2020 Gladiator Build #3080 | Detroit on a Budget

I should have started this thread several months ago, and I should make the exact same thread over on the Gladiator forums to document everything I’ve done to this truck.

Current mileage as of 11/01/2022: 85k miles
Current rough estimate on truck build cost not including maintenance items: $44k
New 2023 Rubicon moderate build: $66k
For up to date shenanigans you can find the truck on IG @Dogandajeep

Purchased brand new with 7 miles on the odometer in February of 2020.

At the time of purchase I was driving a 2008 JKU that had roughly 286k miles on it when it started to literally fall apart thanks to Michigan roads and potholes/puddles.

I had been half heartedly looking at the Gladiators because I had a RAM 1500 Big Horn and missed having the capabilities of a truck but I couldn’t go back to a vehicle you can’t take the doors off of. There is just something special about driving down the highway with no doors and the wind thrashing at you.

It was not easy finding what I wanted within the budget I had. I knew I had to think realistic so I went to the builder on the Jeep website and spent weeks figuring out what I NEEDED vs what I wanted. Ultimately I settled on a Sport with the tow package, the AUX group, and the engine block heater (I have a pipe dream of living in Alaska) and it needed to come in Red and a Manual Transmission. You would not believe how hard it was to find a Gladiator with those specifications in 2020! I was able to track down the only one east of the Mississippi at the time to avoid a long wait from the factory (THANK THE LORD I DIDN’T WAIT) So once I knew the dealership hadn’t sold the truck I made the drive from Detroit out to Indiana and picked it up and drove it home. Bought at 7 miles on the odometer and by the time it made it home for the very first time I had already put 260 miles on it.

Within the first week I was installing the Vector offroad Dock as I had the JKU version in my wrangler and it was a must have.

Of course I think we all know what happened shortly after February 2020. My truck sat in the driveway at my parents house for the next 2 and a half months torturing me because I was unable to drive my new toy! BUT this allowed me to save up the money that I would have otherwise spent on gas and invest in the first big upgrade for the truck. A Halfrack from Fishbone offroad!

It was close to 100 degrees the day I decided to install the halfrack so the shade was much needed or I would have burnt to a crisp!

It was almost as though timing couldnt have been better. About a week after I installed the bedrack I was asked to vacate the room I had been renting as I was no longer using it (Having moved home during covid) so I used the halfrack to move all of my things to storage and started the search for a new house.

Fast forward a couple months and I found a place which meant more jeep upgrades! Naturally once I had a garage to tinker in I had to start getting more pieces for the truck. I had been eyeballing the goosegear seat deletes for my JKU so when they came out with their first iteration for the Gladiator I quickly bought their 60% delete to give my dog more space in the backseat to relax as he is just a tad too large for the rear seats.

After that I did a few minor things the most important visually for me was removing the crooked dealer and factory stickers on the back that called out what model Gladiator I had.

I was finally able to get a helping hand and got my Tepui Tent onto the halfrack right in time for Fall camping as Covid restrictions started to lift in Michigan.

As time started moving into 2021 I added some rotopax and upgraded my headlights/foglights to the Quake LED set

With these updates done it was time for the trucks first real long haul trip. In the summer of 2021 I took a 14 day road trip from Detroit out to Lake Tahoe and back covering a few thousand miles in a less than straight line.

Having faired as well as it did on that trip, I took another long haul route through the upper peninsula, into upper Minnesota hugging the Canadian border all the way out to Montana and down through yellowstone and grand tetons in Jackson hole for a bachelor party and then back to Michigan over the course of 10 days. This was ultimately the final trip without a fridge as I got tired of constantly stopping for ice.

Fast forward through the winter and the truck saw a ton of changes from January to May of 2022. After three years with the Tepui it was time for a change. It simply wasn’t working for the style of travel I enjoy and the setup/teardown was far too long. I sold the Halfrack and tent in January of 2022 and placed the order for the GFC in “Dare ya” Red.

The prep for the GFC was a lot more intense than I anticipated. My original plan for pickup was to drive out to Montana grab the GFC and head back east to the Appalacian mountains for some weekend camping with friends. When plans got canceled late February I had to push back the install to May 1st but that allowed me time to make major changes. I started by ripping out the remaining rear seat and Goosegear 60% seat delete as it was not large enough for my Malamute AND storage. This was a pain as I ended up needing to use a torch and breaker bar to free the bolts.

After less than stellar math and a ton of measure/remeasure/reremeasure I had worked out a full rear seat platform that maximized the space while not making the platform too high that my dog would be unable to jump in. This would serve as the temporary home for my new Iceco VLPro 45 fridge AND the long term space for my dog to enjoy road trips. Part of this plan was purchasing the Series Defender rear window vents to help air flow for my dog when driving and sleeping overnight.

With the new items installed and tested it was time to get the GFC installed!

I have a tendency to go to the extreme and the break in trip for the GFC is no exception. Upon getting the camper installed we took off for the far north. Literally the far far north. but not before having the folks at GFC help install a new Thule cargo box on the beef bars.

(First night in the tent in Glacier National Park)

That trip was the perfect break in for the camper as it game me a full 12 nights to figure out what I wanted to do next. After getting home and going back to work the truck saw some use as a camera rig and production mule

At the end of the Arctic circle trip my suspension was starting to feel the wear of 65k miles and my tires/brakes were in sore need of replacing. I knew all along I wanted to get full use of the stock parts before replacing to get the most bang for my buck so when it was time to replace everything I went with the Mopar 2 inch lift kit and 35 inch bridgestone duelers (I had been running the 31.5 inch duelers since initial purchase and had 65k miles without a single flat) all told it added almost 5 inches of height to the truck.

The next round of upgrades included a WeBoost Drive Reach OTR system as we ran into difficulties in the Great Basin trying to get a solid connection on 1-2 bars. Unfortunately I ended up returning the unit to REI as no matter what I did it simply wouldn’t give me a boost no matter where I tried to use it. In addition to the WeBoost I purchased the door panel rotopax mounts as I had lost the ability to mount them to the halfrack. I like the doormounts but I do wish the bolts were powder coated better as they’ve started rusting only a few months after install.

Around mid september I finally pulled the trigger on lights and a radio. I went with the D and C Designs cowl lights, and used this opportunity to fully wire the Quake headlights/foglights into the turn signals. I also installed the new Midland MXT500 as I was tired of using the low power handhelds and didn’t want to have to do another install in a couple years for want of more range/power.

The truck was hit in a parking garage around this same time and I used the opportunity to upgrade from the stock sport plastic front bumper to the steel rubicon winch plate short bumper for future flexibility if I need/want to run a winch. With everything inside and out from the front end taken care of I turned my eyes to the truck bed. I had spent way more time that I care to admit mentally building out a truckbed system that would allow me to house the new fridge within a sliding cabinet to help minimize the exposure to the elements and heat of summers in the midwest. After realizing no company was selling what I wanted I started building. I had one day off a week from Labor day through mid october to get this completed in time for my trip to expo west.

And that brings the build to today as of this post 11/01/2022. Right now there is nothing that I feel I have left to do to the truck as its in a great spot for all my adventuring as I go today. Eventually I’ll add things here and there but for now this thing is built perfectly for my travels.


Super cool write up! Great looking rig, sounds like the trip was a damn good way to test out the setup! Lots of time to contemplate on that drive :joy:


Really cool setup! I follow you on IG. Your setup is very similiar to mine. I have a 2021 Gladiator base Sport but mine is an auto in Sting Gray. I custom ordered mine and had to wait but that let me get the regular tow package and the factory aux switches (so worth it).

I picked up my GFC last week and camped in it on the way back to Wisconsin. Coming from a 40 ft long skoolie I am VERY please with how agile this setup is.

I already have the 35s but no suspension lift. Debating between the 2.5 inch Mopar or Clayton.


Thanks! I need to go back and actually count how many nights I have in the camper since picking it up in may but have gotten better at using the setup every trip. Still working out the whole floor situation and whether or not to leave one panel out or just remove it in the morning but so far its been great :slight_smile:

I like that you stayed with the stock rims. I debated swapping mine out and I’m happy I didn’t. They don’t bump out past the fenders and are pretty solid looking especially in the black finish.

The layout of my platform allows for a flawless ‘Bunk mode’. So when I’m solo the two panels act as a sitting pad on the lower bunk, and I only put them back up if I need to close the tent for some reason.

I have also started leaving my quilt, down quilt, and sometimes pillow up top when I close it. GFC had a video showing that it’s all good to do that; it does bow a bit. Not enough to effect the water seal. Doing that vastly improves setup on multi-location trips.

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in the winter I use my 30 degree sleeping bag as a cushion and lay it flat open and then sleep in a 15 degree bag on top. If it’s really cold I’ll bring a king size quilt and run that over the top of my sleeping bag. I’ve been able to comfortably close the tent with all of that up top BUT cannot fit a pillow lol so that gets stuffed into the stuff sack and tossed into the cargo box on the roof when I tear down camp for day. Depending on how far we are driving it just ends up in the rear of the truck with the dog if its not a highway day.

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Yeah, I also like the fact that they’re a lot more durable than aluminum, plus replacements cost like $50 on marketplace.

Maybe when these start rusting I will powdercoat or paint them body color.

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