OG40: Overland 2020 Gladiator Crawling on 40s and Camping in Style
When building one of the first Jeep Gladiators to hit the trails after the truck's release, it was only natural for Mel Wade, owner of Off Road Evolution, to do it in a big way. Before digging into the truck, however, he made sure to put the new Jeep truck through some thorough off-road tests to see just how well the Gladiator performed in its stock Sport-level trim. Compared to other stock pickups in its class, he was quite pleased with its composure over bumps and during low-speed navigation of obstacles—not to mention being able to peel back (or completely remove) the top. Nevertheless, the Gladiator's hours in its unmodified state were dwindling.
The goal was to go from bare bones to bugout-built and get the rig onto the trails for some serious off-roading—and to get it all done in time for the 2019 Moab Easter Jeep Safari. As a caveat, Mel carefully considered the cost of his project. Between the truck's $35,000 sticker price and all the modifications on its prospective buildsheet, his goal was to keep the EVO-equipped Gladiator within a $70,000 budget, roughly the cost of bringing home a decked-out Rubicon Gladiator. Why didn't he just start with a Rubicon? Mel cited the Rubicon's transfer case and its 4.0:1 reduction ratio as one of the main reasons he instead chose the Sport trim. While the NV241OR Rock-Trac T-case gives Rubicon (Wranglers and Gladiators) the revered out-of-the-box 77.2:1 final reduction ratio (with the automatic transmission), Mel prefers the 2.72:1 reduction of the Sport's NV241 T-case. He says that once the 5.38:1 axle gears and 4.71:1 First-gear ratio are considered, his 68.9:1 crawl ratio is perfect for the challenges he expects to face.
We caught up with Mel during the 2019 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, where he was putting his Gladiator's camping and crawling capabilities to the test. Continue reading for a look at one of the first Gladiators built big and outfitted for adventure.
Like the front, the rearend was a Dana Ultimate 60 with 5.38:1 gears and a similar Eaton ELocker. When pointing out the Enforcer Overland suspension brackets, Mel told us the brackets for the EVO short-arms were raised 2 inches from their stock heights, increasing ground clearance and correcting the suspension geometry. The brackets are also said to be compatible with long-arm lifts. Another pair of King 2.5-inch remote-reservoir shocks damp movement in the back, while the truck's load is supported by the dual-rate coil springs. Mel was overjoyed to find that the Gladiator's rear track bar was straight, compared to the curved bar found on the previous-generation Jeep. This allowed him to craft a beefier EVO-spec track bar without any curves or subsequent sacrifices to strength.
At a Glance
Vehicle: '20 Jeep Gladiator
Stomping grounds: Fullerton, California
Build time: Two weeks
Engine: 3.6L Pentastar V-6
Transmission: 850RE 8-spd automatic
Transfer case: NV241 Command-Trac
Low range ratio: 2.72:1
Crawl ratio: 68.9:1
Front axle/differential: Ultimate Dana 60 w/Eaton 5.38:1 gears/Eaton ELocker
Rear axle/differential: Ultimate Dana 60 w/Eaton 5.38:1 gears/Eaton ELocker
Front: EVO MFG Enforcer 6.5-in short-arm kit with dual-rate springs, overland brackets, and King 2.5 remote-reservoir shocks
Rear: EVO MFG Enforcer 6.5-in kit with dual-rate springs, overland brackets, and King 2.5 remote reservoir shocks
Tires: 40x13.50R17LT Nitto Trail Grappler
Wheels: 17x9 KMC XD229 Machete beadlock
Steering: Steer Smarts Yeti HD tie rod and drag link, PSC Motorsports hydraulic ram-assist kit
Armor: EVO MFG Quarter Pounder front bumper, EVO rear bumper w/swinging tire carrier, and EVO MFG body-mounted rock sliders
Lights: KC Lights Gravity LED Pro6 lightbar, Gravity LED Pro6 A-pillar singles, Flex Quad combo bumper-mounted LEDs, recessed rear bumper-mounted FLEX LED reverse lights, LED side-facing camp spot lights
Cool stuff: Warn Zeon 12-S winch and Sidewinder shackle, ARB electric fridge, traction boards, fire extinguisher, Roam Adventure Company rooftop tent, EVO MFG bed rack and roof rack, RotopaX fuel and water canisters, and recovery shovel