Everyone is talking about the new Jeep JT Gladiator, and with good reason. Not only is it new, it's really cool on many different levels. It's the first Jeep pickup truck to roll off the assembly line in more than 25 years, it has solid axles front and rear (unlike its mid-size truck competitors), and it has the equipment for serious off-road work. Whether you love or hate the JT, however, there are some styling cues that many would say left it looking a bit unfinished. Quite a few Jeep concepts hinted that the truck would take on the styling cues of the past-generation Gladiator trucks, but we now know it's nearly identical to the JL Wrangler. If we were in charge of Jeep design, we would have gone with something much closer to this Gladiator, which melds old school and new design perfectly.
You never know what's going to come out of the shop at Chris Durham Motorsports, but one thing is for sure-it will be well done. Well-known rock crawler and custom vehicle builder Chris Durham has created all sorts of innovative 4x4s, some of which have graced the pages of Jp Magazine. Durham operates a shop in Pickens, South Carolina, and works on everything from hot rods to hardcore rock crawlers and classic trucks. As a result, it's not unusual to see several design elements combined in one of his way-out-of-the-box creations that are normally unique to different automotive niches. And unlike a lot of other shops that spend a lot of time modifying Jeep styling cues, Durham also spends a lot of time 'wheeling all over the country. He knows what works and what doesn't off the pavement, and every one of his vehicles is designed to be used hard and survive under his enormously heavy right foot. His approach to building a Gladiator truck is not only refreshing, it began before the new Gladiator was officially unveiled.
It's difficult to really pinpoint exactly what year the vehicle should be. The frame is from a 2012 Jeep Wrangler JKU, as is most of the dash, the transmission, and some of the wiring. The pickup cab was fabricated from a two-door JK body, in part because unlike a four-door, the B pillar is separate from the tub. Most of the rest of the vehicle was put together with a combination of parts that were lying around with a sprinkling of new components added into the mix. Unlike his last couple of builds, this one marks the return to his racing roots with some healthy LS power on tap, which he doesn't hesitate to use when the situation demands. This Gladiator is low and stable despite packing 40-inch tires, and it hasn't had an easy life so far. After debuting the Gladiator at the 2019 Jp Dirt 'N Drive and Moab Easter Jeep Safari (where these photos were taken) events, in just a few short months the truck has been to Alaska, Maine, the Southeast, and all over the East coast. It's one of a kind, and it's definitely worth a closer look.
Why This Jeep Pickup
It's a completely different take on what a Gladiator truck should look like, and we love it. Often vehicles that are "converted" to pickups end up looking odd and out of proportion, but everything about this truck is just right. The four-door frame is completely stock, so it has the exact same overall dimensions as a JK, yet this thing looks like it could have rolled off the assembly line in Toledo. Best of all, it has some serious hardware under the shiny sheet metal, and with Chris behind the wheel, there's no trail this Jeep couldn't tackle.
Hard Facts Vehicle: 2012 Jeep "Gladiator"
Engine: 6.0L LS w/ Tilden Ultra 4 internals and Bruiser Electronics
Transfer Case: Atlas 3.8
Axles: Dana 60, 5.38 gears, Detroit Locker (front); 14-Bolt, 5.38 gears, Detroit Locker (rear)
Suspension: 4-inch Skyjacker long-arm with coilover shocks and air bumps
Wheels: 17x9 Walker Evans Racing beadlock
Tires: 40x13.50R17 Milestar Patagonia M/T
Steering: PSC Big Bore ram-assist with 7075 Aluminum tie rod and drag link
Other Stuff: Chris Durham Motorsports Gladiator conversion, custom aluminum bed, Barnes 4WD skid plates, Tom Woods driveshafts, Warn Xeon 10-S winch, custom top and interior by Bucket Stitch