Jeep Wrangler JK Gladiator Conversion | Inside Line
Making your Jeep JK standout in sea of Wranglers can be a difficult task. Despite the fact that it is likely the most modified vehicle in America, with over two million JK’s produced, there are only so many ways you can make yours look radically different. Fortunately, Chris Durham Motorsports has a very retro solution with its JK Gladiator conversion.
While images of converting your Wrangler into a pickup might not be the first thing that comes to mind thanks to the 2020 Jeep Gladiator truck, it’s not that type of conversion. Instead, this bolt-on kit provides 2007 to 2018 Jeep Wrangler JK’s with the front end styling cues dating back to the Jeep Gladiator truck from the 1960s. It does this by replacing your original hood, grille, and fender flares with hand-crafted fiberglass components—all of which are made in the USA.
To check out what it takes to transform a typical JK, we took a drive to Chris Durham Motorsports in Pickens, South Carolina. There, we watched as a Hemi-powered JK got an extreme makeover in just a couple of hours. While you can watch our entire Inside Line episode covering the JK Gladiator conversion on our YouTube channel, we’ve put together some highlights from the install in the article below.
Chris Durham Motorsports offers hood and grille conversions for a few generations of Jeeps. This particular Gladiator conversion is designed for the 2007 to 2018 Jeep Wrangler. Though the model we were shooting had been upgraded with a supercharged Hemi V8, the kit can work with any stock, supercharged, or V8-swapped powertrain.
Each conversion is comprised primarily of fiberglass panels, along with the necessary brackets and hardware you’ll need. The conversion will ship unpainted. So, you will need to decide if paint or a wrap is the best answer for you. It was pretty clear to us from watching the install that you could easily do this at home. However, Chris Durham recommends using a body shop to ensure the best possible fitment.
An especially novel touch for those looking for true retro flare is the fact that an OE Gladiator grille from will work on this conversion. If you don’t have one, no worries. CDM offers a fiberglass one. If you do happen to damage a grille or fender be it on the trail or in the office parking lot, you can order individual replacement panels.
While this kit does widen the front of the Wrangler a bit, it still preserves the large factory wheelwells. This JK is fit with a four-inch suspension lift and 37x12.50R18 Nitto Trail Grapplers mounted on 18-inch Red Dirt Road wheels. Also, worth noting is that this system will work with a number of aftermarket fender flares since it retains the OE sheetmetal fenders. This customer opted for CDM’s fiberglass ones to finish off the classic look.
To work with the conversion, CDM offers a range of front bumper options. This particular CDM bumper shown is a steel winch-ready version. There are also rear bumper options for those looking to match up the look out back.
There’s no doubt that this conversion is pretty spot-on when compared to the real deal. We’re big fans of the classic full-size Jeep Wagoneer and love the idea of this conversion on a stock JK. Toss on a little wood trim on the side with a set of CDM classic series bumpers and you have the classic Wagoneer look with all the modern conveniences.
Given the grille opening is fairly wide and there’s a two-inch raised cowl at the back of the hood, one could argue that the JK Gladiator conversion does offer some cooling advantages over stock. Couple this with the fact that you’re pulling off a steel hood and replacing it with a fiberglass one, you are shaving a bit of weight. At the end of the day, you are really buying this for the retro look and that’s perfectly fine in our book. While we rarely cover cosmetic upgrades at Driving Line, the uniqueness and quality of this kit made it worth sharing.
It’s also worth mentioning that this conversion will be available for the 2020 Jeep Gladiator and JL Wrangler very soon.
Digging this retro look? You'll love the Trophy T.