Story by Nico Jarrett
Walking through the 2013 SEMA Show, we came across a commando green 2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon owned by Gene Martin. Parked in the Rhino Rack booth, the Rubicon was nicely customized and seemed to be just the sort of thing Off Road Xtreme readers would like.
Martin has built other custom projects, such as a tricked-out ‘05 Scion XB, but this was his first attempt with an off-roader. His conversion to the dirt world all started with a 90s-era Jeep Cherokee purchased a year ago–he didn’t realize then that a new addiction had taken hold. As a matter of fact, it was so strong that Martin traded in the Scion and Cherokee to help fund the purchase of the new Wrangler.
Within weeks, the Roof Rack and Pioneer Tray from Rhino Rack arrived. Martin and most off-road enthusiasts know exterior storage is a very useful addition to any Jeep. Once the rack and tray were installed, the rest came into play as the days went on.
Martin already knew what he was up against on his local trails, so a 3-inch suspension kit from BDS was the perfect next step, along with FOX 2.0 shocks to handle damping duties.
He wasn’t about to settle for wheels you might see on every Jeep, so Martin mounted up 17-inch Rock Monster internal headlock wheels from Hutchinson Industries to deliver the performance and style he was looking for. The wheels were then wrapped with M/T 35×12.5R17 Toyo Open Country tires. Rugged Ridge cross-drilled and slotted rotors front and rear beef up the brakes.
The Jeep was now capable of crawling, but was in no way close to being finished. As soon as Martin began installations, it seemed like the next part was delivered to his door before he could finish bolting on what had arrived just the other day.
Pallets of Rugged Ridge goodies began to show up. Exterior accessories such as a vented hood, color-matched skid plates, front and rear bumpers, rocker guards, tube doors, a jack mount, a Performance 10,500-pound capacity winch, snorkel, and so much more were delivered, unwrapped and installed.
A differential skid plate, engine and transmission skid plate, muffler skid plate, heavy duty transfer case skid plate, and an evaporator canister skid plate from Rugged Ridge were added to protect the underbelly of the Jeep.
For body protection, more goodies from Rugged Ridge were added, including an XHD steel front stubby bumper with a stinger, aluminum rear bumper pods with an XHD tire carrier, and RRC rocker guards. Hurricane flat fender flares give the late-model Rubicon a classic look and gain clearance for the larger tire selection.
The 3.6L V6 was left virtually stock, but for a Rugged Ridge intake, throttle body spacer and Magnaflow stainless steel exhaust system to release a few ponies and help it breathe a bit better. A Superchips Flaspaq was also installed to help fine tune a bit more power out of the engine.
Late nights were the cost, but the payoff was a Jeep that not only looks better, but can also handle almost any terrain Martin cares to challenge it with.
Martin knew all about HID lighting from his custom car days, and understood the trails needed to be lit well once the sun went down. So he added a special touch to the headlights. The guys over at HIDProjectors.com retro-fitted a set of color-matched Porsche Panamera projectors with shrouds that give them a completely different look to the front end of the Jeep.
A Wurton 50-inch off road 10-watt LED light bar also helps illuminate everything in the Jeep’s path. Several sets of its LED light cubes blast the surroundings, along with some Wurton LED flood lights to illuminate the area to the sides of the Jeep.
With so many lights to control, Martin added custom switches from OTRATTW, “The Switch Guys,” to the driver’s side pillar for easy access. Since the switches are labeled and back-lit, it makes them easy to see and operate at night.
Martin also added an Automatic Deployment Air compressor from Viair, for those times when he might need to pump up the tires after dropping pressure for an extra tough trail. A dual-battery tray from Genesis Offroad and a pair of Odyssey PC1500T batteries help power all the new accessories on the Jeep, including the very necessary bullet horn kit from Horn Blasters (you never know when you might need to alert your fellow four-wheeler).
The Jeep was ready just in time for the 2013 Show SEMA. When we asked Martin what the most difficult part of the build was, he said, “not being able to take the Jeep off-road until after the show.” Martin also told us that he wants to give special thanks to the guys at M2-Motoring for all the help and support during the Jeep’s build.
As soon as the last day of the show was done, Martin wanted to get into the desert for a first taste of off-roading in his newly built-up Jeep. We were more than happy to meet him around midnight to take a few shots. As you can see from the photos in this feature, it was well worth the wait.