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Members' Rigs: Mike Fissel's SEMA Overland Build

Here is the 36th Jeep that I've built since 1972! It started out as a 2016 Jeep Hard Rock Rubicon. This is without doubt the most capable Jeep I've ever built/owned and one of the most fun to drive.

Because this was a SEMA build for 2018 that I started right after the 2018 Heart of the West trip that was over 2900 miles off-road during the summer, it has a ton of adds, most of which are both useful and functional.

I started off with new bumpers front and rear from Rugged Ridge along with a Rugged Ridge 12,000lb synthetic line winch. Keeping with the Rugged Ridge brand I put a new grill on the Jeep, HD Hood latches, carbon fiber window trim, Elite Fast Track system for windshield light and light bar mounting, LED aux lights and tail lights, 17x9 XHD Wheels with trip rings, rear tool rack, HD tire carrier with tailgate reinforcement and hi lift jack carrier, skid plats and plus a lot of interior items.

The Jeep got a 4" Super Lift, a 13 gallon Titan fuel tank, 35X12.50X17 Goodyear Kevlars, TeraFlex Roof Rack with a custom bike carrier for the rear. A dual battery system by Genesis Off-Road, an SPOD system to control lights and aux items, with dual Optima Yellow Tops for power distribution.

All off road Jeeps need on board air and I chose to use the Klein Air Horns bolt in JK/JK OBA kit with two big compressors. They mount up inside the frame rail protected by their own metal cage. Add to that a set of JK Air Horns which are also bolted on above the rear axle. An UP Down Air/Air It Up air delivery system sends air to all 4 wheels for fast airing up and airing down of all 4 tires at once.

One of my better add ons to protect my rocker panels and make it easier to get into this lifted Jeep are the Rockslide Engineering Rock Sliders with the extra armor option and side panel protection. These electric steps make it easier then getting into a stock Wrangler and makes it easy to access things on the roof rack. They will take a hard hit and continue to work flawlessly and without any damage a spray can can't fix.

Inside I installed custom tactical seat covers by Ruff Tuff, a Vector Off-Road JKE Dock for mounting many of my electronics in the dash area using RAM Mounts, a Vector Off-Road rear shelf for more efficient storage, Tembo Tusk HD fridge slide with a Dometic 65qt dual zone fridge freezer, a CU Off-Road rear floor conversion allowing me to remove the back seats and have a continuous floor from front to back. I have a Smitty Built sport cage installed that also has electronics instaled on it along with a canister of Bear Spray, two Mag Light mounts and even my Cowboy Hat mount in the rear above where the seats used to be.

Because this is a overland Jeep and is heavier than your average rock crawler due to equipment and supplies needed for a 7 day or longer trip, I replaced the sway bars with much bigger Helwig HD sway bars which made a huge difference. I also added rear air bags by AirLift for extra support if needed.

Even though the Rubicon has front and read Dana 44 axles with 4.10 gears, they needed to be replaced with 4.88 gears to help turn the 35" tires. At the same time, I wanted to go with more HD components so at the same time I replaced the factory D44 with a Dana Ultimate D44 with all HD components, a HD Dana front driveshaft and replaced the rear gears with all Dana parts.

There are plenty of electronics inside. I have a Garmin Nuvi 3590 that is operated by voice. Handy when you are in a city or on the highway. Off road navigation is accomplished via an 9.7" iPad 5 (128gb memory, cellular capable) held by a RAM Mount and using Gaia GPS APP and loaded with TOPO maps for the entire country. I have found that GAIA is the best GPS alternative for overlanding, yes even better than the new Garmin and Magellan units. A Midland MXT275 15watt GMRS radio w/Midland 6db gain GMRS antenna, Yaesu FTM400XDR Ham radio w/Comet dual band antenna (both antennas are mounted to the Rugged Ridge Elite Fast Track System way up high for best performance), a Uniden CMX760 CB Radio with a full 102" whip antenna, a Trail Dash 2 so I can keep track of all the functions of the Jeep that they didn't give you gauges for (it also can reprogram your computer for gear changes and diffent sized tires so your speedo is accurate), a remote temperature gauge for the temps of my fridge and freezer and an ACR ResQLink PLB for emergencies (why pay for SPOT or inReach when this service is free and goes directly to the USAF S&R center in Colorado Springs who then dispatch search and rescue when they recieve your signal from a number of government satellites).

Safety wise in addition to the electronics, I have fully stocked truck trauma kit, an AED device, emergency oxygen supply, Epi Pens and even Narcan. Two fire extinguishers mounted on the roll cage and a mount for a 410 Snake Charmer shotgun along the drivers side rear roll bar.

On top is an electically operated roof top tent by Free Spirit Recreation. I've owned a number of roof top tents in the past and this by far is the BEST roof tent that I've ever owned. Along with the tent, I also have the Free Sprint ReadyLight, the BEST camp light system I've used and also used by a couple dozen of our club members.

I'm sure that I forgot a thing or two and I didn't list all the camping/cooking gear that I have stored inside. But I think you get the idea that it's pretty much loaded.

It doesn't sit in the driveway, it gets used the way a Jeep is supposed to be used. It's been on a number of our Expeditions since the summer of 2018, will be on several more before I retire it in 2021. It was on display at the 2018 SEMA show in the south building and was named one of the Top 10 non JL Jeeps at the show. Since I got the Jeep, I've not only put several thousand off road miles on it, but I've travelled the country to finish driving the last of the Jeep Badge of Honor Trails and now after 7 years and 6 Jeeps, I've now completed all 49 of Jeeps trails. This Jeep has also been on display at dozens of Jeep events around the country: Overland Expo East and West, Bantam Jeep Festival, Steinjager Jeep Blitz, Silver Lake Jeep Invasion, Pamona Off Road Show, Ocean City Jeep Week, Wildwood, NJ Jeep Invasion, PA Jeeps Show, Huntington Beach Jeep Bash, Jeep Beach, Easter Jeep Safari and more. Will be going to the same shows this year plus adding a few more in addition to leading 4 of the clubs trips in 2020 including the 2000+ mile Continental Divide Trail.

Did I say retire ? Yep, I love all my Jeeps but to be honest, I usually keep them for 3 or 4 years and then sell them to a lucky person while they still have low miles on them. I have the itch to build a new Gladiator for the 2021 SEMA show and am already getting ideas and searching the web to find the right gear to make it an ultimate overland vehicle.


Jeep Expeditions is the PREMIERE Jeep Exclusive Expedition/Overland Adventure CLUB Anywhere!

Jeep Expeditions is a non-profit corporation registered in the State of Arizona.  

The state recognizes us as a fraternal organization,  we prefer to say we are a club.  Our members and volunteers are dedicated to the exploration of   this great land  for the educational value, historical value,  scenic beauty, the geology, paleontology, the camaraderie of people who share the same interests and to escape the confines of civilization if only for a few days. Our organization and members adhere to the standards of "Tread Lightly" and "Leave No Trace".

Jeep Expedition Members enjoy adventures that vary in length from one day, a weekend, long weekend, week long, two weeks and like our Arctic Expedition in 2011, a full month. Don't worry, most of our trips are one day and two day trips. We are Family Friendly and we have a number of members who bring their friendly "Jeep Dogs".

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