By Jon Maib and Matt Kess
What do you do when the world shuts down, off-road parks close and you're told not to hang out with your friends? When Matt Kess started 2020, everything seemed normal. In February of 2020, he was out wheeling with friends at one of his local off-road parks and everything seemed normal. As word began to spread about a global pandemic, Matt decided it might be time to tackle some of the projects he has been wanting to do for a while. His decision to do this could not have come at a better time, because in March of 2020, his Jeep was picked up by Brad Pellet of Pellet Performance & Off-Road to start his build and then the world shut down. Local off-road parks all closed, and no wheeling was allowed for months, and when you can't wheel, you build, and that's exactly what Matt did.

Matt sat down with owner Brad Pellet and discussed his list of mods, but I'm gonna let Matt tell you about that:

"I need to begin this by thanking Brad Pellet with Pellet Performance for an awesome build.  This man has worked tirelessly for 5 months; not just on the Jeep but dealing with my I was thinking... why don't we... Brad asked me at the beginning what I wanted, I briefly explained to him what I was thinking, we discussed a budget and then I told him, "You are the artist, my Jeep is your canvas paint me a picture" and he has done exactly that. Along this epic voyage, there have been many setbacks, mind/direction changes, along with uphill struggles. There has been bloodshed, cussing, sweat, Brad has been through a couple helpers and worked solo at times; there was even the passing of a dear friend all in the mix of a pandemic.

Shortly after we started, I reached out to PRP Seats to discuss the build and I sent them some photos of my Jeep. They replied with a sponsorship opportunity that I am very grateful for. The front seats and a full custom replacement cover for the rear bench along with a few other items were ordered. The expectation of 2 maybe 3 weeks was explained but then our nation was introduced to Covid19 and everything shut down, it took 2 months to get the seats in and really pushed our build time back.  When they arrived, I was blown away, they looked sweet and it was well worth the wait. I ordered Lizard Skin Ceramic Insulation in white and the Monstaliner in Smurfadelic. These two companies are great and I did a lot of research and even called both before ordering. I told them my intention was to spray the thermal, then the liner. They stated that testing had been done with each other and they were a perfect match. I was given some pointers for application and prep then discussed the process with Brad, he said "Heck yeah, let's do it", and it was ordered.  Brad got to work cutting out the current OEM roll-bars and cutting out the back section of the floor to make room for a rear winch and battery box with an ARB Dual Compressor.  I got busy sourcing parts and other needed supplies. I called Taylor over at 4WP in Plano and he supplied a Poison Spider 'A' pillar brace for the front as a starting piece for the cage. 4WP also supplied the Warn VR EVO 10 winch and the Factor 55 FLatLink E at an incredible price and shipped it directly to Pellet Performance. I was able to source a genuine Mopar big brake kit from Redemption Off-Road and I paired that with the Baer SS4 brake system in the rear.  Both kits came with 13" rotors and multi-piston calipers. Metalcloak supplied the new 5.5" True Dual-Rate springs, Rear spring alignment correction/retainers, outboard shock spacer and the relocation kit along with new bump stops for the rear. Once all the parts and supplies were finally in house, Brad had everything he needed, including a large bundle of 1.75" 0.120 wall DOM. He got to work and boy did he work fast. He was able to not only build the rear section of the Jeep once, but three separate times! Once I saw the rear section, I asked, "So how hard would it be to boat side this thing?", he looked at it and said, "Might as well while we are doing everything else". Brad spent 3 days on just engineering and building out the boat sides. You see, not only is Brad an artist with metal but he is a perfectionist. He told me "If I wouldn't run it on my jeep or I'm not completely in love with it, I don't expect you to be", and he has lived up to that. There have been several revisions done with all the tubing work, with many trips I had to make out to see it, test this or move that, or let's change this, it has finally come together. "

Just in reading that, it's a ton of work Matt wanted done, but since we were in a pandemic and no wheeling could be done and no insight to when Matt could be back on the trail, they worked on Matt's huge list of upgrades for almost 5+ months.

This is how it began, with Brad picking up Matt's Jeep from his house:

With parts ordered and work ready to begin, Matt's vision began to come alive!

Once Matt's build was done and its maiden voyage had been taken, it was time for the next stage of the build, a Sprintex Stage 2 Supercharger! The supercharger was ordered in November, and by the end of December, Matt and his good friend Mike began the tedious job of installing. Matt was told that the supercharger should be able to be installed with basic tools in about 6-7 hours. 2 days later, Mike and Matt were able to complete the install. Installing the Sprintex was a bit more difficult than they thought, but they also tackled some Jeep maintenance while they had everything apart, including new sparkplugs, injectors and a new radiator to fix an overheating issue.

Due to some of the additional upgrades Matt already had on the Jeep, like a PSC steering system, it made their install of the supercharger a little harder and time consuming. At the time of writing this, Matt's Jeep has been dropped off at a speed shop to get the Jeep tuned and dyno'd, so we don't have final numbers on what kind of added performance the Sprintex is adding yet, but they are expecting somewhere in the range of 320-340 HP to the rear wheels running 40's!

Huge shout out to the following for helping Matt with his pandemic build:

Brad Pellet, Pellet Performance & Off-Road
PRP Seats
Taylor Vaughn, 4 Wheel Parts, Plano, TX
Collin County OffRoad