So, you are in the market for something just a little bit different? You are feeling the desire to march to the beat of your own drummer? Maybe you are just a serious off-roader (rock-crawler, to be precise) and you are looking for the absolute end-all in wheel travel and ground clearance? Well, a company called JD3 out of Tucson, Arizona has created a beast of a machine that will fill the bill. It began life as a run-of-the-mill 2000 Ford Excursion and underwent a “Mad Max metamorphosis” to become Rockzilla. The truth is that JD3, owned and operated by Jeremy Dixon, has built approximately 75 of these little beauties. This particular model is on sale right now for a mere $72,000.
All JD3 Rockzilla off-road trucks are custom built to the customer’s specifications but this one is a 2-seater with an open cabin and open engine bay – dune-buggy style. JD3 can accommodate the requirements of most buyers and they offer vehicles in street-legal trim, as well as off-road only packages. Four door vehicles are also available and JD3 can even add armor plating to help with that pesky small arms fire. Normally, this type of custom fabrication would demand a four-month waiting period but this one can be had, immediately, if the price is right. It is currently up for auction on Ebay.
Rockzilla is powered by a stock 6.8-liter V10 Ford Excursion engine, stock 4R100 automatic transmission, stock transfer case, and even stock front and rear differentials. Since this excursion was basically a 1-ton rated SUV, the differentials, axles, brakes, and drive-shafts are heavy-duty. Beginning with a 1-ton truck is a wise for two reasons: the first concerns the capacity of these parts to handle heavier loads and the second is because it is much easier to repair a factory made system of components than a similar custom made version.
The giant V10 is slightly underpowered, with only 310 horsepower but it makes plenty of torque at 425-pound-feet. It would be easy enough to opt for some aftermarket engine performance upgrades, including performance exhaust, a performance focused PCM re-programmer, a cold air intake system (or all of the above). An engine swap would not be too far fetched or possibly even a supercharger. Rockzilla positions the radiator and fan aft of the cabin area for passenger safety and comfort along with the fuel tank. This is gasoline powered truck but JD3 has built quite a few diesel powered units, too. It still uses the stock Ford electronic transfer case shifter but the transmission shifter has been replaced with a B&M ratchet shifter.
Ground clearance for the Rockzilla is measured in feet, not inches. You might suspect that it uses a suspension lift to achieve the radical stance seen here but you would be wrong. Installing a suspension lift was detrimental to keeping a low center of gravity and, since the stock Excursion already had six to eight-inches of vertical travel in the axles, the suspension was left fundamentally stock. It is equipped with enhanced aftermarket suspension components like new shocks and springs that allow for greater wheel travel and flex but Rockzilla gains most of his ground clearance from a set of massive tires (with a little “slice and dice” in the center of the stock frame rails to achieve an extra-tall break over angle). The tires are military spec Michelin radials that stand 54-inches tall. They ride on specially designed steel wheels with double bead-locks for reduces air pressure driving. Even with no air pressure in the tires, these babies will stand up straight and take Rockzilla home to roam and pillage another day.
The exterior is comprised of a hand welded exoskeleton fashioned primarily from steel tubing which is skillfully welded, sanded, and painted. Although there are no windswept lines and sleek paint to speak of, the giant beast has a charm all its own. It lies in the ability to go anywhere and have fun doing it. Lighting packages are created and installed according to consumer demand. Everything from a simple set of headlights out front and taillights in the rear, to get you street legal, to extravagant remote mounted spotlights, Xenon headlights, and LED tail lamps are available. If you have the money, they definitely have the time and ingenuity to make it happen. You won’t find a recovery winch on the Rockzilla. That’s because JD3 owner Jeremy Dixon says you’ll never need one. “We’ll install a winch for a customer if they want, but I tell them they’ll never need it,” he says. “We have a policy that if a customer calls us saying they got stuck bad enough to need a winch, we’ll install one for free.”
The interior is all business with comfortable yet secure seating, including safety belts. The wood grain accented and padded Excursion dash is out and a simple stainless-steel dash takes its place. Instrumentation is analog and can vary depending upon consumer request. Typically, a full regime of engine oil pressure, engine coolant temperature, a voltmeter, transmission temperature gauge, tachometer, and speedometer are sufficient but an inclinometer is also available upon request. The trunk is basically a large steel waterproof box welded onto the rear section. It is roughly three-feet by two-feet by one-foot, so you may need to make alternate arrangements for hauling hunting rifles, fishing poles, and longer items (maybe a larger box?).
The price of a normal Rockzilla transformation runs approximately $70k (not including the price of your donor Excursion). That is not terrible when you consider that you can have it serviced at your local Ford dealer (although why you would want to is beyond me), it can be street legal (this one is registered as a 2000 Ford Excursion), and this thing is so bodacious that it will certainly make you the talk of the neighborhood.