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Overlanding Excellence: The Journey of a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Build

Kelly Nomura September 21, 2023 Feature Stories

It only took 5 Years to build a 2016 Jeep Wrangler that does it all.

As many overlanders and off-road enthusiasts experience, a vehicle build is rarely ever finished. It starts with one goal in mind that often changes either upon completion or after some time passes and the driver wants change. Most often, owners are constantly fine tuning their builds to their desires over time. Sometimes vehicle owners veer down a new path, either wanting to go faster, drive on tougher terrain or need to accommodate to an expanding family. With Kate the Jeep, the evolution took place as parts broke, capability was pushed, and owner Ali Sedaghat decided he wanted it to do more and more and more.

“With Kate the Jeep, the evolution took place as parts broke, capability was pushed, and owner Ali Sedaghat decided he wanted it to do more and more and more.”

Getting stuck in the snow (or mud) can hardly be a concern when piloting Kate the Jeep.

What started as a rig built to safely adventure with family turned into a vehicle used for everything from overlanding and camping to rock crawling up Chocolate Thunder in Johnson Valley, Calif. When the Jeep was first purchased, its main goal was to keep Ali and his family from getting stuck—again. As he explains on the inaugural episode of his podcast, Rigged For Dirt, Sedaghat was caught off guard when he tried to take a “shortcut” coming down the hill from Big Bear with his family in a Subaru. What started as a great idea to not sit in traffic quickly turned into a stuck car and a stranded family. Luckily, he was able to get his family to safety down the hill and went back to retrieve his car the next day. After that day, he vowed never to get stuck and feel helpless again. So of course, what does one do? Buy a Jeep Wrangler, of course.

Kate is Born

Sedaghat grew up camping in Sequoia National Forest out of his father’s Ford Taurus. While not new to the outdoors, he eventually discovered overlanding after that fateful day in the San Bernadino Mountains. Vowing to never be in that same position again, he decided to purchase a 2016 Jeep Rubicon Unlimited and build a capable vehicle able to perform self-recovery.

“Vowing to never be in that same position again, he decided to purchase a 2016 Jeep Rubicon Unlimited and build a capable vehicle…”

Having a quality winch and line is a critical part of self-recovery; here, Sedaghat’s Deadman Off-Road kit helps him haul Kate to safety.

With interest in overlanding and friends who were already in the know, Sedaghat proposed the idea to his then company, 5.11 Tactical, to crossover into the overlanding space. It was then that Kate the Jeep was born. Through a unique opportunity, the Jeep became the planned project for the 5.11 booth at Overland Expo West 2019 donning a memorable khaki colored Multicam topo map wrap.

This is no ordinary Jeep. From suspension to rooftop accessories, Kate is kitted.

Ali’s two sons, Jackson and Ashton, came up with the name, Kate the Jeep, and it stuck. While her look has gone through a few wardrobe changes and many parts and accessories were added over the last four years, we’ve been asking for a feature and finally get to bring things full circle to share this multi-faceted Jeep build. You see, Kate the Jeep was an overland build we distinctly remember from Overland Expo 2019 in the 5.11 Tactical booth. Whether it was kismet, fate or the obvious bound to happen, we’d find ourselves alongside Kate and her owner on many adventures to come.

Keeping Kate looking fresh is as simple as breaking out the Hydrotank on-board water hose.

Sedaghat was not new to the car scene either. He spent his former years as the operations director for a race series called D1 Grand Prix, and also held other positions within the import aftermarket industry. Having knowledge of the automotive aftermarket industry and how to build a project vehicle, Sedaghat got to work on building the ultimate adventure machine. He wanted an impressive vehicle where he could build partnerships with companies to help contribute to their success.

The Nuts and Bolts

Kate is ever evolving as Sedaghat’s interests change, but mostly she is built to rock crawl, weekend camp, and take longer overland trips. One glance at her and you know she can get over some of the toughest terrain. You also know that she’s carrying lots of gear for camping fun. Sedaghat’s goal was to be able to do everything for four days, and we’re pretty sure that’s not a problem.

To get this loaded up vehicle rolling over rocks and boulders while also providing a comfortable ride on the highway, one needs a beefy suspension setup with good rubber and reinforced steering. In front and rear sit Bilstein 9200 coilover shocks with 9200 triple bypasses, hung in front on a Rebel Off Road Recon Front DSS (Dual Shock System) and hung in the rear on a custom CastleFab suspension cage.

The 17-inch Dirty Life Canyon Race beadlocks with -30 backspacing are wrapped in Milestar Patagonia MT2 tires size 38×13.5”.

Teraflex supples the drag links, Alpine IR full long arm kit (with Nemesis Industries long arm mount slider), and tie rods. Meanwhile, steering components were added, like a PSC Big Bore XD Kit and Rancho Racing Knuckes, to add extra support. Also, Gatekeeper Offroad knuckle light mounts are added.

Currie Extreme 60 axles are installed in front and rear, converted to 5-lug to retain braking and wheels. And the Jeep is regeared with Yukon Gear & Axle 5:13 gears. Additionally, Eaton E-Lockers are installed in front and rear, along with JE Reel 1350 front and rear driveshafts and Strange Engineering Pinion Yokes.

All-Around Protection

Keeping Kate safe on the trail is a full bevvy of armor. Nemesis Industries supplies the front bumper and rear bumper, along with their Billy Rock Sliders and fenders with inner front liners. Asfir Offroad fuel tank skid and crossmember skid protect her underside. Multicam supports the build with their patterned vinyl wrap, designed by Sedaghat, specially printed at Imagecraft in Arizona and installed by Alive Wraps in Riverside, California. Kate’s latest outfit shows off more of her black paintjob, but definitely allows her to stand out in the crowd, making Kate the poster child for Sedaghat’s latest endeavor, Fast Friends clothing.

In front and rear sit Bilstein 9200 coilover shocks with 9200 triple bypasses.

Sedaghat ensured to have proper recovery gear, as well. A WARN Zeon 10S winch with Factor 55 Synthetic Fairlead, Hitch Mount, and Raw Aluminum Ultrahook are readily available for those times the Jeep may get stuck. A Deadman Offroad Recovery bag holds their soft shackles and the Deadman Offroad recovery system, especially useful in times when alone and stuck.

Don’t Get Stuck in the Dark

Driving down unlit trails without being able to see anything is now a faint memory as Kate is fully equipped with plenty of lighting. KC HiLites covers the vehicle top to bottom, providing plenty of light for any situation. On each side of the A-pillar sit KC HiLites Flex Era 4s. The KC HiLites Flex Era 3s are in the custom grill mounts and act as front bumper fog lights. Flex Era 1 lights act as knuckle mounted steering lights and over 14 Cyclone V2 rock lights are available throughout the build. There’s also a KC HiLites rear chase light to ensure others behind keep the Jeep in sight. And not to be forgotten, KC HiLites Gravity LEDs are installed for headlights. The taillights are Maxbilt Offroad. With all those lumens, we know Kate and her passengers will be able to see on the darkest of nights.

Keeping all those lights powered on the trail are dual Stinger Offroad Group 34 batteries housed in 3rd Gen Genesis Offroad dual battery kit with G-Monitor. An sPod Bantam controls the lighting and accessories needing power and provides the switch panel.

Making Memories

The furthest Sedaghat has taken Kate so far is to Moab. One of Sedaghat’s more memorable trips was his first time to Moab when he worked for KC HiLites. It was also around the time he and podcast partner Frank started their podcast. “It was an eye-opening experience to be there and experience the most immersive offroad event I’ve been to,” Sedaghat shares. He’s since returned and driven on more trails, adding adventure and experiences behind the wheel.

The longest trip Sedaghat has taken in the Jeep was a unique solo trip where he got to both discover new trails with friends and discover things about himself as he camped alone for the first time. It started up in Northern California where he drove some rock trails with friends and then visited his buddy Jon in Minden. He then traveled down the entirety of the western coast from North of San Franciso, stopping at Big Sur. Reflecting on this, he said, “It was an interesting time of exploration of both the local areas I was driving through and myself as a person.”

Gear and Storage

To travel to and camp near and far, Kate must be ready to haul lots of gear. An overlanding vehicle is not complete with a proper roof rack and Kate has a Front Runner Outfitter Slimline II Roof Rack that holds the Front Runner Outfitters 42L water tank and Roam Adventure Co. Rugged Case up front, and iKamper Skycamp Mini rooftop tent.

Interior storage is complete with Goose Gear plate system, cubbies, and drawer system. Additional gear that needs to be accessed easily from the outside is kept in the Cargokeepers driver and passenger side rear window delete storage bays.

Kate’s Front Runner Slimline II Roof Rack holds her iKamper Skycamp Mini roof top tent.

Comms are controlled by Rugged Radios with a mounted GMRS GMR45 inside and six Rugged Radios GMR2 handhelds packed away for trail mates and/or spotters who may not have a radio. For emergencies, he also has a HAM handheld.

A Garmin Overlander provides off-grid navigation and paired with the Garmin inReach Mini, he is able to communicate with others, too. These are mounted to the dash with a Vector JK E-Dock and 67 Designs phone mounts plus a custom mount for the inReach Mini.

Never Get Stuck

The stock 2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited blossomed into magnificent Kate the Jeep while teaching Sedaghat and his family that one is never truly stuck—whether out on the trail or generally in life. The Jeep reminds Sedaghat that it’s OK to figure things out as you go. Don’t let yourself get stuck or stagnant and keep pushing forward. Getting out and learning a new hobby helped him gain this perspective as that’s exactly how he tackled learning about off-roading. He surrounded himself with people who enjoyed the hobby as much as he does and went for it.

So much of Sedghat’s work has gone into making Kate the Jeep the badass overlanding vehicle she is today.

Exemplified from going through what he calls the lowest point as a father to some of the best times as a father, owning Kate the Jeep has been quite a fulfilling experience. Sedaghat is elated to share the adventure with his two sons, who have been learning how to drive in Kate the Jeep. And while he may not daily drive her anymore, he looks forward to the weekend where he can get behind the wheel and seek out adventures with his family and friends.


A Big Thanks to…

Community is the vein that provides life to an overland lifestyle and it’s the community that Ali Sedaghat appreciates most. According to Ali, “Nothing I have would have been ultimately possible if not for the massive community that rallied around me.” For a guy who gives back to the community just as much as he’s received, we saw it fitting to let him appreciate those who have contributed to Kate the Jeep. In his words, Ali would like to thank:

Alex Tchakerian, owner of Drifting.com, who volunteered his time and equipment to get the first video installs filmed.

Tom Davin, former CEO of 5.11 Tactical, and Dave Larson, former vice president of marketing of 5.11 Tactical who were the ones that always believed in my ideas, plans and supported this project from the start.

Tony Durbano of ROAMR for nothing more than liking off-roading, overlanding, and pie. Tony selflessly introduced me to Jon from Castlefab and always inspired me through the builds he’s created with his partners, Troy and Jason. He’s also become a near and dear friend.

Jon Roohk of CastleFab. Words don’t express the respect and appreciation I have for his dedication to my dreams, plots and plans. Without him there would likely be no Kate, at least not as she stands. And again, he’s become a close friend.

Matt Lorenger Schulz. One of the original Lost Sockets. Matt has been there at every point with my Jeep and lets me bounce all of my ideas off of him. From stock to the cover of this magazine, he’s let me steal some ideas and has helped me implement my own. His garage is the official unofficial Lost Sockets/RFD garage and he’s one of my favorite people to camp with, at least when his Jeep works.

Tony Leix who’s taken me with him as he’s moved from one company to the other, has vouched for me, and stayed a friend regardless of where I was with my career.

Luke Wronski for the introduction to a couple of my first sponsors, Deadman Offroad and KC HiLites. It’s because of him that I landed my first sponsorship which eventually lead to me being able to build the communities I’m known for.

Brad Myers who gave me my first official sponsorship with KC HiLites. He was there for me when I needed support managing the marketing at KC HiLites and still supported me even after he left to start his company, UTV source.

My wife Ashley, of course, who’s dealt with the financial and emotional stress along with the insane amounts of time spent away from home to push this project and the lifestyle. I couldn’t have done it without her support.

Frank Martinez, my Rigged for Dirt partner, for helping me leave my mark behind in the form of a little podcast and event series that my kids will probably get a kick out of one day.

The boys (and girls — but they’re my boys too) who have stood with me, beside me, and behind me. They’ve rallied when needed and supported my ideas, events, endeavors and companies I’ve represented or created. They keep me going. They are (in random order): Matt Van Ness, Adam Holloway, Olaf Kikthau, Eric Dalcin, Adam Pfeifer, Josh Parton, Hal Prock, Derrick & Megan Miller, Martin Castro, Alfy Ramirez, Randy Wimenta, Dustin Ensign, Henry Velasquez, Alan Wang, Justin Marquand, Michelle Chase, Alli Gularte, Stacey Gularte, Natalie Muscat, Will Baty, Jeff McAllister, Ernesto Rodriguez, Streetbike Tommy, John Cary, Ken Farley, Alejandra Velasquez, and of course Kelly Nomura for never giving up on me, even after 4 years.


UPGRADES

2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited

Engine: 5.3L LH8 V8 Bruiser Conversions motor; Mishimoto aluminum radiator, K&N Filter

Suspension: Bilstein 9200 coilover with 9200 triple bypass (front and rear); Rebel Engineering (Offroad) DSS Kit; custom CastleFab suspension cage

Drivetrain: Currie Extreme 60 front/rear; Yukon Gear & Axle 5:13 gears; Eaton E-lockers (front and rear); JE Reel 1350 driveshafts (front and rear); Strange Engineering pinion yokes; SilverSport Transmissions Tremec TR4050; McLeod Racing Clutch

Wheels & Tires: Dirty Life Canyon Race Beadlocks 17-inch, -30 backspacing; Milestar Patagonia MT2 size 38×13.5”

Armor: Nemesis Industries Front Bumper, Rear Bumper, Billy Rocker Sliders, fenders with inner front liners; Asfir Offroad fuel tank skid, crossmember skid

Interior Accessories: Vector JK E-Dock; 67 Designs Phone Mounts; custom inReach Mini mount; Multicam and PRP custom Enduro seats with custom rear harness bar by Cory Roush, Garmin Overlander, inReach Mini; Goose Gear Plate System, Drawer System, Cubbies; Cargokeepers Driver and Passenger side rear window delete storage bays; Rugged Radios GMRS GMR45, (6) GMR2 handhelds; HAM handheld; American Soundbar extended JK Soundbar w/ Stinger Offroad speakers; Echomaster Digital Rear View Mirror; Stinger Offroad Multi camera rock cameras. Offroad Blindspot Camera, Offroad Heigh10 Touchscreen display; Phoenix Gold amplifier & Crossovers; Stinger Offroad Enclosed sub woofer; Blue Sea Systems custom power distribution hub, fast charging dual double USB ports (4), dual Anderson connectors; Snomaster 42L fridge; Tembo Tusk tilt-slide system for 42L fridge, Tembo Tusk Heavy Duty Fridge Slide; Step22 Tool bags & soft packable storage containers; Front Runner Outfitters Camp Table, Camp Chairs; Wagan Tech 1200W portable power, lighting; Off Grid Trek 120W solar blanket; Makita Outdoor Adventure Blower (for dust); Hardkorr Lighting Camp Lights (GTFO Overland)

Exterior Accessories: KC HiLites Rear Chase bar, Flex Era 4s (A-pillar), Flex Era 3s (grill), Flex Era 3 Fog lights, Flex Era 1 mounted steering lights, (14) Cyclone v2 rock lights, Gravity Pro Headlights; WARN Zeon 10S winch, sPod switch system; Front Runner Outfitters Slimline 2 Roof Rack, 42L water tank; Roam Adventure Co. Rugged Case; iKamper Skycamp Mini; Multicam Vinyl printed by Imagecraft; Hydrotank on-board high pressure water system; Deadman Offroad Classic  Deadman, Body Bag, Recovery Soft Shackles; Factor55 Synthetic Fairlead, Raw Aluminum Ultrahook, Hitch Mount; RIGd Supply hitch extender (for mountain bike rack)

Additional Modifications: PSC Big Bore XD kit; Rancho Racing Knuckles; Gatekeeper Offroad knuckle light mount; Teraflex drag links, Alpine IR full long arm kit (with Nemesis Industries long arm mount slider), tie rods, drag links; DV8 Jeep Anniversary Edition hood; 3rd Gen Genesis Offroad Dual Battery Kit w/ G-Monitor; Dual Stinger Offroad Group 34 Batteries; Noco 10Amp on board battery charger


 

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