THIS IS SPARTA!
Girard Butlers words echo through my head every time I throw my leg up to climb in our new Jeep Gladiator demo truck. Part of it is because that part of the movie was awesome, and the other part is because the thing is so tall that without an effective front kick, I don’t stand a chance of getting into it with any grace at all.
Choosing A GladiatorWhy is it so tall? That goes back a reason that I chose that truck over everything else when we were ready to develop our next platform. The Gladiator (JT as I learn Jeep linguistics) is capable of rolling 40-inch tires with absolutely no cutting and a modest (in the Jeep world) four-and-a-half-inch lift. It goes from stock height to monster truck with very little effort giving me ground clearance I can only dream of in my Toyota.
I knew the number one reason I wanted a Jeep was because of the challenge of designing a rack system for it. It has a removable three-piece top and would need to use gutter mounts instead of our traditional feet we use on a Tacoma, 4Runner, Tundra, or a Raptor roof rack. Likewise, I wanted to be indoctrinated into the Jeep wave community and feel as though I had more friends than I really do.
Design PhaseIt’s not very often that I get stumped during the design phase of one of our roof racks or bed racks. For the most part I have developed a system that is easily adapted to most vehicle platforms without a lot of frustration on my end. Well, this all changed when I started with the Gladiator’s gutter.
Multiple days of long hours spent trying to work through the geometry of a gutter attachment system that looks and performs like an upTOP overland product. Piles of scrap on the floor and failed attempt after failed attempt I was beginning to lose my mind. Sure, this is where it would have been easier to copy an existing design, buy some readily available parts and fit them into what would be left of my idea of the Jeep rack, but I was not ready to settle for any of these solutions. I knew I could break through to create something better than anything else out there.
I’m going to skip the boring math and the long-winded explanation of how I got to where I did because the result is one of the parts that I am most proud of for our company. On the surface it may look like a simple little clamp that does a really good job of locking the rack onto the roof of a Jeep Gladiator without drilling a single hole. In reality it is a very complicated, fairly hard to produce little clamp that does an absolutely bang-up job of locking the rack onto the roof of a Jeep damage free.
What Makes It Unique?
But wait a minute…. there is more. Jeep life is all about basking in the sun with the doors off, top left back at base camp, flying down a trail with all of the freedom that the new Freedom Top is supposed to deliver. In a couple of minutes, you can easily remove the front of the rack off, relocate your epic 200k lumen front light bar to the rear of the rack and proceed to weekend mode with the front tops off. I like to think of this as modularity level jedi.
Finally, I want to acknowledge Jeeps are usually used for rock crawling. My new JT may never be accepted by the masses as anything more than a funny looking rock crawler with a pickup truck bed hanging off the end of it to the discerning overland crowd. But what if I told you that you can have straight axles, 40-inch tires, heated steering wheel, doors that were actually designed to come off, and still have a roof rack that is ready for any adventure with all the bells and whistles that makes an upTOP an upTOP? Maybe they are right, or maybe I’m just different. Yet most Jeep owners would say, it’s a Jeep thing.