The latest Halo video game launched back in December, and Rockstar Energy and Xbox collaborated to unveil five exclusive collector’s edition cans for the Halo Infinite launch. While the new cans featured original Master Chief designs brought to life by five unique artists, they also offered fans in the United States and Canada a chance to unlock exclusive in-game content and win daily prizes ranging from copies of Halo Infinite to an Xbox Series X bundle and a very special Master Chief- inspired Jeep Gladiator grand prize built by the Rockstar Performance Garage team and owner, Nic Ashby. We caught up with Nic up in Big Bear, CA, where he gave us the low down on the collaboration, and how he brought the special edition rig to life!
THE RISE OF ROCKSTAR PERFORMANCE GARAGE
It’s like Rockstar Energy’s own garage, but I own it. It’s kind of a crazy world I live in within the industry. I’m a builder, content creator and do a lot of crazy things across the industry. We shoot a lot of content for Mickey Thompson, TV commercials and work with different brands. It’s kind of weird because I started my path in the import and muscle car scene, working on cars for Nissan and Chevy before getting pulled into this industry by the brands I now work with. This is where their need is and that’s what I’m fulfilling. Nowadays, we do events and our own stuff, too. It’s pretty cool how I built my own niche in the industry. This is my life and It’s awesome; I couldn’t be happier about it.
We mostly do work with brands and we build very few customer cars since we are selective. If we build you a car, you’re basically an ambassador or an affiliate of ours and it’s going to be shown at events. We do work for brands like K&N Filters, Yukon Gears, R1 Concepts, Wheel Pros and more. A lot of our deals have been 10-plus year partnerships so it’s been cool to see a marketing company like ours retain clients like that.
A lot of people wonder if we only build off-road rigs since they see just Jeep builds, but no. Last year, we did the CyberPunk giveaway car, which was a 1970 fully restored Mustang. But we’ve built Camaros, Challengers, Nissans, a lot of imports and muscle stuff. But the last few years we’ve been dedicated to off-road since that’s where our clients want us.
THE HALO INFINITE CALL
The last few years have been a weird transition with what’s going on with Rockstar over at the corporate level. We got a call about doing another video game build, and low and behold it’s Halo Infinite. I was pretty stoked to do this one, though. Anyone who grew up in the ’90s knows Halo video games, and it’s awesome that the game is still holding on and is one of the biggest games out there. Being able to be a part of something like this with Rockstar Energy and Halo is amazing. This is something that is going to be there forever. Just like when we won the video game award, this will always be tied to the video game and its launch. Some day my son will see this. He’s 9 years old and for this past Halloween, I was late to SEMA because he was dressed up as Master Chief. I couldn’t miss that opportunity to pair his costume with the Jeep and go to school and go trick-or-treating with him.
The biggest challenge for this build was the timeline; we had 12 other builds to do for SEMA. And now that Rockstar Energy is part of Pepsi, the approval process is long. Every aspect of the build needs to have approval so it’s a grueling process. But that’s the reason you end up with something like this – the quality is unparalleled because of those approvals. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world even though it was very tiring and a lot of work.
ARMING THE MASTER CHIEF EDITION JEEP GLADIATOR
The Master Chief Edition Jeep Gladiator that we did is not your normal Jeep Gladiator build. We stripped this thing down to basically a rolling chassis and sprayed the entire exterior in a Patriot Liner Code Green, matching the Master Chief’s MJOLNIR armor suit.
Now, you can’t have Master Chief without aggressiveness, so you have a set of 42” Baja Pro XS tires on it wrapped around a set of 20” Black Rhino Abrams wheels. These things are held together by Yukon 1-ton axles – 60 front and 80 rear. They’re big but you’re going to need them for a build this massive.
Fab Fours completely outfitted this thing to give it that Halo look because you can’t have that normal Jeep look anymore if you want to build something that belongs in a Halo game. And the doors look very military. We didn’t want to do a half door but did a full surround to make it feel like you’re in a two-door chassis. It’s as if you’re out on the battlefield.
When you’re out there going around in this thing it’s going to need some good suspension. We added a JKS mid-travel suspension with 2.5” top-of-the-line competition series FOX shocks, which are really going to pair well with their hydraulic bump stops. MagnaFlow went above and beyond and custom-fabricated the M41 SPNKR-inspired exhaust system, which is a fan favorite rocket launcher in the game. Baja Designs lighting is crucial when you’re out on the trail and running this thing so we outfitted it with proper lighting front, back, top and underneath. There’s also a Pro Eagle mounted in the back as well as a Powertank which saves a ton of time when airing back up. We added a Warn winch and Factor 55 Ultrahook up front for recovery purposes. We also added all the performance goodies with a K&N intake, HP Tuners, Mishimoto coolers, PSC hydraulic steering and a set of R1 Concepts custom- engraved rotors.
When you’re in it driving, it feels like a video game in the cockpit, so we went to PRP and got their Summit seats which they masterfully built to match Master Chief as well. It also has full internal comms headsets; everything from Rugged Radio; and a 10” Stinger Off-Road touchscreen display on there for cameras.
FORM AND FUNCTION IS A MUST
What annoys me or irks me a lot is when a giveaway build looks as if they put a lot of lipstick on a pig and it’s all show with no go. Then, whoever wins the giveaway car is given this custom car with all these bells and whistles, and they’re like, “What am I going to do with this car now?!”
So, when we built this Jeep, and like the cars before, they must have functional mods to become a real giveaway car in my eyes. The car has to be functional and drivable. This build has DOT-approved tires mounted on non-beadlock wheels because that’s not DOT. We chose every part of the Jeep to be functional for whoever wins it. They’ll be able to drive it and show up on these trails and not get laughed at. A gamer will enjoy its theme while an enthusiast will be able to wheel with us if they show up at an event.
If you put a 42” tire on a rig, and you don’t have 1-ton axles on it you’ll eventually shatter that drivetrain. We built this thing like we’d build things for our brand partners. We used a Yukon Hardcore 60 axles up front and an 80 in the rear. The 80 is bigger than a Dana 60 axle, and it’s in the rear because of the weight of this vehicle.
We always do shakedown runs to test it all out and this Jeep’s shakedown run was at Gold Mountain and Little John Bull up in Big Bear, where we wheeled for about eight hours straight. We went back home and only had to fix one thing on the Jeep and everything was good to go.
The new owner can expect to get it in one piece after all these media trips. It’s the ultimate off-road rig that has both performance and ruggedness. It has a lot of custom parts; no one else can get billet badges made like this. I hope they really enjoy it because it was truly a labor of love.
When it comes to my favorite mods, that’s tough to answer…I’d have to pick the two 1-ton axles since they don’t get the most credit but what you need to actually function when off- roading. Another favorite mod is the exterior of the Jeep. The cool thing about the Patriot Liner is that the owner is a buddy of mine and he’s ex- military, too, so it was cool working with him for this Gladiator.
2021 JEEP GLADIATOR RUBICON BUILT BY ROCKSTAR PERFORMANCE GARAGE (RPG)
• 15/43-20LT Mickey Thompson Baja Pro XS tires
• 20×9.5 Black Rhino Abrams wheels with textured finish
• Patriot Liner exterior performance coating in HALO Themed Master Chief Edition OD GREEN
• Fab Fours Front Grumper conversion with fender system, ViCowl Windshield Armor, Jeep Gladiator Sport Rack, Rock Sliders, JT Rear Fender System, JT Full Surround Doors, JT Rear Bumper
• Scosche Powersports mounts and accessories
RECOVERY & ACCESSORIES
• Warn Winch 10k Zeon with synthetic lines
• Factor55 fairlead and E link
• Powertank 10# portable CO2 system front and rear
• Baja Designs 20” OnX6 Off-Road Amber Driving Combo
• Baja Designs Amber Rock Lighting and accent lighting
• Baja Designs S2 Amber Pro lights
• Baja Designs Squadron Sport white lights
• Yukon Gear and Axle Dana 60 front axle housing 5:38 Gear Ratio
• 35 spline Chromoly axle shafts
• Yukon Hardcore locking hubs
• Yukon Gear and Axle Dana 80 Rear axle housing 5:38 Gear Ratio
• 35 spline Chromoly axle shafts
• Yukon Gear and Axle custom 1350 drivelines, front and rear
• R1 Concepts Custom engraved Slotted Rotors and high-performance ceramic off road pads
• Artec Industries Full Aluminum Belly skids for drivetrain protection
• JKS J Spec 4.5” J-Krawl System
• Fox 2.5 Performance Elite Shocks
• Fox 2.5 Bump Stop Direct fit Gladiator system
• Rock Jock ANTI-Rock sway bar systems
• HP Tuners Engine Management MVI2
• K&N Filters custom cold air intake
• K&N Filters Throttle Control Module
• Mishimoto heavy-duty transmission cooler
• Mishimoto silicone hoses
• Mishimoto power steering cooler
• PSC Heavy-Duty power steering setup with hydraulic ram assist
• Magnaflow custom dual exhaust with Halo inspired exhaust tips
• Odyssey Extreme Performance AGM Battery
• sPOD power source system for accessories
• PRP Summit Daily Driver seats and rear bench seat
• Motobilt Seat brackets
• Rugged Radio Intercom and GMRS Communication system
• Scosche Lifestyle mounts and accessories
• Stinger 10” touch screen display integrated head unit
• Patriot Liner accented dash pieces
• Carbon Fiber accent parts