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Saturday, 06 February 2016 01:13


Written by Kristie Bertucci | Photos: Phil Gordon

RDR Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited

KAO Auto Styling has been building custom vehicles in Sin City since 1989, so they know a thing or two about what makes a ride stop you in your tracks and gawk at its beauty. When the Jeep Wrangler JK first dropped back in 2007, they knew they now had an amazing platform for off-road builds that would challenge their customization skills and creativity to new heights. “They have become one of our most popular vehicles that we upfit,” mentions Joel Baker, President of KAO Auto Styling. “Prior to Jeeps, we were very big in Hummers. Now there is never a day that we don’t have at least two Jeeps in the shop being worked on.”

Over the years, Jeeps have become the hottest off-road vehicle at SEMA Show, with KAO actually modifying seven different Jeeps for the 2014 SEMA Show in their hometown of Las Vegas, NV. “Each Jeep had a different style and theme to it, with this particular red and white JK built for Red Dirt Road Wheels. We also created a bespoke ATV with matching wheels to complement it.”

Even though Red Dirt Road Wheels were behind the build, the shop didn’t let them see the Jeep until they were completely finished building it, despite describing what was being done throughout the duration of the project. “We told them to trust us and that they would get a lot of bang for their buck, as well as a great response at the show.” KAO lived up to their claim and delivered a unique and head-turning JK to the SEMA Show. Fully-built with some of the best components to complement the 20” RDR RD01 wheels were 37” tall Toyo Open Country R/Ts, BDS Suspension lift kit, Borla exhaust system and a slew of other parts and accessories.

Originally, the Jeep was supposed to be all black with red accents, but it looked too common for Baker and his team. They eventually decided to strip and powder coat the wheels white and also opted to paint the Jeep and accessories to flow with the design that Baker came up with. “Normally, I’ll sit with a vehicle for a few hours prior to a build and walk around it over and over again, while drawing different designs. I’ll sometimes also lay pinstripe tape all over the vehicle until I get a design that excites me.” Then, the fun starts as the whole shop starts to brainstorm ideas on how to create the most unique vehicle possible. “In the beginning, no one really liked the red and white idea, and everyone thought that the white wheels were a mistake, but as it got further and further along, it turned out to be a shop favorite!”

“As weird as it sounds, we were really excited about the tires. Last year was the debut for the new Toyo Open Country R/T tires, and they are an awesome tire for mud, dirt, snow or whatever you want to drive on. We were really hyped to be one of the first to get a set of the new tires to pair with the RDR wheels on this Jeep. We also went a bit crazy with the lighting on the JEEP with LED, HID and Halogen lights from KC Hilites, which made all our night testing excursions a breeze!”

No build is really without its challenges and the fact that the shop had to complete 38 one-off rides for the 2014 SEMA Show put some pressure on the crew to get the Jeep done on time and looking it’s best. “We had a total of 45 days to build all 38 vehicles, so everyone in the shop worked non-stop, seven days a week with long hours to get everything done on time. We were actually at the show the day before it opened until 4 a.m putting finishing touches on the Jeep since we got some last minute parts. There’s a ton of blood, sweat and tears in this build.”

KAO also did six other Jeep builds for last year’s SEMA show and took all seven of them out to the desert right after the show to test out their builds and to “beat the crap out of them in the dirt and sand.” As one of the Jeeps was getting photographed, the others were being piloted by a different KAO employee. “We went on a mad dash all through the desert, chasing this red and white Jeep,” Baker describes. “It started as a little game of follow the leader and turned into a crazy game of chicken. We even had one guy in a Jeep filming the fun, which made for some great video footage. Other than one muffler flying off, all seven of our Jeeps did spectacular out there!”

GEAR: RDR Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited

  • Bds Suspension Lift
Wheels & Tires
  • 37X12.50R20 Toyo Open Country R/T Tires
  • 20X12 Red Dirt Road Rd01 Wheels
  • Borla Exhaust Cat-Back Exhaust System
  • Aries Off Road Modular Front Bumper Custom Color Matched
  • Jarek Off Road Front Headlights
  • Inprocarwear Taillights
  • Oracle Lighting Led Halos
  • Kc Hilites Bumper Mounted Led Spot Lights
  • Oracle Underglo Grill And Footwell Accents
  • Kao Offroad Bespoke Mesh Grille
  • Bushwacker Flat Panel Fender Flares
  • Custom Paint By Kao And Dupont Finishes
  • Paramount Off Road Rock Sliders
  • Garvin Industries Wilderness Rack
  • Thule Of Sweden Storage Pod
  • Custom Body Armor Cage Doors
  • Kc Hilites Underhood Led Light
  • Kc Hilites Side And Roof Mount Led Lighting And Halogen Spots
  • Vpr 4X4 Rear Bumper With Custom- Mounted Swing Arm
  • Custom Leather From Pecca Leather Interiors

Kao Auto Styling | • Red Dirt Road Wheels | • Bds Suspension | • Toyo Tires | • Borla | • Oracle | • Kc Hilites | • Bushwacker | • Paramount | • Garvin Industries | • Thule Of Sweden | • Pecca Leather Interiors | • Aries Off Road | • Vpr 4X4 |