Project Polishing a Rubi - Class, Cargo and Comfort Upgrades
Polishing a Rubi - Facet #5
As I’ve mentioned here before, a jewel’s facet is one of its faces. Therefore, Facet #5 of Polishing a Rubi covers one more face of the enhancements available for the Jeep Wrangler JK model. Right out of the box, the JK Rubicon—either two-door or four-door—is arguably the best all-around OEM Jeep ever offered to consumers. As you can see in every off-road catalog, the available enhancements cover every aspect of possible improvements; some quite difficult for the home mechanic while others are fairly simple.
I’ve been told that the last procedure of prepping a jewel for mounting is polishing. Once the jewel is found, it’s cut to maximize its beauty, polished, and then mounted. In the following article, the 2007 JK Rubicon Unlimited receives another “polishing.”
Author’s Note: Facet #5 falls right in between Facet #3 and Facet #4 in the difficulty range—and that’s only because of the Bushwacker fender flares.
Smittybilt was founded nearly 50 years ago by people with a simple but clear vision: develop products that work, last, and look great! In fact my trail Jeep—a 1982 CJ-7—carries a Smittybilt front roll cage kit that we installed more than a decade ago. Smittybilt continues to engineer and manufacture products with the same philosophy of its founders. Smittybilt’s innovative products are designed from consumer demand.
The stylish look, quality, value, and legendary fit of Smittybilt products have consistently ranked high with customers. The stylish look was carried over into Smittybilt’s seat covers for the JK, which is a good place to start this segment because the seat covers fall into both the class and comfort portions of Polishing a Rubi, plus a touch of the cargo bit, too, with their rear cargo pouches.
Probably to keep the cost down as low as possible, Jeep decided every Wrangler should have a bland gray interior, regardless of outside paint scheme. In my opinion, other than on a US Navy vessel, the only good thing that can be said about gray is that it’s better than beige. Having ordered a JK Rubicon Unlimited in bright red, I wanted my seats to match and now they do.
Smittybilt’s seat covers fit with no wrinkles, but they’re so tight when installing it may take two sets of hands to pull them on. They are also on the back seats.
Smittybilt’s custom-fit seat covers provide an extra layer of protection and style for those looking to either refurbish old, worn seats, or help keep new ones in pristine condition. Smittybilt’s seat covers are available for CJs, YJs, TJs and JKs. The seat covers we installed in the JK are crafted from 100 percent breathable neoprene fabric for durability and comfort, and they are custom fit—read: extremely tight—and come in pairs with rear covers matching exactly. The center panel in each seat cover is padded and pleated for comfort, and no tools are required for the easy installation.
Available in a wide variety of colors, the seat covers do not require tools but they do require a great amount of patience and arm strength. These covers are tight! Which is good after they are on, but it will force the installer to take a couple of breathers during the installation of each seat. Just follow the instructions, have a few cold beverages standing by, and you’ll really like the results. In fact I like the results so much, I think Jeep should add these to the Jeep dealer-installed accessories list. (I think my next step is to add matching red four-point safety harnesses in place of the Jeep’s OEM seat belts.)
Stepping outside the JK, another cost-saving consideration is immediately apparent—the one-color-fits-all fender flares. It’s like Jeep went back to the days of the Model T philosophy when you were told “you can have any color you want as long as it’s black.” For some reason, the Jeep bean counters decided that certain colors in the more basic model X Wrangler could have matching fender flares, but not the top-of-the-line Rubicon, which left an excellent hole for Bushwacker to fill.
Bushwacker’s wider flares for the JK can keep the widest tires street-legal and reduce the mud thrown up, plus they look cool!
And fill it they did! For the JK Wrangler, Bushwacker offers two classy models of flares—wide and standard—and in several different colors that match Jeep’s OEM colors (the flares are also available without color for those Jeeps with custom paintjobs). I went with the bright red that matches my Jeep’s color exactly, and I picked the wider design just in case I might decide at a future date to mount wider wheels and tires with an extended offset (plus, they just look good!). So protect your paintjob and keep your Jeep legal when sizing up to larger tires with Jeep Fender Flares from Bushwacker. They can be installed in just a few minutes, and almost every model Jeep is represented in Bushwacker’s list of flares, including CJs, YJs, TJs, JKs, plus Cherokees, Comanches and Grand Cherokees.
For installation, just follow Bushwacker’s directions. They’re fully illustrated, list all the tools you’ll need, give you step-by-step instructions and seem to cover everything. At least they did for my JK Unlimited.
Having a CJ2a as my first Jeep more than 40 years ago, if anyone had ever told me that Jeep would someday offer a four-door Wrangler for trail duty, I’d have called them crazy! And to go on with that thought, if I was told one day that I’d own a four-door and need more carrying space, I’d have had them institutionalized. But it’s all come to pass.
As you know, I now have a Rubicon Unlimited, and due to a wife and a pair of dogs—one of which is half Labrador and half Great Dane and weighs nearly as much as me—who love Jeeping almost as much as I do, I was in need of more cargo storage for all the gear and food we need for those overnight camping trips.
A quick fix that virtually doubled the floor space behind the rear seat was an aluminum refrigerator tray from Tuffy Products. Although mine was designed for a TJ (hence no pictures)—so the bolt-down tabs don’t work in a JK—it fits and works fine as long as I don’t suffer a condition of upset.
Bestop’s Tailgate Rack can carry up to 75 pounds and is an excellent location for your rattling camp chairs, fuel containers or an ice chest.
But I still needed something outside on which I could carry fuel, chairs, and such, so back to Bestop. Bestop’s Tailgate Rack comes in part numbers, one for the rack and one for the bracket. The bracket mounts right on the JK’s swing gate, and although it’s lightweight it can carry up to 75 pounds, which is just right for my 2.5-gallon plastic ATV fuel container (it’s only about 2.5 inches thick with cast-in slots for strapping down, as seen below) and our folding camp chairs. Bestop’s rack is modular in design and can be fitted to several different Jeep models with Bestop’s various mounting brackets.
Kolpin’s fuel containers are designed for ATVs and UTVs, but work fine with Jeeps too, and are easy to strap down. They hold 2.5 gallons and are available in red (fuel) or white (water).
In addition to Bestop’s Tailgate Rack—since I purchased the Jeep with its dual-top option with four hard doors—I opted for Bestop’s “safari-style” lockable Element Doors with outer skins, window uppers, and fabric pocket covers (each item must be ordered separately; i.e., doors, skins windows, and pockets for each pair of doors). For those of us who enjoy wheeling lidless (top down), the Element Doors are really cool! With their tubular design, the doors provide exterior protection and ventilation, and the fabric pocket covers provide several pockets (with securing top-flaps) for water bottles, maps, books, cameras, etc. The doors accept factory mirrors and have steps to access overhead storage.
Bestop’s Element Doors and fabric panels are super for CJs, YJs, TJs, and JKs. The JK models are also available with external “skins” (that can be painted to match the Jeep’s color), locks, and windows.
Bestop designs and builds an exciting mix of the highest quality Jeep tops—both soft tops and hardtops—as well as other Jeep accessories adding fit, function and style to your Jeep. And Bestop has been in four wheeling for a longer time than I have—more than 50 years—and I bought my first Jeep top from them nearly 45 years ago.
Speaking of Jeep tops, with Jeep’s JK three-piece hardtop, we can have our cake and eat it too. On the road to the trailhead, we can have the complete hardtop in place and then remove the two top panels at the trailhead like a Targa top and be lidless on the trail. But if you’re on a drive-through trail and not a loop—or concerned about the security of the top panels—what can you do with the removed panels? You don’t want to let them bounce around the backend of the Jeep and get scratched up, so you wrap them in blankets and strap them down.
Misch’s top panel storage case mounts vertically behind the backseats of both the two- and four-door models. They have two internal compartments to separate and protect the top panels.
Enter Misch 4X4 Products and the inventive mind of owner Doug Misch. Relatively new in the four-wheeling marketplace, Misch 4x4 Products offers some really neat products (see Comfort below also) that fill some small niches left open by Jeep. One of these products is the Storage Tote, which attaches to the vertical roll bars directly behind the rear seat in either the two-door or four-door. The panels store in individual compartments that are padded and won’t allow them to touch each other. The storage tote may be used with or without the rear seat in the vehicle, and one person can remove or store the filled tote with ease—you only have to tilt the rear seats forward while you stow the tote or remove it. (Misch also makes a cool trash receptacle that fits in the two cup holders on the rear of the center console, which also works as a water bowl for the dogs, and it doesn’t slide all over the back of the Jeep.)
Although the JK’s dash and forward passenger compartments are designed very well, it’s very difficult to find a location to mount a CB or 2-meter radio (on mine, the top-center of the dash is occupied by my Garmin Trail Guide GPS so that’s out). Doug Misch has the solution, plus it provides more storage that’s handy as heck: an overhead shelf. You’ll have to forget about dropping the windshield for that bugs-in-the-teeth trail ride (but with the amount of things you have to remove to drop windshield, who cares anyway?) because the shelf attaches to the back of the windshield frame and side roll bars. It’s made of 14-gauge ABS plastic, so it’s plenty strong enough to support a CB or 2-meter radio, and it might even be able to carry both.
Misch offers a very comfortable pad for the JK’s center console, which is secured by the four screws already in the console’s cover.
Anyone who has spent more than an hour in a JK, either on the road or on the trail, will feel like his or her elbows must be bleeding profusely given how much they hurt and burn. Doug Misch to the rescue—and I don’t mean with tourniquets—with his center console cap and armrests. The console cap is sold individually and mounts with the four screws found on the console lid.
Misch also offers armrests for each of the four doors. While the armrests are a bit more firm than the console pad, they’re still much more comfortable than the OEM armrests.
The armrests are sold in pairs for the front doors and for the rear doors. These are a bit more difficult to install, but the directions are complete and thorough. It’ll take you about 10 minutes per door. I just wish I’d known about the console cap and armrests before my 3,500-mile trip to the Midwest last summer. Whew, my elbows are just now recovering.
And as I said earlier, the Smittybilt red-and-black seat covers also belong in this section. The added padding and comfort they provide more than proved itself on my Midwest trip, plus they look great!
The ultimate in off-road comfort, class, and cargo: a Little Guy Rough Rider trail-ready teardrop trailer. Check off-road.com for more information on the Rough Rider in the future.
4-Wheel Drive Hardware, Inc.
Misch 4X4 Products