John Hunter is no ordinary metal fabricator. Based in Tempe, Arizona, Hunter Offroad creates custom one-off Jeep (or any OHV) accessories for back road adventurers of several varieties – from enthusiasts who want a full tube chassis for a buggy project to weekend warrior types who just want a custom tire carrier bumper or roof rack with some light tabs.
That’s typical of a custom fabricator. But hiring John for your custom metalwork is more like commissioning an artist; he’s renowned for taking your desire and shaping it, bending it, and welding it into the real thing just for you – and he’s not satisfied until you are. What’s not so ordinary is he’s managed to develop a dedicated customer base who make an annual pilgrimage to his parking lot
toting grills, coolers, food, and cameras – once a year for the last 12 years.
Hunter also volunteers with Maricopa County’s Sheriff’s Office, and taking it another level, John used his blacksmith skills to create his own custom Sheriff buggy built on a Chevy chassis that sits proud on 37” tires and gives bad guys (give or take) a hell of a scare. Between a cool fab shop in Tempe, a volunteer slot on the Sheriff’s Posse, and a wicked vehicle to match, you might think he’s got ambition to be a real life Bruce Wayne. Here’s what he has to say about it all.
JPFreek: What was the pivotal event in your life that thrust you into the customfabrication business?
Hunter: College. I was majoring in psychology at Northern Arizona University with the intent to go into law enforcement. At 22 years old I burned out before I could finish. I had my FJ62 Land Cruiser, and a crazy idea, “Hey, I’ll go get a welder, a tube bender, and a pair of gloves and starting making stuff for dudes who want bumpers and stuff.” My parents weren’t crazy about it at all at first, but after the first year of working every day, they knew I was serious.
JPFreek: What’s one of the most rewarding projects you’ve worked on?
Hunter: Kind of funny, but did you know there are right hand drive conversion kits for vehicles? This lady, a rural postal carrier, came to my shop years ago because she couldn’t get any other shop to install it for her. She delivers mail out on rural routes and it’s kind of a pain to do it from the left side of the truck. She gets my number from a few shops who didn’t want to touch the job. I research the product; it turns out to be totally stout and well-built. I talked to the owner of that company for an hour and decided I’d do the job. Sure enough, I spent a full day installing the kit, but I’d only quoted her 6 hours. But when she showed up to pick up her truck, her reaction was like I’d changed her life, tears and all. So that felt pretty good.
JPFreek: How about your least favorite project?
Hunter: (laughs) Back when I first started, I really didn’t know shit. I remember quoting jobs for something like 4 hours, and then it’d take me a day and a half. I was learning though, and I’ve come a long way. But I believe the best lessons are learned the hard way.
After doing this for over 10 years I can usually tell what a project will entail. But every now and then, odd things will come up that take me more time than I anticipated: super rusty bolts on a guy’s old rig that I’ve got to deal with, or whatever. With those things, I just pick up the phone and give the guy a call. “Hey, I didn’t see these nasty bolts down here until now so it may be another few hours.” They’re always cool with it if you’re up front and honest.