Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Overland Build on 40" Tires
If we’ve learned anything about the Jeep Gladiator over the past few years, it’s that it doesn’t have to be just one thing. From daily drivers to extreme wheelers, it’s been amazing to see how JT owners personalize the fairly new platform. A great example of this can be found with Harris Well’s 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. Wells needed a vehicle that could manage all aspects of the off-road hobby he enjoys. This included one area that’s especially tricky with the long wheelbase Gladiator- rock crawling.
From a glance, his Gladiator definitely has an overland vibe. However, when you begin to dig into the details, you see that this truck is meant for more than basic backcountry exploring. With 1-ton axles, a host of armor plating, and enough camping essentials to make any overlander envious, this Gladiator is very much a jack-of-all-trades. While you can hear Wells breakdown the entire build on our Inside Line video, here, we’re peeling back some of the essentials that make this Jeep so unique.
Keeping the JT moving down the trail is the 3.6L V6 engine. It’s mated to the factory eight-speed automatic transmission, which is coupled with the Rubicon’s original transfer case. Wells states this powertrain has proven to be reliable and fairly adequate for this build.
Replacing the original shock and coil setup up front are EVO-spec King coilovers allowing for 15 inches of vertical wheel travel. To help keep the front suspension geometry in check, an EVO MFG long arm suspension was used.
The rear suspension also comes from EVO MFG and utilizes four adjustable control arms along with an adjustable track bar. To increase the rear suspension travel and dial in the ride, an EVO-spec King coilover was bolted in place.
Wells knew that 40-inch-tall tires and hard trails could end in disaster with the stock Dana 44 axles. So, he moved up to a set of full-float Ultimate Dana 60 series axles. Both axles use a 5.38 gearset and Eaton ELocker.
One interesting piece that Wells had made for his build was a yoke that would allow him to retain his stock rear driveshaft. This bolt-on 60 series yoke is something Wells has toyed with the idea of going into production with. Given it’s a fairly large savings for those doing axle swaps such as this, we definitely think there is a market for it. Afterall, it’s going to be a lot easier to find a stock driveline in a pinch than an aftermarket one if you do happen to destroy one on the trail.
To improve the JT’s steering on-road and off, the stock steering system was swapped out for a complete upgrade from PSC Motorsports. This hydraulic-assist kit has a massive cast-iron gearbox and works with a hydraulic cylinder to relive pressure from the pitman arm. To ensure to the steering bars were up to the task, Wells upgraded with a heavy-duty draglink and tie-rod bar from Steer Smarts.
40” Trail Grapplers
Wells has built a few Jeeps over the years and one consistent part of all of his builds has been Nitto Tire. He states for all of the adventures he’s been on over the years; he’s never experienced a single tire failure with a Nitto. This has made him a loyal customer to the brand. For his Gladiator build, he’s running a 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler. This mud-terrain radial has become the go-to for the west-coast wheeler.
To get the most ride quality and traction on the trail, Wells paired the 40-inch Nitto with a 17-inch KMC Grenade Crawl beadlock. This is a true beadlock wheel, which gives him the ability to safely drop the tires into the single digit range on the trail without fear of the tire separating from the wheel.
For times when Harris wants to mix camping into the equation, he puts his EVO bed rack to work. The rack’s main job is to tote his Roam roof-top tent. It also plays home to his Hi-Lift Jack, trail shovel, axe, and Rotopax water and fuel containers. To light up the campsite, there’s an assortment of LED lights from Baja Designs.
In the bed, you’ll find an ARB fridge-freezer sitting next to the Roam storage bin full of trail gear, tools, and spare parts. For those colder nights on the trail, he has a diesel heater to make he and his family stay warn.
Since Wells didn’t want to sacrifice bedspace for the 40-inch-spare, he modified a tire carrier from Wilco Products. The rear bumper comes from EVO MFG and works well with the modified factory bed guards that Wells fabricated.
Up front is an EVO Manufacturing front bumper fit with a Warn Zeon winch. If you look closely under the bumper, you’ll see that the Rubicon’s sway bar disconnect motor has been rotated up for added clearance. Replacing the stock LED turn signals are a set from Quake.
Clearance Is Key
The Gladiator sits a bit taller than your standard overland build, which was done to increase the breakover angle. This helps tremendously with technical rock crawling, an area the long-wheelbase JT often struggles with. To ensure the 40’s would have plenty of room to cycle, the bottom half of the original Rubicon flares were removed. Lastly, to guard against rocks tearing into the body, EVO MFG rocker guards and skins were set in place.
Do It All
It’s rare that you find a vehicle that is truly built to do it all. However, we think this Gladiator is about as close as it comes. It has the right upgrades in the right places to allow the Jeep to survive serious trails. Yet, it’s bed is configured in a way that it checks all the right must-have boxes for anyone looking for long-distance overland adventure.
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