It started with a call from Florida. A small shop on the East Coast had begun building a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited for an international customer and needed a coilover kit from Rebel Off Road in Laguna Hills, California, to complete their work. After acquiring some general information about pricing, the parts were ordered and the transaction was completed—simple B2B process. A little while later, Rebel received another call about the same kit, this time from the customer himself. Speaking in a thick French accent, the customer introduced himself as Maurice Riquier.
He explained that there had been a misunderstanding at the shop and that the parts had not been received despite the order, so he requested the parts to be delivered to his personal address. Maurice was willing to pay for the parts again. However, he had one more request. He wanted to know how the crew at Rebel Off Road would install the parts if they had been contracted to work on the rig themselves.
It was an unorthodox inquiry, and Rebel Off-Road owner Bond Gilmer was hesitant to answer. Consulting a customer was one thing, but lending his expertise to another shop seemed counter productive. But, Bond offered his suggestion anyway (just to put a good foot forward) and Maurice thanked him, explaining that he would take his advice to the other shop.
Two Months Later
“Can I ship the vehicle to you from Florida?” Maurice asked Bond when he realized his Jeep wasn’t being built the way he wanted. Bond explained that the process would be costly, but Maurice didn’t flinch, “No, I am done with them. I want you to build my Jeep.”
When the vehicle arrived at Rebel, Bond assessed the work that had been done. The accessories looked good, that was for sure, but the practicality of them couldn’t be described in any other way but “Mickey Mouse.” Weighted side steps had been added that unfold as you exit and enter the rig; the axles were not strengthened to endure harsh environments, and the coilover and long arm suspension was not fitted to suit the vehicle’s specific needs. There was work to be done. But first, Bond wanted to know what Maurice’s intentions for the vehicle were. Fortunately, the Jeep Jamboree expedition was just around the corner, so Bond invited Maurice to make tracks over the Rubicon Trail with him and his crew. Maurice accepted and flew in, not from Florida, but Morocco, to tackle the trail.
“From Morocco, Maurice planned to move North into Spain, traversing Europe until reaching Romania where he hoped to encounter some difficult terrain before dipping down into Iran and the Middle East, slogging his way across Northern India, Bangladesh and then eventually arriving in Myanmar.”
From Morocco to Burma
There, Maurice unveiled his plans to embark on a 6-month journey beginning in North Africa and ending in Burma. From Morocco, he planned to move North into Spain, traversing Europe until reaching Romania where he hoped to encounter some difficult terrain before dipping down into Iran and the Middle East, slogging his way across Northern India, Bangladesh and then eventually arriving in Myanmar (modern-day Burma).
Bond took it all in, envisioning the harsh environments the 4×4 would have to endure. Maurice was optimistic and confident about the trip, but having been one who had made multiple treks through the unforgiving Simpson Desert and the mess of Australian rain forests, Bond knew that the rig wasn’t ready for such a demanding journey. But he knew exactly what would need to be done, and he needed Maurice to be on board with his vision. For starters, he was going to get rid of those stupid side steps.
Consult, Build and Deliver
The philosophy behind Bond’s work at Rebel Off Road can be summed up in this simple mantra: consult, build and deliver. Maurice had already been consulted. Now it was time to build. The Rebel team removed the existing pretty-looking fenders, and at the request of Maurice, introduced only the best looking state-of-the-art steel fenders on the Jeep. Next, Bond upgraded the existing rolling stock to 40×13.50 R17 Toyo Open Country Mud Terrain tires. A 20-gallon Long Range fuel tank was ordered from Australia (which significantly weighed down the buggy) and replaced the factory fuel tank: This would allow Maurice to sweep across stretches of desert without having to worry about fuel, a very necessary modification in any overland-ready vehicle.
“The philosophy behind Bond’s work at Rebel Off Road can be summed up in this simple mantra: consult, build and deliver”
Because this rig was being built for the deserts of North Africa, some modifications are specific to this build that wouldn’t be necessary for say, a weekend trip to Yellow Stone. For instance, infrared cameras were installed in the front and rear of the vehicle to prevent Maurice from smashing into cattle or other large game while roaming around his home, a constant hazard in Africa.
The AEV bumper was replaced by a bumper made to Bond’s set of specific standards, but since Maurice liked the look of the previous bumper, Bond had the new one made to look like the old one. A complete conversion coilover system was added to front and rear, along with Teraflex long arm suspension system and a King Coilover 12” stroke 2.0, all helping to give the Jeep a more brooding stance, and much-needed clearance.
Throughout the entire process, Bond and Maurice conducted weighty conversations about the journey ahead, the changes that needed to be made and even about each other’s philosophies regarding the modification of a vehicle. Neither man took to the work lightheartedly, and Bond, who had experienced challenges in the outback, knew the dangers of lazy planning and overlooking key items. Bond would ask Maurice pointed questions about his plans should he break down in the desert; where his parts would be flown in, instructing him on how different countries, such as France or Germany would conduct business; even questions as simple as knowing of a competent mechanic in Europe who could fix an axle shaft. It was questions like these that led Maurice to trust Bond completely.
“Throughout the entire process, Bond and Maurice conducted weighty conversations about the journey ahead, the changes that needed to be made and even about each other’s philosophies regarding the modification of a vehicle.”
So, from the tires to the roof rack, and the bumper to the engine, everything was made with “dirt in mind.” When asked what about the build made him the most proud, Bond stated, “I’m proud that I have the knowledge base to create a vehicle that can endure anything, anywhere on the planet. We built this thing like a tank.”
Waiting for the World
When the build was finished, all the work left the rig heavy. Usually, that’s trouble, as most off-road vehicles are made light to crawl over rocks and catch high speeds on loose sand, but it wasn’t the case with this ride. The suspension was also altered to create a stiffer ride unlike the majority of off-road vehicles. In every sense of the word, this Jeep was “custom built” for the task at hand. Because when you’re out there (where Maurice plans to go) and you’re not equipped properly, you’re screwed. But that won’t be the case with this rig, that is, once it’s finally tested.
“This rig wasn’t built to look good. It was built to perform well and look good performing.”
In an unfortunate turn of events, Maurice has been unable to return to the States to claim his tank (a competitive stint with kite surfing in Africa has him preoccupied) and introduce it to the harsh sands of Morocco that it was made for. But, he’ll return eventually, and the trek from Morocco to Burma will make the build worthwhile.
Until then, it’s resting in the Rebel Off Road parking lot, free for anyone to look at, a sleeping giant, an adventure machine waiting to take on the world.
Model: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited
- 3.6 V6 with AEV Procal Module
- RIPP Mod Gen 2 Centrifugal Supercharger
- RIPP Mods Cold Air Kit for Snorkels
- Magnaflow Exhaust
- Rubicon T-Case
- Odysssey Performance Batteries
- Currie 40-spline Rock Jock rear axle
- Custom-width Currie Rock Jock Dana 60 front axle
- F450 knuckles and 1350 yokes
- 5.38 Gears 35 spline axle shafts
- ARB Air locker
- Heavy-duty tie rod
- PSC Ram Assist Cylinder Teraflex Adjustable track bar
- AEV-like rear bumper and tire carrier
- AEV Heat Reduction Hood
- Poison Sypder Fenders
- Gobi Roof Rack
- MBRP Stubby Front Winch Bumper
- Warn PowerPlant winch
- Dual HID Vision-X light,
- Rock Hard 4×4 Fuel Tank Skid Plate
- 20-gallon Long Range Fuel Tank
- Cameras mounted front and rear
- Rigid 20” and two 10” E-series light bars
- Thule Roof Capsule 2100
- 17×8.5 Raceline Monster with Beadlocks, 40×13.5 R17 Toyo Open Country Mud Terrain
- Recon Complete Coilover Conversion System
- Teraflex Long Arm Suspension System
- King Ciolover 12” stroke 2.0 shocks with reservoirs and King Bump stops
- Extreme Outback Magnum Air Compressor
- Rebel Off Road Restraint front and rear rotor upgrade
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the Winter 2015 print issue of Tread Magazine.