His father passed away when he was 16, and his father loved cars. So Caleb Forbes set out on some sort of journey… to find perspective through the outlet of an automobile. In 3 years, he went through about 15 different platforms – regularly swapping & trading out on curious whims. Toward the end of the journey, he ended trading for a Jeep Wrangler. It was an old square-headlight YJ model. And even in that old beater… the sense of freedom, exploration, and the community hooked him. Yeah – even the Jeep Wave. It all meant something to him. And there was an understood bond & fellowship amongst Jeep owners, that he had not yet seen in automotive culture, or in the other chassis. The rapid-fire trading pace began to slow down.
Eventually – he upgraded the YJ for this 2007 4-door Rubicon. It was outfitted with a bunch of terrible/tacky catalogue accessories at the time, but the price was right for a Rubicon. And it was the first vehicle that Caleb had ever gotten a loan for, independently, so there was a sense of pride, accomplishment & responsibility in taking it home.
Caleb made it his mission/passion to go down the rabbit hole, and learn absolutely everything that he could about Jeeps, the aftermarket, and the community.
You’d Work Obsessively
There is/was a local Jeep supplier in his hometown of Boone, NC, called Rubitrux. The company was reputable, but their photography, on the other hand, was potato. So Caleb convinced them to hire him on a part-time basis, just to get their photos on their website in order. One day, everyone was out at lunch and/or vacation except for Caleb. The phone was ringing, so he answered it. A customer was looking for recommendations… and Caleb got into a conversation. All of Caleb’s accumulated knowledge/experience just started spilling out naturally: budgets, mod paths, things to watch out for, brand quality, expected upgrades & results, etc. Somewhere during the conversation (unbeknownst to Caleb), Caleb’s boss walked in from the other room & started listening in. After the conversation, the bossman was like, “Dude you need to be selling!” So Caleb went from part time photography, to full-time sales (and photography), to Sales Manager… and photography.
As the Sales Manager for Rubitrux, Caleb was talking to the guys from JCR Offroad on the regular. He got to know them all pretty well. And when JCR had a position come available, Brian called Caleb & offered him an opportunity. Now JCR is located up in Michigan. And the timing was kinda weird considering Caleb had literally JUST gotten engaged. But Caleb & his fiancé felt like the opportunity was too crucial to pass up, and he needed to follow the path of this journey. So Caleb moved up to Michigan solo… while she stayed in NC for another 6 months until she graduated college.
And since he was in a new town with no fiancé… and no friends other than the ones he worked with… work became EVERYTHING. He soaked it up like a sponge, learning as much as he could. Not only about Jeep know-how… but also about true small-business work ethic. So many nights, they would work in JCR’s shop all night long cutting & building, then crash in the office for what little time was left… then wake up at 8 & get to answering calls/sales. This was the real deal. The real aftermarket Jeep culture. The philosophy was: You’d work obsessively, and don’t stop until the project was done. And on the weekends, they’d go wheel.
Metal don’t cry when you cut it!
One day, Caleb was on a call with Steve from Predator Products in California. Steve mentioned he had an extra one of their truck-conversion kits, and he could hook Caleb up with a real good promotional price on it. At first, it was nothing more than a planted seed, without much real consideration other than a daydream. Caleb loved his 4-door the way it was. But that Jeep-truck daydream grew & grew inside Caleb’s head… like a tumor. And it didn’t help that his buddy Bob + all of JCR was in his ears with things like, “Why wouldn’t you do it?! Metal don’t cry when you cut it! Your Jeep WANTS this! Do it for your country Caleb!”
Finally – God intervened to close the deal, and while they were all on the way back from lunch in Caleb’s Jeep, a middle-aged woman in an IDENTICAL Jeep to Calebs gave them all a huge over exaggerated giggly Jeep Wave. Caleb got back to the shop & dialed that number.
The challenge set forth – was to install the whole Predator Products truck-kit with ONLY garage-type hand tools. It took 2 guys 9 hours… and another JCR all-nighter. But by sunrise, she was done.
He was wrong; he broke everything.
About a year & a half after moving to Michigan with JCR… family responsibilities called Caleb back home to Boone, North Carolina, where he settled back in with Rubitrux, and a whole bunch of new life experience under his belt.
Looking on it from the parking lot, there was no denying that the newly transformed Jeep could use some fresh/matching paint. So after about 150 color changes in photoshop lol… Caleb printed out 10 finals & put them on the fridge. When he decided against one, he would crumple it up, throw in trash, and never look back. Against all others, the final color remaining was Tank green, a factory color from Mopar/Jeep. Caleb added the Tank tint to Raptor Liner, and lined the whole Jeep… in the middle of the night one night… per JCR’s training lol.
Next up – the Jeep really needed 40s to fill out it’s new majestic look. The way Caleb figured, if he had been wheeling his Jeep hard on 37s this long with no issues, he could probably go to 40s… be a little more gentle with it… and not have any real problems. Caleb went with a set of Gladiator XComp MTs
And he was wrong; he broke everything.
So into the shopping cart – went upgraded chromoly axle shafts, Artec c-gussets, heavy-duty Teraflex balljoints, Rough Stuff 1-ton tie rods, a JKS drag link flip-kit, new 5:13 Yukon gears… and a Teraflex big rotor kit with EBC Green pads.
Back to the trails it went, and all was good.
Rubitrux had a Rock Crawler 4.5 long arm kit on the shelf that was old stock. So Caleb scooped that up for a helluva deal since it couldn’t be sold AND couldn’t be returned, and a mystery-engineer named Greg Troutman went overboard with Caleb on the install… customizing some of the install for even stronger performance.
That’s right – daily.
So there ya have it. At a few points in his life now, Caleb’s made the choice to go all-in & follow his calling… without really seeing exactly what may come of it. But he acted on faith & passion. And at only 24, he’s got knowledge of this industry and a matured experience in the community that is beyond his years.
You might figure a Jeep that looks like this would most likely be a stable queen. Capable… but not used. Getting driven to the trails on a trailer behind a high-dollar diesel, like a show horse.
But – that’s not the case here. This is Caleb’s daily. That’s right – daily. His only vehicle. No kidding. It can be done… if you’re not a pansy about it.
2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Minivan-powered 3.8l V6 lol
-Predator Products Action Truck Conversion
-Raptor Liner in Mopar Tank Green
-VKS Shorty v3 aluminum frame-chop front bumper
-JCR Offroad Crusader sliders
-JCR Offroad fender-delete corner armor
-JCR Offroad / Victory 4×4 frame-chop rear bumper with JCR DIY bumper hoop, gussets, and tabs welded on
-Custom Baja Style tire carrier with PRP 3-way tire strap
-Predator Products hellcat style hood
-Trucklite LED headlights
-Magnaflow dual exhaust
-Superwinch EXP 12Si synthetic rope winch
-High Beam off-road orbital switchback fog lights, spot pods, rock lights and reverse lights
-Bartact seat covers – black on black w/ red stitching
-Bedrug replacement carpet
-Switch-Pros SP8100 8 switch system
SUSPENSION / STEERING
-Rock Krawler 4.5” X-Factor Long Arm (3-link front & rear)
-at full flex, 42” between bottom of the tire and ground
-Fox 2.0 reservoir shocks
-RuffStuff Specialties 1-ton tie rods
-JKS drag link flip
-SteerSmarts raised track bar bracket
-ARB differential covers
-Teraflex HD ball joints
-Rear truss (for RK 3-link)
-Front & Rear chromoly axle shafts
F+R 1310 Carolina Drive Line drive shafts
WHEELS / TIRES
-ATX Cornice (AX195) 17×9 wheels
-Gladiator XComp MT 40×13.50×17 tires
Text by Wooley Photos by Caleb Forbes (owner)