“It’s not a show car,” is one of the first things Jamie says when asked about his JK series Jeep, “Sickness.” A 2015 anvil gray Wrangler Unlimited, as it stands today Sickness is a wildly capable and tough crawler. It’s quickly evident from any angle that this Jeep spends more time tackling boulders than parked waiting for judging.
I came across this lineup of Wranglers tucked into the far corner of Off Road Nights Del Mar. These purpose-built machines definitely stood out. Each one claimed a different accent color spread across their rigs. Intrigued by the extent and detail of the builds, I noticed a group of people nearby. Posted up in a makeshift camp of folding chairs and coolers, they were obviously enjoying their day at the event. After a quick introduction, I asked if anyone in the group would be willing to tell me more about their Jeep. In an almost comical fashion, every person took a step back as some pointed towards one member.
Jamie was somewhat reluctant at first, saying, “We don’t do this, we’re crawlers. We beat these things all year and then once a year we wash them and come to Off Road Nights.” After a pause, he added “But we do love to show them off.” It didn’t take long to see that Jamie was extremely proud of the vehicle he put together and invited me to explore the build. “Climb on it, sit in it, whatever, it’s not a show car,” was his answer to me asking for permission to get a closer look.
“This is my first Jeep, and I bought it to explore the desert in,” Jamie recounts about how this all got started. Not long after he started exploring those trails of Southern California, Jaime met up with a group of fellow Jeep enthusiast that had a serious passion for crawling. “We are just a group of friends that get together for weekend trips and events. We beat ’em up, break ’em, and fix ’em,” is how he describes his fellow crawlers. Following the advice of his newfound crew, Sickness started to morph into what you see today. “If we break them now, we did something wrong” is the group’s “parts by trial” philosophy.
Right off the bat, it’s hard not to notice the giant 40-inch Maxxis Razr MT tires setting this Jeeps stance. When asked about the single best mod done so far, Jaime quickly replies, “The 40s. Everything else was building up to that.” Method 106 beadlocks (with a touch of the signature orange color that ties the whole build together) keep all that rubber in place when the air downs start. As you start to take a closer look at the build, you can see just how much is hidden behind those massive walls of rubber.
Rebel Off Road came through for the suspension components with one of their Recon Kits. This kit features King 12 coilovers all the way around and King hydraulic bump stops to keep everything riding smooth. An Evo Double D long-arm kit was chosen to finish off the corners. Finally, Currie Antirock sway bars keep things tied together and balance out the suspension.
Moving inward, it’s hard to miss the bright orange pumpkins front and rear, brandishing that familiar Currie logo. These Currie RockJock 60 axles are what Jamie recommends as a great starting point for serious crawler builds. “Start with the most expensive part, and build off of that,” he said. “Those you’re not gonna break. Well, you could, but they’re pretty much bombproof.” Getting the power to those differentials are a pair of J.E. Reel 1350 driveshafts and Yukon Zip air lockers.
Prior to all the extra weight being added to the corners of this Jeep, the factory steering components needed some serious upgrading. PSC took care of that problem with a hydraulic steering system. That system connects to Synergy drag links to turn all of that mass. “You can just push some giant rocks out of the way, it makes everything easier,” Jamie is quick to say when talking about the steering upgrades.
As you move up to the body, you start to find even more custom touches. Excessive Industries bumpers take center stage front and rear. Up front a Warn Zeon 10-s peaks over the bull bar. Mated to Factor 55 UltraHook rope guard, this combo ensures Sickness is ready to get out of just about any sticky situation. Poison Spyder fenders are accented by matching body armor, skids, and sliders. A Dv8 Offroad carbon fiber hood rounds out the body mods and is a nice compliment to the factory anvil paint.
The interior of Sickness has gotten its fair share of attention as well. The crown jewel is a custom-built cage that Jamie put together in his garage. The signature orange powder coated tubes snake through the cab and provide a mounting point for a 40-inch spare. Also mounted to the cage is a Powertank air tank. Custom PRP seats keep the occupants secure and comfortable over rugged terrain.
No ride is complete without tunes to pass the time in traffic between trails. To handle this duty, a touchscreen Alpine head unit provides control over Memphis Audio amps. Those amps power an assortment of Rockford Fosgate interior speakers and a set of Kicker subs.
Under the hood, Sickness is still all Jeep. “0-60 time is more of a yes than a number,” Jamie joked about performance. “What we do isn’t about speed. Most of the fun is between 2-3 miles per hour.” Even with that said, a hint was dropped that an LS swap isn’t out of the question.
As far as other future plans, Jamie has a few more items on the list. An Atlas transfer case housing 4.3:1 gears is the next in line. “I have some other stuff in mind” is all he was willing to give up about other plans.
If you want to see this Jeep in action, it can often be found in search of big rocks to climb around SoCal, from Big Bear to Johnson Valley. When asked, Jamie was happy to mention several people that helped him transform this project and bring it to what it is today. “I wanted to give special thanks to Rebel Off Road for answering all of the questions I had along the way,” he said. “My wife Ilonka and Doyale Barlett were also a huge help.”
I want to give a special thanks to Jamie for letting me explore his vehicle and sharing his “Sickness” for off-roading. As I said in the beginning, I love show vehicles. But, there is something even more satisfying about exploring a real-world, purpose-built vehicle; one that shows the signs of use and maybe even a little abuse. When it comes down to it, it’s a lot more fun to hit the trail and put all that hard work to use.