Jimmie’s 2020 Gladiator JT: Smokey

I have been obsessed with Gladiators since I first set eyes on them at their debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2018. While browsing the inventory of the local dealers this weekend I noticed a big price drop on a Rubicon JT that matched my desired options so one thing led to another and here I am starting my first build thread on American Adventurist. This is my second Jeep and my first Rubicon. Excited to have new to me features like lockers, sway bar disconnect and all the trim improvements. Hope I can apply some lessons learned to make this a great experience. And away we go!

Expected outcome from this build

As a mentioned up top, this is my second Jeep. The first time around I made all the common mistakes one does getting into this. Overbuilding, over loading, and over modifying.

For the JT I want to have a vehicle that I can daily drive in the city and keep in a more understated configuration for that, then switch over by myself to a capable adventure vehicle and hit the road on weekends.

I want to mind the GVWR, the previous JKU was an elephant and performed as such.

I want to keep it minimal...haha it’s an aspiration. But keep it within the factory performance characteristics would be a start.

It’s got to fit in a garage. Street parking in Los Angeles is its own level of hell.

Interior Mods:
JL/Gladiator Rail System by 67 Designs
Hot Heads Headliner
sPOD BantamX
Midland USA MXT275 GMRS radio
ARB CKMTA12 Twin Air Compressor (mounted under passenger seat)

Exterior Mods:
Trifecta 2.0 Soft Folding Bed Tonneau Cover by Extang
LineX Bedliner
JT Quick Release Mud Flaps Rokblokz
BFG KO2 315/70/17 E
AEV Savegre II Wheels 17x8.5 +25 offset
Mountain Hatch tailgate panel
Baja Designs S2 Sport Wide Cornering Lights (ditch lights)
Baja Designs LP6 Combo Driving Lights
Leitner Designs ACS Forged Rack System

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Smokey Bear is always preaching smart fire safety. I’ve seen vehicle fires driving down the freeway here in LA, I’ve seen campers use poor judgement, and many of us are carrying external fuel, propane and a host of other combustibles, well it’s crazy not to have a contingency plan. So the first mod, really just a carry over from the JKU, is to put a 2.5lb fire extinguisher on the roll bar rear drivers side, which is a great spot for this size. The Bartact cover/mount I used is super reliable at holding it in place, no flop. It also does not interfere with folding the seat down. Eventually I may put in a small molle panel made by JCR that fits this space, if the soft mount is no longer holding fast. I also have an Element 50 inbound for the netting in the drivers door. Redundency and quick access. I never used the door nets on my JKU but keeping an Element there is a no-brainer. Also on the extinguisher, check the gauge, you want it to be in the green. Time and heat are not on your side. But getting an extinguisher recharged is a simple task.


But you all read these to see the shiny new, so of course the first mod bought for any new Jeep has to be these, duh.


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Installed front and rear Rokblokz Quick Release Mud Flaps over the weekend. First impressions are that they have some flex but will deflect a sizeable stone and most of the mud. My hope is they save the paint on the door hinges for as long as I run the stock Rubicon rock rails. The installation is simple but along with the included printed instructions I recommend watching the install video by Rokblokz on YouTube. The video has some information the printed instructions are missing. Specifically, on the left rear side, there is an existing bracket that you will remove and replace with the Rokblokz bracket. This is only on the left side by the exhaust. Second note, Rokblokz has updated the rear brackets with an additional brace for “heavy mud”. Quality control in packing failed me here as I was sent an old version left side bracket, and a v2, right side bracket. Rokblokz made good with a small refund and I can drill the missing hole but still, for $200 mud flaps, expect better.

That aside, they look nice and will pay for themselves in cost of paint chip fixes and protect the windshields of those in my wake.

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New paws. BFG KO2s 315/70/17 load range E, mounted on AEV Savegre II wheels specific for the JT. I ran KO2+AEV on my JKU and was really happy with the tire performance and the offset on the wheels that keeps them tucked in. Right now suspension is still stock. I’m going to add some weight up front with a winch and a rack system in the back, then assess any suspension needs.

New paws. BFG KO2s 315/70/17 load range E, mounted on AEV Savegre II wheels specific for the JT. I ran KO2+AEV on my JKU and was really happy with the tire performance and the offset on the wheels that keeps them tucked in. Right now suspension is still stock. I’m going to add some weight up front with a winch and a rack system in the back, then assess any suspension needs.
Awesome looking vehicle! Can't wait to see what else you do to it and where you take it.
Installed an ARB twin compressor under the passenger seat today. I’m not going to rehash the install or wiring as Dave provides some great posts on this in the threads for both his JT and JL. But I do have some observations with photos below.

First, the Innovative JK Products under seat bracket for the JL/JT is simple. Just make sure you have an E12 Torx socket for the seat bolts. It seems like FCA is changing these up with every model. You can pick up a set of Torx sockets for under $10 at the local HF in a pinch. Torque down the torx to 54 ft lbs

As others had said, ITS A TIGHT FIT. Here the seat is locked all the way back. The only contact is some rubbing with the braided steel air line for the air chuck, metal on metal. But clearance from the front of the compressors is less than an inch. I guess I’ll have a heated passenger seat when I air up. Also, a floor vent for the HVAC is against the front of the bracket. Can I run the AC while filling tires with a 240amp alternator?

Finally, you get it all wrenched down and go to set the all weather mat back in the rear passenger space - and it doesn’t fit. The instructions don’t mention this. I thought I did something wrong, but it’s scientifically impossible to fit the floor mat through the backet holding the two compressors without trimming. :genius I tested this for some stupid amount of time before conceding. It’s blocked about as shown in the photo, so you are going to have to get out your blade and start trimming the leading edge of the mat until the mat rests correctly.

This is the easy part. Wiring it up tonight.
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I kept my last Jeep stock for 3 years. Different approach for 2020. Suspension ordered. Going with AEV for the triple rated springs, the simplicity of the set up, and the attention to detail that AEV puts in to the design and testing of these components.

Looking forward to trying out the AEV springs. The stock JT Rubicon springs are SOFT. In contrast I ran Teraflex Outback springs on my JK which were very firm, great for an overloaded JKU with a RTT. Hoping these are a happy medium; I drive my truck daily with less load and heavy on weekends. I also ordered a Steer Smarts adjustable front track bar. A 2.5 lift will shift the front axle at least an inch off center. It’s a must for keeping everything correct up front.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a reliable shop in SoCal that installs suspensions? I’m past the point of doing an all day wrench-fest.

Fall has passed quickly and I’ve done a lot on the truck. I’m still on hold for installing a lift. I’m waiting on the local Jeep dealer to perform a steering box swap for loose steering, an issue with some 2020 Gladiators. In the interim, I’ve started loading out the truck. Here is how it sits today. I lost maybe .5-1” up front adding a winch and the steel winch plate (approx 100 lbs combined) and with the weight up front it does dive a bit when braking. The lift will correct that.


Up front, I bought a new Warn Evo 10s, and used the Warn winch plate to mount. Install was much easier for this than my previous two experiences with my JK. Was able to do it solo because the winch mounts to the plate on the vehicle, then you install the bumper. It helped removing the bumper end caps. Also carried over some Factor 55 stuff and the Baja Designs LP6 lights I had on my JK. I am mostly happy with the MOPAR steel bumper, just wish they had engineered some better recovery points (shackle mounts). Third party recovery points require cutting which compromises the bumper. It will do for now, but something that will nag me.

5C573D07-5AEA-4DEA-89B8-2F551C415D10.jpeg On the back end I’ve added a Leitner ACS Forged Rack. I’ve wanted one since I saw the Leitner JT at MRV2019. I’m very happy with the flexibility of configurations and the storage pods. Still having the truck bed to do truck stuff is [two thumbs up]


Inside I’ve put in an SPOD HD controller, some 67designs mounts and a Midlands GMRS radio. Mounted the stubby antenna on the ditch light mounts.



And that is what kept me busy in November. Next update hopefully will have lifted photos and some California desert adventures.
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What are your thoughts on the GMRS you have? I'm probably going that route early next month.
So far I like it. I get the surf report every morning because the NOAA channel is about 99% of my use case.

Most of the trail groups here in SoCal have switched over from CB to GMRS so it’s practical for joining on runs down here and why I switched. Also it works great with cheap FRS handhelds so good for communicating with spotters. Install was easier than a CB, helped that the antenna cable is thinner and more flexible for routing. I still carry a Baofeng HAM handset and a Garmin inReach for satcom. Multiple layers of com is not overkill when playing in the desert.

Things I haven’t tested rigorously yet are range and repeaters. The Midland MXT275 can access some repeaters, similar to HAM. From my neighborhood in Hollywood, CA I did hit a repeater I think is on a prominent local mountain (Mt Wilson for those who know) which was 15 miles from me at the time. I communicated with someone who said they were in Azusa, CA which is 30 miles from me and not line of sight, plenty of small hills. But we both had clear sight of Mt Wilson. This worked once. Haven’t tried it again since.

Midland is always having sales so if you are in the market don’t pay full price, just wait for the next sale.
The Leitner Designs ACS Forged rack continues to be the Swiss Army knife of cargo racks for my needs.


Today I finally mounted my awning and privacy/shower tent.


I also added the load stops, which I’m using here to hold a large ground tent in place.


Finally, I moved my Waterport as far forward as possible and better situated to use as a shower. Any tips on keeping that tank clean would be greatly appreciated.
Weekend update, should be somewhere on dirt, but until then I just installed a Tembo Tusk* fridge slide in my truck bed. It’s mounted on a Rebel Off-Road XPLOR Rack Fridge Mount. This allows for the Fridge Slide to be anchored to the rack rails. It is designed to bolt directly on the OEM bed rails but since I have the Leitner ACS Forged rack mounted to the rails, I had to drill through the ACS mounting plate. Getting all the rail hardware in place and aligned without completely dismantling the ACS rack was “challenging”. End result, everything is SOLID. I can remove the fridge mount/slide assembly by two bolts (lower attachment point, and I didn’t have to drill into the bed.

*I picked up the Tembo Tusk slide almost a year ago to go in my JKU and never got to installing it thanks to COVID so this is a victory of sorts. Moving right along.
The weight adds up quick. After a few weekends of adding to the truck I sat down and calculated out what my running weight is. Just daily driver use, I’m carrying 750 lbs over curb weight. Fully loaded for a trip I’m sitting at less than a case of beer under GVWR. The struggle is real.

**edit to note this hand calculation is no substitute for taking your beast to a scale and doing it properly. Will do that soon.

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