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Wrangler Is King: Custom Builds Of The Off-Road Icon

Jeep wrangler modification
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Take a gander at some gnarly modifications to the timeless American classic: The Jeep Wrangler.

The Jeep Wrangler has been around since 1986, with a fresh update every decade since 2007. While the current model is a little dated, Jeep will soon replace it with an all-new model, the JL, for 2018.

Wandering the halls of the massive SEMA show of auto customization last year, I was met with hundreds of tricked-out Jeeps. It reminded me why these ubiquitous vehicles are such kings of the off-road.

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The key to the Wrangler’s success is that it is an off-road capable vehicle straight from the showroom that deserves every bit of its “Trail Rated” badge. With over 250,000 Wranglers sold annually, there is no shortage of Jeep enthusiasts around the world.

jeep wrangler with a rooftop tent at sema show
Throw a tent on top, bikes on the back and paint it in Linex. Where can’t it take you?

Also, the aftermarket support for the Wrangler is unlike any other vehicle on the market today. It just won the “Hottest 4×4-SUV Award” for the seventh year in a row at the annual SEMA Show, a major aftermarket-specialty automotive trade show.

Off-Road Mods At SEMA

Over 200 modified Jeeps were at SEMA this year. More than 150 were 4-door, JKU variants. Modifications can be completely absurd, like huge deep-dish chrome wheels wrapped in rubber band-like mud tires and suicide doors.

But there are also truly spectacular mods, like superchargers, diesel engine swaps, and pop-top roofs with integrated sleep systems.

snow tread jeep wrangler
Take your backcountry skiing to a whole new dimension.

Jeep Wrangler: Pros And Cons

Despite its rugged looks and underpinnings, the Wrangler isn’t for everyone. It is relatively underpowered, offers pretty poor fuel economy, and usually offers a lackluster plastic interior.

Jeep continues to improve on these shortcomings with more advanced powertrains and upscale interiors throughout the JK’s life cycle. The solid axle configuration provides much of the off-road durability and prowess, but also greatly hurts the vehicle’s on-road comfort.

massive jeep raised suspension sema show
Sure this beast is blinged out, but it also has an impressive suspension system and is turbo diesel powered

The Wrangler is iconic among the outdoor crowd because it expertly hauls you, your friends, and your gear to the action. Whether you’re heading to a remote mountain powder stash or a ‘secret’ surf spot without roads, the Wrangler will get you there.

It’s capable straight off the factory floor, and is easy to enhance with readily available parts.

zero emissions jeep wrangler concept
Is there such a thing as green offroading? This beast of a Jeep is a big step in the right direction, with a hydrogen fuel cell power plant

Besides its off-road prowess, cargo capacity, and iconic design, the Wrangler has features not found on any other vehicle available.

What other vehicles have options for removable top and doors, basic cloth interior, and manual transmission? The versatility of the Wrangler platform and unique feature set appeal to a wide audience.

jeep wrangler off-road sema show open-air
Enjoy being outside, even when you’re cruising down the road in your Jeep

What’s Next For The Wrangler?

Despite its vast popularity, the Wrangler brand is poised to attract an even wider audience. A rumored Wrangler pickup truck and upcoming diesel engine, available on the to-be-released Jeep JL, are sure to attract more fans.

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Newer, more powerful engines provide better performance and fuel economy on pavement, but they’re also better at tackling obstacles. 

While the vehicle might continue to refine for more on-road use, be confident Jeep will provide fans with a proper ‘Trail Rated’ vehicle.

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