“We Both Always Say That We Want Something No One Else Has and This Is Definitely That.”
Dalton Lovejoy and Maddie Heater are customization couple goals. The duo are fans of lifted trucks and enjoy tackling projects together. Dalton even proposed to Maddie at a Daytona Truck Meet, popping the big question at one of the biggest lifted truck shows in the country. They aren’t strangers to the custom truck scene, and Dalton has several builds under his belt, including his famous 1969 crew cab Dodge and 1963 GMC panel van. While Maddie has always just been along for the ride with Dalton’s past builds, for this 1979 Jeep Cherokee Chief, it was time for her to take the lead for her own project.
“Dalton has given me a passion and love for customizing,” she explains. “We both always say that we want something no one else has and this is definitely that. I have always been the shotgun rider, but we decided it was time for me to have something of my own to drive around.” Since Dalton usually builds a personal rig every year for Hostile Wheels’ booth at SEMA, he figured that Maddie would finally get her dream Jeep.
“I always said I wanted a Jeep or a Bronco and I finally got my Jeep,” Maddie admits. “I love trucks, but I gravitate towards Jeep more. We honestly weren’t looking for anything. But our friend found the Jeep Cherokee Chief for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and I was in love after seeing it.” For Maddie, the build could have gone one of two ways: either an off-road, “badass” monster or a beach rig. “The two themes obviously don’t go together, and I chose the beach rig because it’s something you don’t see every day.”
Once she chose the beach theme, she wanted to incorporate an aqua and copper color scheme, but Dalton wasn’t convinced it would look good. According to Maddie, they went to SEMA and saw another build with copper accents, which helped Dalton finally visualize the hue combo. With the color scheme and theme in place, it was time to get to work on Maddie’s dream ride.
Since she loved the ruggedness of a Jeep and the droptop factor of the Bronco, they decided to cut off the top to get the best of both worlds. To add to the beach theme, Maddie also wanted to incorporate some tropical vibes to the Chief, which can be seen via palm tree leaves on various places on the Jeep, including the interior and frame.
“Something significant to our bigger builds is a full custom-cut frame,” Dalton explains. “My fiancée had to design her tropical leaf frame three times for it to be perfect in every aspect, structurally and design-wise. We both had the idea of putting LEDs in the frame and trusses to really showcase the detailed work.” Dalton’s a diesel guy at heart, but Maddie felt an LS motor would fit the build better and went with that. She also chose the custom seat belts from Seatbelt Planet and all the accent colors. “I had the idea for the sound system and iPad dash, so we could hear the music over that loud motor.”
Usually, Dalton is known for favoring patina when it comes to his builds’ exterior, but Maddie wanted to go with actual paint. “Maddie pushed me out of my comfort zone with this one,” he laughs. As their first build with actual paint, finding someone to do the bodywork and paint was a time-consuming task that paid dividends in the end.
But taking a classic Jeep and truly customizing it does come with its share of haters. “At the end of the day, I build it for Maddie, so as long as she’s happy that’s all that matters. At the very least, the Jeep was saved and not rotting away to never be seen again.” Despite building a project with so much sentiment, the couple plans to sell “The Wiki” and move on to the next project as a duo and create other epic builds.
While the project was a fun undertaking for both of them, it wasn’t without its challenges. Since they started building it at the beginning of the pandemic last year with Dudes Fab Shop, a lot of the parts were either delayed or postponed. After it was all said and done, they named it “The Wiki” and unveiled it at the Daytona Truck Meet where they also got engaged and took home their first “Best In Show” award.
1979 JEEP CHEROKEE CHIEF “WIKI”
• 26×16 Hostile Forged Savage wheels
• 40×15.50×26 Fury tires
• Custom one-off coilover kit
• Full CNC frame
• Super Duty axles
• Fox Shocks
• SCS drop box
• Red Head steering box
• Cam, pushrods, lifters
• Holley Terminator kit
• 4L8DE transmission built by Perfect Converter
• 12.6” drop SCS transfer case
• Custom paint and body work done by Words Rod & Customs
• Custom roll cage and tube gate
• Custom chop top roof
• 16 CF LED rock lights
• 3M LED strips in axles and frame
• Custom western orange leather seats and panels by Kings Design
• Custom tropical seatbelts by Seat Belt Plant
• Wet Sounds amps
• iPad Dash
• 4 Wet Sounds speakers / 2 tower speakers