Black & White: Installing The Fab Fours Grumper & ViCowl

Fab Fours has generated equal amounts of praise and controversy. Thriving on both, the company’s trademark is to give customers the ultimate makeover on their vehicle, and its two signature products – the grille-bumper Grumper and visor-cowl ViCowl – take any rig’s front appearance and completely revamp it.

We recently took shipment of Grumpers and ViCowls to give new faces to a 2017 Ram 2500 (Grumper PN: GR2900-1; ViCowl PN: VC2900-1) and a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (Grumper PN: GR1000-1; ViCowl PN: JK3020-1), as well as some head-turning notoriety in the sleepy suburbs of Southern California.

Grumpers and Vicowls equipped, this diesel Ram and gas Jeep are peas in a pod!

So join us as we explore the other side of 4×4 modification – making adjustments to looks as opposed to utility. By the end, you’ll be wondering when you can set aside some dough to get these units for your own rig!

Going Over The Grumper And ViCowl

Nestled in Lancaster, South Carolina, Fab Fours has been around since 2005. It was started as a passion project by now owner and CEO Greg Higgs along with a friend, and has since grown to global proportions.

The genesis of the Grumper was Higgs’ interest in making some out of the ordinary to set his business apart. “I have always had a combination of a wild imagination linked with disregard for others’ opinions. Those are key ingredients to conceive and later take something like the Grumper to market.”

The Grumper is a cosmetic part that combines a grille and bumper into one fantastic piece; hence, the name.

To hear Higgs describe it, the Grumper was rooted in the man’s artistic side. “I have been interested in art my entire life, and have been drawing as long as I can remember. One day it just hit me that when sketching products, the ‘canvas’ could grow if I took over the grille area, along with the bumper space. Knowing there was already a strong market for custom grilles, it was an easy jump from there. The combination of two into one would have better utility and color customizing options, and we never looked back after that.”

Inspiration struck Higgs once more when he devised the ViCowl. “It was after the Grumper, but shared a similar origin – more ‘canvas,'” he said. “It was a question – what other elements of the vehicle could we make ‘custom’? I noticed that the cab had never really been messed with. Chop-top JKs were a thing, and I loved the low roofline look, but they were crazy expensive to pull off, took a long time to do, and had poor interior fit and finish.”

The solution was to find a way around the problem with a different approach. “The ViCowl was the perfect answer,” said Higgs. “It takes advantage of otherwise unused real estate on the vehicle, while giving it a chopped look with attitude, and not affecting the structure or finish.”

If you have imagination and don’t take yourself too seriously, you will be rewarded with an awesome toy that makes people smile everywhere you go. – Greg Higgs, Fab Fours CEO

Material-wise, the Grumper and ViCowl have a similar make-up. Both use 11-gauge, U.S.-made steel as their primary material, with the Grumper using 3/16-inch plate steel for the lower winch mount and side wings.

What’s more, both can be given a two-stage black matte powder coat done in-house by Fab Fours, or else sent bare metal to the customer to be done up the way they like. In our case, the truck owner, Ben Faler, paid to have his powder coated white to match his truck, while the Jeep owner, Shiree Magana, was happy to have hers black to match her Wrangler.

The ViCowl (visor + cowl) came after the Grumper and was another way for customers to customize their rigs.

“While we do offer the matte black powder coat, we leave further customizing of parts up to the customer,” explained Fab Fours’ Jason Bukolt. “There are 13 parts on the Grumper that can be painted or wrapped any way one chooses. Similarly, our ViCowl has the light insert that can be paint-matched or powder coated to the customer’s liking.”

Installing The Grumpers

For the sake of ease in reading along, we will arrange the installations per each part on each vehicle. Let’s start by examining the Grumpers on the truck (PN GR2900-1) and Jeep (PN GR1000-1), starting with the Ram 2500.

The Ram’s front end – grille, connectors, intercooler, tow hooks, etc. – was removed and along with it, the parking sensors and OEM electrical harness. The winch tray, which serves as the lower portion, was mocked up on the truck and held in place with a floor jack as we threaded bolts through the frame horns.

All of the parts and pieces were installed onto the Grumper center section.

Next, the assembly of the grille began. We installed the mesh inserts into their proper places using flat washers, lock washers, and nuts to secure them to the Grumper. The parking sensors were also pushed into place on the Grumper, but we left them dangling without the epoxy, as that would come later.

The Grumper then went onto the truck and was bolted down. The Grumper was nearly finished at this point, with the only things left being the wings. The wings bolted onto either side with four bolts, securing them to the center section and winch tray. Wing stiffeners were added for extra security as well. Finally, the parking sensors were re-installed onto the vehicle with epoxy, and that wrapped up the Grumper.

On goes the Grumper, getting bolted onto the Ram. The finishing touch was installing the wings onto either side to give it the full Grumper effect.

Off comes the Jeep's bumper. And once the dart clips and turn signal bulbs are out of the way, so follows the grille.

Over on the JK, things were a little different. Where the truck had its factory bumper and electronics removed, our Jeep had an aftermarket one that came off in a jiffy, and with no pesky parking sensors to mess with. After taking off the bumper, we popped out the dart clips that held in the grille, as well as the turn signal bulbs. A tug on the grille popped the clips free at the bottom of the grille, removing it from the Jeep.

Just like the truck Grumper, the JK Grumper had to be pre-assembled as well. The grille section went in, as well as the headlight inserts.

The grille section was assembled together and then installed onto the Jeep.

Little holes on either side of the Grumper were the new locations for the turn signal bulbs. They were not as big in diameter as the OEM versions, but their LED brightness would more than compensate. With some finesse and butt connectors, we wired the bulbs and set them into the Grumper. We chose to use the included capacitors, as they would help the LEDs work better with an OEM signal to previously halogen bulbs.

The turn signal lights were wired up with capacitors and then installed into the Grumper.

After that, we installed the Fab Fours crash bar cover (PN GR1005-1) that comes optionally with the Grumper. We used the new, longer bolts that came with the cover, and simply used the same eight holes that the Grumper used to attach to the Jeep. We thought the crash bar cover looked good and meshed well with the Grumper.

The crash bar cover installed on the Grumper's lower front using the same eight bolt holes as the Grumper.

Installing the ViCowls

Putting in the truck's ViCowl meant getting a few things out of the way – the windshield wiper blades, cowl, and hood hinges, to name a few. Note the taped portion of the fender and factory hinge; we would use this later for realigning the hood when all was said and done.

Now, onto the ViCowls for the Ram 2500 (PN VC2900-1) and Wrangler (PN JK3020-1), starting with the truck. We began by removing the hood from its hinges and air struts. Next, the windshield wiper blades were removed, and the clips that held in the factory cowl were popped out. The fender liners were removed as well, as this would make the Fab Fours hood hinge installation easier later on.

At this point, the factory cowl came out. The new ViCowl hood hinge bracket went into the factory location, which made an easy swap of hinges. Next, the OEM hinge was installed onto the bracket on either side of the truck. We waited until this point to do the cowl trimming, as we wanted to make sure we didn’t over-cut the cowl.

The new hood hinges would not work unless the factory cowl was cut to a new shape. Using the diagram from the instructions, we made our lines and trimmed the plastic using a cutoff wheel.

With a permanent marker, we made the marks on the cowl in accordance with the directions. The areas we were cutting off would inhibit the movement of the new hood hinges, so they had to go. We used a cutoff wheel and trimmed the plastic to its proper specification.

The cowl went back into the truck for a mock-up, and we found it to be perfectly cut. We then deburred the plastic and reinstalled it with the factory clips.

The hood is installed back onto the truck with the factory hinges (now relocated, thanks to Fab Fours’ supplied brackets) in place.

Now, we could start the pre-assembly of the ViCowl proper. On the upper portion (where the Rigid Industries pod lights would go), we installed a provided set of pillar rubber bumpers that would rest against the pillar. These essentially prevented the ViCowl from scratching the paint on the pillar.

Next, we took the provided neoprene rubber strips and began applying them to the ViCowl’s pillar arms. The strips went on the inside to prevent rubbing metal on metal. Over on the lower valance portion of the ViCowl, weatherstripping was applied on the leading edge. This would prevent whistling and enhance comfort.

Rubber bumpers and weather stripping were installed onto the ViCowl.

The ViCowl started to take shape now as we installed the pillar arms with the upper light mount. The light mount, which we assembled and wired as the rest of the install was proceeding, was placed onto the ViCowl and bolted in loosely, as we did not want to hoist this heavy piece onto the truck, only to find it wasn’t lining up correctly.

Once we were satisfied that the ViCowl wouldn’t move, we opened the hood and grabbed the ViCowl’s lower portion. The lower portion bolted up to the hinge assembly and showed no signs of constricted movement. The hood was able to open and close without issue after we lined it up with our taped realignment marks from the beginning of our install.

The ViCowl was raised up and onto the truck and installed. The switch for the lights was installed as well, giving the owner full control of his pod lights.

The factory cowl comes out of the Jeep to make way for the ViCowl.

On the Wrangler, things kicked off by removing the windshield brackets and cowl. A few bolts holding in the fender rounds were removed, and then the fender rounds were bent backward to expose spot welds that needed to be drilled out. Once this was done, we removed the fender rounds and the leaf guard in the middle of the cowl. We also removed the wiper blades at this time.

Next, we tackled the pre-assembly of the Jeep’s ViCowl. We used the visor trim, as the Jeep owner did not have lights at the time to install. With a few button-head cap screws, the trim went in. Over on the Jeep, the ViCowl windshield and under-hood brackets were installed using the factory hardware, but were kept loose so we could true everything up in the later stages.

With the brackets on the Jeep installed, the ViCowl was slowly put in place onto the Jeep. Interestingly, the Jeep ViCowl came as one piece (plus the trim), where the truck ViCowl was assembled piece-by-piece before going on.

We threaded on button-cap screws to the ViCowl pillars and under-hood brackets, and then went around the Jeep to tighten everything up after ensuring the positioning was on point. Finally, we reinstalled the wiper blades, and our ViCowl was complete.

The ViCowl is wrapped up on the Jeep.

Out On The Town And In The Dirt

Now that our installs were done, it was time to get these rigs out and about. We cruised around the local area and found everyone doing double takes!

Without a doubt, the Grumper-ViCowl combo was a two-card hand that might as well have been aces high compared to other 4x4s. The pure-white appearance of the truck together with the pitch-black look of the Jeep made for a head-turning, yin-and-yang duo on the streets.

The change from stock to ready-to-rock was readily apparent once the Grumpers and ViCowls were installed. These rigs have that look that lets people know not to mess around!

But these are 4x4s after all, so now it was time to find some dirt and get a little messy. We found a great spot and proceeded to let loose!

Both the truck and Jeep had a set of off-road tires that could handle whatever we threw at them, so we didn’t hold back. Some washboards and flat sections made for fun bumps and smooth sailing as we put the hammer down.

Each of the owners had great things to say about their Fab Fours makeover. Shiree Magana, the Wrangler owner, said, “I had no idea it was going to look this awesome! I love the look of these parts on my Jeep, how mean and aggressive they look together. Plus, I like that I have the option to put lights in my ViCowl. I’m thinking of putting KC lights up there.”

Ben Faler, the Ram owner, was ecstatic as well. “The look was what hooked me before I saw these parts in person,” he said. “It’s customized my truck the way no other parts could. The honeycomb design on the Grumper, the extra bonus of the ViCowl, they’re a win-win. I’ve been stopped several times by people wanting to know where I got the Grumper and ViCowl – they’re a total neck-twister!”

After getting these vehicles together and witnessing the incredible combo they made, it’s easy to see how Fab Fours made its mark on the off-road and truck world. We recommend you check out Fab Fours for more information on the Grumper, ViCowl, and other rockin’ upgrades for your rig. Visit the company’s website and Facebook page today to see it all!

Special thanks to MaxTrac Suspension for the Wrangler install

Article Sources

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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