SOMETIMES BIGGER IS BETTER

Like a mad scientist, we’ve been locked away in the garage for months. Soon we’ll roll open the doors and reveal what we’ve been working on, but for now… here’s a sneak peek.

35” x 12.50” Nitto Trail Grappler MT mounted on a SRT 20” x 10” Spider Monkey.

PHOTOS  Daniel Snare Photography   |   WORDS  Bill Mackin

7 MONTH HIATUS

We were off-the-reservation for nearly 7 months! What could derail the HELLHAWK for that long? Well it wasn’t anything off-road and it certainly wasn’t something we planned. I’m sad to report that one of the suppliers we worked with caused a lot of damage to the vehicle. Our insurance company estimated the damage at more than $43,000! After a lot of back-and-forth they refused to take any responsibility. We were gobsmacked. It left us and the project in a very difficult position. The good news is we’ve got plans to make things more wild than we originally envisioned.

KICKING UP DUST & DIRT

Through a haze of dust and dirt we caught a glimmer of where we’re headed. Straight ahead (faster than feels right) and then deep down into the corner… the whole car sliding… sideways… a cloud of dust against the sun… then back on the power… dirt flying; the grumble of the 500hp Hemi as we accelerate. Then we watched as a cloud of dust enveloped our photographer, Daniel Snare. “Run it again”, we’d hear across the UHF. The occupants in the car grinning from ear-to-ear at the thought.

Our naturally-aspirated, dust-filled shenanigans quickly reminded me of a quote from Hunter S. Thompson.


“Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing.”


LESSONS FROM THE TRAIL
We were surprised at how well the lifted SRT suspension handled the trails. Surprisingly, the stiffer springs seemed to help us on the trails. Granted we weren’t doing any rock crawling. But we often found ourselves flying over trails we would’ve slowed down for in the Overland, (now demoted to the odd-role of chase car for the weekend).

The grumble of the 6.4L has been accentuated by a cold air intake and I found myself constantly inspired to push on the skinny pedal. Windows down, radio off quickly became the configuration of choice. Deep muddy ruts became an event and instantly brought a grin. Mash the throttle, spin all 4 tyres and see how much mud you can throw on the Jeep behind you. With the grunt of the 6.4L always on-tap, we never felt the need for 4-Low. Some have asked if we plan to upgrade the transfer case. This is only our first trip off-road, but so far it doesn’t seem like something we’re missing. Out on the trails, the extra wide 12.50” tyres gave us heaps of traction, but when combined with the large 1.75” offset, we found we were a bit wide for some of the tighter trails.

We installed a new Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform up top before the trip and again we broke one of the bolts in the roof. It forced us to run without the spare tyre and jerry can on the roof for the entire trip. We’ll need to look at a fix when we get back to the garage. It seems the Rhino Rack mounting feet just aren’t up to the task. We had the same problem with the Overland. I can’t say for sure, but it sounds like something that might turn into a product.

Don’t change the channel; we’re only getting started and we’ve got heaps more to share. Next up, the crew at Seven Slot Off-Road remove the drivers seat (and a lot more) to run wiring and switches for the (11) off-road lights from Hard Korr Lighting. Then we run-off to the Glass House Mountains for our next off-road adventure.

PHOTOS  Daniel Snare Photography   |   WORDS  Bill Mackin

BUILD STAGE 2 - GETTING GEARED UP

We rolled in to Seven Slot Offroad’s new digs looking to install a pile of off-road gear. We pulled a few standard items from the Mopar catalog, but mostly had fun raiding the Chief Products Garage. With all of the new gear laid out in front of the SRT, it was clear were were going to have a busy day spinning wrenches.

Luckily, most of the front panels had already been removed so we could start measuring and designing the custom front bumper. We jumped straight in and once the mounting stacks were installed, the products started falling into place. The power steering cooler is a bit larger on the SRT than it is on other WK2 models, which created some fitment issues for the WK2 Hidden Winch Mount. We found a solution so we could finish the install, but we'll probably fabricate a custom bracket to make sure everything fits perfectly. The Warn Zeon 10S Platinum winch looks the business and we feel bad for covering it up. At least we get to run around with it showing for a few weeks while we build the front bumper. The last item to install was the new WK2 Rock Rails. I can’t stress how much easier they are to install over some of the others in the marketplace. Our engineering team did a great job and they definitely look the part.

As you can see in the video, install time for all of this gear was about 2 minutes. :)

There’s still a fair bit to do, but it felt good watching her come down off the hoist with all the new off-road gear. She’s definitely starting to look like the off-road machine we envisioned. Next up, we start building the custom fender flares and custom front & rear bumpers.

PHOTOS  Daniel Snare Photography   |   WORDS  Bill Mackin

BUILD STAGE 1 - ROLLING ON 33" RUBBER

We pulled in looking stock and rolled out 2.5” taller sitting on 33” MT rubber. There was a fair bit of measuring and planning that went into lifting the SRT and fitting the larger tyres. As always Todd and the crew at Seven Slot Offroad delivered just what we needed.

Todd Avers @ Seven Slot Offroad
“When we first discussed lifting the ride height of the SRT to accommodate the 33inch tyres, we thought about removing the standard SRT springs and shocks and replacing them with longer units. When we unplugged the electro magnetic cables for the tuned suspension, we immediately received ‘body module error codes’ which could not be turned off. This meant we’d need to achieve the lifted ride height with a spacer lift.

We looked at several spacers kits on the market and decided to do something custom. The kit we developed installed easily and allowed us to fit the new larger 33inch tyres while allowing the tuned suspension to work as per factory. Even with the lift, we needed a bit of extra room in the wheel wells for the larger tyres. We modified the lower pinch weld on the wheel well and inspected for rubbing. Only a small amount on the front suspension upright, which was easily fixed when we installed the 1.75” wheel spacers. The new wheel spacing caused rubbing on the stock SRT flares, but the new fender flares should open up the wheel wells and eliminate the rubbing.”

We’ve worked with Todd and his crew a lot over the last 3-4 years. His decades of experience with Jeeps is always helpful when we’re test fitting prototypes or planning some wild project. He’s pretty good with a bottle opener and a campfire as well!

Next, we’re literally installing a pile of off-road gear. Don’t miss it, Build Stage 2 coming next week…

PHOTOS  Daniel Snare Photography   |   WORDS  Bill Mackin

BORN IN DETROIT... RE-BORN IN CHIEF PRODUCTS GARAGE

Born in Detroit as a Black 2015 Jeep SRT, we started to wonder what if it was re-born in the Chief Products Garage as a 500hp off-road machine, (Grand Cherokee SRT for a father and a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk for a mother). It couldn't be a mall-crawler trailer-queen — it needed to be fueled by whisky, dirt in its blood, able to turn heads, outrun the devil and seduce super models... at that moment the HELLHAWK Project roared into existence.

We’re lifting it 2.5”. We’re installing 33” mud tyres. We’re installing all the off-road gear we can find in the Chief Products Garage, (WK2 Sump Protection Plate, WK2 Transmission Protection Plate, WK2 Nudge Bar, WK2 Lower Front Guard, WK2 Rear Bumper Guard, WK2 Hidden Winch Mount, Hawse Winch Fairlead, Fairlead Surround, WK2 Recovery Points & WK2 Rock Rails). We’re disconnecting the sway bars. We’re throwing a winch on the front and Roof Rack & Off-Road Lights up top. We’re building custom front and rear bumpers, with better approach and departure angles and extended flares for the larger rubber. Then we remembered it was fast, really fast... so we decided we should add some racing stripes.

PHOTOS  Daniel Snare Photography   |   WORDS  Bill Mackin