American Adventure Lab Jeep Gladiator
“Spartacus” Jeep Gladiator, a Natural Leader
Standing out in the sea of Gladiators at SEMA Show 2019 was Brit Mansell’s 2020 Jeep Gladiator, nicknamed “Spartacus.” As the owner of American Adventure Lab (AAL), Mansell used the Gladiator platform to show off the new product offerings from his company. Loaded with top-quality parts, this truck especially shows off AAL’s new truck bed platform rack with integrated rooftop tent (RTT) system. Making its debut at the SEMA Show 2019 in the Overland Experience area, this Gladiator shows ingenuity and style—reasons why it stood out to us.
Building from Top Down
The whole idea for this build was to show off the latest products from AAL and be Mansell’s daily driver and overland adventure machine. The component that really set this Gladiator apart from the crowd—and there was a massive number of Gladiators at SEMA this year—was the ATLAS (Articulating Tent Level and Slide) system.
The ATLAS system is an integrated optional component in the AAL truck bed rack, which is part of AAL’s Modular Adaptable Storage System (MASS) product line. The ATLAS system holds an RTT mid rack when stowed. The real party trick, however, is that the tent deploys out of the back of the rack on an articulating leveling and slide system. The unique motion characteristics of the tent platform completely eliminate the need to level your vehicle when setting up camp. The tent can be leveled independently of the truck in about 2 minutes with one person. Sure, the system creates a nice level-low sleeping platform, but it also does so much more.
The ATLAS system, combined with the AAL truck bed rack, keeps the Overlanding Offroad Wasatch Basin tent out of the wind for better aerodynamics when driving, keeps the truck’s center of gravity low, opens up the top of the rack for bulky adventure gear—or even another RTT—and still offers up a full truck bed’s worth of cargo capacity. The AAL Gladiator is set up with two 1Up bike trays and a prototype AAL kayak cradle on top. On the MOLLE mount panels on the sides of the rack are Rotopax, MAXTRAX, a Hi-Lift, a Tyger Tactical Shovel, and an AAL Hatchet, with room to spare.
“The ATLAS system, combined with the AAL truck bed rack, keeps the Overlanding Offroad Wasatch Basin tent out of the wind for better aerodynamics when driving, keeps the truck’s center of gravity low, opens up the top of the rack for bulky adventure gear—or even another RTT—and still offers up a full truck bed’s worth of cargo capacity.”
With the bed rack containing all the overland and outdoor adventure gear, it was time to make the Jeep Gladiator pickup capable of getting to those remote trail heads, kayak launches, and epic campsites. First up was suspension, wheels, and tires.
An Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 1 Gladiator kit was installed, which provided 2.5 inches of lift. The kit consists of new front coil springs, a rear coil spacer, and Icon shocks, specifically valved for the Gladiator’s weight and performance characteristics, at all four corners. It is Icon’s entry-level kit for the Jeep Gladiator, but it greatly improves the vehicle’s off-road performance, especially when tackling higher speed trails.
“A build like this is never truly complete. While Mansell is super happy with how this build came out, both for its capabilities and its representation of his company, there is always room for improvement.”
Even with a modest lift, it is easy to fit big tires under the Gladiator. Mansell stuffed 38-inch-tall and 13.5-inch-wide Nitto Trail Grappler mud-terrains under this truck. Mansell says he doesn’t usually run such aggressive tires for the mostly dirt roads and pavement that this vehicle will see, but the Trail Grapplers have exceeded his expectations. He says they are “exceptionally quiet on the road and track amazingly well.”
The big 38s are wrapped around equally massive 20×10 Icon Alloy Compression wheels. Initially, Mansell went with 20s to get attention at SEMA, but after airing down to 14 psi and bombing down some trails, he couldn’t be happier with the setup. The 13.5-inch width really helps with tire flex and cushioning when aired down. The wheels are custom powdercoated in a texture red, the same textured powdercoat AAL uses on the ATLAS and all its MASS cargo management products.
Topping off the off-road capability package is a full host of KC HiLites LEDs. A massive Pro 6 light bar secured with KC’s new stamped A-pillar light bar mount above the windshield dominates the front of the truck. Two Gravity single lights are mounted on bottom A-pillar brackets for use as ditch lights. Two G46 driving lights mounted on the front bumper round out the driving light package. For area camp lighting, four C2 area flood lights are mounted to the corners of the bed rack.
The Gladiator Rubicon comes from the factory with a more aggressive higher fender than non-Rubicon models. With a lift and bigger tires, there is rubbing with these stock fenders at full articulation. Most of that rubbing is from the inner fender liners. Once you remove the inner fender liners, then you also have removed the bracket that holds the unique lighting built into the front of the fender. AAL’s solution was to create a new bracket and light combo called the High Line Fender Brace. The new bracket is a powdercoated steel unit that holds a stylish and functional white daylight running LED and sequential amber turn signal.
On Spartacus they also included a set of their trail lights, which bolt to the bottom of the High Line brackets. The trail lights help illuminate the area right in front of the tires for optimal nighttime trail visibility.
Inside those big fenders are aluminum powdercoated AAL inner fender liners. These quick-release units are easily removable with six quarter-turn fasteners for cleaning and maintenance. Not only do they look sharp, but they also keep mud and debris out of the engine bay and allow for maximum articulation without tire rub.
A JE Reel one-piece rear driveshaft was installed. This quality unit has perfect fit and finish and is designed to handle the increased stresses of running larger tires and heavy loads. The steering was also upgraded with a full kit from Synergy Manufacturing. The kit includes an HD draglink, tie rod, and Fox steering stabilizer. It offers noticeable increased steering control, especially at speed off-road.
If for some reason this beast of an off-road truck does get stuck, it also has all the tools necessary to remedy the situation. On the bed rack you have the basic tools everyone should carry on their off-road vehicle: Rotopax fuel cans, MAXTRAX recovery boards, a Hi-Lift jack, Tyger tactical shovel, and an AAL hatchet.
Inside of the Warn Elite Series Stubby front bumper is a Warn Zeon 10-S winch. The winch is completed with a Factor 55 Hawse Fairlead and FlatlinkE with rope guard. This winching system is top of the line and ready for action whenever it’s called for. The Jeep Gladiator is also equipped with a Factor 55 tree saver, recovery strap, and soft shackles.
Of course, any proper off-road machine needs a way to inflate its tires after a long day of aired down off-road fun. The AAL Gladiator features a dual ARB compressor mounted inside an AAL compressor box in the bed of the truck. This setup protects the compressor from loads in the truck bed, while also allowing it to breathe properly and be easy to access.
Another benefit to having all the gear on the truck attached to the truck rack bed is that the roof of the truck is still left untouched. This means that you can do Jeep things with your truck, like removing the top. On the AAL Gladiator a BestopSunrider fold-back soft-top panel replaces the front Freedom Panels in the roof. This setup is super quick and easy to use, and perfect for open-air Jeeping.
To complete this beautiful rig and help separate it from the crowd, a full custom wrap was installed by Union Graphic Co. in Saint George, Utah.
Now that the truck and new parts have been shown to the masses, Mansell plans to take it on some big adventures. In the works are an overland trip to Baja, mountain bike trip to Whistler, a big cross-country camping adventure to attend some East Coast events, and countless weekends in the Utah desert.
You can also expect to see the AAL Gladiator at Overland Expo West and East, Jeep Beach, Smoky Mountain Jeep Jamboree, and more. If you’re in Saint George, Utah, you’re also likely to see this truck roaming the streets and backroads in the area, as this is the headquarters for AAL.
A build like this is never truly complete. While Mansell is super happy with how this build came out, both for its capabilities and its representation of his company, there is always room for improvement. In the works are integrating a secure/weather-sealed tonneau cover, more mounts for the rack system (side bike mounts, ski mounts, fly fishing mounts, second tent mount, and more), an even more capable suspension package, a full cargo management system for the bed of the truck, and a few powertrain upgrades to try and seize some more ponies from the naturally aspirated 3.6L V-6.
You can see more of this awesome Jeep Gladiator and all that American Adventure Lab builds at AmericanAdventureLab.com.
2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Platform: 2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 3.6L V-6
Suspension: JE Reel driveshaft, Synergy HD drag link and tie rod, Fox Steering Stabilizer, Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 1
Wheels & Tires: Icon Alloys 20×10 compression wheel, 38×13.5×20 Nitto Trail Grappler tires
Accessories: Warn Elite Stubby front bumper, Warn Zeon 10-S, Factor 55 Hawse Fairlead and FlatlinkE, AAL MASS bed rack, AAL ATLAS System, Overlanding Offroad Wasatch Basin RTT, AAL High-Line fenders with trail lights, AAL metal quick-release inner fenders, BestopSunrider, ARB twin compressor, AAL compressor box, KC Hi-Lites Pro 6 light bar with mount, KC Gravity Single Lights on A-pillar brackets, KC G46 lights, KC C2 Floods, MAXTRAX, Rotopax, Tyger Tactical shovel, AAL Hatchet, 1Up Bike Mounts, AAL Kayak Cradle
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Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the March/April 2020 print issue of Tread Magazine.