Quick Hit: Garvin Industries Talks JL Roof Rack Development

On a freeway bearing south towards a city called El Cajon, yours truly drives.

Today is the day we are heading to Garvin Industries to see what they’re up to. We are on the lookout for the next big thing in Jeep rooftop storage and tents, and word on the street is that Garvin is where it’s at.

Everyone knows the Jeep Wrangler JL is the latest Jeep on the street, and therefore the one to have for all things off-roading. Their sales numbers are exploding – just like they did with the JK – and before long, these owners are going to want a place to keep all of their gear and essentials.

The Garvin Industries headquarters in El Cajon, California.

With that in mind, Garvin rolled back the curtain for us to see what they have going on at their headquarters. We spoke with the Garvin gentlemen – father Bob, and sons Ron and Chris – to grasp the latest developments for the Wrangler JL, as well as go over their predictions and thoughts on the new Jeep.

Racking Up The Experience

“We design and manufacture the roof racks so that our customers can have a place to take their equipment on their trips and overnight stays, since the Jeep, in general, doesn’t have a lot of storage area,” said Bob Garvin. “We help to provide that extra space in either interior racks, spare tire racks, or roof racks.”

Garvin’s history in roof racks stretches back to the days of Con-Ferr, a company that made storage racks. “They supplied – and it was a welded one-piece design – one of our customers, and in turn, our customers convinced us to start making roof racks,” explained Bob. “We came up with a bolt-together roof rack that shipped via UPS. We made it for the Land Cruiser at first, but pretty soon we made it for other vehicles, and all easily shipped.”

The Wrangler JL at Garvin's facility showcased the current state of R&D on the round-tube Adventure roof rack.

As the years passed, it became more and more apparent that Jeeps were the dominating force in the aftermarket for roof racks, and became the majority focus of Garvin’s ambitions. Along came racks that worked with soft tops; and then racks that worked with four doors instead of just two; and then racks sans basket; and so on.

The New Breed Of Jeep Owner

What the Garvins have found, interestingly enough, is that open-top racks have become the new vogue in Jeeps. “Customers want to be able to throw kayaks and canoes up there, or pitch a tent,” said Chris Garvin. Ron added, “They want to get away, not necessarily go rockcrawling. Overlanding is more what people are going toward. Having a product that bolts on, put a tent on, and go – that’s what they like.”

A tent on top of a Jeep might sound a little sketchy, but Ron assured us that wasn’t the case. “The static weight capacity is double what the off-road weight is,” he said. “So, 300 pounds becomes 600 pounds of capacity.”

Several piles of tubing, both square and round, will eventually become components in Garvin’s roof racks.

Currently, there are a few selections of roof racks – the round-tube Adventure, square-tube Expedition, and Trail – available for the Jeep. While the JL ones are still in development, they are expected to fill the same niches as the JK offerings. Part and parcel of this is having the Adventure and Expedition racks have both full-length and half-length models to allow for T-top removal.

What’s Coming For The JL

What was interesting to hear from the Garvins was that in spite of its minimal visual differences to the JK, the JL represented a whole new way of design and construction for roof racks. Specifically, the thinking is to have the mounts all be on the body, and all be bolt-on.

“The thought process of our racks going forward is to have them all be bolt-on, since drilling is not as appealing to new Jeep owners,” commented Ron. Added Bob, “The JL is better prepared for bolting than the JK was. There’s more for us to work with, and making the body-mounted only makes them less susceptible to wear and tear.”

Though still in development, we could see the guiding principles of bolting on the Adventure rack on the Wrangler JL.

During our visit to the facility, we saw a mocked-up Adventure rack on top of a 2018 JLU, with various jigs and clamps holding it in place was further research was being conducted. It showed the thinking that Bob and Chris had established – being bolt-on and not drilled-on – but this wouldn’t be the end of R&D for the JL, as we learned.

“We know that eventually, Jeep will offer a motorized, sliding soft top, something like a convertible top,” said Bob. “It opens up from front to back.” Added Ron, “We probably will have to forego making a rack for these Jeeps, unless it sits way up high. But people are already emailing me.”

The front of the JL’s Adventure rack is still a work in progress, but Chris Garvin showed us the thinking going on. In short, the rack will probably mount to either side of the body in front of the windshield, giving it forward stability without affecting the driver’s line of sight.

But in the here and now, Garvin is keeping its ear to the ground, listening for feedback and suggestions and seeing what customers are going to choose. In the meantime, however, its JL rack development is running strong, and plans are to have product available very soon, and make modifications as necessary in the interim.

“If there’s a problem, we take care of it,” said Chris. “We do all of our design, manufacturing, and shipping right here in California, where we can see it and ensure the finest quality control.”

We thought it was really cool to see what’s coming around the bend for Garvin Industries. To find out more on your own, feel free to contact the company through its website or Facebook page.

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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