Feature Vehicle

Is this the Ultimate Jeep Gladiator Prerunner?

Darren Parsons is known to have a few wild off-road creations, which originally stemmed from the Ranger he built years ago and snowballed into an all-out race truck. We gave it its own build feature you can check out here. But he also had a Cherokee XJ that snowballed into a supercharged LS-powered monster that he even raced. But as time went on, he wanted to build something different that met a certain standard, which goes as follows: must be a Jeep, have tons of wheel travel, have power, and must be able to put his daughter’s car seat in the back. He ended up with a garage-built Gladiator turn Prerunner. We not only had an opportunity to see it up close but go on an epic two-day adventure through Death Valley and put it through its paces. (that story will come shortly after this)

Before we get into the Death Valley trip, let’s talk about how this insane prerunner Jeep came to be. Being a big fan of Jeeps, he picked up a 2020 Jeep Gladiator and got to work – six months later, working on it every day after work in his garage, he ended up with a full-fledged Jeep Prerunner. 

“I think Gladiators are hideous, and I figured I would buy one and make it into a Prerunner.”

– Darren Parsons

Throwing conventionality to the wind, Darren ditched the Dana 44 axles for Currie F9 one-ton axles with 5.43 gears and a Detroit mechanical locker. That beefy setup is plenty to get the 40″ BFG Tires moving. But with all that newfound weight, he was going to need some power, so he installed a Magnuson Supercharger squeezing the 3.6 V6 to make 440 horsepower after a few helpers such as bigger injectors, fuel pump, and intercooler. Gone away with the electric power steering and replaced with a steering box coupled with PSC Hydro Assist Steering. 

When you look back at other builds from Darren, you notice that he finds creative solutions to problems through fabrication. Look at his previous XJ with the hidden winch and hybrid roll cage to maximize space throughout the interior while maintaining a beautiful design. This Jeep was no exception. 

The goal was to four-link the rear, but the problem with that was the clearance of the gas tank and the upper links. So he ditched the gas tank and opted for a Jazz fuel cell he hid down low under the bed. With the rear links and thanks to a pair of 2.5 King bypass and coil-over-shock, he is able to achieve 22″ of wheel travel.

Upfront, the Gladiator has a pair of 2.5 King bypass and coil-over shocks and Rubicon Express long-arm kit; it cycles roughly 14″ of wheel travel. Of course, there are 2.5 King air bump stops front and rear to help cushion the hard hits. 

Taking inspiration from his race truck, he cut out the factory cage and replaced it with a 1 3/4 120 wall roll cage that was built to be seamless with the factory plastics around the vehicle. This was another continuation of that creative problem-solving we saw earlier with the four-link. 

He built it without compromising the interior because it is his daily driver at the end of the day. And what is a prerunner without a few luxury amenities like heated PRP Seats, working factory airbags, and a Rockford stereo system to top it all off? 

Currently, Darren has a 426 Hemi on order for the Jeep which will be an incredible addition to the build. From Scat and AFR. With a mind-bending 780 horsepower…. we can’t wait to see that. 

From the shortened bed to off-road racing-inspired suspension and insane details in the fabrication behind Darren’s Gladiator, it begs the question: Is the ultimate Jeep Gladiator Prerunner? Yes, there have been a few Gladiators that have raced King of the Hammers, and there are undoubtedly insane rock crawlers. But we haven’t seen anyone build a Gladiator like this before; we aren’t even sure what you would do next to it to make it better. Maybe IFS swap? Regardless this Gladiator is impressive no matter what.

Stay tuned for the story of how we took this Jeep on an epic two-day adventure through Death Valley and put it through its paces. 

Chassis: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Weight: 6,300 lbs
Engine: 3.6L V6 Magnuson Supercharger 440HP 
Transmission: 8-speed ZF 8HP automatic
Fuel Cell: Jazz Fuel Cell
Transfer case: MP1622c Transfer Case 4.5-1
Tires: 40″ BF Goodrich Baja T/A
Wheels: Method Race Wheels
Front Suspension: King 2.5 Coilover and Bypass shocks, 14″ wheel travel 
Rear Suspension: 4-link King 2.5 Coilover and Bypass Shocks, 22″ wheel travel
Axles: Currie F9 Axle Set with a 10″ Gearworks assembled by Evan Weller Racing 
Gearing: 5.43 Detriot Mechanical Lockers
Steering: PSC Hydro Assist with Steering box
Radio: Rugged Radios M1 
Navigation: Google Maps
Seats: PRP Seats


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