San Diego native Marco Hernandez leads a life consumed by two passions: cooking and overlanding. On the back cover of his popular 2019 cookbook, “The Overland Cook: food on the trail with ovrlndx,” he states: “I’ve been passionate about off-roading and nature for a good part of my life. I’m also passionate about cooking. I have come to the conclusion that good, savory food can be cooked while out on the trail without the need of regular bulky kitchen cooking appliances.”
Even though he put together both passions (along with photography) into one inspiring life-long adventure, it all started somewhere. “I started riding dirt bikes when I was a kid,” Hernandez says. “I went from an 800cc Yamaha in 1978 to different bikes over the years. Over the years, I’ve owned different off-road vehicles and have been involved in off-roading in one way or another. The first off-road vehicle I ever built was a 1996 80 Series Land Cruiser. The reliability was the best thing about it.”
You can say that he’s always liked Jeeps, as his last three vehicles were Jeeps—his dad’s old XJ, a JKU, a 2015 Wrangler—and now the 2021 Wrangler Rubicon 392 featured here. “I wanted a vehicle capable enough to take me and my cameras to those awesome shoot locations,” he says. “I’ve been interested in photography ever since I got my first Minolta AE1 and I also love camping and exploring, so the Jeep is perfect for that, too.”
He goes on: “After building my 2015 Jeep Wrangler JKU as an overland rig, I learned a lot. And the after testing the Wrangler 392 at Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, I knew the Rubicon 392 was going to be the perfect platform for an overland build with overland off-road trailer.” As soon as he returned from Utah in 2021, he placed an order at Redlands Jeep in Southern California, and since they weren’t in stock (his wasn’t even built yet), he had to employ some patience.
“Since that day,” says Hernandez, “I started planning this build, even before getting the unit a few months later.” The Jeep was brand-new and a blank canvas on which he planned to build a masterpiece.
“I do a lot of research when it’s time to pick parts for the build,” he tells us. The usual problem with a new-to-market vehicle, even a Jeep, is the lack of aftermarket parts available for it upon release. Because of this, Hernandez says he tends to go with brands that have a good reputation in the industry, which is why, in part, the build took nearly two years to complete.
One of the whole points of the build was to start with the fantastic foundation found on the 395. The sock 6.4-liter Hemi V8 stayed stock, as did the veritable eight-speed ZF 8HP75 trans. Spent gases are pushed out the back via a Magnaflow 392-specific cat-back exhaust system. The bulletproof Dana 44 rear diff and its 3.73:1 gearing went untouched as well. Barring these stalwart features, the rest of the Jeep was fair game for upgrades.
One of the most important elements of an overland vehicle is its ability to go over land without the jarring of a road car and the uncertainty of an ill-prepared rig. It should go without saying: If you plan to upgrade the suspension with intentions of taking on the backcountry of the American Southwest, ditching the stock tire/wheel setup is a must for serious overlanders.
To obtain the capabilities of a well-heeled Jeep, Hernandez turned to TeraFlex and its 3.5-inch Alpine Rogue Trail suspension packages for the front and back. The kit includes front and rear HD forged adjustable track bars and front and rear track bar axle brackets for maximum adjustability, making them the perfect mix of performance and comfort. Additionally, they came with the Falcon 3.3 fast-adjust piggyback shocks on all corners, allowing for a precision adjustment for any kind of terrain.
The steering was kept mostly stock with the exception of the drag link king, which was swapped out for a Teraflex HD kit and a Falcon Nexus EF 2.2 fast-adjust steering stabilizer. Keeping the Jeep on the ground is a quartet of Milestar Patagonia XT tires, 37x12.5 all around. They are wrapped around Teraflex’s Nomad Split Spoke wheel in the traditional 17x8.5 size with -12mm backspacing.
The point of an off-road beast is to take it to places normal grocery getters can’t possibly go and to experience vistas visited by few. In doing so, one is more apt to get stuck or to push the envelope a little farther than the capabilities of the vehicle. In that case, this Jeep is fully equipped to protect itself from high-centering and soft terrain. The Next Venture Motorsports aluminum skid plates attached under the frame keep errant rocks and trail hindrances from causing havoc with any sensitive underbelly components.
Replacing a Jeep’s stock bumper up front is paramount if te rig is going to see any crawling action, or if there are plans to include a winch. An ARB Bondi deluxe bumper protects the front end, while the stock Rubicon bumper brings up the rear.
Above that is a Teraflex Alpha hinged spare tire carrier. Up front, a Warn Zeon 10-S winch can help pull Hernandez out of any trouble. LV8 Design Group provided the custom wrap design and other bodywork.
Once the sun goes down but the trek has not ended, an experienced overlander knows not to rely on stock headlamps to light the way. Hernandez outfitted the Wrangler with KC HiLites Pro 6 LEDs above the windscreen and Flexera4 lights on the front bumper.
A weekend in the dunes or a holiday spent on the desert trails wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable or as enjoyable if it weren’t for a few creature comforts incorporated within the Jeep. The stock leather seats remained, but a Goose Gear rear seat delete system with a fridge slide and storage drawers was added. Navigation is performed via an Onx Offroad system on an iPad Mini, and all of the tech accessories are mounted to a Vector Offroad tube-style E-dock system, including ham and GMRS radios from Midland. Quick access to extra gear is made easy with MPS’s overhead MOLLE panel.
On the roof the Jeep sits a James Baroud Evation rooftop tent, flanked by a Falcon 270 awning by James Baroud and a privacy tent as well. To cook Hernandez’s famous trail meals, Outback Adventure’s Trailgater table keeps the food out of the dirt.
All of the gear that won’t fit solely in the Jeep is stowed and towed in the Patriot Campers X1-N off-road trailer. With 70 square feet of storage, the 1,830-pound trailer is an easy pull and keeps all cooking gadgets and equipment at the ready. As well, it is a great mounting point for recovery gear and anything else he might need along the trail.
The brakes are managed by RedArc’s Tow-Pro brake controller switch, and power comes from RedVision’s Total Vehicle Management System and a 120-amp/hours lithium battery and a 2,000-watt inverter.
“As a member of the overland community, I’ve learned a lot from others in the scene over the years,” Hernandez says. “This community is like a family and I’ve met the most wonderful people ever! I’ve met several of my best friends through overlanding.”
Hernandez has taken his family on Jeep safaris to the deserts of Baja California to the twisting switchbacks of the Colorado mountains. “Last year my wife told me something that I think is cool,” he says. “She said, ‘It’s incredible the places that this Jeep has taken us. We have been to the most remote and beautiful camping spots on the edge of the water right her in Baja. I love this Jeep.’ I think this is amazing!”
If you need a bevy of great recipes for your next overland adventure, check out Marco Hernandez’s book on Amazon. Keep up with him by following him on Facebook and Instagram @ovrlndx, and learn more about his Jeep, food, and photography on his website at ovrlndx.com.
2021 Jeep Wrangler 392
|Chrysler 6.4L Hemi V8, Magnaflow 392-specific cat-back performance exhaust
|Eight-speed ZF 8HP75 transmission, Dana 44 differentials
|Suspension & Steering:
|3.5” TeraFlex Alpine RT (Rogue Trail) suspension systems with 3.3 Falcon adjustable shocks, Teraflex HD forged drag link kit, Falcon Nexus EF 2.2 fast-adjust steering stabilizer
|Wheels & Tires:
|TeraFlex Nomad split-spoke (17x8.5 ET -12mm), Milestar Patagonia X/T (37x12.50)
|Armor & Racks:
|ARB Bondi deluxe bumper, Next Venture Motorsports aluminum skid, Goose Gear drawer system and back plate, ARB base roof rack, TeraFlex Alpha HD hinged spare tire carrier
|Goose Gear rear seat delete with fridge slide and storage drawers
|KC HiLites Pro 6 LED, KC HiLites Flex Era 4
|Upgrades & Accessories:
|Custom wrap design by LV8 Design Group, Warn Zeon 10-S, Onx Offroad on iPad Mini, Vector Offroad contour full-width E-dock track made by Marco Hernandez, Redarc Tow-Pro brake controller, Midland USA MPS overhead panel, Outback Adventures Trailgater table, James Baroud Evasion rooftop tent, James Baroud Falcon Awning 270, James Baroud Falcon shower privacy tent, Trailer & Upgrades: Patriot Campers X1-N off-road trailer, RedArc RedVision total vehicle management system, RedArc 120aH lithium battery, RedArc 2000W inverter
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This article originally appeared in OVR Issue 02. For more informative articles like this, consider subscribing to OVR Magazine in print or digital versions here.