Every November builders join together in Las Vegas, Nevada for the best automotive aftermarket show on the planet – also referred to as SEMA. Year after year, craftsmen continue to outdo their builds seen the previous year. From new crazy paint jobs to high-horsepower engines, SEMA is a chance to show off your obsession for the aftermarket industry.
For some folks, like Gene Martin, it is sheer passion that drives them to build the latest and greatest. Such was the case with his first off road SEMA project in 2013, which turned out to be amazing learning experience for him. His curiosity for off roading has now truly helped him understand the reason for building his Jeep – which is simply to get outdoors and explore places others haven’t been.
The History of the Rubicon
You might remember we met up with Martin for a midnight photo shoot after the 2013 SEMA show. It has now been one year since he has had his Jeep, and his passion for hitting the trails and rock crawling has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, his current setup was turning out to limit his off roading expeditions. From not having enough clearance when needed to not being able to really enjoy some rock crawling, the Jeep simply needed a little more to bring it to its full potential. So after a year of four wheeling, Martin knew it was time to change things up.
The tear-down process started roughly a month before the 2014 SEMA Show. Martin’s year of exploring the great outdoors in the Jeep had produced quite a few scratches on the paint, so that was first on his list. Looking for something more rugged to withstand the trails, Martin decided he would spray the whole body with SEM Protex bedliner. He loved the original commando green paint job, so he decided to mix that into the bedliner to give the Jeep its original look from afar, but a tough and rugged exterior built for the trail as soon as viewers got up close to the truck.
Martin was now ready to install his new 3.5-inch Game Changer suspension and 6-Pak shocks from Metalcloak. This is the part of the build Martin loved the most since the 6-Pak shocks are not only re-buildable, they are dual opposing gas-charge reservoirs that complement the Game Changer suspension and improve the ride quality compared to his previous BDS three-inch lift kit. Martin also installed an oversized tie rod and drag link from RareParts.com since this last year of off roading resulted in a bent tie rod to go along with the paint scratches. To add some more strength, a visit to Adam’s Driveshaft resulted in a custom 1350 driveshaft being installed to help put the power to the ground.
With the suspension now taken care of, it was onto the body armor, rocker rails, and bumpers from Metalcloak to be installed. First off were some fender flares to give him more clearance when the 3.5-inch Game Changer suspension articulates. A set of Rock Monster DOT-approved wheels wrapped in 37-inch Wildpeak M/T tires from Falken were then added for improved traction.
The body armor includes front and rear bumpers, front and rear lights, and even a set of rocker rails that protect against all unwanted damage from trees or rocks on the trail. Installed in the front bumper is an upgraded 12,500-pound winch from Superwinch for when the going gets rough. What’s more, the new rear tire carrier from Metalcloak provided a lower center of gravity over the previous tire carrier he used as well.
Martin loves to explore the unknown and since it seemed like most trails led to him sleeping overnight, he decided to update his roof rack with the Backbone System combined with an awning from Rhino Rack. The awning provides the much-needed shade while taking a break from the trail. The Backbone System gives great storage overhead and currently stores a few gas containers and a tent.
Trail riding can sometimes leave you in a position where it is almost impossible to see what is behind you or in front of you. Martin decided that with the 37-inch Falken Wildpeak M/T tires installed on the rear, it would be nice to get a set of eyes to help see when in tight spaces, so he decided to install a rear back up camera from Brand Motion. In addition, since the long summer nights have come to an end, a new 50-inch Wurton light bar was installed over the front windshield to help after the sun goes down. And to document all his off road adventures, a Whistler RUSH Action Cam was installed on the front dash.
Last on his list of upgrades was the exhaust. A Dirt Sport Exhaust from Borla gives the Jeep a nice sound with a little added performance. This is one area where Martin looks to focus for next year’s SEMA. The Jeep can now perform in almost any rocky terrain, but he would like it to also perform better on the street, which we will be covering in the near future! As with any off road rig, it’s always a tradeoff between street handling and off road capability – something that Martin is having to adapt to as well.
Martin would like to thank all his sponsors: M2-Motoring, Amsoil, Knipex, Rhino Rack, Metalcloak, Hutchinson Rock Monster Wheels, Rareparts.com, Falken Tires, Borla Exhaust, Superwinch, SEM, Rugged Ridge, Adams Driveshafts, Whistler, Wurton, and Brand Motion.