What does it take to get someone’s attention at a place like the 2018 Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) annual meet up in Las Vegas? Well one thing to keep in mind is there are a lot of shops out there and most of them have a plan or even a rendering for their signature build. Of course, having a plan and actually building it are two different things. For Geoff Kubik, owner and lead fabricator of Freedom Fabworks, there was no way he was going to let his plan sit on a piece of paper when it could be a featured build at the 2018 SEMA show.
If you haven’t heard of Freedom Fabworks you should definitely check them out. The shop is based in Flint, Michigan, and is definitely an up-and-comer. Geoff not only loves to get out and wheel his own personal rigs, he also loves to push boundaries and build things that others would consider impossible.
Examples of his outside-the-box thinking and efforts include several big customer builds as well as a 2012 Pentastar swap into a 1989 YJ. In this case, Geoff already had the 2017 Jeep Wrangler tub he wanted to use as a base, but he needed to complete an 8-inch chop and narrow the body by 2 inches. After that task was completed, it was time to work on getting everything else he would need to complete the rat rod.
However, going from plan to build is a tough process and Geoff needed all the help he could get. He found it in the form of Nic Ashby. Nic set about helping Geoff navigate the challenging world of corporate sponsorship. In the end the products came in and the build was completed in an amazing two-month timeline.
Geoff explained the inspiration for the build like this. “I wanted to build something that was just for me. I also wanted to do something different and do it my way. As far as I’m aware there aren’t any other builds like this out there. Sure there are a lot of rat rods out there but how many of them have 40-inch tires and one-ton axles?”
“In the end I didn’t have a choice. There was a lot riding on it and I needed to get it done,” Geoff commented on the tight timeline for the build with a wry smile and a chuckle. “There were a lot of nights when I was out in the shop until really late into the night and I’ve had a few friends who have helped along the way, but I’ve done most of it myself.”
Geoff remembers one clear example of heading to his shop at 3 a.m. on Sunday and not leaving until 4 p.m. the next day. This was just one example of the kind of hours and determination it took to get the job done.
In fact, Geoff noted one of the biggest challenges with the build was simply time. Geoff stated, “I wasn’t the one dealing with the sponsor companies, so I didn’t want to impose on them regarding getting parts. At the same time, I needed all of those things to move forward.
“When you do something this custom, there is a lot of trial and error with fitment,” he continued. “Sometimes, it’s just as simple as putting something in place and then making cuts and welds to make it work. In order to do that though, you have to have the parts so that was kind of tough.” Overall, despite the tight timelines and rushing to get the rat rod done for SEMA, Geoff reported the job went pretty smooth.
“With all of the work that had to be completed, it actually is pretty amazing it all got done. It was a lot of hard work, and looking back, I might have done a couple of things different now that I have the time. In the end though, I love the way it turned out”, he said.
Participants at the 2018 SEMA show must have agreed because the rig turned heads throughout the event. “Every day there was always a crowd around it. There were always people asking questions and I did so many interviews about it the whole time that by the end it was all just kind of a blur”, Geoff admitted.
There are several elements to the build that are pretty distinct. One glaring example of this includes the 40-inch Mickey Thompson MTZ tires. They are the first thing that usually catches the eye of anyone first seeing the rod and they are pretty meaty. In order to turn that big rubber some pretty hefty running gear was needed.
Freedom Fabworks found the solution in the form of Ford super-duty axles. Inside of those axles were stuffed a set of Yukon 5.38 gears and zip lockers. A set of KMC dually wheels were then bolted in place with the aforementioned Mickey’s’ wrapped around them.
Everything is bolted to a custom-built frame and interior cage. The GM 6.0 LS engine is mated to a 4L80 transmission. A Genright fuel cell provides the thirsty LS with go juice and Odyssey batteries keep the current flowing. A 231-transfer case then got the nod to make sure the big LS power would happily turn the big rubber.
A Mishimoto radiator, fans, and trans cooler all ensure when things get rough the driveline stays cool. A custom Magnaflow exhaust gives the rod a signature sound and the PSC fully hydraulic-steering system ensures that the rat rod stays pointed in the right direction when the power is on.
Yukon driveshafts make sure everything works together and power goes to the ground while donuts or other shenanigans are taking place. The rod is right-hand drive and this was necessitated as Freedom Fabworks wanted to retain the four-wheel drive system. Due to the slammed stance of the rod, as well as the driveline location, this meant right-hand drive was the ticket.
Right-hand drive can be tricky, but at least it will be in style.
An Airlift suspension with VIAIR compressors and a Power tank maintain the slammed stance with enough clearance to get around town. There are so many other custom aspects to the rod that it’s hard to look anywhere without seeing Geoff and Freedom Fabworks’ influences. A prime example includes the coolant overflow that is highlighted with a Jack Daniels whiskey bottle.
A Jack Daniels whiskey bottle is effectively used for coolant overflow.
Geoff explained, “We pretty much had everything together and realized that we needed something for overflow. We just so happened to have an empty bottle on hand.” In addition to being a perfect addition to the build, the bottle gained quite a bit of notoriety at the 2018 SEMA show.
On the outside of the rod Genright corners, a Genright rear bumper, and JCR half-doors complete the look that Freedom Fabworks was going for. R1 Concepts disc brakes make sure that just because you are going fast doesn’t mean you can’t stop fast and an SPOD bantam system keeps track of all of the electrical goodies. The Bullet liner exterior coating gives the ride a rugged yet sophisticated appearance.
As far as interior comfort, the ride gives up a bit of function for form. The seats are bare metal bomber seats and they have admittedly drawn the blood of both builder and helpers alike. In fact, had I not been careful, I may have been yet another victim. While a little bit of comfort is sacrificed, the cool-factor of those seats goes through the roof. At the time of this writing, a possible paint job was being considered.
In the immediate future, the rod is headed out with Rockstar Garage to various events including the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, as well as many others. Check the Rockstar Garage website for additional scheduled event appearances. While your at it, keep an eye out for Freedom Fabworks’ next build.
Additional build plans for the shop include a custom Wrangler truck-bed conversion along with a heavy-duty tow rig on a semi chassis. That particular build will feature a supercharged LS motor that could make for some pretty huge numbers, so stay tuned.
Geoff is a relatively straightforward and down to earth guy. He was quick to point out none of his work would be possible without the continuing support from his wife and two children. Geoff is a soft-spoken guy, but when it comes to talking about his family it was fun to see him light up.
He explained, “I couldn’t do a lot of this without my wife. She allows us to dedicate thousands of dollars to personal projects, works a full-time job, and handles most of the childcare. She is hardcore and the things she does are what allow me to work from home while doing the things that I love.” We always appreciate family focus and can certainly relate. This is one builder and family to watch out for here in the future.
Be sure to follow this Freedom Fabworks build as it tours with Rockstar Garage in 2019.