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Words: Ali Sedaghat

Photos: Frank Martinez

My accidental exposure to the off-road scene began with what was most likely the absolute worst experience I’ve ever had as a father and husband. It was the first day of the new year in 2017, my wife and I decided to be spontaneous and take the kids sledding to kick off the year on a high note. We agreed on heading out to Wrightwood, California, as it was closer than the more popular Big Bear area, and we were hoping it wouldn’t be as crowded. Unfortunately, it was bumper to bumper at a 5-mph crawl up the mountain.

I relied on the WAZE app to help us navigate some backroads to circumvent the mess. The first detour nipped 15 minutes in our original ETA, so we felt really good about it. We didn’t get so lucky on the next one as the road degraded into a mess of gravel, ice, mud, and snow. Being a total novice at that time to all things off-road, I tried to push through it in my Subaru Impreza Wagon, thinking to myself, “AWD baby!” I’d later learn the difference between street tires and mud terrains, but this was not that day.

I effectively got us stuck and what I thought would be a quick dig out of the mess slowly turned into what became a multi-day ordeal which had me separated from my wife and kids at one point and even had my wife asking people to help with money to feed the kids. 


I was pulled out of the mud and snow by a local resident, Steve Ball, who showed up in his fully built Jeep TJ. He yanked me out, posed for some photos, and then decided to keep going up the road I was on. Nervous for him, I warned him about how deep the mud got beyond where I got stuck, and he simply laughed and said, “that sounds like a lot of fun.” A lot of fun? That’s when I knew I was playing checkers and not chess in the off-road adventure game. I waited a year until I was out from under my car payments and made the jump on a gorgeous pre-owned silver Rubicon.

After our incident in Wrightwood, my young boys, who were thoroughly traumatized by the experience, would constantly ask me if we would get stuck in the mud. It didn’t matter whether we were on our way to the movies, grocery store, or school; they would freak out, thinking we’d get trapped in mud. So after I bought the Jeep, the first thing I did was take them to the Holy Jim trail area up in Saddleback Canyon and showed them we were never getting stuck again and let them name her. They randomly picked “Kate,” and that’s what we’ve called her ever since.


My first car was a 1964 Orange Creamsicle Ford Mustang. My real automotive experience stemmed from the Sports Compact or Tuner car days when the Honda Civic and Acura Integra were like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Tacoma of their time in terms of top vehicles to modify. I had a fully gutted 1995 Honda Civic EJ1 with a B16 motor swap and coil over suspension. I also had a Nissan 240SX that I built with Drifting.com with a Skyline RB25 motor swap, and full Formula D spec roll cage, and a ton of other goodies. That was at least 15 years ago. About a decade ago, I started working for the D1 Grand Prix USA/Japan and some other aftermarket shops like A’PEXi and Skunk2. Now, I work as the Director of Brand Marketing for KC HiLiTES, a far cry from where I started in the automotive industry.

I have always been a fan of the Jeep Wrangler. It was always the rig I wanted when I was a kid. I just never really knew anyone into it, and it wasn’t until I went through my experience in Wrightwood with my family that I realized I needed one.

I was lucky enough to work for 5.11 Tactical when I first started my Jeep build. 5.11’s past CEO, Tom Davin, and past CMO, Dave Larson, threw their full support on the project. With their help and a massive amount of time spent working out the legalities, Kate became an official vehicle build for 5.11 Tactical. With the 5.11 backing, I was able to pick some of the best people at that time to work with, and it evolved ever since into something more significant than it started out as.


I’ve done a lot of the work on the Jeep myself, but I have a solid network of friends and shops who’ve come along through the years and made it easier to complete a project. Namely, Jon Roohk of Castle Fabrication, Bond, Taylor, and Evan over at Rebel Off Road, and my crew of gearheads and offroaders who we call “The Lost Sockets.” Of note are Matt Shultz, Frank Martinez, Martin Castro, Matt Vaness, Eric Dalcin, and others.

We’ve fabricated and customized a few things on Kate. The entire stock suspension mounting points were gutted, and the stock arm brackets and replaced with Teraflex’s Alpine IR long arm kit and Rebel Off Road’s RECON DSS (dual shock system) kit. This leaves it impractical for the vehicle to ever go back to its stock set up. Also, we’ve gone with the Currie Extreme 60 Axles, so there’s not a lot left that’s stock on her. Beyond that, we got a little trick with the electrical system being an Overland rig and outfitted auxiliary ports to the rear of the vehicle to keep the kids’ devices charged up and ready for those long road trips.

Kate was built and used primarily to explore parts of America that are otherwise unobtainable through standard transportation and make for as comfortable an experience as possible for my family. I set out to essentially build a rig that can transport four people self sufficiently for at least four days. Even if we get stuck somewhere, we’re not going to be up a creek without a paddle. Also, I like to crawl, so I like to think I’ve embodied the entire “Rocklander” mentality in my style of camping/driving.

I think the way I approached it, though, lends back to my past within the Sports Compact Car scene. I wanted a strong vehicle off the line, capable on the rocks, comfortable at camp, and blasting beats on the trail. I never liked the show and no-go style of many people I was around, so I wanted to try to cover as many bases with my flagship build as possible.

There are a lot of things that I like about this Jeep build. I have to say I love my Front Runner Slimline II Roof Rack. It gives me the room and space to run my iKamper Skycamp Mini personal setup or Freespirit Recreation High Country family setup. Not only that, but they have many accessories to deck out the rack with, like my table, which slides in underneath. Gone are the days of throwing in a massive bag containing the table I have to piece together. On the same token, my Cargo Keepers Hardbox Lite is incredible as it gave me space I otherwise would never have used.

On the more “go” side of things, I can’t get over how badass my Bilstein/Eibach/Rebel Off Road suspension system is. The Currie axles give me the confidence for taking a heavy Overland rig like mine up and over obstacles that only purpose- built crawlers have traditionally navigated.

After my experience getting stuck with my family in the snow, my Garmin Overland off road navigation system and InReach Mini personal locator beacon, I know I am always a button away from help. It gives me a lot of peace of mind for myself and my family when we’re out adventuring.

Pushing all that weight around was also a significant pain, but the RIPP supercharger system solved that. I was worried about reliability, but after two years, I’m still pulling hard. And of course, I have to give love to KC HiLiTES as they were not only one of my first sponsors but one of the more functional mods for those late-night treks through the desert.

This Jeep build is an on-going project and probably will never get done. But at this point, it’s just driving the rig more and finding any weak points in need of reinforcement or the never- ending tweaking of my camp setup. Granted, with my background in motor swaps and builds, I am itching just to throw the cherry on this Sunday and build a monster motor to transplant.

Kate is still a relatively new build, and I don’t have a million miles under my belt with her, but I’ve been on some memorable trips. It was the first time I went to EJS during the first phase of the build and decided to join the Yukon Gear & Axle group run. From the start, it was awesome because I was wheelin’ with all of these super purpose-built crawlers in my general-purpose Overland rig with a tent on top. They were looking at me like I had three eyes, and a lot of them admitted later they didn’t expect me to hang, let alone with a manual transmission at that. It was an excellent opportunity to make the leap and embrace what I like to think of as the “Rocklander” style of offroading. Show, Comfort, and Go all combined into a trifecta of vehicle-based adventure.

When preparing for backcountry trips, I take the time to consider how long I’ll be gone and the activities I’ll be doing. If the trip involves more intensive trial driving, I tend to take things that are easier to prepare, especially when it comes to food. If it’s more relaxed, I’ll take a larger assortment of items to cook, something that’s a bit more interesting. But there is just something special about filling a bag of food with boiling water and not having to deal with cleaning and having dirty dishes and pans.

I also carry a wide range of power and hand tools. When one goes on enough trail runs, it’s not a matter if someone will break down, but when. At that point, everyone is expected to jump in and help fix a broken-down rig, even if it’s just being the guy with the correct socket or wrench.

This Jeep build was spurred by when I got stranded in the snow with my family. I now continually renew my rescue insurance membership, opting-in for the extra coverage on Garmin’s network of satellites and rescue teams, and simply having enough food and water to extend beyond my planned days on the trail. These emergency contingencies create a situation where I can take my time to think about my next steps if I ever get stranded rather than just get helplessly stuck in a remote area several hours away from the nearest highway.

This journey so far has been so rewarding. I have to thank my wife Ashley and my kids for the hardships they’ve had to go through for the past few years. And I need to give special thanks to the following people and companies that supported me tremendously with this Jeep project and helped me grow in the off-road scene.

Adam Holloway of @weekendoffroad and @everymanoverland, Olaf Kilthau @ aventuraseeker, Matt Frederick @frederickafield, Tom Davin, former CEO of 5.11 Tactical and current CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Co., Tony Durbano of @iamroamr, Jon Roohk of Cargo Keepers and Castle Fabrication Inc., Luke Wronski of RIGd Supply, Brad Myers of KC HiLiTES, Bond Gilmer of Rebel Off Road,
Tony Leix of Front Runner Outfitters, Matt Lorenger @3.2.1.adventure, Martin Castro @ dontneedroadz and Milestar Tires, Matt Vaness at @WeekendOffroad @mv_expeditions, Frank Martinez @riggedfordirt @truckymctruckface, Eric Dalcin @american_overland, Ernie Soliz of @torcousa, Adam Pfeifer @oh_that_1_dude,
Nick Mazzanti of Roam Adventure Co., Alfy Ramirez @alfy.dtlajl, Ken @dr.deathwobble, Brad Kowitz @trailrecon, Marco Hernandez @ovrlndx, Jason Engleman of Bilstein, Mark Krumme at Eibach, Casey Currie @currieenterprises, Will
Baty at Centerforce Clutches, Evan Gage @ evangage, Tom Allen of PSC Motorsports, Neal Hollingsworth at Yukon Gear & Axle, Chris Webb of @chrisfrom4x4garage, Rancho Suspension, Gabi Fuentes of Teraflex.




• Milestar Patagonia M/T 37×13.5
• Fuel Covert D113 Beadlock Wheels, Gold Powder Coated


• ARB Twin Compressor – Seat Mounted
• Innovative AT Products 4 Tire Air System


• Pentastar V6 engine
• RIPP Supercharger – Installed by Rebel Off Road
• RIPP High-Performance Coil Packs
• NGK Iridium Spark Plugs
• Diablosport PCM / Trinity 2 PKIT
• Mishimoto Baffled Oil Catch Can
• Magnaflow Rock Crawler Exhaust System
• Nalgene BPA Free Radiator Overflow Tank
• Team Tech Offroad Hood Struts •
• Currie Enterprises Extreme 60 Front and Rear Axles
• JE Reel1350 Heavy-Duty Front and Rear Driveshafts
• Yukon Gear and Axle Front and Rear 5.13 Re-Gear Master Kit
• SPEC Stage 3 JK Clutch
• Centerforce High Inertia Flywheel


• Rebel Off Road DSS System
• Bilstein Triple Bypass 9200 Shocks
• Bilstein 9200 Series Coilovers
• Bilstein 9100 4” Bump Stops
• Eibach Springs
• Teraflex Alpine Long-Arm IR Kit
• Nemesis Offroad Teraflex Long-Arm Skids
• RockJock 4X4 Front and Rear Antirock Sway Bar kit
• Front Big Brake Kit
• Upgraded Master Cylinder
• Teraflex Tie Rod
• Teraflex Drag Link
• Teraflex Track Bars
• Teraflex Track Bar Drop Kit
• PSC Big Bore XDII Power Steering Upgrade with Ram Assist
• 4X4 Garage Double Shear PSC Ram Mount
• Rancho Suspension Knuckles


• EVO Manufacturing Driveshaft Skid
• EVO Manufacturing Rear Shock Skids • EVO Manufacturing Evap Skid


• Vehicle Wrap – Multicam Pattern / Crye Industries (sponsor)
• Image Craft (printing/cutting) • Alive Wraps (install)


• KC HiLiTES Gravity Pro 7” DOT Headlights • KC HiLiTES Gravity G4 fog lights
• KC HiLiTES Gravity Pro6 Light Bar
• KC HiLiTES FLEX ERA 4 A-Pillar Lights
• KC HiLiTES Cyclone 6-light Rock light kit (x2)
• KC HiLiTES 2” C-Series C2 LED Area Flood System (2X) • KC HiLiTES Cyclone Under Hood Light Kit
• KC HiLiTES Rear Chase Bar
• KC HiLiTES FLEX Single for Knuckles
• Gatekeeper Offroad Knuckle Light Mounts
• sPOD 8 Circuit SE Systems (2X)
• sPOD HD Touchscreen
• B.A.M (BAD ASS MOUNTS) A-Pillar Mounts


• WARN Platinum 10s Synthetic Line Winch • WARN Recovery Kit
• Deadman Offroad Bodybag
• Factor55 Ultrahook
• Factor55 Rope guard Fairlead • Factor55 Hitchlink 2.0


• Cargo Keepers HARDBOX Lite (Driver rear window delete storage system)
• Front Runner Outfitters Slimline II Roof Rack • ROAM Adventure Co Awning
• ROAM Adventure Co Hard Cases
• FRO 42L Water Storage
• FRO Large Table
• Goose Gear Floor Plate System • Goose Gear JK Side cubbies
• Goose Gear Camp Kitchen 2.3 • Goose Gear Drawer Module


• Garmin Overlander – on-road/off-road nav system Garmin InReach Mini (2X)
• 3 Auxiliary Cameras (ties into Overlander) Garmin Instinct GPS Watch
• Find Me SPOT – Trace (3X)
• Kenwood D710 Dual Band Ham Receiver
• Auxiliary Ham Radio Speaker
• Rugged Radios – v3 Handhelds (6X)
• Rugged Radios 25W Waterproof GMRS unit – Overhead Mount
• Factor55 Kinetic Rope
• Carolina Metal Masters Knuckle Grab Handles
• CMM Front Passenger Grab Handle – Custom Engraved
• ARB twin compressor mount
• Mopar Headliner
• Vector Offroad JK E-Dock
• 67 Designs adapters
• RAM Mounts
• Panavise Mounts
• Team Tech Offroad Gun Holster – Driver Side Mount


• Stinger Audio Heigh10 Head Unit
• Stinger Speakers
• Stinger front, rear and side cameras
• Stinger rear-view mirror monitor
• Custom Stinger sub enclosure
• American Soundbar overhead speaker upgrade
• Phoenix Gold Amps


• NEMO Equipment Sleeping Bags
• NEMO Stargazer Camp Chairs
• Buddy Heater
• Fold Out Privacy Tent
• Cleanwaste Folding Toilet
• PETZL Headlights
• Beyond Clothing Jackets and Pants • Off The Grid Surplus Clothing
• Heat Wave Visual Sunglasses


• Snomaster 42L Traveller Series
• Snomaster 12L Freezer
• CampChef Mountaineer 2 Burner Stove
• CampChef Cast Iron Pans
• CampChef Stryker 200 Multi-fuel Stove
•CampChef MESA Aluminum Camp Table
• HydroTank Pressurized Water System


• Genesis Offroad Dual Battery Kit
• Optima Batteries Group34 Deep Cycle Battery (2X) • Off Grid Trek 200W Solar Panel
• Off Grid Trek 120W Solar Panel
• Off Grid Trek 28W Solar Panel
• Blue Sea Systems quad USB/12V (2X)


• EVO Manufacturing 1/4 Pounder Front Bumper EVO Manufacturing Stinger
• EVO Manufacturing Pro Series Rear Bumper EVO Manufacturing Rock Skin Corners
• EVO Manufacturing Corner Lights
• EVO Manufacturing Pro Series JKU Bombers
• EVO Manufacturing Rear Tire Carrier
• EVO Manufacturing Radius Fenders
• EVO Manufacturing Vacuum Pump Relocation Kit EVO Manufacturing Oil Skid
• EVO Manufacturing Crossmember
• EVO Manufacturing Crossmember Transmission Skid


• Family – Freespirit Recreation High Country Series 80”
• Tri-layer Roof Top Tent
• Solo – iKamper Skycamp Mini
• ROAM Adventure Co 6” Awning


• DV8 Rock Doors
• DV8 10th Anniversary Hood
• Smittybilt Atlas Door Steps
• Outback Adventure Products Trailgater
• Armorlite Floor Liner
• 5.11 Tactical AMP Storage Pouches
• Fieldcraft Survival Vehicle Go-Bag




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