Quadratec’s two-door Gladiator shows why Jeep doesn’t make one
When we laid eyes on Quadratec’s JTe creation at the 2022 SEMA show, it was love at first sight. With two doors and a 6-foot, 6-inch bed, the packaging seemed perfect. Even better, it was forbidden fruit, a Gladiator configuration that didn’t exist outside of this one-off build, created with the help of fabricator Greg Henderson at Unofficial Use Only. Last week, Quadratec let us drive this custom creation and we’re sad to say the honeymoon is over—but it’s not the JTe’s fault at all.
Quadratec built the JTe as a trail cleanup vehicle, and to that end, it has already proven itself; there’s a map on its tailgate tallying the progress made on Quadratec’s goal of hosting 50 trail cleanups in 50 states. To make it the perfect 4×4 trail cleanup machine, the JTe has sturdy steel bumpers made by Carnivore at both ends. Likewise, Res-Q winches both front and rear provide two powerful options for getting vehicles out of tricky spots as well as dragging unwieldy trail trash into position for pickup. The JTe’s 37-inch tires and locking axles make it nearly unstoppable over rocky terrain, and it has plenty of capability for hauling large, awkward payloads out of the backcountry thanks to its custom, stretched bed.
The reason why I wouldn’t choose a regular cab Jeep pickup is the exact same reason why pickup buyers of any type are increasingly opting for four doors: Such a small cabin simply isn’t practical for a lot of situations. When saddling up for a trip into the high desert with the JTe we were forced to compromise immediately. With two occupants, there’s no room in the cab for any luggage bigger than a knapsack. My carry-on-sized Pelican case with my camera gear was out of the question. I had to prioritize the gear and scale back. That’s probably not the kind of compromise most Wrangler or Gladiator buyers want to deal with. In fact, it’s exactly why the Wrangler Unlimited has become the archetypal 21st-century Jeep, outselling the two-door Wrangler by about 3:1.
Shorter drivers and passengers won’t have much trouble getting comfortable in the JTE, but taller drivers will have to make a choice. The rear cross-member of the roll bar, custom fabricated from OEM Jeep replacement parts, was threatening to bonk my head with every bump of the road. Despite lowering the seat as far as possible I had to resort to moving it farther forward than I would have preferred and reclining it a bit to give my tender skull some distance between the unyielding steel. That adjustment put my right knee in constant contact with the dash—not ideal, but better than the alternative.
So that’s the bad news, which all stems from me being one to two sizes of human too large for a regular cab Jeep. However, after spending a couple of hours behind the wheel my body melded into a more comfortable position without even realizing it. The same phenomenon happens when shoe-horned into the confines of a sports car. I don’t understand how, but it usually works out. Highway miles fly by in the JTe and the hybrid 4XE powerplant doesn’t have any problem pushing the 37-inch tires down the highway at appropriate speeds. Likewise, the Lynx suspension that lifts the Jeep 2.5 inches and provides clearance for those massive tires was comfortable on the highway and the Nitto Recon Grapplers didn’t howl like a lot of large, aggressive tires often do. However, the JTE is still a Jeep with the aerodynamics of, well, a Jeep. Wind noise becomes apparent at any speed above 50 mph or so.
Off-road, the wide 37-inch tires can get the JTE out of just about any jam, although it does take its toll. Bumpy desert roads are best taken at low speed, as the heavy tires and tandem solid axles are slow to respond to sudden jolts. It’s not built to be a pre-runner. It’s a pack mule. In that regard, it’s a complete success. It does exactly what it’s meant to do. It’s maneuverable, with a wheelbase identical to a Wrangler Unlimited, and the bed lets it carry oversized items.
Of course, this is not meant to stop anyone from pining for a regular cab Gladiator. If you still think you’d buy such a creation from Jeep if it actually built one, you’re not wrong, you’re just in the minority. While Jeep is not going to build something like this any time soon, there’s nothing stopping you from commissioning your own identical custom. I’m already thinking that my Goldilocks Jeep pickup would be an extended cab version with just a bit more room in the cab and perhaps a wraparound rear window for trail visibility. Maybe Jeep’s 2005 Gladiator concept left a lasting impression on me, or maybe it’s just the lure of the forbidden fruit. If you’d like to see the JTe in person and get in on the action by helping out on a trail cleanup, or planning one yourself, visit Quadratec’s site.