The first step in working to live, is having an escape plan. For a lot of us, four-wheel driving is a way of escaping the daily grind. Get away from the rat race for maybe a weekend or a month, get refreshed and then head back to reality. Yet for Nat and Trent, it’s a way of life. Not a ‘weekend’ goes by where they’re not out exploring, or spending time up at the local getaway. Believe it or not, they started out the adventures in a Suzuki Jimny. Space was at a premium, so they’ve learnt how to pack light and tight.
When the time came, they decided they wanted a bigger four-wheel drive to fit just that much more gear in, and they eventually ended up with this JK Wrangler (after a short stint with a white JK in the petrol variety) in all its glory, and they’ve thrown the works at it.
The 2.8L oil-burner JK began it’s life back in 2012, with Nat and Trent picking it up not long after in 2016. It had 118,000km on the clock and was hairdresser spec – not a thing done to it. Now this isn’t their first JK. After the infamous Jimny was traded in, they had a petrol-powered white one that got a fair bit of fruit thrown at it (not to mention a blower). The hassle was, once they started touring and loaded her up, the fuel figures went north of 20L/100km. While they assure us it was a hell of a lot of fun to drive, it just wasn’t practical.
So, when the diesel four-door came up, it was love at first sight! Suffice to say, all the gear came off the white one (minus the blower), and ended up on the new four-door, plus more than a few extras on top. Even nudging the GVM on the new JK, they’ve just managed an easy 14L/100km on a 9,000km trip from Rockhampton out to Cameron Corner, down through Alice and Uluru, and back to Rocky.
The Driveline and Powertrain
Knowing exactly how they wanted the Jeep to handle and drive, Trent and Nat already had a lot of parts laid out from their original white, petrol-powered JK. The suspension consists of a set of custom Dobinson springs paired with Falcon 3.3 remote res fully adjustable shocks keeping the ride smooth, yet flexible enough to keep all four on the ground at all times. There’s a set of JKS sway bar links, and Teraflex have supplied the extended bump stops, Panhard rods, HD steering knuckles (it’s a Jeep thing), and a rear Panhard rod relocation bracket keeping it tracking true. From there, it’s got a Fox steering stabiliser, Helwig heavy duty rear sway bar, and Teraflex lower control arms. Attached to all this Jeep trickery is a set of 17-inch AEV Pintlers, wrapped in Nitto Trail Grapplers in the 295/70R17 variety. Under the bonnet is pretty straight forward, with the JK getting a K&N air filter, 3-inch staino exhaust with a tune to suit, and a Long Ranger fuel tank.
Looking after the front-end is an ARB bullbar, which houses a set of 9-inch spotties, 12,000lb winch, UHF aerials on comms duty and a Spartan Grille – Angry Jeep is angry, especially with the Ignite headlight upgrade! The bonnet is direct from the US – being a Smittybilt Stingray bonnet.
There’s also a set of modified TJM sliders/steps looking after the sills, and an ARB rear bar holding the ass-end together. On the rear door hinge is a custom-made Maxtrax bracket, with a custom-made bag to hold sand mats and the shower head. Up top they’ve got a Front Runner roof rack, which holds the BackTrax roof top tent, shovel holders, and 30 Second 270-degree awning. Being a Jeep, they’ve also managed to McGuyver a spot for the camp table up there.
With a JK, there’s not a massive amount of room to start with, unless you work out a way to utilise every square inch that you can. Nat and Trent have managed to do just that with gear stuck everywhere, but all with its own spot. Under the seats you’ve got the air compressor hardwired to a switch on the A-pillar, wild boar ‘Jesus-bars’, Seicane 10-inch Android head unit, powering out to a set of Rockford Fosgate speakers. A pair of Exide 120Ah batteries in Springtail mounts look after all the accessories, including an 11L Waeco on the back seat and are connected to a CTEK D250s DC-DC charger, with the 250W solar panel up on the roof. A Rugged Ridge pillar mount houses all the switches, and they also made the roof console you’ll see in here. Comms are looked after by a GME TX3510 compact UHF, and they’ve got a 40L water tank in the footwell.
Out the back they’ve got a Front Runner drop-down table off the door, a Dunn and Watson tilt fridge slide, as well as a set of Outback Drawers out of a 76 Series wagon that have been cut down to fit the Wrangler. They’ve also got a 40L Engel keeping the beers cool, and a 1500W inverter to run the Nespresso coffee machine … yep, really. Something that really blew Nat and Trent away was that a lot of these parts they’ve ordered from SBR Offroad, who are based in Perth, get sent overnight to the other side of the country … now that’s service!
Living up in Rocky and having a rather mental tourer, Nat and Trent spend the majority of their lives (when they’re not at work) out at Byfield National Park. As we said earlier, they live and breathe the 4X4 life, so when they’ve only got a couple of days off, it’s Byfield. When they can scrape together a week, they pack up and head off into the great unknown. We’re reasonably sure there’s a map of Australia on a bit of chipboard that gets darts thrown at it for trip planning!
If you want to keep track of the places they go, and the mischief they get up to, you can keep tabs on them via their Facebook page – T & N Escapes – here. Their last trip, which you can catch on their Facebook page, had them from Rocky, out to Birdsville, to Lake Eyre, following the Old Ghan railway right up through the Finke (with a stop by the raceway of course), ending up in Alice Springs. From there it was out to Mt Dare and across the French and QAA lines back out to Birdsville and then back home. Chances are, just watching through some of the places they take the Escape Wrangler will have you itching to get away yourself.
Oh, and if ever you needed any real proof that Nat and Trent live and breathe four-wheel driving, have a gander at the matching wedding rings!
All in all, the Escape Wrangler is a neat bit of kit, and rarely spends a weekend at home. Whenever you can, get away, and always have an escape plan!