Matt and Scott discuss the importance of innovation and engineering in the development of aftermarket components, along with Dave's story of transitioning from white water kayaker to industry leader.
Dave Harriton's career began with four AAA tows and UM's business plan competition. Now he owns the largest and most respected Jeep accessory company in the industry. @aevdave
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world's most remote places by 4WD and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. He is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore
This episode sponsored in part by
To find out more about AEV and follow along with the adventures, check out the social media pages and website.
AEV website - https://www.aev-conversions.com/
Since 1997 American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has become the world’s premier supplier of OE-quality, performance-driven aftermarket parts and accessories for vehicles geared specifically to off-road recreational driving and overland adventure travel. Through a comprehensive global dealer network, AEV ships parts as well as fully-built turnkey Jeep Wranglers and Ram 1500 and Ram 2500/3500 HD pickups to customers around the world. The AEV brand has become the standard in off-road as the company casts an eye toward accessory parts for even more iconic vehicle lines in the future.
AEV was formed in the 1990s when founder and President Dave Harriton started stretching TJ Wranglers for himself and a few friends while a student at the University of Montana. He eventually won a business school award based on this Jeep project, and after graduating Dave set up shop in a one-room garage with a dirt floor in Missoula, Montana. When Dave’s modified Wranglers began winning Chrysler Design Excellence Awards at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, he found partners in Detroit who could bring OE-quality engineering and manufacturing expertise to his innovative designs.
Today, AEV is a modern success story in resurgent American automotive manufacturing. With a design/engineering facility in Missoula and a large engineering/vehicle build/warehouse plant in Detroit, AEV has built a brand with a stellar reputation in the passionate Jeep and off-road communities. AEV products are of the highest quality, built with the most advanced manufacturing processes available to any automotive company in the world. AEV believes in American made products—more than 90% are built within 200 miles of Detroit.
Whether it’s for Wrangler or Ram, AEV takes a no-compromise, total integration approach in developing its product lineup. Front and rear bumpers, hoods, wheels, suspension lifts, even badging and interior finishes are all designed to work in concert with one another from both visual aesthetic and ride performance parameters. Suspensions (or suspension components) in particular receive considerable investment, engineering, and testing. In fact, all AEV products and vehicles pass OE-level testing in both real world and controlled environments. AEV’s goal is not just customization, but actual improvement in the look, functionality, and drivability of the original vehicle on every surface, from the interstate to the most difficult off-road terrain.
AEV’s guiding principles begin with innovation in design and quality in manufacturing. Several AEV parts were the first, and are still among the only, stamped steel accessories in the aftermarket, and all finishes are to OE standards in corrosion protection. Innovations have included the Brute Double Cab, which converts a JK Wrangler into a stretched four-door pickup, a Heat Reduction Hood for Wrangler that actually helps cool the engine, and a versatile Rear Bumper/Tire Carrier that supports multiple components crucial to overland explorers. AEV was also the first company in the world to engineer a complete 5.7L or 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine Conversion Kit for Jeep Wrangler.
As AEV continues to grow with the introduction of new accessories for the latest Jeep Wrangler and Ram models, and possibly for additional vehicle lines from other OEMs, the company remains steadfast in its dedication to American manufacturing. At AEV, quality is the core value, and for more than two decades AEV’s adherence to this principle has been Proven Worldwide.
Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I am your host Scott Brady, and I'm here with my illustrious co-host Matt Scott. And it is that time of year, it's holiday season, and Matt just brought over a giant box of cookies.
Matt Scott: I did not make them.
Scott Brady: That Laura made, and we also gave a box of cookies to our host for the day. Dave Harrington. He is CEO and founder of American Expedition Vehicles. A longtime friend. We have traveled extensively together, and it has been so fun, Dave, to watch your journey of success and thank you for taking the time to be with us on the podcast.
Matt Scott: I'm just glad that he's hosting.
Dave Harriton: I don't know if I signed up for that... but yeah, thanks for having me. I've wanted to do this for a while, schedule has never worked out, and today it did.
Scott Brady: We've talked about it a couple of times, and this is the chance, which is great. So there's a lot that we can talk about and we're going to kind of let this one just take [00:01:00] place as it does. We're not going to be too concerned around time, because I really want to make sure that we cover some of these topics completely, because you bring so much insight to the overland traveler, and then also automotive manufacturing, and modification in general, and then you have a really interesting history in a personal story that I think a lot of people don't know that I think would be fun to talk about. So as I remember, you started off in competitive kayaking and then that dovetailed into you going to engineering school and there was some other interesting things that happened at that point, so talk a little bit about kind of what got you interested in the outdoors and then kayaking.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, and then they were kind of parallel. But I was really involved with kayaking when I was younger in college, and that was something that I didn't know it at the time, but it really prepared me in terms of like knowing how to make molds and learning some processes that I still use to this day, and just kind of [00:02:00] learning about some industry stuff and even dealing with some contracts then. I mean, when I was 22... 23, I started working and I developed a part, a protective skid plate, you could call it, for a kayak that had come out and I ended up starting to talk to the company and the owner, and we became pretty fast friends and I'd picked up some sponsorship from them and started making some money selling these things. Cause he said hey, if you make those things, we'll sell them, and so I did that. That kind of parlayed itself into me helping him design some kayaks and doing some stuff that's still kind of the norm today in the whitewater scene. And then that also at the same time gave me enough money... I had this Wrangler, it wasn't my Wrangler, it's actually my dad's Wrangler. And he sent me off to college with it, and I decided that that thing was too small, and it was too rough and it had some drive shaft issues. So I was like, you know what? I could fix that by stretching it, [00:03:00] and keep in mind I had never changed my own oil at that time. I'd never done anything with a car, but I was like, how hard could it be? . And yeah, I went to ACE hardware and bought a $40 socket set. I came home, I took my dad's Jeep apart. Never asked him. I completely took it apart.
Scott Brady: Better off asking for forgiveness.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. And then you know, and I had been like that since I was a little kid. But they sent me off to college with AAA, which I had noticed had four free tows and I had become friends with a guy who was a welder and he's like, yeah, I'll do it for you for 500 bucks. And so I figured, okay, so I took it apart. I had AAA come and tow the chassis over to the shop and then we'd stretched it and he towed it back and I put the short body on the long frame and towed it back and, and it took me like a year, and I did the hard top, you know, I had the fiberglass skills and I knew how to do it. And it took me like a year to put it together, and then I eventually graduated [00:04:00] business plan, so people like seem to like my Jeep. Oh and by the way I took it home once I got done, I took it back for Christmas, back to Pennsylvania.
Scott Brady: And your dad still didn't know?
Dave Harriton: My parents didn't even notice.
Scott Brady: What happened to the jeep?
Matt Scott: Why is the Jeep so much more practical?
Scott Brady: That says a lot that they didn't notice. It looked factory...
Dave Harriton: Oh, I even had the stickers on it.
Scott Brady: Now if I remember, I think he won an award for that. Didn't you?
Dave Harriton: Well, so I won the business plan competition at the university of Montana, which is still going on to this day. But it's like today, if you win you get like 40 grand... then you got a nice pat on the back and then I got to go present it to other schools. And we did really well, so they took like the top five people at the university of Montana and put them all on my business plan. We flew around and presented at different schools, and we were one of the few undergrads doing it. And we actually had a [00:05:00] lot of offers for venture capital, like there on the spot at several schools. And investments, and I didn't take any of it. It just didn't seem... I don't know. It just didn't seem right. It didn't seem real. And I was like, what are these people doing?
Scott Brady: And what do they want in return?
Dave Harriton: Yeah, what do they want, and I was like... It just didn't make enough sense. So you know, I wasn't that sophisticated to know... in hindsight, I mean, that could have been a good thing. It could have been a bad thing.
Scott Brady: Yeah, you don't know. That's the challenge with hindsight is it could have gone either way.
Dave Harriton: And so I tend to keep things really simple. So what I knew in my brain is, okay, you know, you go to a bank, you get a loan and start a business. This is all I know. So that’s my perception, right? So I did that, I took the business plan. I handed it into a bank, and I got a $35,000 loan. And that's how I started AEV in1997.
Scott Brady: And if I remember too, you started off in a really small shop and you were living in the [00:06:00] shop at the same time.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. The first one didn't have any windows and I was working all kinds of crazy hours.
Matt Scott: It's always kind of a good thing if you're working crazy hours.
Dave Harriton: Except you didn't know, like sometimes I'd look at my clock and it'd say like 2:30 and I literally didn't know that was in the morning or the afternoon until I walked out and opened the door. Somedays it'd be bright and sunny and somedays it'd be really calm and peaceful and dark out. But yeah, that went on for years and then I moved to a different shop and that was even a crazier story because that one had big fluorescent lights that didn't turn off. And I was like sleeping up on the loft under these fluorescent white lights all night and you know, no hot water and no kitchen.
Scott Brady: Now was that the shop that I first saw your stuff?
Dave Harriton: Yeah. So I lived in that, and it took me...
Scott Brady: It was a pretty big shop.
Dave Harriton: It was a big shop, but it was like... I didn't realize it till now, but somebody told me that's how they torture people now. [00:07:00] They don't turn the lights off. Here I am just happy as could be at the time, my two dogs and a...
Scott Brady: You worked yourself enough during the day that when you finally hit the pillow, you probably were exhausted.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. You know, I've always been that kind of guy. I just work. I get up early and I work late and I never... hindsight, I wouldn't call myself a workaholic, but now in life, I kind of look back and I'm like, holy cow, yeah you're kind of a workaholic.
Scott Brady: Well, it's difficult. I think for both of us, we love what we do. And we're inspired by the people that we work with and the things that we get to interact with, and it's so easy to just go deeper down the rabbit hole.
Dave Harriton: Totally. And for me, you know, it was something I would be doing... I mean, I would be making something with my hands, whether I was off from work then, or, you know... I'd still be up doing something. And that was something... it didn't matter to me that it wasn't making money or that I [00:08:00] was barely surviving in a way, you know, but that didn't even register with me. I just wanted to make something cool. And I knew what I wanted to do, and so the time and the work really never... it didn't really phase me at all.
Scott Brady: Yeah, I remember, I think it was 2005 SEMA, I think... was that when you brought the Iceland trucks? Okay. So we're all in this parking lot and I've got like the one overland vehicle, and I have a roof tent and everybody’s like, nobody knows what this thing is. You have a tent on top of your car. So I've got my Tacoma there and I'm putting the stickers on my Tacoma. Cause last minute I'm there getting my truck ready and here comes Dave in with a couple flatbeds and he's pulling these trucks off with these, I think they had 40-inch tires on them or larger. One of them, I think was a JK, like one of the first...
Matt Scott: Was that a commander?
Dave Harriton: Yeah, there was a commander and a [00:09:00] TJ.
Scott Brady: TJ, got it.
Dave Harriton: It was like the first Highline TJ.
Scott Brady: Yeah. So you guys were putting on like the snorkel and stickers and stuff in the parking lot. And I just remembered saying to myself is like, we're all dealing with the same thing, because when I looked at what you guys were doing, it looked like another universe to me. Like a whole other level of execution. But then to see you guys putting the stickers on, it kind of made me feel a little like, oh we're all in it together. We're all just like up until midnight.
Dave Harriton: I showed up at SEMA at one time when we did the, in 2003, we did the Brute and we didn't get that car, cause it was like one of the very first Rubicon's like first five Rubicon’s off the line and they got it to us really late. And like literally, I mean, we put that car together and like six days and it was just crazy. And I remember, I think... no, we were up for five days straight is what it was, and Dave [00:10:00] Yaggie still works for me today. He was an engineer at Jeep, and he would take his vacation and come help me get ready for SEMA, so he was up for five days. And I didn't realize that you would start to hallucinate about day three. You know, and I remember making the mold for the hard top, and like in my head, I just remember kind of seeing my hands in front of me and I could see out the door through the fan and I just remember going like light, dark, light, dark, like over a period of three days when I made the mold and the first top, and then I got it painted. I mean, we talked about the paint being wet as some of the SEMA cars. This one, literally I showed up at SEMA in clothes I had been wearing for five days with a respirator mark with red paint on my face. I mean, that was the closest we've ever had, and we were bolting parts on there, and I remember Dave and I were too busy or we were too tired to drive. So we let my brother drive and he came out of a four-cylinder TJ, and so he's driving [00:11:00] a 28-foot trailer with this Brute on it and this brand-new Ram that David brought out, he was allowed to drive Ram, so it was like a prototype with a big Cummins engine in it. At the time it was when they stepped up to all these newer motors. And I just remember waking up and looking over, Jordan's towing along at a hundred miles an hour, you know, because when he drives, he just puts the foot to the floor.
Scott Brady: Solve every problem with wide open throttle.
Dave Harriton: He didn't even notice because he's just used to driving a four-cylinder TJ with 35s, you just put your foot to the floor and you know, you can't speed. Right? And he'd never towed. I just remember waking up, like you got to slow down.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and then right back asleep. Now is it by chance that there's that same four-cylinder TJ, the one that turned into the Brute that I saw in the parking lot? Yeah. That's small world. Yeah. I mean for me, I [00:12:00] remember I remember going into SEMA and seeing those trucks there, seeing the Commander and seeing the TJ, and they had the Panasonic Toughbook laptops mounted in the center dash and they were like over the top about this expedition and everything, and I just was taken aback completely blown away by... because it's what I was aspiring to, was that kind of level of adventure and execution and everything else like that. And I think it was shortly thereafter that we started to get to know each other, and then I did the big trip up to Tuktoyaktuk in that same Tacoma, and we stopped by in Montana and you guys gave us a tour and we got to go out to dinner that night and drove and you drove the same Commander and all that. So it was really neat to see that evolution to where now you have an R and D facility in [00:13:00] Montana and you have a huge manufacturing facility outside of Detroit that I've been to. It's just really impressive to see how far you guys have come.
Dave Harriton: Well, I mean, keep in mind, when that happened, I'd already been doing it for nine years. You know, which is crazy, I think back to, you know, the very first phone call I made when I started AEV, like I got my loan and I was like, okay. I bought a Jeep, and you know, the modifier, I sold mine. I had to sell mine to get a new TJ at the time, and the very first phone call I made was to Chris Wood, you know, he was a west coast sales manager for ARB, and you know, and here 25 years later, you know, Chris has worked for me for over a decade now. And Dave Yaggie, same thing, you know, I met him the first year and my brother has been with me, and a couple other guys have been there since, you know, nearly day one. So it was pretty funny that, you know, all these people have kind of devoted their life to my ideas. So it's been humbling and [00:14:00] it's pretty amazing, especially I go back east, and I look at the building and the facilities, you know, there's two buildings. I don't know if you've been to both. Yeah, we've had two buildings.
Scott Brady: Yeah, you had the original building, which I... you saw the original building when we came through on Expedition Seven, and then recently I borrowed one of your Prospectors and I went to the new building and that was amazing.
Dave Harriton: Oh yeah. I mean, you go in there, it's got coffee bar and it's all modern and beautiful. I still, to this day, walk in there like who who's paying for it. I mean, it's fantastic.
Matt Scott: You are paying for it.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. But I mean, you know, and I've got a great business partner... two great business partners. And they really make sure that I can do what I do and, you know, they take care of the rest, and that's super important. Yeah, it's been... yeah. I mean, I can't say enough about the [00:15:00] staff that I have now and the quality of people and how much they care, not just about the product, about the customers. I mean, just in general.
Scott Brady: Would you say that that's been pretty material for you is the fact that as you've grown, you've been able to stay in that creative space as a thought leader, as an engineer, as a creative person, would you say that's pretty key to your success?
Dave Harriton: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, the fact that, you know, it's tough. Like in the early days it was tough, cause I had to do all of it. Human resources and all that stuff.
Scott Brady: You went and bought the toilet paper.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, there's that point between, you know, I always tell... like I do a lot with the business program now, you know, I try and go back and help out with the business school now. But it's like between one and 20 employees, it's so hard. It's so hard to keep it all on track and keep [00:16:00] things moving and keep creative. And once you get past that part, then it got easier because at like 20, you get an HR person, and they can kind of deal with everything. I mean, I think now we're somewhere north of 130 employees, and it's, you know, that that's not just the employee, but like their family, you know, you're dealing with a lot of stuff. And so being able to have the staff that helps make this all happen is it's pretty crazy, and I was gonna say like, through the COVID thing, it's really brought to light how much the folks at AEV really care, because like, we did not have a lot of the problems I was seeing elsewhere, you know, in the news and stuff like that. I mean, it was pretty tightly knit, and everybody really tried to help out and really, you know...
Scott Brady: Cause you guys were shut down for a period of time too.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. We didn't know what was going on, and then Michigan got really, you know, they were pretty serious about it.
Scott Brady: You guys weathered that as well as you did.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. And like I [00:17:00] said, we didn't know, we didn't know what was going to happen. And all of a sudden, you know, you have an operation that size it, the bills don't stop, but the revenue stops. So how are you gonna keep all these people employed. Right? How are you going to keep their families... a lot of them are the primary source of income. So it was a lot of stress trying to figure out how to keep all these people going, and believe it or not, to the government's credit, there was some help, there was some assistance, but early on, we just didn't know. Nobody knew. So that was crazy, and I would say through the whole thing, I mean, I think maybe we lost two employees, you know, through the whole... and yeah, we did have to lay people off. It wasn't of our choosing. But yeah, anyway. I mean, it's crazy. Nobody knows what's going on in the future either, but I would say for right now, you know, things are going well, it was almost good for us because we got to take a step back and finish up a bunch of [00:18:00] stuff.
Scott Brady: Yeah, they're calling it the Great Pause now. I've heard people say that and I feel like...
Matt Scott: I'm waiting for the pause to happen.
Scott Brady: The Overland thing just went nuts.
Matt Scott: There was about a month of what is going to happen maybe a month or two. And then it was like we came into spring and people couldn't do anything, and then they started buying. Like on the Max Trax side, we haven't stopped, you know? And then you have to deal with all the additional supply chain challenges, you know, we're kind of like we didn't have any really staffing problems, but you know, shipping, materials, all the kind of stuff that go into it. Then just the stress of the pandemic on top of all of this, and then like your business growing at a time when it's really, it's just, it's hard to grow. It's not... it's an interesting time.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it was, it was, it was very interesting. Cause we hoped that it was going to be a positive outcome, [00:19:00] so like the executive team, we all just sat down, and we just decided we weren't going to pay ourselves for a while so we could keep people employed, and it was only a couple months and it was like, we were roaring to get hiring people. So you just don't know how it's going to turn out.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, and I can't say it was that good for us. Like we got stuck with it, like kind of a tough time. Cause 18', the Wrangler changed. So that means, our revenues fell, and our tooling bills went crazy, cause we had to retool everything. Every single product we make, we had to not only re-engineer but retool, like the way we do things, that's a massive amount of money and we knew that was happening. So we've planned for that, you got 10 years to prepare, you know, the Wrangler's gonna change. You got 10 years to plan, so we had planned for that. Then the Ram changed at almost the same time.
Matt Scott: It was like just a little change.
Dave Harriton: Just enough that we had to redevelop, you know, the bumper and the snorkels.
Scott Brady: And there were some suspension changes too.
Dave Harriton: Yup. Well, this was [00:20:00] like in 18', 19'. There were some minor changes on the suspension, but anyway that added in and then we got hit with COVID. Now we're getting hit with the chip shortage. Cause like the GM Bison is a huge portion of our what we're doing right now, and they can't build vehicles. Now we're getting hit with the chip shortage, and our little tuning devices. We can't make those. So now we're getting hit with supply chain. So its been tough. I mean, that's kind of how entrepreneurship is. You can't go out and spend everything because you never know.
Scott Brady: You always have to have money in the bank.
Dave Harriton: I haven't taken a paycheck in a couple of years. Only because I mean, we haven't been... you know, we're back to like getting there. You know, I think next year will be good cause we've had a lot of time to catch up, but our guys have been so busy, especially on the design side and we just had our annual meeting, and I was trying to explain the rest of the company. Like our design team has been so busy in the last two years, more busy than we've ever [00:21:00] been in the entire history of the company. We've knocked out more products, and yet now the rest of the company is going to get caught up. Right? Now everybody else is going to get slammed. So I kinda, during our Christmas meeting...
Scott Brady: Cause you keep expanding who you are servicing, so you started off with Wrangler only, and then you started to incorporate the Ram and then now you're incorporating GM products as well. I mean, that's pretty exciting, but it also adds a whole lot more work.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. And when you're doing the OE stuff, the level of detail has to be so much more intense, because like on something like a Ram or Wrangler, you can be like, yeah, that's good enough. We know that's going to work. We've got two decades of experience saying that's going to be strong enough, but on the OE side, you gotta prove everything.
Scott Brady: It's gotta be crash tested and everything else.
Dave Harriton: You gotta get through 11 different airbag tests and you have to do all the cooling and all the simulation for cooling, and it ends up being so much more work. [00:22:00] All the airbag calibrations, I mean, there's not just going through the test, but it's like doing all the developments. It just an amazing amount of work.
Scott Brady: Which actually leads me to one of the questions that I wanted to ask you is, AEV aside, if you were to give some advice to someone who's looking for aftermarket components, what advice would you give them into helping them identify components that are well engineered and of high quality. I think that there's oftentimes purchases are made on price, or they're made on aesthetics. And fortunately AEV stuff has always looked great. But if someone's looking to buy aftermarket components, what insights can you give them in the finding good quality stuff? There's so much garbage out there. What should they look for?
Dave Harriton: [00:23:00] You know, it's kind of interesting you asked that, and I'll go back for a second. But when I started AEV the point initially was just to do long wheelbase Wranglers, which seemed like a necessity in the marketplace. But then shortly after I started that, I realized that I wanted to buy high quality parts for these trucks. I mean, I knew what I wanted, and it just wasn't there. It was there for like Land Rovers, but I couldn't find anything for Jeep. And so I realized that even if you wanted to spend the money, you couldn't. So even if you want to spend the money on a really high-quality stuff, and this is going back 25 years, it just wasn't an option. And so I said to myself, okay there's a ton of cheap stuff... and cheap isn't necessarily bad. It's just simple, right? There was a ton of simple, inexpensive stuff in the marketplace for Jeeps, but there wasn't anything next level. And so I said, okay. Somebody else has the [00:24:00] inexpensive stuff handled, there's plenty of that. I'm going to go this route. And even today, I mean, our stuff's not inexpensive, right? I really don't care what it costs, I just care that we can offer this product, because I know somebody is looking for that. I mean, it might not be everybody. It's obviously not everybody. So that doesn't bother me that our stuffs more expensive, as long as the quality's there and the functions there. But I would say, you know, if you're looking for other products, it's generally... kind of the telltale is their tooling involved, because if there's tooling involved... Matts product is that way. If there's tooling involved, that means somebody spent a lot of time and money developing that tooling. That's one good way to tell if there's some engineering behind it, and just in general materials. Good quality materials.
Scott Brady: And it seems like finishes too are always a great tell. Like when [00:25:00] you look at... you can see products on the floor at SEMA that have flashed rust on them, and so it seems like that the coatings and the finishes are also a really great tell
Dave Harriton: I mean, that's literally how I ended up moving the company to Detroit was I was trying to make stuff in Montana. I was paying for really high-quality laser cutting and welding and you know, all the stuff, and then I'd go to get it finished and the best I could do is general powder coating. And powder coating will last at a maximum 18 months outside on a vehicle.
Scott Brady: Before it fades?
Dave Harriton: Before you start seeing rust popping through here, there, you know, little pieces and parts. And then, you know, if you're laser cutting you get laser scale. And there's just all this you know, for the average guy, manufacturing parts in his garage... the finishes just aren't there. And so that's why I ended up, I said okay... how the car company is doing this, you don't see cars rusting these days and what's involved with [00:26:00] that. So there's a lot of like the way you cut parts you know whether it's laser or water, however you do it. There's different ways to do that. Then the pre-treatments, and so literally the only place I could do that... the only place in the world you could do that at the time was like in Japan, where they're making cars or in Detroit. And so the only option for me was Detroit, so I went to Detroit and that's where we can get the right pre finishes and the ecoating and the outer coating and zinc coating. I mean, it depends on the part that we do. You know, like when we offer a part for the OE, they require a 15 year corrosion warranty. 15 years.
Scott Brady: They require that from you... wow.
Matt Scott: They offer seven or 10.q
Dave Harriton: That's. Right. But the test is 15, right? So we're doing all these salt spray and gravelomiters, you know, they go into a bin where they're throwing rocks at it, 70 miles an hour, with a hundred percent humidity, a hundred degrees, humid, salt. We have to do all these tests, all these scratch tests, stone throw [00:27:00] tests. So a lot of our parts you'll see that they'll be covered in certain areas because of these stone throws. And the cool thing about doing that on the OE side, is it trickles back to our aftermarket side. All that stuff that we learned that we don't want to be a problem for us either, and you know, so whether it's the materials or the coatings. Coatings are such a big problem in our industry, and I think you just have to know, even our stuff, honestly, you have to keep up on it. So we offer like these textured paints that match the powder coat. I mean if you put a front bumper out and you just go drive it in salt, in ice, and you know, getting stones thrown at it forever. I mean, it's gonna start, after about three years, you're going to start to see some little pits. And if you don't take care of them, you gotta handle it. A lot of the materials we use are galvanneal, so they actually have a layer of galvanizing pressed into the metal essentially. Before we stamp it. But yeah, the coatings are one of those things that's... and you do see some good coatings out there from some of your bigger companies. Mostly it's the companies that have [00:28:00] some sort of OE contract because they learned. They know. But the problem is like if I were to buy something aftermarket, I would almost want to buy it uncoated. And I see a lot of people doing that these days, which I think is kind of brilliant because when I offered this bumper and I ended up spending all this money on it and I made money. And then I had like a hundred percent failure rate on the coatings, and I had to warranty it, so now as a little company, it almost put me out of business. Honestly, it's like selling twenty-five bumpers almost put me out of business, because now not only did I not make that money, but now I had to like buy them back at double the cost. It was terrible. Right. And it was all because of the coating, the part didn't failed, the coating failed. So yeah, and you know, I see some people doing the lineX and stuff like that, or whatever. Your Rio coatings and those work pretty well.
Scott Brady: Yeah, they just don't look quite as nice. I don't think.
Dave Harriton: They don't look nice and they kind of fade over time and if you damage it's kinda tough. Like, you know, you don't want to be... [00:29:00]
Matt Scott: It's also super hard to clean, like the bottom of the Earth Roamer has it. And it's functional, but you really... cause it's porous, so it just attracts stuff, and you can't really get it out unless you sit there with a power washer.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. It's still its porous on a microscopic level too, and it's heavy and you know, it's not perfect.
Scott Brady: It adds kind of unnecessary weight in a way.
Dave Harriton: You'd be surprised how much weight.
Matt Scott: Just that the concept of tooling, you know, my mind has been kind of going, and it is kind of interesting how many businesses in this industry are, you know, they're metal shop businesses where somebody gets laser cutted, CNC bent, powder-coated by somebody else. And they don't really have that much control over the entire process. There's really very few companies, I think, that are like tooling up. I mean, I can't think of another... I don't think anybody else does stamped bumpers. I mean, that's gotta be an insanely complex process.
Dave Harriton: I think there's some offshore stuff coming in. Oh yeah, it's an insane [00:30:00] process to stamp like we do.
Matt Scott: I just remember seeing the machines that. What was it? Quality...
Scott Brady: Quality Metal, yeah.
Matt Scott: Yeah. It was crazy. I mean, I just love seeing how stuff is made and it's so drastically different than how most, you know, offered industry parts are made.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I mean, a lot of the, I mean, some of the presses we use are five stories tall, right?
Scott Brady: Yeah. It was huge.
Dave Harriton: Two underground and three above. Some of those presses...
Scott Brady: And is that how you got interested in the use of boron steel?
Dave Harriton: No, the boron came about when GM first contacted us about the Bison, that was a weird deal, right? It's like GM, this is the last people in the world that I would think are gonna go into the overland market at the time, and then they kind of told me what they had coming, and I was like, wait a second, they're doing a Tacoma with lockers and a better engine, a diesel. Everything everybody has always wanted, and here's GM of all people doing it. I was like, yeah, we're in [00:31:00] for sure. They're like, okay, great. And then you know, the next thing, like fast forward a few months, they're like, okay, we want skid plates and wheels and bumpers, like steel bumpers and winch mounts, and fender flares and all this stuff. That's great. Awesome. You know, like in my head I'm like, oh this is going to be really cool. And they're like, you have 76 pounds allotment to do it in. I'm like, well, a gas tank skid is 76 pounds, so that came... so it we ended up at 200 pounds.
Scott Brady: Well everything's in negotiation.
Dave Harriton: In a way, yeah. I mean, they were still trying to hit their payload numbers and stuff, so they had to rerun a lot of tests. But one of my guy’s, John Potosi, he knew boron steel. He's a long time Jeep guy, or Chrysler guy. And he knew the boron steel because at the time they were using it, I think Volvo kind of initiated the use for safety parts. So A pillars, door pillars, rocker panels, and that's really the [00:32:00] only place it had ever been used was in non-visible structural applications, but John knew about it and he knew it was light and he's like, Hey what about this? Okay, this sounds great but there was a huge learning curve on how to coat that stuff. I mean, we were the first company ever to do anything class A visible with that material. You know, stamping it, it's obviously... it's a hot stamp process. So it goes into like a big pizza oven, and it gets red hot, and it goes onto these liquid cool dies. You know, they're running cold water through these dyes, and it's stamped, and it's quenched like hardened on the die. But even just the way the coatings react to that material was completely different, so we had to develop a coating process that would work for the OE application. And then, you know, it's, it's a hard material. So even the way you mount it has to be... everything has to be taken into account with that material. Because it's what is it? Normal steal they call it 36,000... or 36 KSI thousand pounds per square inch to actually [00:33:00] permanently deform it. This stuff was like 215,000 pounds per square inch to deform it.
Scott Brady: It's a good thing to make a skid plate out of. It's perfect.
Dave Harriton: And it doesn't gouge like aluminum gouges. So aluminum is like a terrible thing to make a skid plate out of. This stuff is the ultimate skid plate material really and to that point, we have one hanging in our office in Detroit. That was the diff skid for Chad Hall's race truck. And if you think about it, it's a 3,300 truck, and that thing goes after all the trophy trucks with 40-inch tires and it's on 35s and it's just literally dragging that diff through every race of the entire season and that...
Matt Scott: Its been dragged across Nevada.
Dave Harriton: Literally, yeah. I mean, that thing has literally been dragged across Nevada and you look at it and there's not a dent and not a scratch in it. I mean, the coating is completely worn out. In fact, I think we clear coated it and we hung it on the wall.
Scott Brady: Just to kind of for posterity.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. But it's, I mean, it's absolutely amazing.
Matt Scott: I think you guys had that at SEMA, and you kind of compared it to a [00:34:00] steel one, Matt Feldman was kind of like, pick this one up. Now, pick this one up. It's crazy how much lighter it was.
Dave Harriton: One was six pounds, the other one's like 26 pounds. And so weight is a huge deal, especially on the smaller rigs, like the Jeeps and the ZR2. Things like that. I mean that bison race truck, Chad's, I know it completed every single race of the season with that one truck, which is basically a stock truck. I mean, it's basically what you can go buy and it's pretty... so that material is impressive, and those kids are impressive. And if anybody hasn't gotten under a ZR2 Bison, it's pretty cool to see a factory vehicle, and to GM's credit, they were awesome to work with and I think the engineering... I mean, I know the engineering team knew what they were getting into and how good that thing was, but I don't think the executives necessarily knew what an amazing truck they had on their hands.
Scott Brady: There was nothing like it in the mid-size segment. There was just nothing that [00:35:00] had front and rear lockers, diesel engine, nothing.
Matt Scott: And people still buy Tacoma’s.
Scott Brady: Well, I mean, there's a reason to buy a Tacoma too, but the fact that you can go and have a warranty, you don't have to do anything to the car, you buy it and you drive it around the world. There's nothing to be done.
Dave Harriton: I mean, to me the thing about that was like to get a Toyota owner out of the Toyota, impossible. Right? And we were seeing long time Toyota guys coming over to a Chevy of all things. If you had told me that at Overland Expo three years ago or four years ago, you know, I would say...
Matt Scott: I remember when it was hard enough to get people into Jeeps.
Scott Brady: No, it's true. Yeah. When we started the magazine, there was the vast majority of the over 70% were Toyota, and then the next biggest percentage was Land Rover. And then it trickled down very quickly after that and now double digits for Jeeps and like the Gladiator really changed a lot of that.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, and I [00:36:00] mean I'd like to think AEV is a big reason for that, and same with the Ram too. I don't think anybody would have thought of using the Ram before we came out with those parts for it.
Which is a
Scott Brady: perfect segue to the question that I sent you that the Ram has certainly become the darling of the Overland space. It has been fairly amazing to watch how quickly that transformation has happened. You see the guy who had the Forerunner, or the Tacoma totally overloaded, and now he's driving a Ram with AEV stuff on it. And there's a bunch of folks that have made that transition, and the reason for it is payload. So there's other great attributes to the Ram, which we're going to talk about, but the primary driver for these people where they must make the changes that the car can't take the weight of all the accessories. So years ago, I mean this was probably... well this was when you first built your regular cab on, I think you had 41s on it or something [00:37:00] like regular Ram. The white one. And you were standing there saying, Scott, I just don't know that I would ever build a Jeep again when I can build this. And you said there's only a couple scenarios where it wouldn't work, and you were taking it on all the trails that you used to drive Jeeps on in Moab and it was doing it. And so for the sake of the listener, let's paint the picture of why a full-size truck should be considered for most scenarios for long distance travel. I mean, maybe even the Ram in particular, but let's, let's talk a little bit about that shift and why that's so relevant.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I mean, I will say that Jeep still our biggest portion of our business, but Ram has really settled in there nicely as nice little business, and I'll say right off the bat, I think the Ram is fantastic. Everything about it I love. You know, I'm sure the [00:38:00] Ford's good too. I just haven't really driven that much, or the Chevy. You know, I know I like the engine and transmission in the Chevy a lot.
Scott Brady: Yeah. I just drove the 2,500 HD a few weeks ago. Yeah. It was the best of all of them.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, and I've heard the Ford trans is really good too. But you know, going back to the Ram, which is what I know. Yeah, it kind of seemed like we were, we were doing with the Wrangler, and everybody was overloading them like crazy. I mean, it's not that uncommon to see a 6,500 or 7,000 pound Wrangler, you know, and at the time with a 3.8, right. It just wasn't working. And I got into it because I wanted to build something similar to, I think the Outpost Two. The camper Jeep that I built. At the time I wanted to build something like that, but I couldn't figure out how to do it and keep the weight right. So then I was like, well... it just kind of dawned on me one day. I was like, wait a second. I've been using a Ram Dooley to tow a 57 foot [00:39:00] wedge trailer with three or four Jeeps on it. 32,000 pounds, no problem. And I was towing it, you know, I put a hundred thousand miles on that thing, towing it all over the country and towing all the Jeeps all over the country. And it just kind of occurred to me one day. I was like, wait a second. Why don't I just go with a camper on a Ram? I mean, it's not like I was first, I mean, obviously Earth Roamer and Turtle and all that, but I was like I'll just do that. I'll just put it on Ram, and I'll tow a Wrangler and won't even know one Wranglers behind it. It's like, who cares. This was just a personal little side project, but then I kind of got into it and I love the Ram. I love the Cummins and I love the manual trans and I thought that Cummins with the manual, I just absolutely loved it. It's still one of my favorite powertrains ever.
Scott Brady: Yes. So sad that that's finally gone. So sad.
I don't want to talk about it.
They were the last holdout. And I give FCA a lot of... Stillantus now, Matt and I say the Stillantus. That's impressive that they kept a manual transmission for as long as they did.
Dave Harriton: Well, they, you know, they just couldn't add [00:40:00] more power. Right. And you have to be in the horsepower game and the manual that they had access to just wasn't going to work. But anyway, at the time I love the Cummins with the manual. I just thought it was phenomenal. So I bought a truck, I bought an 06' with Cummins and a manual single cab. And I was just going to build that into a camper till Wrangler... and it was just my own personal thing. And I built it and it came out great, you know, and I got some flares from Iceland, and I put some 42s on it and I built my own suspension cause I kind of realized, it's like, I was just like, I'll just buy a suspension. Somebody has got to have something decent, and I couldn't find anything out there that was for real. All of it was gimmicky, typical aftermarket stuff. It just wasn't function. And at the time there was a lot of... if you wanted to put 37s on a Ram, it was like a six-inch lift. And that just was not going to work with that suspension. So I ended up developing my own suspension and pushed the axle forward and did a bunch of [00:41:00] tricks and was able to do it with three and a half inches of lift at the time. And that thing came out so good and it drove so appropriately. I just couldn't believe it didn't drive poorly at all. In fact, it just drove like normal the way we did the suspension. So then I kinda got my team together. I said, can we commercialize this? I mean, this is really good. Like you guys are going to be really impressed. And again to my partner's credit and all of our engineers, everybody didn't even ask the question, like sure. And so we developed a suspension from a fully weld-on thing where I had to cut all the brackets off and redo everything to essentially a bolt on kit for what we have today. And then yeah, we built that white truck as a show car to show it, and at the same time it was kind of...
Scott Brady: That flatbed, it was such a showstopper.
Dave Harriton: It was fantastic timing too, because at the exact same time Ram went [00:42:00] to the coil in the rear. So 2014, they went to the coils in the rear. And so, you know, if you took the body off the Ram and put it next to a Wrangler chassis, I mean, they're basically the exact same thing. It looks the exact same, just bigger axles, bigger engine, you know, everybody wants a diesel. So here, and even the small engine, right. It's the Hemi. You know, when people are paying a lot of money to put a Hemi in a Wrangler, but here you go, you just buy it.
Scott Brady: Like the power wagons, a great example of that. It is a Rubicon with a Hemi.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, and in 12 they went to these big, huge joints on the front axle. They kind of get rid of all the suspension steering issues that Ram was known to have back in the day. And they had these, you know, in this coil rear, they do a really good job with the brake lock traction control and forlo, I mean, almost to the point you don't need lockers. And yeah, it just started to make a lot of sense, the fuel tank, you know, the mileage everything about it was... it just kind of [00:43:00] dawned on me. I mean, I kind of get smacked in the face of my own success cause I was like, wait a second. This is perfect. Yeah. You know, and I love the Jeep. I love the Wrangler, but then for what I do personally, I'm like, wait a sec. I don't want to tell anybody, but this Ram kinda does a better job for what I'm doing, you know?
Scott Brady: You can tow your boat around and everything else.
Dave Harriton: I mean, I literally have a trailer hooked to a Ram whole time, whether it's a camper trailer, or a skid steer, or an excavator boat, or whatever, some wheel trailers. I mean, those things are working all the time, and I just realized that if you want to cruise across the American west at 80 or 85, you know, getting good mileage on big tires and towing stuff, just not worrying about it.
Matt Scott: Being comfortable too, and I think that's the biggest thing with the full sizes too.
Scott Brady: It's a shocker.
Matt Scott: I had like two Epiphanes with the full-sized truck. One I was under my buddy Colin's truck I was on a lift and I'm looking at underneath and I'm like, oh, wow. This really is like [00:44:00] a little bit bigger Jeep. It's everything you would want to put under a Jeep, and then the second one I had was I parked my Gladiator next to a 2,500 and I walked away and I'm like, oh man, it's only six inches bigger... and I've had full sized trucks and that kind of stuff. But I almost like never really took them super seriously, and then the parts started coming out for them and everything, you know, everything just kinda clicked.
Dave Harriton: That's the key. We'd started developing those parts for it. And I think that's when people really started to pay attention.
Scott Brady: It just changed the truck. It looked like an adventure mobile, not a ranch truck.
Dave Harriton: Well, not just how it looks. I mean, it the function was there, and that was that's the amazing thing is these trucks are engineered to, you know, take your pick, whatever... let's say 30,000 pounds. They're engineered to tow. So the cooling system size for that, and there's the commercial application. [00:45:00] The brakes are sized for that. I mean, there's so much overhead for what we do with trucks for the most part that if you're just towing a 10,000, 12,000, or 15,000 pound trailer, which, you know, like 10,000 pounds to me, I don't even consider that really towing. That's like whatever. The truck's not going to notice that you've driven these trucks, it doesn't even care. So if you're only towing 10,000 pounds, you've got so much overhead built in that cooling system, those brakes to drive shafts and u-joints and that's something that Wrangler didn't have. It didn't have enough overhead, and that's kind of the brilliant part of the full-size trucks is that overhead. You're getting millions, and millions, and millions of dollars of engineering in engineering that overhead.
Scott Brady: Well, if you look at 2007, all three of us were driving Jeeps. And if you're looking at 2021, all three of us driving full full-size trucks.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, it's funny. We always have our staff drive our products, [00:46:00] and so at some point when we did the Ram, we took everybody's Wrangler away and we gave them Rams. It's so hard to get them back into Wranglers. Like when the JL came out, we want to put them all back in JLs and nobody wants to go back.
Matt Scott: The JL is really nice.
Scott Brady: It's just such a great vehicle. It's the best Jeep ever made. I mean, they're just so good. But once you're able to like tow a boat or you're... I mean, I'm able to put a camper in the back that is got a heater and it's comfortable and it's different.
Dave Harriton: I've got a diesel JT, which is, I think fantastic. I think it's the best Jeep I've ever driven. And it's modified with all of our stuff, and I just think it's fantastic and I love it and I love how nimble it is. And it is kind of nice to get out of the full size and get back into something a little more nimble. At least it feels more nimble, but it's at the end of the day, it doesn't really work for you.
Matt Scott: Which one do you want to drive across the country?
Dave Harriton: Oh yeah. It's not even a question, right?
Scott Brady: And just the fact that you can, you can make an investment in a [00:47:00] full-sized truck that can have the capability that you need but can also do all those other things. You can go to Home Depot and load it up full of wood. You can pull a big trailer with it. You can put a camper in the back of it. You end up with a lot of things that we've never been able to do with the traditional SUVs like we all drove Land Cruisers, or Land Rovers, or whatever, or Jeeps, and you had a ground tent, and you were really limited on what you could do. They were great for what they were. But now that we realize that there's this very reliable, extremely robust platform that has, like you said, all of this overhead of capability that just doesn't exist in those other vehicles. [00:48:00]
Dave Harriton: Yeah true, totally. Well, I think [00:49:00] it's funny that white Ram that I built initially. The single cab, manual diesel on 41s. I still think that that was the most capable best all-around vehicle.
Matt Scott: It’s like the ultimate toy, like a single cab full-size truck is... it's either for work, or it's a toy because there's no real reason...
Scott Brady: You're not going to take your family around, but it like takes you and your dog. I mean, I will say if there was ever a vehicle that I lusted after it was that truck, and when you called me and you're like, Scott, I'm thinking about selling the truck. I'm like, oh, like I've got two kidneys. Like you really only need one...
Dave Harriton: Oh, and I sold that truck to Mario with the understanding that if I wanted to borrow [00:50:00] it, that would be part of the case, so he said okay,
Scott Brady: And I have looked regularly on like Car Trader and stuff like that to see. They're hard to find that combination that's not been abused. So like, you can find regular cab, manual, transmission, diesel trucks. You can find them, but they're almost always beat. They have they have something mounted to the back of them or like a backhoe
Dave Harriton: Price is through the roof. I mean, literally.
Scott Brady: Just a rare vehicle.
Dave Harriton: It's like the unicorn.
Scott Brady: It is now for sure. Amazing. One of the other things that I wanted to... actually Matt, you got any questions that you want to throw in? Throw it in. What's the favorite car you've built?
Dave Harriton: Favorite car that I've built would be that white Ram. Yeah, the white three-quarter ton Ram with the manual.
Matt Scott: I think the one that everybody likes the most right now is the Outpost.
Scott Brady: Yeah, for sure.
Dave Harriton: That thing is awesome. I mean, that is absolutely awesome. You know, I put the Hemi in it. I [00:51:00] wish it had a diesel. I mean, the only thing lacking on that thing is it doesn't really need that horsepower. What would it needs is the range. And so if I built it again in today's day, I would definitely start with a diesel.
Scott Brady: Diesel Wrangler and then build it out.
Dave Harriton: For sure. Yeah. That thing is super neat and it just looks so good. It looks good. It functions for a prototype, for one-off prototype. Yeah. It worked really well
Matt Scott: And you built the whole camper yourself, like by hand kind of thing.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. Yeah. And that was that was one where it was last year for the JK and so we wanted to do something kind of special. We had these high-capacity Springs that we were showing off, you know, for the guys that have 6,500 pound Wranglers. We thought... the first year of the JK we had a pop top tent. That kind of hard top that popped up, and so that was called the Outpost One. So that's where the Outpost Two came from, and we just decided, well let's do that. And again, going [00:52:00] back, this is something I've been wanting to do. I just didn't know how to do it and keep it torsionally stiff enough and deal with the structural challenges of cutting the back of the Wrangler off and keeping this thing intact and keeping the weight reasonable. And so I thought about it for a few more years and I finally figured out, okay, I think this is gonna work, but I didn't really know. You know, you don't know. You can only do so much CAE analysis before, you know, it's like I think it's going to work. I think we're good. So it turns out it did work, and it was good, and it was...
Scott Brady: We took it across the Altar. I mean, I was in the car with you. That was amazing how well it worked.
Dave Harriton: I've taken it all over the place. And the thing has, there's been no failures. I mean, it's, you know, no wrenching, right? I mean Altar up in where I live, you know, I've had it out in the snow and minus ten, I've been camping super comfortably. You know, hot water and everything. It's great. And I think, we did the whole camper for about 800 pounds. That's with the fridge, with the hot water heater, with a water tank, but yeah 800 pounds with the lifting [00:53:00] roof.
Matt Scott: How much did you take off for that. Cause it is the floor pan of the JK...
Dave Harriton: No that's gone. Yep. All up, it weighs 6,400 pounds. Don't, I'd have to do some math, but you know, all up. So Chris Wood, he had an AEV JK with a tent topper on it and you know, all this stuff, right? Fridges and everything, and his was also 6,400 pounds.
Scott Brady: That's how much they ended up being.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. And this one has a Hemi and a Dana 60 rear, and a dynatrack 44 heavy, dynatrack 44 up front, and a dynatrack 60 in the rear. So actually, I think his was a Hemi also, but it didn't have the axles. And I think the rear axle adds few hundred pounds by itself. And so I thought we did pretty good on the weight of that thing, and it is viable. It's like, everybody wants to know will we make that, or could you make me one? And it's just one of those things, I'd love to do that. I absolutely love to do it, if things ever slowed down, that would be one of the things I would do. And I [00:54:00] definitely... I mean it is cool to go to Moab and do whatever trail you want to do. I mean, I guess there's a few exceptions, but for the most part you could do anything most people are doing in Jeeps and have the camper with you. Like on the Alter, you know, that night you guys were out in the windstorm came.
Scott Brady: It was brutal. So much sand in my bag.
Dave Harriton: Everybody was covered in sand, you know, and my dog and I were in there, I felt guilty, but you know, we're in there.
Matt Scott: Kinda like look out the window.
Dave Harriton: It was cold and windy, and these guys all have three season tents and the wind, and the sand came up underneath the tent and just filled the tents to where almost everybody ended up sleeping in their car that night. And you know, here I am inside, I get in there and wash my face with hot water and my dogs in there, we sit down, I think I was reading a book and you know; socks and my feet are up on the couch, and it was really... well and [00:55:00] we used it as the base for everybody, you know, we cooked out of that for... six guys? Yeah. That truck, I mean, it's amazing when you take a prototype like that and there's really no squawks, right. It just works, and especially that was something we... you know, we didn't have much time to do that one either. I hate when people talk about like, oh, we built this in four weeks or something, because generally it shows. But that one we didn't have... we had 10 weeks to build it and I sat on the computer for seven, 100-hour weeks and did everything, all the analysis and the design, and basically would give Jerry cut sheets and he would try and hold to a 30 second on the cut sheets because we were doing a lot of it by hand. And then I had a buddy of mine has a huge router and he cut all the panels.
Scott Brady: Do you use a composite core panel?
Dave Harriton: We use the fiberglass, polypropylene fiberglass, three quarter inch panel. And we basically glued that to a steel [00:56:00] birdcage. We did a birdcage and like 14 and 16 gauge. The reason I did that versus like a lot of guys are using the foam fiberglass panels. I wanted to be able to change it if I had to, because I didn't know. Just didn't know enough to know if this was going to work or not, and I also... because it's only like six feet by eight feet roughly, I didn't really need the installation. Although in hindsight, like if I built a new one, I would maybe change it a little bit. I do need more installation, even though the heater's more than powerful to cook you out of it. What heater did you put in it? It's got an SR gasoline. They were the only ones to make a gasoline one. But the problem is it can more than roast you out of it, but the problem is then it just cycles so much because there's very little insulation. I insulated the one wall. So, you know, the roof goes up with the solar panels. It goes up sideways and all the solar. So I figured, okay, you're always gonna end up facing west, and that way the solar is always going to be south, and I insulated that wall for heat. So the roof and that wall are insulated. [00:57:00] The other ones I didn't really worry about, cause I was like, it's so small I'm not worried about the cold, but in hindsight I would probably change that a little bit. But it was just cool, so yeah anyway. We spent seven 100-hour weeks in the computer and then three 100-hour weeks building that. And part of that was painting it too, which is kind of out of our control, cause that in Montana we had to use the shop next door to paint it for us. But those guys did a great job too, and I think we showed up a SEMA where we didn't have the interior done when we showed that thing. But then we came back, we finished the interior and I mean, literally I fill it with water and food, and it really does work. I was surprised how well it worked.
Matt Scott: It's open to the camper. Right? Like there's a pass through.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. It's a full pass-through and even that is something I'd probably change next time. It's just turns out you don't use it.
Matt Scott: We don't use the pass through as much as we think that we would.
Dave Harriton: I've never used it.
Matt Scott: Because you're just like awkwardly, like okay now I have to figure out how to make my leg...
Scott Brady: At the most you might toss some [00:58:00] stuff into the passenger seat, just for convenience.
Dave Harriton: In a Ram, maybe it'd be different, but in a Jeep it's too small. Like I don't even fit through the seats and I'm not a big guy, but it's like, I'd have to turn sideways to get through the seats.
Matt Scott: It's kinda nice, cause you have the heat and everything if you needed it.
Dave Harriton: The best part for me with the pass-through is my dog can lay on the couch and I can look in the mirror and see her. That's the best part of having a pass through. But the worst part is like just rattling. You know, you hear everything and your fridge moving around. You hear your dishes moving around. Even if you have all the dishes super nice, like the Earth Roamer guys have everything just so perfect. Even then you still hear stuff rattling around.
Matt Scott: Spices rattle or like something in my convection microwave oven thing rattles, and since everything is so quiet, it's just like this little annoyance.
Dave Harriton: So that was something, you know, I've used that thing for a few years and I've made several pages of notes on [00:59:00] what I would do different. So if we ever do come out with something for a consumer it'll have a lot of thought and history put into that. So that's something. Looking at whether it's a Ram or whatever, I'm always trying to use real life situations to save somebody's real life hassle.
Scott Brady: It's almost like you need a separate division that you guys could spool up to make trucks like that, where it wouldn't put a lot of load on your existing resource.
Dave Harriton: I mean, I don't know. In my opinion, I mean, there's a lot of companies that do a really wonderful job, like GXB and Earth Roamer and Earth Cruiser, and trying to think of Mark's name up in red deer. They do a great job. For me, I've never really seen how I could do it financially successful, because at the end of the day, you know, it's not like it's not about the money, but you still have to be viable.
Matt Scott: 130 employees to support.
Dave Harriton: You got to [01:00:00] turn some volume and I don't know how to do a camper type vehicle like that where everybody kind of wants something a little different and that becomes a problem. So unless you can knock it out of the park with like, you know, a 99%...
Matt Scott: The cost to do it to that AEV quality level would have to just be...
Dave Harriton: It's going to take a lot of tooling, and you can't change it. And the nice thing about, well... I mean, Earth Roamer is probably the only one that has really tooled anything. Now they have that, you know, all that composite bodies and they're really going...
Scott Brady: They're the only ones that make real money too.
Dave Harriton: I don't know, but the problem with molding stuff and doing that is you have to be really sure that that's going to work for all of your clientele. And that's the part I don't like, because I do like to tool stuff and I like to tool it in like... if I can't make a thousand of something a year, then it's generally not worth tooling. And I don't think any of those guys are doing a thousand a year.
Matt Scott: They're doing a couple of [01:01:00] months if they're really lucky.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. Yeah. I don't know, but that's kinda what it seems like looking around, but for me, you know, it seems like if I could ever step away, maybe I could do something like that for fun, and for me that would be a fun way to wind down my career. So it's something that's been in the back of my head for a while, because you know that the customers that buy that kind of thing are generally really, really, good, fun people to work for.
Scott Brady: Interesting folks. Yeah.
Dave Harriton: They're interesting, and they understand. They're experienced and they just tend to be like, really... they become friends and, you know, and they, they're buying into your dream and your belief and, you know, there's something about that that's kind of cool.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Outpost three on a Ram. There you go.
Matt Scott: I think that would be the ultimate travel truck.
Scott Brady: Like I'm just saying, I'm just saying. You've got your first two signups right now [01:02:00] at this table. Where do we sign?
Dave Harriton: Earth Cruisers doing one that size now.
Scott Brady: And it looks good. Terra Nova, exactly.
Matt Scott: My only beef and I get why they do it because they do it so you can fit into the shipping container, but I just wouldn't want a pop top.
Scott Brady: It depends on the environments that you go to. I mean, I chose to do hard side. You chose to do hard side because...
Matt Scott: My dog chose to do hard. Let's be real.
Scott Brady: Just like all my buddies. I mean, Matt, like Dave, Mike, they all drive these bigger expedition vehicles, so there was no incentive for me to have a pop top roof. I just might as well have a hard side.
Matt Scott: You've got places to hang out when the weathers bad.
Dave Harriton: I've had a four-wheel camper. I thought it was awesome. I spent some time in Alaskans. I thought they were awesome. So I think it can be done. I mean, the Outpost is a pop up.
Matt Scott: The Alaskan, in my opinion is such a cool design. I love how...
Scott Brady: It's the same design from 50 [01:03:00] years ago.
Matt Scott: But it's now become cool, but I love the fact that when it does pop up, you're relatively covered. I want to say it's only like the cab over portion
Scott Brady: Even that has drop down hard panels.
Dave Harriton: Yup. And there's a company that does do one with fabric pop-up. They just changed names, Nimble. Follow them on Instagram. I mean, I really liked the look of the GXV, like the Ram GXV. They use a lot of our parts. Oh the, what do they call it...
Scott Brady: Adventure trucks.
Dave Harriton: I don't know. But I see him at Overland Expo and I'm kinda...
Matt Scott: They're the ones that do like the cool thing with GXVs is they really do a lot of custom stuff. You know, Earth Roamer, Earth Cruiser. It's like Earth Roamer you can have a different configuration of your dinette or something, or materials and that kind of stuff. But like, GXV they really go deep and then they do like the heavy-duty trucks, the Mans, [01:04:00] the...
Dave Harriton: I mean, you can't do it and not pay for it.
Scott Brady: You just gotta pay for it, the only way to make a business work.
Dave Harriton: So to me, the problem with that is even if you pay for it, sometimes it's hard. Like how are you going to do that and put the development in where people aren't going to come up with an issue somewhere?
Scott Brady: How do you maintain serviceability?
Dave Harriton: How do you make, you know, how do you supply them with a wire harness 10 years down the road? I mean, for me, that's where I kind of get ahead of myself in my thought process where it's almost like perilous analysis. Right? I can't figure out how to do one of these products on a mass production level that's going to be really high quality, you know? Cause the last thing I want is somebody wrenching on a truck in the middle of a trip, and I can honestly say, you know, all these trips that we've done. I mean, how many times have we ever gotten out and got a wrench set out and gotten under one.
Scott Brady: Minus 40 degrees up in north Canada, nothing. Every [01:05:00] time those trucks started.
Dave Harriton: Right. Cause I'm a sissy like that. I want to get out...
Scott Brady: Do you remember us? We were in, I think we were in Uvic or something like that. And we were trying to put Def in the one truck, and it was so dang cold out there. I just remember us. I mean like nobody wanted to do it cause it was, it was minus 40 trying to put Def in these trucks.
Dave Harriton: I remember not being able to get the filler doors open.
Scott Brady: Yeah, that was tough. Yeah, it was so cold.
Dave Harriton: Literally couldn't get the filler door open.
Scott Brady: That was one of the most epic moments was when you took that white truck out onto the Arctic Ocean. So now we make it up to Tuktoyaktuk and Dave decides that it's going to be a good idea to like, just start driving towards the north pole and you were way out there. You were way out there. It was awesome.
Dave Harriton: Not going all the way to the Arctic Ocean.
Matt Scott: Cause that's a big deal, cause you can't normally do that. You can't get past dead horse for people that aren't Dave.
Scott Brady: Yeah, [01:06:00] it was cool. Yeah. That was really amazing. I mean you were driving on sea ice with all the flows and everything. That was very cool. That was a good question. What other questions you got? All right, so outside of four-wheel drive... you got one?
Matt Scott: Commander. I know that this is real obscure.
Dave Harriton: Tell the guests what the Commander was.
Matt Scott: Yeah, the Commander is a seven seat Jeep SUV, made from what? Like, 04' to 07'?
Dave Harriton: No, 06' to like 10'. I think.
Matt Scott: Yeah, like really limited production. Listen, this wasn't like Chrysler's finest hour on some of the things that they did. But it always interested me that you actually did something with that car, and it's one of the ones that nobody really kind of talks about. It was on forties, like it was really cool.
Dave Harriton: Again, that was just basically a grand [01:07:00] Cherokee. Everything on it was a grand Cherokee, just new cap put on it. A new hat per se. Yeah, I thought it would... I thought there was some...
Matt Scott: It looked good.
Scott Brady: I like the square ones.
Dave Harriton: It had a Hemi, it had a really good four wheel drive system. Grand Cherokee has a great four-wheel drive system. Have you guys driven the Wagoneer yet?
Matt Scott: I haven't. I've sat in them and it's really, really nice inside.
Dave Harriton: The interior is phenomenal, and so that's a Ram 1500 essentially, you know, the different rear frame, different rear suspension.
Matt Scott: But I almost liked the look of the commander. I mean, I know that the different periods of design, different periods of what you could do with design, but it felt... I don't know. Occasionally that AEV Commander comes up for me, like whatever I'm Googling. I'm like, where did it go?
Dave Harriton: I sold it to Brad Kilby. Kilby enterprises air [01:08:00] compressors, and I don't know. I think he sold it pretty shortly after. I really don't know. Every once in a while, I'll get like random email from somebody who ended up with one of these cars. And you know, it's kind of funny, like the very first long wheelbase Wrangler, I know exactly where it is.
Scott Brady: That car you need to get back. That'd be worth getting back.
Dave Harriton: That guy, him and his son just did like a frame off restoration on it. Cause they had been in Florida and had seen some salt. So I think they just got done, I'm sure they're done by now.
Matt Scott: We're going to be like Barrett Jackson in 20 years. I'll still be spritely. You'll have a cane and it's going to be the very first AEV truck going across...
Dave Harriton: We can hope.
Matt Scott: Scott used the cane to break my knee.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, that's that Wagoneer kind of has me looking at it twice. Even though I'm not like in love with the exterior styling, but I'm always kind of like, I can work with that.
Scott Brady: [01:09:00] The only thing that I don't care for is the wheel-well aspect. I mean, if the wheel wells are too low, if you open those up AEV style... that would totally change the look of that truck. Cause then you could fit a 33 in there and it's just, the belt line is awkward.
Dave Harriton: Don't forget it, it probably has damn close to 33s on it stock. I mean it's a big truck. It's much bigger than you'd expect, and it doesn't drive big.
Scott Brady: It drives really nice.
Dave Harriton: You know, if you think about it, it's Ram 1500 underneath. So the structure... yeah. I mean, you're driving a TRX, right? Yeah, and then I started to think, oh man, if you took... if you start mixing and matching parts, maybe, you could get something pretty, you know, could you get a 200 series Land Cruiser,
Matt Scott: Where the people on the 200 put the Tundra control and it gives you that like kind of OE larger stance.
Scott Brady: Are they going to put the diesel in that? I haven't heard [01:10:00] that yet. The one I drove had the 6.4. Drove great. And then I drove the regular... It wouldn't be the grand Wagoneer; it would just be the Wagoneer. I drove that one, after the program, back. That also drove great. I mean, it's just it's a really nice vehicle on the inside.
Matt Scott: Look at the money that people spend on G Wagons. I mean, right now, if you were lucky enough to put an order in for a 2021 G Wagon, cause there's no 22' G Wagons, if they're selling between 100-200 over sticker. They're good, they're nice. They're good trucks. They're well built, whatever, but this isn't just happening a couple of times. This is happening with like the entire production of the 2021 model year.
Dave Harriton: I mean, right now everything's...
Matt Scott: Everything's crazy, but there's money out there for somebody that wants something different.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I mean, that's kind of why it intrigues me because... I mean [01:11:00] a 200 series Land Cruiser is a really nice truck and I look at that thing and I'm like, that thing has pretty good bones. The Wagoneer looks like it has pretty good bones. Although it's a little weird on the, if you guys have crawled under one, but the, the half shafts on the rear end come through the frame.
Scott Brady: It does have an independent. Air sprung.
Dave Harriton: There's a coil option. But you know, at the end of the day it does have some pretty interesting bones. I think you could do some cool stuff with it, but I don't know. It just kind of intrigues me, although right now I don't think... we just don't have time. I want to, but I don't have the time. I'm so busy right now.
Scott Brady: So, okay. I guess this'll be my question. So outside of four-wheel drive, what's one of your favorite vehicles. Cause you, you own some vehicles that aren't four-wheel drives and [01:12:00] what do you like and what, what do you like about it?
Dave Harriton: I do, I have a number of vehicles... number of really weird, eclectic vehicles for the most part.
Matt Scott: Don't you have a Ram charger? Like the one that they made in Mexico.
Dave Harriton: Yep. I went down to Mexico, and I had a friend, a customer... one of our dealers, I had him, I told him I was looking for one. So for those that don't know, Ram made a Ram charger full-size sport utility based off the half ton Ram for a few years in Mexico about, I think it was 99' to maybe 2001, they made this full-size sport utility two door. Like an old two-door full sized Bronco Blazer, anyway I always thought it was kind of just such an odd ball that I needed one. But they were all two-wheel drive. They were all automatic. They were all half done, and they were all gas. So I went down, my customer found me a really, really nice one. I think it had like 35,000 miles on it. I mean, in most of those things, when you go down to Mexico, they're just beat. They [01:13:00] are so beat, so he found one that had been garage kept and it was really nice. And I went and bought it and I brought it back and I didn't try to import it or anything. I just drove it in and you know, it would just have to get scrapped. So what I did is I kept the body and then I bought a three-quarter ton truck, single cab manual diesel Ram, and I used all the body components and shortened the frame. I actually used the rear of the Ram Charger frame on it, but I used the whole front and the engine and everything from the Ram and then put the back of the Ram Charger on it. So basically, I ended up with three quarter ton, Cummins manual, eight passenger diesel Ram Charger, and it is really cool. It's a two door, right. But it's like, if you see it, the whole lift gate they heisted off the caravan minivan. Mark Allen told me, cause I think that was like his first project when he got hired at Chrysler, his first project was like take this Ram and [01:14:00] make it into this and use as many parts as you can find off the shelf. So basically, they designed some new body sides and a roof and a rear bumper facia, and that was... it has all caravan parts and stuff and mix and match. It's really cool. Yeah, so I have that truck and I put it all together and I hardly ever drive it. I don't know... it’s cool cause it's like a 01', you know, it's period correct Cummins. So high output with the disc brakes, but you know, if you remember those trucks, like when you start them it sounds like a garbage truck. They are loud and it's hysterical driving it around...
Matt Scott: Its a twelve valve, right?
Dave Harriton: It's a 24, yeah, but it's similar motor, but it's still really loud. Like a 12 valve, but it's always amazing. I drive that thing around and I wouldn't really expect people to get a big reaction. I mean, it's only got 34s on it, you know, it's got a set of AEV wheels on it, but other than that, it's basically stocked, and I drive it around and I cannot get over how many times I see people taking photos of it, [01:15:00] like in traffic or like just double taking, especially when it starts. And it's just kind of a sleeper that I wouldn't expect people to notice, but a lot of people noticed that truck. [01:16:00]
Scott Brady: So you've [01:17:00] got, you've got this Ram Charger, [01:18:00] and what else do you have in the fleet?
Matt Scott: What's kooky?
Dave Harriton: The Ram charger is kooky, my daily drivers an electric Fiat 500, what most people wouldn't expect me to drive.
Scott Brady: And didn't you say you tinted the windows principally so that people wouldn't see you in it?
Dave Harriton: Yeah. When I first got it, I mean, people... I paid 6,500 bucks for that car. I wanted an electric car. This was years ago. This was in... I guess I bought that in 17', but I kind of could see the writing on the wall. And so I like bought it as an experiment, I was like 6,500 bucks. Great. Cause they were at auction, right? From lease returns. Nobody knew to buy them, if they were good or not. So I ended up buying, actually bought a couple of them. But I figured, you know what? This is when I was trying to build my ramp camper, I was like 6,500 bucks. That's a 24-kilovolt battery pack for 6,500 bucks. You know, thinking ahead I'm like that's pretty cheap for my camper. [01:19:00] If this thing doesn't work... perfect.
Scott Brady: You get a whole battery pack.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I was like, that's pretty cool. So I was like worst case, I've just bought this giant battery for...
Matt Scott: With all the charging and everything.
Dave Harriton: Liquid cooled battery with all this stuff, and I was like, okay, this is... you know, that's why I bought it, but it ended up being a great car. It never leaves the valley. Right? It just runs me a few miles to my office and back. But it's perfect for that. I've got a Viper, a fifth gen Viper, which is absolutely fantastic. It's a carbon fiber tube frame race car, and it's a full-on race car. And I don't have anything that scares me. Like, I mean, it's, it's, you know, it's like, you get used to it. It's fun, but you still get out of that car, and you know, there'll be shaking. It's like riding something... it's like riding a really scary sport bike or something. It's like, you get off it and you're like I shouldn't have just done that.
Scott Brady: How many times did I almost die just now?
Dave Harriton: Even if everything's fine, that cars phenomenal. And that [01:20:00] was kinda my first kind of gift to myself when I started making some money, and I don't have kids so I can do these things. But I've got a McLaren 650 and that one I bought. It's kind of interesting. If you look at the suspension on that car, it's a cross-linked hydraulic suspension and that car is fantastic, and I wanted to see... going back the 99' Wrangler was supposed to have something very similar, kinetic suspension. And I think the Land Cruiser, actually does it. It did get it, but the 99' Wrangler and Grand Cherokee were scheduled to get it even before the Land Cruiser, and I knew from experience how good that was. I wanted to... I was kind of looking to see if I could do something with the Wrangler or the Ram with that kind of setup. So I ended up buying that car, and all these things I try and take bits and pieces of and bring it back into the business. So I would say on the [01:21:00] McLaren, engineering wise it's so impressive, at least at that time their build quality and their engineering was so good. That it's really, it's amazing to look at, you know, and to have this carbon fiber chassis and try and look at how they did some of the... even the way they do their body panels. It kind of goes into what I want to do if I could ever do the camper. So, you know, I'm looking at all the way they're doing their structures and all that stuff and ended up buying the car. I thought I'd just keep it for a little bit, and I ended up falling in love with it and I still have it. So it's not the wisest move financially, but it's such an amazing car. I think both those cars are completely underrated and I've been saying that, and now I look at the Viper prices and it's almost doubled from what I paid for, and now it's getting the point...
Matt Scott: Last year those were down like in the seventies, eighties, and now...
Dave Harriton: 180,000. Yeah, it's crazy.
Matt Scott: But think [01:22:00] about it. V10, like you said, tube chassis, carbon panels.
Dave Harriton: Naturally Asper 8.4 manual transmission. Never going to make car like that.
Matt Scott: So much fun to drive, I remember driving those at skip barber when I was doing the racing thing and the amount that those things would rotate. I was really, really fast in them because I drove sprint cars and sprint cars are all about rotation and you could get like 14 degrees of rotation or something out of a Viper when you just like steered with the rear.
Dave Harriton: They had a bad rep because you can't just jump in that car and drive it like you would if you were a journalist. You have to spend time with that car, and you have to appreciate that car. I mean, the McLaren is like, anybody could jump in that car and be fast. I mean...
Scott Brady: It's so precise.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. But those two cars are so different. So opposite ends of the spectrum, they're both the same power, the same speed, you know, same everything, except they're completely different. One you get out of shaky and the other one does it so easy that you don't even know. [01:23:00] But again, like I said, both those cars I try and bring bits that I learn, or I'm really into motorcycles, all different kinds of motorcycles, same thing, you know, with the adventure bike. We've talked about it, I mean I've learned to, go light and don't bring everything, you know. You and I go together well, because we don't bring very much stuff, and that's kind of funny for an overlander because a lot of guys tend to bring everything. And I think if you spend some time on an adventure bike or camping...
Scott Brady: It's the best way to learn how to camp, take a motorcycle.
Dave Harriton: Yup. I recently bought a Avia Husky, which is a fantastic platform for exploring you know, it's only got 29s on it, but you know, a lot of guys are running 35 on these back country airplanes. It's kind of funny.
Scott Brady: Oh, they're so cool. And it's interesting, the parallels. We're seeing more of that now where you see the overland traveler and he's also using a back country aircraft or they're using, they're also in a sailboat.
Dave Harriton: You know, [01:24:00] yeah. I mean, I try and take a little bit of everything I do, whether it's snowmobiling or motorcycling or whatever, boats. I try and bring it back into my business. I try and learn something from all those things. And aviation's a really good, because you know, the mindset is you don't really get a second chance. So, you know, bringing that kind of durability and just general discipline into my shop, you know, for instance. You don't want to... I mean, a mechanic building somebody's car, if they get a cell phone call from their wife, they shouldn't have a wrench in their hand at the same time. Certain things like implementing that kind of stuff you know, just the discipline. All this stuff really helps. I've always been an adventurous guy and I always liked doing as much different stuff as I possibly can because I bring it all back into the business one way or the other.
Scott Brady: And do you feel like that maybe those moments on a motorcycle or those moments flying in a back country aircraft, do you find that that gives you a [01:25:00] creative impulse as well? Like being in something totally different, doing something totally different than your day-to-day job? Do you feel like that that gives you a creative reset as well?
Dave Harriton: Reset. Yeah, for sure. I mean, it kind of helps in a couple of ways, because one I'm not thinking about work for just a split second, you know, like for that bit of time, if it gets me out, I'm not worried about some engineering problem we're having, you know, how are we going to do this? We've already paid for this tooling and now we have this problem. Like, what are we going to do? I, I don't worry as much about the stress when I'm doing that stuff, but like I said it benefits me in that way. It keeps me mentally straight, and it also keeps me, I just realize things like for instance, when you're camping with a back country airplane, right? How do you warm up your motor? You know? And I've been thinking about like, oh, okay. We can do this, this, and this there's this thing from here, this thing I can... you know, I dunno, I can just kind of mix and match now [01:26:00] interesting between boats and airplanes and cars and trucks.
Scott Brady: Like the Russians, where they take the propane tanks and they just literally like run flame on the oil sump.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, I think, I mean, somebody who's got a back-country heater for an airplane that I think is kind of used as a whisper light stove and you can heat them up. But I just see a lot of parallels you know; a lot of fuel bladders guys use. It's kinda like the fuel bladders for airplanes would work really good for cars and they don't take up all kinds of room.
Scott Brady: That's the big advantage of a bladder, which is why we use them for motorcycles. So like, you know, we'll, we'll use the... we'll never use a solid extra fuel can for motorcycles. We always just roll it up and now your space efficient again.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. As soon as you're burning that fuel, you put it in and you're done, but the stuff for the airplanes is even higher quality stuff that I hadn't seen before that I can bring back into the, you know, the business.
Matt Scott: I found the fuel bladders, cause that's how they'll get planes [01:27:00] really long distance and extend them is they have these like insane fittings on them...
Dave Harriton: Yup. The fitting quality all this stuff just adds up if you're paying attention. There's opportunities to be found in all these activities. Whether its rock climbing or para-motoring, I mean all that stuff, even that little tiny stuff, there's opportunities to bring it back into the overland community or engineering. You might see something that might strike a chord with oh, Hey... I can do Foglight Mount this way, you know, and you might be looking at something completely off the wall, but it's like, oh that's a clever way that this Sesna guy did this. You know, I look at old Sesna’s and I'm just completely blown away at what people did with no computers and how they built it and optimized it. You know? No topology optimization like we use today. I mean, they did it all by hand and you're, you know, these planes are flying they're 70 years old and they're awesome.
Matt Scott: And they [01:28:00] haven't really changed that much.
Dave Harriton: No, they haven't, but I mean there's a lot of reasons for that. I mean, they should change now. I mean, if you could take like McLaren engineering for the safety cage, the carbon fiber safety cage, and put that into a lightweight back country plane today. I mean, it would be fantastic. The problem is there's not enough volume, right? So the technologies exist. I mean, a carbon cage is kind of a misnomer. It's not really a carbon, there's a lot of carbon on it, but it's like superficial. But you know, if you could do a carbon fiber safety cage in that, I mean, it would be fantastic, so I don't know. I'm kind of always looking at how do you do this? What's the right way to do that. Thats kind of how my brain works. I'm always looking for opportunities somebody else might not have seen.
Scott Brady: Kind of bringing it back to the travel subject, where have you been in the world where again, you felt the most inspired, like the trip that you did that [01:29:00] like kind of shook you to your core a little bit.
Dave Harriton: I don't know if any places... you know, here's the thing I live in Montana, on the Idaho border there. And for the most part, when I travel, I realized how amazing it is, where I love the Valley and man, we are so lucky. And sometimes you travel, and you start to appreciate how much you have. I mean, I love central America. I love that area. But I've never been to someplace where I'd like, oh, I want to live here.
Matt Scott: Have you been to New Zealand though?
Dave Harriton: I have not. I mean, that looks like Montana,
Matt Scott: It looks like Montana, except there's a black sand beach.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I mean, that does look super cool for sure, and I do love jet boating, so I could probably make that work. I haven't been there, so I'll leave that one on the table.
Scott Brady: But like, for [01:30:00] example, that Rafiki safari lodge in Costa Rica that you went to, and you told me about those guys and then I ended up going, I mean, that place was amazing.
Dave Harriton: Buddies of mine. Yeah, Loki. Yeah, I mean, I love to travel. It's more like the places I haven't been. I know you've been to Russia; I really want to go to Russia. Again, the cool thing for me, what I think about with Russia, like the one thing I want to get and take away from there is they developed all their stuff kind of in a vacuum. So a lot of times at anything mechanical and it's kind of the same anywhere in the world, you know, a motorcycle or whatever, it's kind of the same, but in Russia it's not. So I look at that as like, oh, there's this huge opportunity to go and see things and maybe take away stuff that isn't normal.
Matt Scott: Some crazy Soviet engineering, like the jet powered [01:31:00] trains, like everybody else would be like, no. In Soviet Russia, we do it.
Scott Brady: Well or go into like the main truck facility or whatever. That would be amazing.
Dave Harriton: All of it, you know? And it's the latitude I like, I tend to like being in that latitude.
Scott Brady: Ride that new KTM adventure bike across there. That'd be perfect.
Dave Harriton: It'd be perfect. I would love to see Russia. I think the next like photography trip we do with AEV, I really want to do Bolivia, and then through the Atacama could. I haven't been there.
Scott Brady: High altitude desert, yeah.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I think for Ram, I think that would be really cool, and now that the Wranglers have some turbos, I think that'd be really a cool, cool thing to do. So I think that's, you know, as soon as the world quote, unquote gets back to normal, that's kind of the next. We had that trip planned right before everything hit, and so we canceled it. Yeah, and Tunisia I'd love [01:32:00] to go to Tunisia. I mean, that seems like a relatively easy trip to do. So Tunisia is one that I... those two are probably the next two on my list.
Scott Brady: That'd be amazing. Go see Luai Over in Saudi Arabia or something.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I mean, that's, it, that's been a heck of an invite and I'd love to go. I would like to start traveling, but you know... my life has been so busy the last two years since COVID hit, I basically have locked up in my condo and I had been designing nonstop. I get up, I work east coast hours in the morning, so I'm up at 4:30. I'm normally on calls by five at least a few days a week. And I mean, it's funny... I don't know. Maybe it's just my age, but like my eyes, I think have switched my near-sightedness since I haven't been getting out much. I mean, I put like four hours on my boat last summer. [01:33:00] Right. And I put 200 miles on my sled. I mean, I just, I just haven't been getting out like I used to. I've just been so focused on work this last two years. It hasn't been real good for me. Like I've needed a break and it's starting to wind down, we had this opportunity where... we had this opportunity to do a bunch of new vehicles, so we've just been working really diligently on that. And I got to give my guy’s credit because I mean they've all stuck in there and we've been asking like insane hours, you know, all of us have been working nights and weekends for better part of two years now. You know, it's not uncommon for me to be on meetings at 11 o'clock at night with the same people I was on meetings their time 7:00 AM, my time 5:00 AM and there's still work and I'm still working. So this whole COVID reset, I don't know. I didn't get a break.
Scott Brady: Reset in the wrong direction.
Dave Harriton: We've been working hard, but I think it'll all pay off and we've been [01:34:00] learning a lot.
Scott Brady: We can't wait to see what's coming out.
Dave Harriton: Well, you know, that's the other crazy thing. We're working on stuff so far out that... it's funny, the stuff that's going in the production now I've already forgotten about. I'm like, I didn't even know... I have to ask, like I don't even remember what that looks like. Because it was two years ago and I'm like... It's like mind boggling to me. I literally we've, we've moved on to, you know, two or three generations past what's just coming out, so I literally forget what it looks like. I have to go back and remind myself. I'm like, it looks pretty good.
Scott Brady: Yeah. That's cool. Well, we'll get to see it.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. You will start to see some stuff coming out. I don't know if you've seen like the new Wrangler bumper. I mean, that was kind of the first one where if you look at... to me, if you look at a bumper, it's one thing to look at the front side, what we call the A surface. But it's another thing when you look at the backside, the B surface.
Scott Brady: Because you just put one on [01:35:00] your Gladiator.
Dave Harriton: All the thought that goes into every little fold and band and yeah, I mean, you know, getting that thing to fold so it didn't really bend the frame of the vehicle, if you were to hit something hard and trying to get all that stuff worked out and make it fully functional. You know, like on the Wrangler, it's a tough one because we only have once every 10 years to make the design changes we really want to make. And so that one was interesting because we were able to really raise that bumper up and we were able to really give you a lot of access to the winch. You know, if you had to dig out a rope.
Scott Brady: Most of these modern bumpers don't give access to the winch.
Matt Scott: Well, there's little things like the internal routing of the wiring for the lights. Like when you look at it, it just looks right. Like it's meant to have these spotlights there. And then you kind of like... that's one that when I got the EX, I parked in the garage, I cracked a beer and I just kind of looked at it. [01:36:00] Then you keep realizing these different styling elements to it, and then when it was getting installed and the guys at Summit Jeep are doing it, I'd stopped by and then you realize like you were saying... there is that surface that you see, but then there's so much behind it that is just like... like I never would have noticed the wiring channel for the lights.
Dave Harriton: Now we have a camera, right? So we have to hide a co-ax cable too, and some of the newer stuff, I mean, we've got all these new sensors for all this autonomous stuff. You're trying to design it... how do you design a steel bumper that has to be see-through for all these sensors. It ends up getting... the more technologically advanced these cars get, the more difficult it's getting to do really off-road worthy parts, and it's really becoming a challenge. I mean my guys are challenged. Every single part we do is not the same. I mean, it's like completely different. The architecture we can't really copy.
Scott Brady: Well, and that's an interesting opportunity [01:37:00] for AEV though, because how many other companies will be able to respond to that call? Very few. So it gives you guys so unique, competitive advantage in some ways.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I mean like the writings on the wall with the autonomy and the electrification. The electrification, I don't think we'll be too disturbing, but the autonomy is going to be a real disturbance to our industry. We're working with that, but it just makes everything that much harder.
Scott Brady: Well, and also the OEMs focus on integrating so much aftermarket reflection in the new vehicles that are sold on the lot. So I think it takes a lot of opportunity away from the aftermarket when you can buy a Jeep with... their Recon with 34s and lift and winch.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. I think that's Jeep in particular. I mean, I think they...
Scott Brady: Really want it all for themselves.
Dave Harriton: They [01:38:00] do. I mean on one hand I hate it; on the other hand I think I'm responsible for a lot of what they're doing.
Matt Scott: Well, if you look at a lot of things that you've done, so you start...
Scott Brady: Let's start with the start with the long wheel-base Wrangler, hmm.
Matt Scott: Root double cab. Hm.
Dave Harriton: Highline fenders… Even the hoods are like a pretty similar theme, right?
Scott Brady: Yeah, so actually the whole reason why we brought you on this podcast is because Matt wanted to put you on the spot to get a set of Highline fenders.
Dave Harriton: I mean, you don't need them. Right? The Jeeps come with them.
Scott Brady: No, he needs it for his TJ.
Dave Harriton: Oh, so I was just down in Chandler, Arizona, and I saw there's a unlimited TJ with Highline fenders at the Chandler airport.
Scott Brady: Okay. Do you remember the aisle? [01:39:00]
Dave Harriton: Hasn't moved in six weeks.
Scott Brady: Well if you see it moving in the next couple of weeks...
Dave Harriton: I tried to find out who owned it, but I couldn't...
Scott Brady: What's your next question?
Matt Scott: Where are my I Highline fenders?
Dave Harriton: Just to clear the air about that. That was something I never wanted to stop producing. We had hired a company to make the flares for us, and it was an Australian company and unbeknownst to us, they partnered with a company somewhere in south America. They shipped our tooling down there. Then that partnership went sour. So all of a sudden, we couldn't get our flares and we couldn't get our tooling. That company didn't pay this company. They didn't want to give our tooling back to us, cause you know, and it was at the time of the end of the TJ production that we couldn't...
Matt Scott: Well they were on sale. Like you had like a bunch, and you did like a final clearance on them. I know that cause those are the things I find on the AEV forum. And I'm like, ah...
Dave Harriton: Yeah, I know hindsight, but [01:40:00] we couldn't afford to retool them at that point. And you know, the sales weren't there to do it. And again, you gotta be viable.
Scott Brady: That's good for people to know because like it was such an impressive solution that I bet there's dozens of TJ owners listening...
Matt Scott: I mean, how cool is it that something for a vehicle that's now 20 plus years old and some of them that like these parts are becoming like super sought after, because they just were so well done.
Scott Brady: And then like finding an nth degree suspension or whatever, shout out to Jim on that. I mean, just like people that really redefined the way that you build a Jeep.
Matt Scott: Well, people still haven't done better things. Like you go back to the first thing that we talked about, what should people look for? And that tooling thing that you said just keeps coming up because there's no shortage of high clearance fenders for a Jeep, but they're like...
Scott Brady: They're bent metal, welded.
Matt Scott: Cardboard aided design. They're [01:41:00] limited to kind of basic traditional fabrication techniques. And you're just not getting a stamped proper fender.
Dave Harriton: You're not getting something that looked like it came out of the Jeep itself. For sure. That was, I think, where we really succeeded was... a lot of my guys have worked at Jeep or Chrysler or...
Matt Scott: It's another benefit of the Detroit thing, like you're talking about the boron steel. Like, could you do that anywhere else? Could you get the... you couldn't get the talent? I mean, I guess if you wanted to hypothetically start a bumper company and, well, let's just say Montana. I mean, I guess now maybe you could get people to relocate, but you're relocating everyone. Like the cost of that... you're not going to get that the collective talent
Dave Harriton: now Detroit made a lot of sense and I love Detroit. I mean...
Scott Brady: It's a cool city.
Dave Harriton: It is a cool city. It's got awesome art, food, music, you know, car scene, obviously. Everybody's in the car industry, so I love going there and I love hanging out with my friends there. It's always a good time, and I don't know [01:42:00] why Detroit has such a bad rap, because it really has... there's so many positives.
Scott Brady: I've always had a good experience. I mean, when we hung out at Camillo Pardo's place that night, like it was so good. That was so good.
Dave Harriton: That was probably a wild night, but yeah, I mean Detroit's just one of those places... is was the only location I could do what I wanted to do at the quality level.
Scott Brady: Like one of the last questions I've got is someone coming in new to overland travel by vehicle... What are the first couple of things that you would recommend them to do? Like if they're going to modify their vehicle, Hey I just bought a Gladiator. What would you tell them they should think about before they even start modifications, what should they do? What are the first couple of things that they should look at before they go off on their...
Dave Harriton: I mean, look. Vehicles are more than capable right off [01:43:00] the showroom floor. I mean, at the end of the day, until you gain some experience and really run into an issue, there's almost no reason to do anything. In fact, a lot of the stuff you're going to do is actually going to put you backwards in terms of engineering, reliability, durability. You know, so I think it really just depends on what you need to do with that truck. You know, whether it's a Gladiator or, ZR2, or Ram or whatever. I mean, the Ram's one of those things, it's kind of interesting question because on the Ram it's a little different. The Ram is so heavy and so under tire that until you... but you hit this 37-inch tire threshold on the Ram, and it completely changes that truck. Changes the ride, changes the handling, all for the better for what we're doing. And it changes the footprint enough where it gets over this threshold where it's, you know... a 37 tire on a Ram is probably the perfect tire for everything, for doing everything. I mean the 40-inch trucks, they all look great, and [01:44:00] they do work really well, but then there's this whole learning curve with 40-inch tires. I mean, that's a lot of mass that you're moving.
Scott Brady: You feel it going down the road more than 37s. 37s track a little better.
Dave Harriton: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean... here's the deal, if your tires are like forties, if you have them and they're balanced good and they're tracking good and they're relatively new, they'll drive every bit as good. You know, I mean, I drive routinely, I mean, set the cruise basically as high as it'll go and go, you know, in Montana. And you know, even towing, right? I mean, my trailer tires can't keep up with what the truck can do. That's a fun thing I found out. But I say for somebody just getting into it, just keep the vehicle stock and kind of learn and try not to get carried away in... you need this, you need that. Cause here's a guy that makes a living selling aftermarket parts, you don't need hardly any of it. I would say the first thing I would [01:45:00] buy, honestly, is a satellite text... like the Spot text messenger. I mean that would be the first thing I'd buy and keep it on you. Don't keep it in the vehicle. Keep it on your person. I mean, that is the one thing I literally will not go out in the woods with, you know, whether it's on a snowmobile, jet boat, or car, or airplane or anything. I mean, I keep that thing in my pocket all the time. And I learned the pocket thing the hard way when a friend of mine lost a jet boat and lost his phone and all his stuff for a week in the bottom of the river before we got it out. But had that been a different situation, that could have been a real problem. So yeah, keep it on your person and that's the only thing I would say you really need. That and a pretty good education to figure out what you do and what you want to do with the truck.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and then maybe when the vehicle's not doing what you need it to do, then maybe consider changing something. But it's incredible how capable they are, we just [01:46:00] got this little Ford Maverick. Now it has no low range. It's like a mini truck. It's, actually super charming. I mean, I'm not gonna... I haven't tested it fully to give an impression, but just the idea of it is very charming, but I took it out the other day on our test track, which is covered in snow right now. And this little thing was just... it was doing all of it. Like it was going through... I mean, I'm paying attention and I have some experience and all that, but like it was incredible how capable it was and it's just an all-wheel drive. It's not no low range.
Matt Scott: And it has a truck bed that you could like actually lift things into. Like I just want one to put my dirt bikes in, because then I would actually ride my dirt bikes because currently, I can't get them into my truck easily.
Scott Brady: And it's got a great little set of tires, good traction control. Like, I mean, I would go drive it over the Mojave road tomorrow no problem.
Dave Harriton: That's kind of an interesting thing is that the technology [01:47:00] has gotten to the point with, especially with like brake lock traction control that wasn't there five years ago, but it is there now. So yeah, these OEs, they do a pretty good job. All of them do a pretty good job of getting, getting these things to work pretty good. You know, there are certain things I don't like. Like the Rubicon Gladiator I do not like the suspension at all, like stock. I think it's terrible. It's, wishy-washy, it's all over the place. I hate it. Yeah.
Matt Scott: And then you can fix it with an AEV two and a half inch dual-sport lift.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. Don't get me in trouble here, but you know that there's some... like most are wins from the OE. There's some fails, but I would say most are wins. I think it's only going to get better.
Scott Brady: Small displacement turbocharged engines are actually phenomenal, totally surprising.
Matt Scott: Their torque band is just like...
Dave Harriton: Yeah, and even more impressive is the transmissions. [01:48:00]
Matt Scott: That's where cars are getting faster that's the difference between your McLaren and your Viper. Like the reason your McLaren will smoke it it's cause like a manual transmission is only as fast as the fleshy bit inside.
Dave Harriton: A hundred percent.
Matt Scott: Like the eight speeds that they're putting in Jeeps, the ZF8HP it's the only thing I mean, I somehow talk by this transmission all the time, but it's the only thing that Bentley and Rolls-Royce agree on is that as the transmission to use.
Dave Harriton: And as I recall, it's in all the BMWs, in the TRX.
Matt Scott: The 95s on the TRX. 900 horsepower thousand-pound feet of torque that thing will handle from the factory. That's the ZF rating. Right. Might be mixing those figures up but...
Dave Harriton: That's where they were getting issues with the manuals, you know, they couldn't... and that's the thing with automatic. Right? The OEs love it because they can detune when they need to, so they [01:49:00] don't have to... like with a manual, you know, you gotta rely on the person, brain and the right foot. On the automatics, you know, the OEs love it cause they can back that stuff off if they think you're really gonna do something stupid.
Scott Brady: Yeah, good fuel economy and they drive great.
Matt Scott: They usually like de-tuned power in like first and second gear and a lot of the big trucks, I think.
Dave Harriton: Yeah. There's all kinds of strategies. But I would, again going back to that thing about the... I see a lot of people making big mistakes. Normally it comes... like one of them is cooling. That is like a huge pet peeve of mine. You know, they put a LED light bar in the hole in the bumper that's made to give the intercooler power. Right. Like when we're doing work with the OEs, I mean, it's literally like, okay there's 586 square millimeters of surface area in this hole. You guys can not violate that by one millimeter. And, and, and then we have to hold these holes and these [01:50:00] airflows, you know, to that... I mean, it's really, really specific and you see guys doing it. They put a big light bar on the front of the Ram, and they just don't know that they're de-rating. It's going to derail immediately. I see it on the TRX, like I see people putting on these different bumpers and changing the air flow and everything, and just keep in mind that these engineers spent a lot of time and there are literally thousands of people, and I have Zoom meetings now with 300 people in the meeting, and we're talking about, you know, things like that. There's so much that goes into the OE engineering, that if you're going to modify your car, really, you take a step back. There's a lot of considerations that you may not know right off the bat.
Scott Brady: And ultimately you end up with a poor performing vehicle because you're not...
Dave Harriton: Even a lot of the companies in the aftermarket just don't know, they just don't have the experience to know how critical some of this stuff is because, [01:51:00] maybe where they live, they've gotten away with it. They didn't notice anything, but then you go and send that product somewhere else, you know? And that's one of the tough things with AEV, we're doing stuff typically left-hand drive, right-hand drive, gas, diesel, all over the world, so every different country. I mean, you should see... we have spreadsheets on spreadsheets of license plate specs for every single country. They're all different. They're all like a millimeter different. And so getting back to that, it's just like, there's a lot of the stuff is engineered for really important reasons. It's not just the aesthetic and just be careful when you're modifying a car to think about those things.
Scott Brady: So there, you guys have all heard it from the guy who makes some of the best aftermarket components in the world is just be mindful of the things that we do change to our vehicles, and it's an understanding that every modification may come at a negative cost as well.
Dave Harriton: And typically if you, if you're going to have a positive in some [01:52:00] area you're going to take away in another, you know it's just kinda how it is. Right? And I'll say that even about myself. I mean, you're adding weight, you're changing arrow. You're, you know, you're going to have a deduction somewhere else. Maybe fuel mileage or wherever it is, it's gonna happen. There's very little free lunch.
Scott Brady: Maybe the boron skid plates.
Dave Harriton: Those are pretty fantastic. The problem with those is, you know, I'd love to do those for Wrangler or something or Ram, but it's so expensive, and the tooling is so expensive that unless you have really high volume, like we had on the Bison, you can't really afford to do that.
Scott Brady: That makes sense.
Dave Harriton: I wanted to do one of those for KTM. Like even for a 450-dirt bike. You know what I mean? I've tried these aluminum ones they just gouged, get ripped off. I finally went back to a plastic one cause I think, you know, maybe they... I mean, for the most part they take the hit and they do okay. But I thought, oh man, if I could just... if I had the volume, if I had an in in the industry, I wanted to do a [01:53:00] boron steel skid for that because... or maybe weigh the same as a plastic, that'd be absolutely indestructible. And it feels good too...
Matt Scott: The stiffness that would add to it chassis too.
Dave Harriton: One is slippery on the rock too. It's not like, you know, when you hit...
Scott Brady: A branch or whatever, logs, rocks, all that.
Dave Harriton: And you guys have ridden like a bigger 990 type bikes. I mean, with aluminum skid... I don't know if you've been on the rocks, but it just gouges and you can just feel it like scraping, hitting the brakes big time. Whereas that stuff is so hard it just slides right off.
Scott Brady: Oh, that's amazing. Any closing questions?
Matt Scott: Can I have a TJ Highline kit...
Scott Brady: You know, Dave's got one hidden back in a back shelf.
Dave Harriton: I'll sell you a TJ. I have a TJ with 34 miles on it, 2004 with a Highline kit.
Matt Scott: Is that the one that... I think I know.
Dave Harriton: And I think it might be coming up for sale.
Scott Brady: And on that bombshell... [01:54:00] well, Dave, thank you so much for being on the podcast, man. It has always been so enjoyable to spend time with you and the adventures that we've been on, and the inspiration that you have been to me and so many other folks in this industry, your business, your team, the things that you guys have created. I think it's such a high watermark that many of us aspire to, and you should feel a lot of confidence around what you're doing. It means a lot.
Dave Harriton: Thanks. Well, I couldn't do it without the whole team that I have in Montana and Detroit. All those people, all these products, you know, you can tell that people put their heart into it. Even the guys at GM, it's amazing. Like, I mean, you might not think like an OE would... there would be people who would care, like take it personally when they're working within a company with thousands and thousands and thousands of employees, but that's not the case. And I want to say that same thing about jeep guys, it's like, yeah, people take this stuff [01:55:00] personally and they really argue and strive to do their best and to get that best product out there for the customer, so the customer really should have a lot of confidence buying a lot of these products.
Scott Brady: Well, thanks again, Dave, and we look forward to your next adventures. We look forward to hearing more about your flying adventures and everything else, so we'll make sure to keep track on that. We need another cover image for Overland Journals. So maybe the Bolivia trip, so thank you again, Dave, for being on the podcast, Matt, anything else? Highline kit?
Matt Scott: Highline kit. Thanks for just doing the next level stuff, particularly with the Ram, like I really just think because of AEV it's made this whole like segment possible.
Scott Brady: Yeah, totally. Like five years ago, nobody was talking about full-sized trucks.
Dave Harriton: Well, even the Power Wagons weren't selling very well, and then now you can tell they're selling better because you just see them all over now, right? Like five years ago, you didn't even see those now. I mean, that's [01:56:00] a pretty neat little truck too.
Scott Brady: Super cool truck. It just needs more payload. It really does. They need a, they need a Power Wagon HD, or they need something that competes with the Tremor. It's just the payload solution. Well, we thank you all for watching and we'll talk to you next time.