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  AIL Storm 3 Type R - world exclusive road test

Three years have passed since Jeep J8  (Storm 3  in IDF parlance) squeezed our old Jeepers hearts, and made us dubb it  "best ever" Jeep. And now they've gone and made it better, the old school way - take useless stuff off, give it big tires. IDF special forces teams ("Sayeret") may soon be driving Storm 3 Type R. so would we, poor civilians, if we could only buy one!

July 2012 / Story & photo: N. Meller, Jeepolog.com / contact Jeepolog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  words "Sufa 3 Siyur" - "Storm 3 Recon" - are laser cut into the front bumper of the first and only prototype of the Storm 3 Type R special forces variant of the Jeep J8 produced by AIL of Nazareth in Israel. The prototype has been driving around the country the last few months, mostly being tested by various IDF units. It's schedule is busy, so when we got a phone call saying that it is available for the weekend, in good condition and free from the military's clutches, we jumped at the opportunity.

Timing was ill - weather at this time of year in Israel is extremely hot, and the weekend was unbairingly so with temperatures of 105 F being the daily norm in most of the country. And this kind of vehicle can only be taken where it is even hotter - the depth of the Negev desrt. Finding partners for the weekend was not easy (most of us in Israel basicaly forget wheeling from July through September) but I knew exactly who to invite. A couple of old friends, let's call them "The Colonel" and "the driver". I promised the Colonel, commander of a sayeret in the past, a trip down memory to his days his days as a young lieutenant in the lead M151 MUTT. And "the driver" (Senior seargant, IDF reserve) would be able to compare the J8 to his standard ride, a hummer. Both of these old soldiers didn't require much persuasion, and reported to duty with their sleeping bags at oh-five-hundred hours, Friday morning, heading south.

What the heck, Storm 3?

A quick recap - "Storm 3" is the local name for Jeep's J8 military package, based on the Wrangler JK platform. Jeepolog.com was the first to test the standard, or "command" version in 2009. it has since been produced in quantity and is currently serving the IDF as the all-purpose... well... Jeep... alongside it's predeccessor, Storm 2, and as the IDF does not realy ever retire anything that has some go left in it (including Men!) alongside original Storm M-240's as well. Not to mention the never-die M151's. 

Jeepolog.com 2009 world first road test of Jeep J8 AKA Storm 3

Jeepolog.com 2007 exclusive road test of 4 door TJL AKA Storm 2

Lets get things straight - Jeep J8 is the toughest, best Jeep ever. It got even better when the VM Motori 2.8L diesel got upgraded to 194 bhp. And with the Type R, the engineers at Nazareth, with the help of local 4X4 guru Ido Cohen, went the old school way of building a four wheeler. They took the doors off, eliminated the windscreen, pulled out the sound and air-con (the controls are there, empty shells), threw on some big tires, and welded on a cage and tube fenders.

The result is wind-in-your-face spectacular, If you ask me. I'd take a fold-down windscreen for the unavoidable highway drive south, as driving with goggles and earplugs at 70 miles per hour is not fun, even in the early morning hours. But when you leave the asphalt, no-glass is best, and not only for the military types. It just feels right, CJ kind of right.

The Colonel loves it - reminds him of his youth. He just points his finger at the next landmark - pehrhaps a slight trace of a path up a hill, miles away in the distance - and the driver can take him there. With 35 inch tires added to the allready capable J8, getting anywhere is point-and-shoot simple. We sit low down, almost touching the earth, literaly feeling the trails through the seat of hour pants.

Hummer or Storm? Being egotistic, the driver says, I definately like this Jeep better. It is faster, nimbler, more manouvarable than a Humvee. The cockpit and seat specificaly are way more comfortable - modern, Wrangler stuff. it handles great on and off-road. The Colonel likes the right hand seat as well, for much the same reasons. They both add that egressing from the Type R in combat would be easier than from a Hummer, given that the metal doors would be removed, of course. They feel it is also quieter than what they are used too, which is important. And it can go absolutely anywhere the Hummer can.

The downside is load capacity, which is not in the same league as an AM General HMMWV, not in terms of volume nor weight, limiting the Storms versatility for missions requiring carrying more troops or specialized weapons and systems. The Colonel and the driver conclude that J8 Type R would be useful for specialized missions in the field of border patrol, pursuit, and deep strike, if not in the general role of all around "Sayeret" workhorse.

Than we changed the conversation. Forget your reserve duties. What do you think of this as a recreational vehicle? For this role, we all agree, it is bad-ass.  For one, the Diesel powertrain is superb, way better than the pre-Pentaster 3.8 V6 of the JK. And I think I even prefer it to the Pentastar. It feels more in character in what is essentialy a CJ, a universal Jeep, reminiscent of the low revving straight six engines which made Jeep what is is.

The second reason, is that the suspension is stock. This Jeep is not liftet, not one inch! It's not Wrangler stock, it has heavy duty leafs under the rear Dana 60 axle and HD springs up front as well. But with stock stabilizer and Bilstein shocks, it handles great on road and on fast trails. Steering is tight and safe, body roll is minimal.  It would make a nice pre-runner with comfort and compliance coming from the large (35/12.5R17) tires mostly. Suspension articulation is not spectacular, but then spectacular is not neccessary in the desert, on a moon less night, hopefully no one watching.

I would love to own this Jeep, as is, and the changes I would make are minor, if at all. It is the best ride I had in the desert for a long time. Have I heard anyone mention Landrover? Sorry guys, the Defender doesn't come close, in my (Jeep biased...) opinion. The only problem is that it is not for sale. The J8 package is just too expensive, and the bean-counters in Nazareth know they can't sell many of these rigs at prices close to what a Range-Rover costs in Israel (crazy taxing and all...). All we can hope for is that they do sell J8's to Israely civilian agencies - Police and such - so that in 5-10 years they will be sold as surplus to the civilian market (that's where we get most of our old YJ Storms). The Army, as written above, does not sell off anything that can still go, and than they cannibalize for parts...

AIL Storm 3 Type R, technical specifications:

Engine: VM 2.8L CRD I-4 turbo diesel
Horsepower: 194bhp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 2,000rpm
Transmission: 545RFE Five-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NVG241 Command-Trac part-time
Front Suspension: Four-link coil
Rear Suspension: Spring-under leaf suspension
Front brakes: Disc
Rear brakes: Disc
Axle Ratio: 4.10:1

Front axle: Dana 44
Front differential: Trac-Lok limited slip
Rear axle: Dana 60
Rear differential: Trac-Lok limited slip
Wheels: 17x7.5 steel
Tires:  LT315/70R17
Curb weight: 4,451 lbs
Payload: 2,756 lbs
Towing capacity: 7,716 lbs

Length: 175.2 inches
Width: 73.9 inches
Height: 69.4 inches
Track: 63.4 inches
Ground clearance: 9.1 inches
Approach angle: 44.4 degrees
Departure angle: 40.5 degrees
Fording depth: 30 inches
Fuel capacity: 22.5 gallon

 

 

 

 

 

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