported by reinforcement bars mounted inside the jeep to the hard top (see pictures). The only problem is I don’t have a rack for the soft top and am still looking for one. The Rhino Rack system seems to have heaps of accessories for carrying a range of different types of cargo. So far I am pretty happy with it. Rate it at 3.5 stars (out of 5). Only loses points because it can’t work with the soft top. It does tend to whistle a bit at times as well.
Starting at the beginning – why did I buy a Jeep? Having owned a number of 4wds including a short-wheelbase Pajero, Mitsubishi Challenger, Nissan GU Patrol and Mitsubishi Triton, I have had experience with a variety of different shapes, sizes, engine and transmission types. It’s been a long time however since I have owned a petrol engined 4wd. The Triton was the last 4wd I owned and I really didn’t want to get rid of it – the auto diesel dual cab configuration worked perfectly for me however it really was time to trade it in. I started looking at the Toyota FJ Cruiser as it was in it’s final runout with Toyota and in keeping with my desire to try different types of vehicles, this was up there. The large fuel capacity, diff locks and other traction controls, along with a host of standard features (satnav, reverse camera etc), Toyota reliability and quality made for a very attractive offering however after test driving it I felt I had to have something to compare with and the Wrangler seemed to be about the only other really capable 4wd in this size. The difference in driving the two was like chalk and cheese and for me the Wrangler won hands down. I only had the opportunity to drive them onroad but something about the way the Wrangler handled just appealed to me. When I did the maths though (they were similarly priced) the Toyota provided a lot more bang for the buck with a host of extra features and 4wd/touring features. Despite that, I just preferred driving the Wrangler so that was what I went with and here it is:
Like many Jeeps this one (going by my past tendencies to make many modifications to my 4wd) is destined to undergo quite a few changes as I set it up to do the type of 4wding that I like to do. Here in Australia we are very limited in what we can do to 4wds and still keep them legal so it is not going to have huge tyres and a huge lift like you see on many American Jeeps but it will be modified to meet the demands of typical Australian 4wding. I will try and write up the changes as I go and do informal reviews of the changes that I make.