What is the perfect family rig? For each and every family, the answer will be a bit different. Considerations such as the type of wheeling you commonly do, family size, and terrain traversed all play an important role in the rig you choose to buy or build. For Geoff Kubik of Freedom Fabworks, the decision to build up a Jeep JK unlimited was an easy one. He likes to crawl in technical trails and his friends like to do the same. Most importantly, his family also likes to come along for the ride.
Geoff’s family consists of his wife and two small children. That means that space for all of their gear is at a premium, and the size of the JK Unlimited was right on in terms of storage, wheelbase, and the overall narrow track of the JK platform.
Since Freedom Fabworks is a Michigan-based company, the trails and parks that are frequented by the family and their friends are primarily slow, technical, crawling trails like those found at the local off-road parks. Rocks and Valleys, the Mounds, and the Silver Lake Sand dunes are all within easy reach for Geoff and his family. The clan takes full advantage as much as they possibly can. All of them enjoy being outdoors and hitting the trails for the day or even a weekend. Of course that means that not only do they have to have enough space for car seats, but they also have to have some storage for the family’s gear while being out of town.
The overall motivation for the build was simple. Geoff explains, “We had to build it up to keep up with all of my friends that I wheel with. They’re all running one-ton axles and 40-inch tires. I also wanted to show people that you can build up those kinds of axles and still run the daily. The JK is my daily driver, so I think it shows people you can do it, and it will still be fun and easy to drive.”
While many people run their JK platforms year-round, doing it on an aggressive tread 42-inch tire is kind of a different story. What Geoff has accomplished in the streetability of this ride is pretty noteworthy, especially when you consider the fact that no off-road prowess was harmed in the creation of this family rig. In fact, the off-road capability was improved along with street manners.
A year and half ago, Geoff started with a 2007 Jeep Wrangler JKU Sport. From there, he added a Dana 60 front axle from a Ford Super Duty and a GM 14-bolt axle to the rear. Yukon 5.38 gears get power to the 42-inch Iroks. The front axle is located by custom links and an Artec truss kit and cross member.
A Zip locker ensures that both tires grab for traction in those wheels-up moments, and Geoff has a lot of them. The technical trails he and his friends frequent often involve tires being in the air and the suspension getting a full-range workout. The rear 14-bolt axle is located with a custom three-link set up and AEV spring and shock combos control dampening duties. In the front, the AEV spring shock combo has a 3.5-inch diameter, while 2.5-inch diameter was deemed sufficient for the rear.
The big Iroks are turned by a Jesse Haines steering system while Vision LED headlights make sure that Geoff and his family can see the trail ahead on those dark Michigan trail days and nights. Truck-lites Trail taillights help make sure that anyone else on the trail can see what the family is up to.
A JCR front bumper holds tight to the front-facing Superwinch winch. JCR rear corner armor was also used to ensure that the tub stays in shape despite Geoff’s hard and technical wheeling style. The Freedom Fabworks drop-down aluminum rear gate allows for easy access to any gear that may be needed for a recovery operation, or maybe to just grab the days’ lunch out of the cooler.
Geoff reports that the Jeep works great both on and off the road and while the rig currently is very capable and does well for daily driving there are plans in the works to make some changes. 45-inch tires, a custom truck bed conversion, and a turbo LS motor are all in the planning stages at this time. Geoff explained, “I want to turn heads, but also tow another Jeep out to the trails or to shows. Plus the truck bed conversion will give us more room for the family. I want it to be custom and not just another JK truck bed conversion.” With all of the experience Freedom Fabworks and Geoff have in building custom applications, we have no doubt that whatever he comes up with is going to turn heads.
Geoff is one of those guys that never toots his own horn. He is kind of a soft-spoken guy, but when he shares his knowledge, not only is it a good idea to listen, but it’s also really fun to see how he lights up when he talks about his plans for his next project.
The same kind of excitement and enthusiasm takes hold when he talks about his family and Geoff was quick to point out that without his family none of this would be possible. “I couldn’t do a lot of this without my wife,” affirmed Geoff. “She allows us to dedicate thousands of dollars to personal projects, works a full time job, and handles most of the childcare. She is hardcore and the things she does are what allow me to work from home while doing the things that I love.”
It’s hard not to have the strong family focus of this build resonate with you. We can all relate to how challenging it can be to get that balance of family rig versus off-road capability to a happy place. This is one builder who seems to have a pretty good handle on it, though, and we look forward to seeing his work in the future.