Dave's Jeep JT Gladiator: The 'Gator


Senior Staff
A legendary name forged in the fires of war. On the battlefield, the Jeep was fast, nimble and tough, serving in every clime and place.

Since then, Jeep has gone through many changes in ownership and lineup over the years, and has even been imitated (and arguably improved upon) by Land Rover and Toyota. And while I was always a sucker for an old flat fender Willy's (really, who isn't?), the brand never had my full attention as a consumer until they revealed the JL Wrangler at the LA Auto Show in 2017.

I bought a JL in 2018 and built it out. And it was great. I loved that Jeep but life throws it's curves at you and I found myself needing more capacity for payload and towing. The JT Rubicon has twice the towing capacity of my JL at 7,000 lbs, and payload is considerably better as well at 1,600 lbs.

The JT Gladiator is the first Jeep pickup since the XJ Cherokee based 1986-1992 MJ Comanche. The Gladiator name was first used on the 1962-1971 SJ Gladiator. After 1971 the SJ was simply known as the Jeep Pickup or the J-Series (1972-1973: J2000 and J3000: 1974-1988: J10 and J20). Where the original SJ Gladiator was powered by various I-6 and V-8 engines, the 2020 JT Gladiator is powered by Chrysler’s tried and true 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar Upgrade (PUG) engine.

The standard 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 makes 285 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque, significantly more than my 4.0 liter 1GR-FE V6 Tacoma did and with better fuel economy too. I wasn’t interested in the pending 3.0 EcoDiesel, it just doesn’t appeal to me.

This truck features an all-new lightweight, high-strength steel frame. When compared to Jeep JL Wrangler 4-door, the Gladiator’s frame is an additional 31 inches longer making the overall wheelbase 19.4 inches longer. Gladiator utilizes the proven five-link coil suspension configuration with the front suspension using a lateral control arm and four longitudinal control arms. Full-width track bars made of forged steel control lateral movement of the axle with minimal angle change during suspension travel.

The rear five-link coil suspension design is exclusive to the Gladiator and features two upper and two lower forged steel control arms for longitudinal control, and a track bar for lateral axle control. The control arms are centered under the frame rails while the rear shocks are forward facing.

Factory electric lockers front and rear are great, as is a good old fashioned manual shift lever for the transfer case. And the 850RE TorqueFlite automatic features a low 4.71:1 first gear and delivers a JK-beating 77.2:1 crawl ratio (compared to 58.9:1 on the five-speed automatic JK) when paired with the JT Rubicon’s NV241OR Rock Trac 4:1.

30 inches of water fording, an approach angle of 43.6 degrees, breakover angle of 20.3 degrees, departure angle of 26 degrees and a ground clearance of 11.1 inches allows it to go where most other trucks can't.

The 2020 Gladiator has some features that were not available when I bought my 2018 JL Wrangler. First is the forward facing trail cam, an amazing addition that lets you follow precise lines and proper wheel placement on the trail, or even just a look over the hill when your windshield is full of sky.

And then there's the new Off-Road Mode Plus. If you engage this button while in 4-High, it will assume you’re driving through sand, and adjust the throttle and stability control settings accordingly; if you engage it while in 4-Low, it assumes you’re traversing rocky, low-speed terrain and adjusts the systems for that. I'm not a big fan of push button traction aids BUT it is nice to have these onboard if you're having a bad day.

As luck would have it, my search for the right one took about 5 minutes, I found it in an online inventory search about an hour away from me in Daphne, Alabama. A fully loaded JT Rubicon in Gator Clear Coat. With an all steel bed and OEM spray in bedliner.

There is simply no other mid size truck on the market in 2020 that offers better mobility right from the factory. It was love at first sight.

So I sold my beloved JL Wrangler and started a new project with similar goals: A focus on keeping it simple, fast and light.

YEAR: 2020
MAKE: Jeep
MODEL/TRIM: Gladiator Rubicon
COLOR: Gator Clear Coat
PACKAGES: Everything
ENGINE: 3.6 liter V6, 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque
TRANSMISSION: 850RE TorqueFlite, 8 speed auto


Active Cargo System FORGED by Leitner Designs

12V accessory control by sPOD - Bantam w/HD panel
Magnetic phone mount by 67 Designs



Jeeps have been built in Toledo, Ohio since 1941.
  • 7,000-pound towing capacity
  • 1,600-pound payload
  • Dimensions: 204” frame (31” longer than JLU), 137” wheelbase (19.4” longer than JLU), 5-foot bed
  • Approach angle: 43.6 degrees
  • Breakover angle: 20.3 degrees
  • Departure angle: 26 degrees
  • OEM Ground Clearance: 11.1”


Senior Staff
There are some trade offs going from a JL to a JT, mainly wheelbase and departure angle BUT the biggest thing I gained is a 5-foot, all-steel pickup bed. To my pleasant surprise, Jeep designed the bed very, very well.

The tailgate, for instance, has two open positions: fully open, and tilted out slightly. When in the slightly open position, you can carry several sheets of the 4-by-8-foot plywood in the bed, resting on top the wheel wells where the box is wider. Luckily, mine came with the optional LED cargo lighting in the bed, OEM spray-in bedliner, and the OEM "Trail Rail" track system so it's ready from the factory to carry whatever.

But, we all know that modifications must occur :D

So I considered shells. I thought about campers. I considered everything. But based on lessons learned, I am not willing to "camperize" this TRUCK so I looked long and hard at different ways to maximize my ability to carry things I need while keeping the bed open for use as a truck. And after my experience in the JL, I really like the idea of being able to throw all our “dirty” gear in the bed instead of bringing it inside the cab.

In my opinion, the best thing available that would allow the bed to stay free while allowing me to carry tools, gear, Hi-Lift, Maxtrax, axe/shovel, bikes, kayaks, etc etc is from Leitner Designs. Their newest rack, the Active Cargo System (ACS) FORGED features T-6061 forged aluminum uprights and has a static weight capacity of 1400 lbs, 800 lbs dynamic/road and 400 lbs dynamic/offroad so it has the capability and the capacity to carry anything I might ever need and then some. And it only weighs 85 lbs.





Senior Staff
Speaking of tailgates, the OEM surface is lumpy and bumpy. The guys over at Mountain Hatch make something far better.


5 minutes later and voila! Work bench/dinner table/bar/park bench with a view/whatever you need it to be.


No more lumpy bumpy, and longer cargo now slides in and out without much effort.

Yes! I have been waiting... and waiting...! The rack looks like it will get the job done, almost whatever the job is and the tailgate cover is one of those, "why didn't I think of it" simple changes with big benefits in every day use. I will be following along and living vicariously through your build.


Senior Staff
I like all that storage. Is that plastic or metal? Will it hold up to bouncing around?
These are some type of plastic (think Pelican case) and they’ve been on the market for years, lots of rigs bouncing around the southwest with these loaded up.


Senior Staff
Founding Member
Nice. We almost went with that rack when we first got the Tacoma. If those Pods would have been available than, we might have pulled the trigger on that system. Still, no bed coverage for inclement weather or hiding things in the bed I don’t want seen is a hard sell. I do like the fact it’s a whole lot lighter than our shell. Trade offs and compromises are a bitch.
I really like the pods. Being able to walk up to the truck and access gear without crawling around inside or wrestling with a tire carrier first is an exponential upgrade to how well it works. I used to camp/hunt/shoot out of my work truck with a flat bed and 9 feet of topside boxes down each side. It wasn't much off-road, but I really miss the utility of all that ready storage. I have similar plans for my old F350, but I'm a decade or two behind schedule.


Congratulations on the new Gladiator!

I looked long and hard at options for the back and when it comes to racks Leitner Designs is the best imho. I decided to have more security and ordered an Alu-Cab canopy. Hopefully it will be in next week.

I like the smooth tailgate cover...Lots of possibilities there.

Looking forward to your build! Do you have any thoughts on the front bumper? I’m disappointed we couldn’t get the factory steel one.


Senior Staff
Looking forward to your build! Do you have any thoughts on the front bumper? I’m disappointed we couldn’t get the factory steel one.
I like the OEM MOPAR front bumper alot, but it has one key flaw in the way the winch drum is virtually hidden. So I am actively researching other options, and I'm talking to one manufacturer about what I think makes a winch bumper "perfect" for this or any platform. Stay tuned.


Senior Staff
@Dave. Did you strip some mods off The Gray Goat or are you starting fresh?

Nice. We almost went with that rack when we first got the Tacoma. If those Pods would have been available than, we might have pulled the trigger on that system. Still, no bed coverage for inclement weather or hiding things in the bed I don’t want seen is a hard sell. I do like the fact it’s a whole lot lighter than our shell. Trade offs and compromises are a bitch.
Something like Decked. But then you lose bed depth. Like you said. Trade offs and compromises are a bitch.
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