Off-roaders have it easy. If our rigs start acting up, we always have the side of the trail. Simply pull out of the way, bust out the tools and spares, and get the problem handled. Pilots, on the other hand, have no such luxury. Mechanical trouble during flight means an emergency landing, or worse.
When we saw Gary Graves's 2004 TJ Unlimited during the Cal 4 Wheel Hi-Desert Roundup, we knew we were looking at a clean rig adorned with hardcore hardware. When we read the tech sheet Gary gave us, it all made sense. Gary makes his living as an airline pilot. As such, he's used to preflight inspections and the stringent requirements that aircraft must meet before flight.
Gary's rig is good to go... and then some. Trail fortifications begin at the tires and flow throughout the rest of the Jeep. We'll get to the details within the captions.
Preparing to fly involves much more than having a flight-worthy plane. Training takes thousands of hours in the classroom, in the flight simulator, and in the air with a qualified instructor. Of course, there's no similar series of hoops to jump through before getting out on the trail, but it still takes the right combination of hardware, judgment, and driving skill to make it through the trail sans breakdowns and unscathed. With hardcore trail hardware and a skilled pilot at the controls, there's only one logical conclusion: Gary and his TJ are licensed to crawl.