Battle of the Beasts: Covert Jeep Wrangler Best in Show Competition
Hollywood. Sand Storm. Hellnback. Those were some of the names of the rigs that showed up at the Covert Jeep dealership in Austin, Texas this past Saturday. Their owners gave them those names, but they wanted to earn their machines a title: winner of the Jeep Wrangler Best in Show competition.
Covert, the #1 Jeep dealer in Austin, decided to hold the event for the first time as part of its fourth anniversary because of a suggestion from its internet manager, Justin Gann, who owns a white Wrangler Unlimited. His fellow Jeep-lovers parked their CJs, YJs, TJs, and JKs next to and even partially on each other under a light blue sky striped with gauzy clouds. Contestants, some of them members of the group Austin JeepPeople, chatted about their vehicles with each other as they ate pulled pork sandwiches and drank ice-cold sodas. As much as everyone there loved wheeling, they seemed perfectly content hanging out in a parking lot and swapping stories and talking about their builds. The possibility of taking home the first prize of a $1,000 gift certificate for Jeep parts and accessories from Covert was certainly an incentive to be on pavement, too. Second prize was a $500 gift card for the same goodies.
The assortment of potential winners included an eye-catching and ’90s-tastic Renegade, a mud-covered four-door custom YJ, and a pickup conversion named Rock N Chair.
James Gregory’s Jeep truck entry left the factory that way, though. He’s the owner of a 1982 Scrambler. The 5.3-liter V8 under its hood? That’s definitely aftermarket. Gregory bought his CJ-8 partway through the installation of the Vortec power plant and finished it off by doing the wiring. In the approximately two years he’s owned what strangers on the street call “the most badass Jeep” they’ve ever seen, he’s spent about $10 thousand on parts and upgrades. Those include a welded rear end, Dana 44s, 35-inch tires, and, most recently, an engine tune. Gregory’s GM-powered daily driver now pumps out approximately 395 horsepower; the transmission from a 2008 GMC Sierra helps transfer that output to the dirt.
George Garcia transferred his love of Marvel comics to his 2014 Sahara and named it Thanos, after the power-hungry villain most recently featured in 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” He seeks the Infinity Stones that will give him complete power over the universe. Garcia’s Jeep gives him command over the outdoors. He’s got a long arm suspension kit underneath, a Dynatrac ProRock 44 axle up front, and an XD60 in the back. A winch and 37-inch mud tires keep Garcia’s JKU moving out on the trail; armor and sliders keep it from looking like crumpled paper. He’ll need those parts and the rest of his $30,000 in gear when he goes on the Easter Jeep Safari next year.
David Weaver will be heading to Moab, Utah this July in his rig, which started life as a 2015 Wrangler Sport. Since buying it in September of 2014, the four-time Jeep owner has put $16,000 worth of hardware into it – and gone through three girlfriends. Noticing the pattern, he was smart enough to dub his JK “The Mistress.” Weaver’s also bright enough to do almost all of his own work. He doesn’t trust anyone else with anything but the gearing on his Jeep, so he’s taught himself through online videos and forums – including this one – how to maintain and upgrade it. Weaver installed a more powerful sound system and a 2.5-inch mid arm suspension which, according to his calculations, effectively gives him a lift of around four inches. Next on his list is a Dana 44 axle, maybe two…then coilovers.
He now has more money to throw at his four-wheel “other woman” thanks to the person who won 1st prize, Tammy Sensel. She chose to split her $1,000 gift card with her pal Weaver. Now she has to decide which parts to put her share toward. Her 2010 Wrangler Unlimited already has a $32,000 assortment of them, including armor, a light bar, spot lights, sports seats, skid plates, 37-inch tires, and a freer-flowing exhaust system. Perhaps she’ll get a three-link rear suspension or a rear e-locker next. Maybe a new steering wheel. Whatever she gets, she’ll more than likely install it herself because she turns her own wrenches, too.
One thing Sensel’s Jeep doesn’t have is a nickname. The “0314 10JK” on its hood is the tag that can be used to identify it in case she needs to be rescued on a trail, where she can be found three or four days a week. It doesn’t seem likely that Sensel will name her Jeep any time soon. As resourceful as she is, she can no doubt come up with a catchy one, but the title of “Best in Show” sure does have a nice ring to it.
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