Jeep Gladiator Build & Adventure - 18 months around Australia with The Road Chose Me - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 31 Old 07-01-2021, 07:11 PM Thread Starter
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Jeep Gladiator Build & Adventure - 18 months around Australia with The Road Chose Me

Hi Everyone,
It's been another long time in the making, and it's time to kick-off my next major expedition.
I'm setting out to explore all the wild and remote corners of Australia over the next 18 months, in a Gladiator Rubicon I just picked up!


(My route will have to be flexible because of the wet season in the North, and covid restrictions coming and going)

The plan is to explore all the wild and remote corners I've heard about all my life but I have never seen.
I'll cross the Simpson Desert, drive the old Tele Track up to Cape York, Drive the world's most remote road (The Canning Stock Route) explore Tasmania's wild west coast and a WHOLE lot more!


(They didn't let me keep the bow!)

In the past I've documented my two trips on my website - http://theroadchoseme.com
On the first one I drove a little 2-door TJ Wrangler 40,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina on the Pan-American Highway and then I drove a 4-door JKUR 54,000 miles all the way around Africa, covering 54,000 miles through 35 African countries. (Jeep Forum thread here)
They were both the adventure of my lifetime, let me tell you!



I figure I need to get with the times, so on this trip I will document the build of my Gladiator and the trip itself on YouTube.

The first video introducing the Gladiator has just gone live, where I talk about the whys of what I'm doing, and why I chose a Rubicon instead of a different trim level.
The choices here in Australia are different to the US and Canada, which means my decisions are different.
Here's the intro video:

Over the next 6 weeks I will build this into my ultimate house-on-wheels Overland vehicle, and I have a lot planned and boxes have been stacking up for months now.
There will be a second gas tank, drinking water tank, filter and pump, a complete kitchen setup, fridge, front bumper, winch and lighting, aux battery, solar, custom made storage boxes, a roof rack and a canopy over the rear of the gladiator.
I will incorporate a lot of lessons learned from my previous two expeditions, and in many ways each system will be an incremental improvement from what I did previously.
It's going to be a busy 6 weeks.


I'm really stoked I get to build this vehicle with my Dad in his garage, we're going to have a lot of fun together!
I'll post the build of the Gladiator here in this thread, and then when I get underway I'll continue to post details from the expedition itself.

I hope you'll join me for the ride!

-Dan
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post #2 of 31 Old 07-05-2021, 05:46 PM Thread Starter
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Hi all,



I still can't wipe the stupid grin off my face - I've had this thing exactly a week now and love it.
Driving on the wrong side of the road is taking some getting used to, though sitting on the wrong side of the car is the hardest part for sure. It's difficult to judge where the front corner is, and of course it's much longer than my JK was. The reversing camera helps, though I've never really used one before so I'm still getting the hang of the bendy lines.




In my latest video I run through the entire build plan for my Overland Gladiator:
- I discuss the engine and trans my Jeep has (I was so excited I forgot in the last video!)

- I do the FIRST thing everyone should do when they get an overland vehicle
- Dad and I dig into the modifications, pulling out weight I don't need, increasing my payload!






This build is going to be quite extensive while also being extremely functional. It's just getting started!

-Dan

Around Africa in a Jeep Wrangler JK @
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post #3 of 31 Old 07-08-2021, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Today the Overland Gladiator build begins in earnest, and I install a ARB single air compressor.

I have this exact compressor mounted under the hood of my Africa Jeep, it's never missed a beat in 5 years of seriously hard use.

The ARB single makes the most sense for an overland vehicle when we consider payload, electrical use and space consumed.
They're also extremely tough, and I even find a way to mount it under the hood again so it doesn't use up precious cargo volume.



-Dan

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post #4 of 31 Old 07-08-2021, 09:06 PM
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Cool! Can't wait to see the build.


At least you'll have one positive on this trip... you speak the language!

'05 LJR, 6sp, RC long arm w/MC 6" coils, 5.13 D44's w/chromo shafts, MetalCloak fenders/sliders/body armor, 37x12.50 MTR's, Warn 9.5, RockHard swing out w/full spare. <><
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post #5 of 31 Old 07-12-2021, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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With less than 300 miles on the clock, it's time to cut and drill into my brand new Jeep Gladiator to install an AEV snorkel.
I consider a snorkel an essential upgrade for the kind of overlanding I enjoy - both for the dust protection and increased confidence in water crossings.

In this video I show every step of the process to install the AEV snorkel on your Gladiator or Wrangler.

I was a bit nervous making that first hole in the hood, though with AEV's template and instructions there was no need to be - it turned out absolutely perfect!




I'm working on about 10 things for the build simultaneously, and have just locked in getting the Jeep on display at 4x4 shows in Melbourne and Sydney just as the adventure will kick off!

-Dan

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post #6 of 31 Old 07-15-2021, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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Hi All,

I just wrapped up installing a roof rack on my Gladiator, and I chose the Backbone System from Rhino Rack.
I've never run a rack before, and it's primarily so I can bring some toys for enjoyment on this trip.
After way too much research I went with the Backbone System because it bolts right through the hard top and mounts into the roll cage and tub of the Gladiator. That means the weight isn't just sitting on the hard top, it's actually transferred right through.
I genuinely believe this is the best engineered rack on the market, and it feels extremely stout.
I'm confident it will easily handle 18 months of corrugations and tough conditions.

Here's the video where I walk through the entire install, let me know if you have any questions.




-Dan

Around Africa in a Jeep Wrangler JK @
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post #7 of 31 Old 07-19-2021, 05:03 PM Thread Starter
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Hi All,

During my three years around Africa I relied heavily on my solar setup, which was fantastic. I have a lot of electronics to charge, and I enjoyed having a fridge so much I consider solar an essential addition for my overland vehicles. Free electricity just makes sense to me, and it means I can stay in one place for days without having to start the engine.
The primary way I want to improve the Gladiator compared to my Africa Wrangler is to keep the entire build lighter, so this time I've chosen a flexible 100W panel that weighs just 4.2lbs.

In this episode I mount the panel to my Rhino-Rack roof rack, starting the build-out of the entire isolated dual battery setup, which is so far ahead of what I designed and built last time I'm calling it "21st century dual isolated batteries". More to come on that in future episodes.




I still have A LOT of work to do on this build, and something tells me I won't be finished in 2 weeks like I had planned originally!

-Dan

Around Africa in a Jeep Wrangler JK @
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post #8 of 31 Old 07-22-2021, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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Hi all,

It's time to start designing and building the rear storage compartment in my Gladiator that will take the space of the 60% rear seat delete.

I'm one again using aluminium (ALUMINIUM!!) tube and plastic corner connectors, which worked flawlessly for me in the Africa build.
I really like this system because it allows someone like me without much woodworking skill to quickly build lightweight boxes for storage.
This system is super light, it's simple, and it works. That is everything I'm looking for!




-Dan

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post #9 of 31 Old 07-26-2021, 08:19 AM
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Just watched your video and the build is looking great!
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post #10 of 31 Old 07-26-2021, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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Hi All,

In today's update I continue work on the rear storage box for the Gladiator.
I've decided to skin the lightweight frame I built with marine plywood and then I'll cover it with automotive felt to make it blend into the back of the Gladiator.

Dad and I also work to design and build a strong door with a fancy latch for the box, and it's all finished!


This storage system is inexpensive, lightweight, strong and simple to make at home with basic tools - which makes it absolutely perfect!



-Dan

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post #11 of 31 Old 07-27-2021, 07:21 PM
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Had to 'lol' just a bit... first time I've seen someone use a hand saw in like... for years! I have several nice ones I inherited from my Dad. I literarily almost never use them anymore. Just too easy to use the lithium cordless power tools of these days!

I will say however, I can still remember when I was a kid, my Dad (he was a general contractor/carpenter from WWll era) with a properly sharpened crosscut hand saw, rip a 2x4 in half faster than it would take to reach down and grab a power saw to do the same work.

'05 LJR, 6sp, RC long arm w/MC 6" coils, 5.13 D44's w/chromo shafts, MetalCloak fenders/sliders/body armor, 37x12.50 MTR's, Warn 9.5, RockHard swing out w/full spare. <><
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post #12 of 31 Old 07-29-2021, 04:43 PM Thread Starter
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Hi all,

In today's HUGE YouTube episode I install what I'm calling 21st Century Dual isolated batteries with solar into my Gladiator.
Using a state of the art DC-DC charger with built-in MPPT Solar charge controller, a lightweight Lithium battery and a flexible 100W solar panel, this setup is a huge improvement in every way compared to my Africa Jeep.
If you've ever wanted to learn about dual isolated batteries, and the what/why and how of it all, this episode is for you!


I'm confident this is the best setup on the market for my needs, and I'm already impressed with how quickly and efficiently it's charging the house battery - and I don't even have the solar connected yet!





Let me know if you have any questions, I'm happy to help if I can.

-Dan

Around Africa in a Jeep Wrangler JK @
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post #13 of 31 Old 08-02-2021, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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Hi all,

On the weekend I installed a Warn Zeon winch into my factory Rubicon front bumper using the Warn mounting kit.

For where I explore as a solo vehicle, I find a winch to be essential, and this option mounts the winch nice and low, meaning it's not blatantly obvious I have a winch, and it's also not blocking airflow into the radiator.
If nothing else, the winch is good insurance against my own stupidity like when I flopped my Jeep in Uganda, and got stuck in slick mud trying to turn around in Northern BC.



The winch kit is a straightforward install that is easy to do at home with hand tools.


-Dan

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post #14 of 31 Old 08-05-2021, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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Hi all,

I just finished installing a set of Venom LED driving Lights from Lightforce, and I'm really impressed with the quality of the kit and the ease of install.
The Jeep LED lights are already the best I have ever driven with, and these driving lights still add an enormous amount of light.


I mounted them on the front bumper to keep them out of my line of sight, so there is no glare from the hood and so they're protected by the bumper hoop.
With the plug-n-play patch harness provided wiring was extremely simple, and I didn't have to cut or splice any factory wiring which I really like.
(I would prefer not to cut into factory wiring on a brand new vehicle if possible)



These lights push out 1 lux of light at 850meters! (half a mile), so the difference is staggering - I'll post some comparison photos with them on and off as soon as it stops raining!



-Dan

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post #15 of 31 Old 08-09-2021, 05:36 PM Thread Starter
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Hi everyone,


It's been a lot of work on my Gladiator build so far, and I have a lot to go. Of course, it's taking longer than I thought, and covid is messing with my plans.

In this video I give an update, and discuss a lot of the future modifications coming like suspension, an aux fuel tank, a water tank, rear canopy and more!




I had hoped that flying to Australia would get me away from COVID, but it doesn't look that that is the case.
As things sit now, crossing borders in Australia is going to be a lot harder than crossing borders in Africa!

I'll get the build wrapped up and hit the road ASAP and see what happens.

-Dan

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