Plain Jane, the family truckster

-miko-

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After eyeing the Gladiator since it was first released, all the parts finally fell into place and I know have mine. I had been wrestling with what my next vehicle should be and eventually settled on a Base manual transmission Gladiator because it checked off a lot of my needs and wants:

1) A vehicle to bring a little fun and joy
I've got a large family (6 kids ranging from 17 to 8) and I'm always seeking ways to bring a little joy to the day to day. I have an old Toyota Land Cruiser that I've been trying to make fit this role but it's just not working. It's too rough and trail oriented. The way it's built It's really a glorified tractor (not power steering, no power brakes, super low transmission with a top speed of 50 or so). The Gladiator with the doors and roof off is so much fun and is so livable day to day. Plus ABS and airbags are a bonus.

2) An engaging driving experience
I've always loved manual cars and wanted to have at least one vehicle in our fleet that I could row through the gears on a back country road. The Gladiator is so much lighter and more nimble than any other car we have. Again it's not perfect but it made me smile during the test drive and reminded me why it's so much fun to feather a clutch, drop a gear and pull through a corner. I also want my kids to have the option to learn if they'd like.

3) A decent commuter
It's not the perfect commute but can't be any worse then my full-size pickup with 170,000 miles. And with the work-from-home situation the weighting of this one dropped pretty low. If i can get 18-20 on my occasional highway commute, I'll be happy.

4) Has the potential to haul the family around town.
Ok, so this is one that will take some work, but with the bed it's feasible. I'm considering how to get at least 3 additional seats in the bed so that I can take the family to dinner on a summer night (well, once all this craziness is through). Maybe some Land Rover 110 bench seats in the bed? Or find a second row from a JKU? This is going to be fun to figure out.

5) Unique, even quirky yet functional
I have a thing for oddball vehicles that work well and this one fits right in. I'm not a fan of having what everyone else has so a JLU wasn't quite right. The 'so ugly it's cute' looks and the Swiss army utility of the Gladiator make it just right in my book.

6) Able to get into (and out of) the woods
I don't get to do it often but there's not much that restores me as much as a few nights in the woods. I really wanted a vehicle that could get me to more isolated places - and was still comfortable to drive 3 or 4 hours on the highway to get there.

So given all that, the Gladiator was really the only current vehicle on the market that checked all the boxes. Yes I could spend a bit more on a custom Land Cruiser Troopie or Land Rover but there is something nice about having a warranty and I have a feeling if I want that route the cost would get out of hand pretty quickly. The Gladiator just made sense.

pickup1.jpeg


gladiator.jpeg


Now onto the bits and bobs I've been collecting to slowly make it my own. More on that later...



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Blknblu

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My original ordered vehicle was just like that, till i got an Overland for even less than a basic Sport.

Bruce
 
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-miko-

-miko-

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My original ordered vehicle was just like that, till i got an Overland for even less than a basic Sport.
You got a great deal. I just couldn't find a manual Sting Gray anywhere close by.
 
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-miko-

-miko-

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Finally getting to all the stuff that accumulated while I waited for the truck to be delivered. Had a whole slew of things to add - CCM mirrors, Kentrol door pins and liners, door latch covers, 69 Designs dash mount and phone holder, and a stubby antenna.

IMG_5759.JPG


Also got to haul it's first load - chairs and tables for a bridal shower my wife is hosting. Love that 2 six ft tables and 12 chairs fit under the tonneau cover easily. All with the doors and freedom panels off! :D

IMG_5765.JPG
 
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-miko-

-miko-

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I picked up a Rubicon plastic bumper and metal skid plate from a local forum member - thanks @Govdog76!. Got the skid plate installed after ordering some needed hardware from Quadratec, but think I might hold off on the bumper itself. I'm going for a utilitarian vibe overall - it has to improve the function if it's going on the truck. There's no added functionality with the Rubicon bumper and after looking at it side by side I prefer the simplicity and subtlety of the Sport one for now. One day I hope to snag a metal stubby Rubicon bumper - but I'd still paint the hooks black. ;)

By the way - hats off to the shipping crew at @Quadratec. I ordered on Thursday afternoon, items where pulled and shipped late Thursday and arrived before noon on Sunday - all with free shipping. It was a pleasant surprise to get them over the weekend.

steel skidplate1.jpeg


I spent the rest of the afternoon doing a bit more to simplify and subdue the overall look. I pulled and trimmed the air dams for less visual clutter around the bumper. Removed the Jeep side logos and plasti-dipped the wheel weights and trail rated badge to simplify the side view as well. Slowly getting there. Now I'm really ready for a leveling kit and tires. I've got a neighbor with a portable lift so hopefully a Teraflex kit will go on soon.

steel skidplate2.jpeg


First, though I want to make some carts for the doors and roof - hence the lumber in the bed. I really need a better spot to store them when they're off the truck. They're just asking for a ding sitting around the driveway and garage. More to come on that in a bit.
 
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-miko-

-miko-

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Finally got time to work on a door cart. Overall I wanted it to support 3 configurations:

- Front doors only with or without Freedom Panels
- All doors with or without Freedom Panels
- All doors and roof with or without Freedom Panels

And it had to fit in a narrow spot in the garage. After researching a bunch of current options I made some plans and got started.

At first I seriously considered steel, but decided on lumber due to cost.

IMG_5796.JPG


Did some testing of the design and found I needed a bit more space between the doors on the cart. I was also happy that the width was stable enough to hold a door without the other one on the cart.

IMG_5797.JPG

IMG_5798.JPG


My plan was to have a cart for the front doors and cart for the back.

IMG_5802.JPG


I added some foam, casters and additional bracing. The front door cart has additional spot for the Freedom Panels.

IMG_5806.JPG


They hold the doors quite well and are easy to roll in and out of the garage.

IMG_5817.JPG


And finally the carts can be latched together to move all the doors together AND can store the roof on top.

IMG_5815.JPG


When it's loaded up I can leave it at the back of the drive or roll it into the garage. Pretty happy with the way it came together.

IMG_5813.JPG
 
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-miko-

-miko-

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Here's the as built plans for the carts if anyone wants to make their own or riff off of this. Would love any comments on how things could be improved.

EDIT: Plans updated to include dimensions on the cut sheet.
 

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-miko-

-miko-

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I've never quite understood why there isn't better integration with cellphones in modern cars. AirPlay, etc. are nice but I like a hard wired connection point that feels like it was meant to be there - not a slapped on mass of cords snaking across the interior.

To make that better in the Gladiator I decided to run a USB cord from the center console jack to a spot right below my phone mount.

First I snagged a good quality cable. This one was particularly nice since the greys and blacks match the interior - https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B072JXXVP3. I've read that some lesser quality cables may have issues using that console port.

Next I drilled a hole just big enough for the cable head into the center console near the handbrake lever.

cord-5.jpeg


I also notched the rubber pad for a nice, tight fit.

cord-4.jpeg


Then I snaked the cord through the hole and pulled it out from the panel by the driver's seat and up to the footwell. Once it was completely pulled through (leaving a little slack in the console), I tucked the cord back up under all the trim panels until is was out of site and up under the dash.

cord-3.jpeg


Even here you can tuck the cable under the bottom corners of those dash trim pieces so it's completely hidden.

cord-8.jpeg


Next was to pull the HVAC panel off. I did watch a few youtube videos to make sure I wasn't going to break anything. I don't have any trim removal tools but used a putty knife to gently start pulling off the panel - then it's just getting your fingers under it and committing to pull it off.

cord-2a.jpeg


With it off, I snaked the cable up from the bottom of the dash...

cord-2.jpeg


...and notched the HVAC panel where the cable would come out.

cord-1.jpeg


Then it was just a matter of snapping the HVAC panel back on and adjusting the cord length to align to the bottom of my phone mount...

cord-6.jpeg


...and dropping the rubber mat back into the center console to finish it all off.

cord-7.jpeg


Very pleased with how clean it looks - like it was meant to be there.
 

BabblingBafoon

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I've never quite understood why there isn't better integration with cellphones in modern cars. AirPlay, etc. are nice but I like a hard wired connection point that feels like it was meant to be there - not a slapped on mass of cords snaking across the interior.

To make that better in the Gladiator I decided to run a USB cord from the center console jack to a spot right below my phone mount.

First I snagged a good quality cable. This one was particularly nice since the greys and blacks match the interior - https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B072JXXVP3. I've read that some lesser quality cables may have issues using that console port.

Next I drilled a hole just big enough for the cable head into the center console near the handbrake lever.

cord-5.jpeg


I also notched the rubber pad for a nice, tight fit.

cord-4.jpeg


Then I snaked the cord through the hole and pulled it out from the panel by the driver's seat and up to the footwell. Once it was completely pulled through (leaving a little slack in the console), I tucked the cord back up under all the trim panels until is was out of site and up under the dash.

cord-3.jpeg


Even here you can tuck the cable under the bottom corners of those dash trim pieces so it's completely hidden.

cord-8.jpeg


Next was to pull the HVAC panel off. I did watch a few youtube videos to make sure I wasn't going to break anything. I don't have any trim removal tools but used a putty knife to gently start pulling off the panel - then it's just getting your fingers under it and committing to pull it off.

cord-2a.jpeg


With it off, I snaked the cable up from the bottom of the dash...

cord-2.jpeg


...and notched the HVAC panel where the cable would come out.

cord-1.jpeg


Then it was just a matter of snapping the HVAC panel back on and adjusting the cord length to align to the bottom of my phone mount...

cord-6.jpeg


...and dropping the rubber mat back into the center console to finish it all off.

cord-7.jpeg


Very pleased with how clean it looks - like it was meant to be there.
Thanks for sharing this info! My 67 Designs Rail System should arrive tomorrow or Monday. Will definitely be following your lead on this.
 

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