After a long, painful search through the haystack, we’ve found our needle. The used JKU market is stocked with end-of-life rental vehicles wholesaled to the highest bidder, run through a spray wash then stickered at Book Value and plopped on a retail lot hoping the starry-eyed clientele won’t look underneath.

Finally, hope surfaced – we found this one just 10 miles down the freeway from the shop. Given the above, we ran the VIN and found that it was purchased in Southern California, maintained at the dealership and traded in on a Mazda – the Mazda dealership certified it, polished it and threw it into the corner spot on their retail lot with the most visibility. Once we saw it in person, we knew it was the JKU for us. The original steering linkage and suspension were all in great shape and tires need replacement but wear on them was perfect showing no signs of front-end problems. The interior was too clean and engine compartment and undercarriage looked as if they’d never seen a spec of dirt.

The Jeep is a 2016 JKU Sahara. Why not a Rubicon? What we’re planning to do (in time) would be a Rubicon Delete – we could’ve started with a Sport but this is the JKU that presented itself and we sealed the deal. For those unfamiliar, the Sahara is a dressed up Sport. It’s running gear is identical to the Sport with nicer seats, painted fenders and upgraded wheels. All but the seats will end up being replaced but, after a couple weeks of commuting 100 miles per day, the seats are an awesome upgrade and the painted fenders will do us just fine until we jump to 37s.

We bought the Jeep to live the lifestyle. When the systems were developed and shocks tuned, we ran CJC Offroad’s Jeep hard enough to buy them a new front axle but never owned one we daily drove to understand the ins and out of the platform or quirks inherent to the model as we have always done with Ram and Ford. The JKU Is end of life and many are on to the JLU (as are we, currently own a 2019 Rubi on which we’re developing our systems) but we still want to gain an intimate understanding of all things JKU.

First thing’s first, as painful as it is, I am going to drive it stock for 1 month. I commute 100 miles per day, that’s a solid 2,000 mile of workday commute on Southern California highways plus all the extra-curriculars as I’ve hung up the keys to the Ram for the first part of the process. I will likely put 3,000 miles on and off-road on this Jeep in stock form, then comes the Commuter System, Backcountry and Pathfinder Systems and whatever craziness follows – axles, fenders, bumpers, rockers, coilovers/bypasses, long arms… nothing is out of the question now that we’re laser focused on the platform.