Jeep is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016. From its earliest uses during World War II, the Jeep established itself as the ultimate in American go anywhere, do anything capability. In the post-war era, soldiers who grew to love the humble Jeep and its abilities overseas brought that love home, and as the ensuing decades passed, the Jeep became the bedrock upon which off-road culture was built. Today, the Jeep Wrangler may not be so humble as the original Willy’s models, but it remains the personification of vehicular off-road adventure. Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Jeeps have been modified to meet the capability needs of their owners.
For Chris Bolger, modified Jeeps aren’t just a hobby—they’re his business. Bolger works for Transamerican Manufacturing Group (TMG), a major builder, distributor, and supplier of parts for off-road enthusiasts. TMG is the force behind brands like Poison Spyder, LRG Rims, G2 Axle & Gear, Rubicon Express, Pro Comp, Smittybilt, and more.
All of this is to say that Bolger’s 2011 four-door Jeep Wrangler (JK) never stood a chance of remaining stock; access to a seemingly unlimited toy box of parts resulted in this build, nicknamed “Tomato” for its distinctive red finish.
“Chris Bolger’s JK fits right in with the Jeep tradition: just pick a horizon, and go.”
The Tomato is a showcase for TMG’s brands, specifically Smittybilt. Smittybilt has its origins in the Rock-ett Products machine shop, founded in 1956 in the garage of Basil “Smitty” Smith. Smith’s son Tom worked with Smitty and led the by then renamed Smittybilt and the company through the years as it developed products for off-road enthusiasts.
“An SRC Stingray hood, M1 mesh grille and a 10,000-lb. X20-Comp winch up front are practical mods that give the tomato a custom look that’s just on the right side of mean.”
Chris’ Jeep is a build that is geared up for everything from off-road adventures to full-on rock crawling. Modifications start at each end with Smittybilt XRC front and rear bumpers (with a tire carrier on the rear); the front bumper has raised approach angles and corners to improve clearance. XRC front and rear flux flares help accommodate the 37×12 50R20 Xtreme MT2 tires from Pro Comp (on LRG 20×10 5-on-5 wheels) and allow an extra three inches of suspension travel.
The Tomato’s suspension is a Rubicon Express 4.5-inch 4-link Extreme-Duty Long Arm system up front, with a 3-link system in the rear. G2 Core 44 axles and lockers help for use with those massive tires, and can take the abuse of off-road adventuring. Underneath Bolger’s JK build, you’ll find more Smittybilt XRC gear including skid plates for the evaporative container, engine/transmission, and transfer case. Smittybilt Atlas rock sliders and an SRC cage kit add to the Tomato’s armor. An SRC Stingray hood, M1 mesh grille and a 10,000-lb. X2O-Comp winch up front are practical mods that also give the Tomato a custom look that’s just on the right side of mean.
The Tomato may get its name from its red paint, but the cherry on top of this sundae is the Overlander tent and awning sitting on its SRC roof rack. The Overlander sleeps two, and Chris has the annex room option for extra-enclosed space when needed. With a sunroof, waterproof rainfly, interior LED light and extension cable, the Tomato can set up camp almost anywhere. For those occasions, the Tomato also packs a tailgate table and an Arctic 52-quart fridge/freezer—all the comforts of home that you’ll actually want to have with you out in the wilderness.
“No matter what you think of its style, for sure it’s an off-road monster fit to tackle trails, rocks, and mountains—and still manages to give you an impressive amount of creature comforts when you decide to make camp for the night.”
Inside, Chris has XRC front seats, built over a Kodiak Frame and featuring high performance foam and Mil Spec fabric. Smittybilt JK grab handles are around for those moments when a little extra bracing is needed (or just wanted). A rear custom G.E.A.R. seat cover provides even more room of supplies in addition to the storage box in the back. Even if everything doesn’t stay where it should, Smittybilt’s C.RES2 HD cargo net helps keep everything in the vehicle with 1,200 lbs. of tensile strength.
The Tomato takes the four-door JK style in the direction of the Jeep pickup truck we’ve all wanted to see for years now (unless that’s just me). No matter what you think of its style, for sure it’s an off-road monster fit to tackle trails, rocks, and mountains—and still manages to give you an impressive amount of creature comforts when you decide to make camp for the night.
Seventy-five years of innovation and adventure have created a culture where you can make your Jeep whatever you want or need to be. From a trail-busting, rock-crawling, open-roofed mobile campsite like the Tomato to the most tricked-out city cruiser, there’s no wrong way to mod your Jeep—because the Jeep was made to do it all. Chris Bolger’s JK fits right in with that tradition: just pick a horizon, and go.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2015 print issue of Tread Magazine.