For this week’s Featured Build, we’ve got something fun: a 2-for-1 special! We sat down with Erick Miller, who is the owner of a 2013 JKU Sport that goes by the name of Honey Badger AND a Chevy Silverado 2500HD Duramax tow rig named Crawler Hauler. He told us all about this dyanamic duo including how each build came to be and of course, when was the moment it was time to get the hauler to tow the rig. Read the full interview below.
How did you get into the Jeep and off roading scene?
I’ve always been a car guy and grew up in a small town where beat up Toyotas and off roading were definitely the thing. Although I was exposed to off roading early, my love for the scene didn’t come until later on. My early vehicle interests lead me more towards the pre-Fast and the Furious import scene, European sports cars, and eventually into competitive motorsports (including road course racing), which I did for about 12 years along the West Coast. And as many people know, racing is just about the same as burning money. So as the economy took a turn and sponsorships dried up, it was time for me to hang up the helmet and pursue a more affordable vehicle interest.
Little did I know at the time, the Jeep thing would become a serious addiction.
Just empty every pocket right? I had already owned a ZJ in the past and loved it, but I was hooked once I bought my first Wrangler, a 2008 JK back in 2010.
Tell us about the build process for your Jeep, Honey Badger?
After owning a very mildly built ‘08, putting a bunch of miles on it, and hearing the 3.8 horror stories, I started looking for a replacement 2012+ before the 3.8 problems sank in. A buddy of mine who is a car buyer for a large dealership came across a nearly new (1,200 miles) 2013 JKU that had some work done but the owner had decided 2 doors were the better wheel base for his area of wheeling and was looking to trade it in. Being low mileage, the right year and color…it had peaked my interest. I went to look at it the next day, and drove it home that night.
From there it’s really been a whirlwind of replacement parts, upgrades, and building it the way I wanted. That’s one of the greatest things about Wranglers…you can build them to fit your taste, budget, and the type of wheeling you’re into…from mall to full-on crawl.
My philosophy behind the build has always been: functionality and strength before flash and go-fast bits.
When you start adding 40” and big power before beefing up other areas, it can get old and expensive replacing all the weak points. If you plan on wheeling your Jeep, get quality parts from the get go. Buy once, cry once…is what I always say.
Now, tell us about how the Crawler Hauler came to life.
The Crawler Hauler really came out of necessity. The Honey Badger was getting to a point where it was straddling that line between trail rig and daily driver, and I found us traveling to more out of state events with it. So I began my search for a used diesel.
Not a fanboy of any one make, I reached out to friends from each fan club to research the good, the bad, and the ugly of each year for the various makes. Test drove a bunch, read endless articles, and made a fair share of phone calls before talking to my Jeep building counterpart friend who happened to know a guy that worked for one of the nation’s top Duramax builders and parts manufacturers (right near my hometown), Screamin’ Diesel Performance. I called up my buddie’s friend to pick his brain on Duramaxs and it was one of those right-places-at-the-right-time type of things. He was getting to a point where he was ready to sell his built pride and joy 2007 LBZ of many many years. A quick test drive and long chat with this diesel mechanic, and I was confident this was the truck for me. His philosophy of build was similar to mine on the Jeep (longevity and functionality before bling), which reassured me that this would be a trouble free rig for many years despite it’s impressiveness.
So, what started as a search for grandpa’s completely stock, low mileage, diesel…led to the purchase of an 800hp compound turbo beast with a built tranny.
Since the purchase, I’ve updated the wheels and tires, painted/debadged a few things, and upgraded all lighting. I have a short list of mods still planned for the Crawler Hauler, which I plan on tackling this winter.
Can you tell us about Conquered Trailz? How did it come to be? What are you guys working on now and where is the brand headed?
When I was racing cars, one of the cool kid things to do was to display the silhouette of each race track your car has been on as a form of bragging rights…which I always thought was a brilliant idea.
After getting deep into the Jeep game, I was looking for a way to help pay for upgrades and out of state travel, aside from my 9-5. I remembered those racing decals, and the rest was history.
Conquered Trailz has been creating trail badge decals and apparel for the off road world for a little over 3 years now. Being small and nimble we have a very large inventory of trail badges to choose from and are adding every week. We specialize in custom branded event badges. We’ve made badges and apparel for mountain bike events, hikers, clubs, large area events, manufacturers, tribute runs, get together…you name it. We’ve even made custom patches.
Currently we are designing a new line apparel, sponsoring more off road events, and constantly expanding our trail inventory. Send us your trail suggestions and keep an eye out this fall for those that new apparel to drop.
What are you most proud of with either of your builds?
As a car guy, showing the Honey Badger at SEMA last year was huge. I’m not a car show person, but to have my personal build there was definitely a milestone. Don’t let that fool you though, we were right back wheeling in the PNW mud the following weekend as many can attest.
I would also say Honey Badger’s cleanliness and capability are two things we get comments on a lot.
From showing it in a manufacturer’s booth one minute, to bashing it on the rocks the next, and driving 70mph when you hit pavement without any codes, shimmys, or shakes…is definitely a testament to the parts and build.
What are your favorite spots to wheel?
The Moab area is definitely at the top. From the variety of trails, scenery, and obstacles…there is no shortage of excitement. Pritchett Canyon and the now closed Area BFE would be my favorites in that region.
What’s next for your build? Maybe a V8 swap?
The list is narrowing down for sure and power is definitely on the list. Mo powa babeh!
BAM! Two rigs…both pretty amazing in their own right, are we right? Erick’s builds are a constant reminder of just how far off roading can take you–often times it’ll take you places you would have never dreamed of. Just look at his successful brand, Conquered Trailz! We’re definitely inspired by all the hard work he’s put into his builds, as well as how he’s leaving his mark on the off roading community. Be sure to show his rigs, Honey Badger and Crawler Hauler (as well as this article) some love if you’re inspired too!