The need for exploring off-road is a notion that we feel we can find across the entire United States. That’s the drive behind our new column, Stateside Shop Tour. Come with us as we tour the nation looking at shops that build capable off-road machines of all shapes and sizes, as well as the parts that support them.
In our last installment, we were treated to a warm welcome in a colder part of the country. Performance Off-Road’s Jesse Zander gave us the lowdown on what goes on at his establishment, whether it was refitting his own Chevy 2500 with a lift kit, tires, and wheels, or turning a two-door JK into a mean rig capable of a little bit of everything. This week, we’re in Shakopee, Minnesota to talk to Joshua Ruppert at Iron Rock Off Road.
Along with his brothers-in-law Jason and Darrick, Ruppert runs a thriving enterprise making off-road products for the Jeep crowd. It began with the guys noticing the lack of support for the 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee (WJ): “We did a small lift kit for that and branched out from there, getting more and more aggressive with the design,” explained Ruppert. “Then we started doing ZJs, TJs, XJs, and now we’re getting into JKs. We have a prototype lift kit currently, and we plan to start doing sway bar end links and brake line relocation kits in the near future.”
Expansion in products breeds expansion in overall size, and Iron Rock Off Road has definitely gotten bigger over the years. Prior to 2006, it was a part-time operation split between the three men and working out of a garage. Nowadays, it’s a full-time business that has grown to encompass an entire building block, the entirety of which was purchased this past summer from the landlord. It’s growth that Ruppert and his brothers-in-law are proud of, to say the least.
One big current development at Iron Rock Off Road is a Jeep that the guys want to have ready by early spring of next year. “We’re trying to get a nice show rig ready for the 50th Easter Jeep Safari,” said Ruppert. “The safari is expected to be a real blockbuster. We have a nice platform to start with, but it’s going to get totally redone to make it ready for Moab.”
The vehicle in question is a 1999 TJ with the famous 4.0-liter inline six (it came from the factory with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, but it got fried and replaced quickly). Ruppert and team have big plans for the TJ, ranging from installing a Dana 60 front end and Ford 8.8-inch rearend to a full hydraulic steering system from PSC. Other modifications include LED lighting, 38-inch Maxxis Trepador tires, and a full wrap on the Jeep.
Iron Rock Off Road will be showcasing its custom capabilities on the Jeep, of course. These touches will come in the form of a custom-made exhaust system, as well as the Ultimate Long Arm kit, which offers options from three to six inches. “We’ll either do a three or four-inch lift, just to keep it reasonable,” said Ruppert. “We’ve only had this idea for about a week now, so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
All eyes are on Iron Rock Off Road to get this Jeep looking great and performing well. Here’s to their success, and we wish them godspeed on the build. Tune in next time here on Stateside Shop Tour as we head to Wisconsin.