So I finally decided to start my own build thread. I have been hesitating for some time as, well....it is going to be a slow build as finances aren't at the all time highest. But, I think it provides a good source of research for other Jeepers wanting to modify their vehicles.
So before I start adding anything, a little background:
I've always loved Jeeps. As a kid I remember riding around in my dad's old CJ7 - we went everywhere. It was slightly modified but not much. I remember days in the winter, we lived in a log cabin (no joke - we were POOR!). When the power went out Dad would load up the Jeep with some gear including a chain saw. We would make the 3 hour trek into town clearing the roads from disastrous trees just so we could get some fresh food and have a nice warm place to sit for a while. After my recent divorce I decided I need to get rid of my economy car and find something a little more "me."
What I have:
I found a 06 TJ Golden Eagle edition 4.0L at some small little no-name dealer about 2.5 hours north of me. Really nice place. The owner was awesome. The salesman I dealt with does tons of community service, as does the other employees. I didn't realize just how far north it was until I got there. After finding out it was a one owner vehicle from Cali. sold at an auto auction, I denied the trade and went home to research the VIN. Looking at it at the dealer it was pretty clean. No damage, no mods, no rust. It wasn't even taken off road....ever. I have no idea who the first owner was but they took very good care of it. The salesman didn't pressure me at all, in fact he was quite sad to see me go but understood. The VIN pulled up with a clean title. I decided if the Jeep was still there the following week it was meant to be and I would go for it. Sure enough it was. We made a 1:1 trade. It was a bit hard to swallow since my car was only 1 year old and in pristine condition. But it wasn't about the money, it was about the lifestyle, and what that Jeep meant to me. Driving home I felt the best I had in a long time. I gave her the name "Freedom" as you can imagine why. The next few weeks I drove her all I could. Everything about my TJ is awesome, even the annoying bits.
What I want to do:
Although I have a company vehicle and rarely drive my personal rig during the week, I still consider it my DD simply because it is my only vehicle. So I don't want to get too crazy with mods. Also, because it is a rare bird indeed! I haven't seen ANY other G.E. editions in my state, and when researching them online, I have found very few. I am not entirely sure why. I know a lot of people think they're goofy and dumb, but I love it. But I do want it to handle just about anything I can throw at it. And here in WA, we have some pretty crazy trails. It will mostly be a camping and out-door adventure vehicle, with the occasional monthly off-roading and maybe a few excursions.
With that said, the plan:
MAYBE 1" BL
Tummy tuck (if possible)
Dana 44 front and rear locking diff (already have the 44 in the rear as it is standard for the G.E. but I will make it a locking diff)
Disc brake conversion for rear (with larger discs up front)
4:10 gearing (depending on tire size)
Rear bumper with tire carrier and Jerry can mounts
Front bumper with winch
Tuffy security storage
Off road lights
Top rack (for carrying kayak)
GPS unit (likely stock RB1)
Re-paint exterior flat green and reapply factory G.E. decals on side and hood
lineX/rhino line interior
re-paint dash to factory color (it faded in the California sun)
re-paint factory hard top (flat black in and out)
extend diff, transfer case, tranny breathers for deeper water fording
fabricate a hidden snorkel to intake for blower motor
fabricate an off road trailer (details to come)
emergency lighting (joining SAR)
other misc. add-ons
And that is about it!
Feel free to add your comments/suggestions! I always appreciate advise from others. Plus, it may help out other Jeepers with ideas of their own!
Ok, so the run this weekend with Wheelin' with Warriors went well. I wanted to see what she is capable of before I did any modifications. Needless to say she handled much more than I had anticipated. Though I got stuck (while trying to follow 6'' lifted JK's on 37's) a few times, I was able to self-recover without anybodys' help. My Cooper Discoverer S/T's held traction decently well (though I was unable to air down); however, they were quite stiff! The stock suspension is very tight and didn't give much at all...so my back was quite sore that evening. The trails we rode were "easy" compared to the majority of trails in WA, so it is obvious the first order of business is clearance. Especially since I busted off a piece of aluminum from the trans (nothing important) from lack of clearance while going over a stump.
So even though I have bumpers, racks, and a bunch of stuff on order....the first mod I will be embarking on (and the toughest) is a SL/BL/TT. Reason being - duh - clearance. My setup will be in preparation for 35's in some future, but for now I will only go up to Cooper ST MAX 33's. I pick Cooper as I love the way my Discoverer S/T's run, they have super thick side walls, and.....they're made in the USA!
SL - I will be researching what parts I need and from whom for a good solid 4 inches. I'm not going to go crazy with prices, but I'm surely not going to get the cheapest parts either.
BL - between 1 and 1.25 inches. I don't want to go over 1.25 as it will cause excess strain on the body mounts - and re-welding the frame is something I don't want to get into just yet.
TT - looking for around 2 inches of extra clearance. I think that's about the best I'd get with a 1.25" BL. I'd love to go completely flat, but I think this is unrealistic.
Ok, picture time!
The first one is the first pic I took of my G.E - about 2 weeks after my purchase.
The second one is out on the trails.
Third pic - self explanatory
Fourth - yep, that's me under the passenger side looking at what damage I had from that stump! The moment I realized $$$ is in order!!!
Life is Good
After looking around, I have decided to make a change of plans:
First I will be doing a BL as it is easiest and cheapest. I am only going to lift it 1" as I don't want a headache yet. Hopefully that will give me the ability to have a flat TT. Then I will be adding a SL and TT/MML (including a SYE which I need to research more).
For the SL, I am still unsure of how high I wish to go. Between 2 and 4 inches. I know 4 inches will give me greater clearance, but at the cost of DD ability and comfort. The 2 inchers also cost less, and allow me to keep the stock control arms (which I am starting to hear are preferred if possible - for what exact reason I am unsure). That said, I know the 4 incher will allow for more articulation and the ability to upgrade to 35's later if I so wish.
After that is complete, I will have a shop custom fabricate under armor (as I don't have the tools to fabricate it myself).
While I am working on all this I will be also trying to get my hands on 12 (yes 12) stock Golden Eagle edition Ravine rims. The reason for 12 is one of my current rims is damaged (thanks to a rice burner with low profile rims and an Asian driver! ). I wish to have 2 complete sets. One for summer (Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX) and one for winter (undecided on the tire yet). And as stated in my first post, I will eventually create a custom off-road trailer which will require 3 tires total (2 rolling and one spare). Thus (3X2)+5+1=12. I really want to jump on this is quick as possible as I am finding these rims are becoming increasingly difficult to find and exponentially expensive!!!
After all this is completed and I am thoroughly broke, I will begin preparing some of the accessories I currently have in the garage for mounting by drilling the body as necessary. Promptly after this, I will be getting it painted (estimated cost around 7K). Green is my favorite color, so obviously this is the color I will be heading for, although the specific shade is unknown. It will also be a semi-gloss as I don't want to deal with ugly scratches all over due to branches and bushes. Once it is painted, I can then get my Line-X and begin mounting the parts sitting in my garage!
Life is Good
Well I finally got around to checking out options for paint. First off, I settled on a color of choice.
Jeep Green Metallic (65th ann. color):
I went to a local paint shop, and then a local Line-X shop. Prices and quality of product are comparable between the two. The paint shop near by mixes their own pain in house, and the Line-X place is also capable of spraying a custom color to my liking.
That said, I am still debating between paint and Line-X. Line-X will be good for longevity, but at the cost of "stock" appearance. It also will make it much more difficult to reapply the stock G.E. stickers. Many dislike them, but I disagree... They are part of the history of the Jeep so it is important to me to make sure they stay. One option I am considering is creating a template and having a place "airbrush" the stickers on. But I am concerned of how that will look.
Now to do an actual paint job seems at this point to be easier, and more OEM looking. However; since there is only one true paint shop near me, I am skeptical.... One thing I certainly do not want is to have it repainted, and then for the paint to start flaking or fading in a few years...or worse, get a huge chip in it and have to get it repaired.
Life is Good
Oh, and before I forget. As things always seem to change, my thoughts of post #5 have changed. My first "mod" will be paint. Once I figure out what specifically I will be doing (paint vs. Line-X) I will prep the body as needed (drilling holes where necessary for specific accessories). After I get my G.E. painted, I will begin the process of a SL (curry enterprises 4'). At this point I am now second guessing the BL as it poses more challenging problems for the geometry of the drivetrain.
But again, these plans are subject to change at any given moment.
And as a side note, I am also working on drawing out my plans for a custom off road trailer (as I do not really care for any of the current ideas out there today). I have a few options for people to help with CAD design, so I will update with that as well when it comes.
Life is Good
Do you have any paint shops other than the one within a reasonable distance? Talk to people with muscle cars. They are crazy about paint and many of them would be glad to point you in a direction towards a guy who does quality work. Generally when it comes to paint, cheaper isn't better.
2008 JK Rubicon
-255/80/17 BFG KM2s, 16/59 JKU springs, 2013 Rubi rims, RC stubby hybrid front bumper, XRC8 winch with synthetic line, RR evap skid, and more to come
1959 Willys Wagon
-Going to be restored and painted Plantation White and Presidential Red
"I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth."
Yeah I have been searching for a few months now and only found that one "true" paint shop. But price is the other big deciding factor. The shop I went to quoted me about 5K (depending on how much prep I did myself) for the job. The Line-X place was slightly lower - about 3-4K. It's not strictly a trail rig and will only see mild to medium trails, but still I would hate to spend 5K on a nice paint job only to see it get all scratched up when on excursions. One reason I am seriously considering the Line-X on the exterior; however, I do prefer the looks of an actual paint job. And since Line-X on exterior of vehicles hasn't been around long, I worry about it fading (even with their "premium" coating with UV protection).
I did forget to ask the Line-X shop if there are different levels of texture. If they have a smoother option I would certainly go that route, but I doubt they do. Either way, I won't be able to afford it for a few months likely....so I have time to think about it.
Both places do great work though. I was able to see some vehicles that were currently being worked on and their work is quite good....so no doubts about that.
Life is Good
It has been quite a long time since I have been on here, but now that I am back safe and sound from Afghan-land it is time to do some updates. A few things changed in my build due to some events. Being gone for a year caused me to get anxious about random parts sitting in storage; coupled with attending college again after I came home has caused me to run into time and money constraints. College is great and the VA takes care of it all, but time and cash that could go toward the G.E. is now headed to school.
But! The good news is......I still have a decent amount of parts to put on that have been sitting in storage fore nearly 2 years now. Over the last weekend I decided a great b-day present to myself would be to put some of these awesome parts on. So below is the write-up of that event. Unfortunately the pictures are not that great due to sunlight having left this part of the world. I attempted to take pictures the following days, but we have had some decent amount of weather that prevented them from turning out well.
The parts that were installed were:
Garvin front bumper (with integrated hitch)
Garvin pre-runner front bumper guard
Garvin front bumper license plate adapter (goes in the hitch receiver)
Garvin rear bumper and swing away tire carrier
Garvin rear jerry can mounts for swing away tire carrier
Garvin trail rack for swing away tire carrier
Now, most of these items are no longer available - and in fact when I ordered them I knew they would soon be going away. I ordered them specifically as I really liked the style, function, and quality. After looking around quite a bit, I noticed these bumpers are full steel (heavy yes, but strong of course). They also fit the style I was looking for.
After removing the bumper some drilling needed to be done. This is where I truly realized the quality of this bumper. I was pleasantly surprised to see all the extra supports to go into it for it to be a level III towing hitch (though I would not tow anything over 3K with the G.E.). Nonetheless, it is a quality product. Unfortunately the holes didn’t quite line up right as the brackets welded on to the solid steel bumper were not perfect – but nothing is. So a little reaming out the newly drilled holes and it was a perfect fit! Now before installing the bumper I did some filing and painting. It is important to make sure your newly drilled holes don’t rust and ruin your frame in a few short years. Hint hint for others who have not done that.
After painting it was time to get the new steel on. Wow what a heavy bumper, and no attachments are even on yet – I’ll have to make sure when it’s time to lift that I get some pretty heavy duty springs for keeping in mind future towing needs (suggestions always accepted). A few of those supporting brackets were giving me a hard time and frustration set in, but alas it was on!
Now it was time for the carrier. Beefy for sure, but with this large of a spindle, my worries of overloading the carrier with a tire, full jerry cans, hi-lift jack, axe/shovel, and a small amount of wood on the upper rack have all but faded. The strength of this thing is more than I imagined.
Unfortunately at this point time ran short. Between fading sun, family b-day dinner (with my step-brother who very oddly shares the same birthday as I and is only a year older) picture taking got dropped lower on the priority list, and just getting the job done so I could drive home to go to school the next day was bumped to the top. So…after dinner, and presents, came the installation of the jerry can holders. These were a bolt on, so they only took minor amounts of time. The right can holder is a swing away system so the tire carrier can open plenty wide enough for the rear glass and gate to open. This is a nice feature I totally forgot about (after all…it was 2 years since I ordered the parts). Then, the spare tire goes on after some minor drilling of the adapter. Finally goes the rack, and relocation of the 3rd brake light. To my surprise, there was a bolt on attachment for the 3rd brake light which required only minor cutting of some plastic and drilling of 2 holes in the plastic. The light fixture bolted directly on to the carrier. I only need now to extend the wiring so I don’t have to open the carrier and tail gate at the same time.
PRESENTS!!!! – for those of you who don’t know, this little gadget is pretty much the best backpacking stove one can ask for! And I love it!!!
Now as stated before, time was a priority, and I was dead set on getting both bumpers on – it would look quite odd with just the rear tire carrier on and not matching front steel. So…on went the front bumper and pre-runner guard. This was a super easy install. A total of 6 torx bolts and 2 electrical connections and it was done. Only…I forgot a few adapter parts in my storage, so unfortunately the fog lights won’t be going back on – no worries though as I plan to replace them anyway, hopefully soon.
One important thing to note for the rear bumper: make sure you lightly paint all new nuts/bolts. One would ask why? Rust is why – here in the great PNW we get this thing called rain. Some of you might not know what this crazy thing is, but it is moisture that falls from the sky, and it happens a lot….A LOT. So I found that by painting all my new nuts/bolts, not only does it look factory, but it will protect these areas from rust – notice I said protect, not prevent. But looking back, though not depicted in the photos, this system looks almost entirely stock due to the design of the parts themselves and due to the painted parts. Highly recommended! Now I know many of you are probably saying “what the HE-double-hockey sticks is going on up front, why is Warn not paying you a visit?” Well…several reasons. First, money. Straight up. Second…I don’t have a mounting plate yet, third, I don’t want to deal with wiring just yet and that leads into why.
Life is Good
Contrary to my first post, my build has been adjusted due to more thoughts of the true nature and use of my Jeep. The next project will be installing remaining parts that I currently have. These would be rocker guards and tub guards. My original plan was to paint the Jeep first, then place these items on while saving for more expensive lift parts. But as the painting will not happen as soon as I thought, already purchased parts will go on sooner as they do require drilling and are easy to remove. While doing this, preparations will be made for future projects. I have big plans for this G.E., much of which involves some switches. But before installing these switches I first must acquire the gr8tops safari top – which I have spoken with Matt about as he was considering using me as a test subject for shipping the top – unfortunately due to school it is not something I can afford until after the first of the year. But hopefully that will come soon. So these switches cannot go in until the top is installed as I have been made aware the top has integrated storage which I will use for the switches and for a CB and HF/UHF/VHF radio. Unfortunately (of sorts) this means the center security box I purchased 2 years ago will not be used (thus it will be for sale). So in preparation of this top, I will be pre-wiring to make the process easier. After pre-wiring, the top goes on, the lights go on, and then Warn earns his rightful place. Next we get into the expensive stuff such as the paint. I still plan to paint this the 65th ann color (minus the flakes) and have found a classmate whose dad will do the job. Of course the G.E. side decals will go back on, and I will acquire the massive G.E. hood decal. The top will be painted along with the body. Directly after this, the interior will be rhino lined the factory carpet color, and the roll bar will be rhino lined its factory black color (removing the padding) and the inside of the top will be rhino lined black as well. Once this is completed I can concentrate on reinstalling all exterior parts that I removed for the ‘pretty colors’ to go on. This should allow some-but-not-quite-sufficient time to pass in order to acquire the remaining parts for the project which include: curry 4” lift, 33” Cooper STT’s, D44 front and rear (yes I already have a D44 rear but will be switching it out – thus mine will be for sale) axles (rear axle includes rear disc brakes) with ARB lockers and chromoly shafts, re-geared to 4:56, SYE, new front and rear drive shafts, upgraded clutch, ARB dual compressor, rerouting air vent lines, currie trac bar’s, and a full length skid (no TT).
This should complete my G.E. – until, of course, I finish my custom off-road camper trailer design and find a suitable builder. How long this will all take is unknown, but I hope to have it completed before college is over.
Life is Good
Yesterday I installed new headlights. Over the last few weeks I realized my existing stock lights weren't cutting it, and with the coming winter, I wanted to see the road better without spending a ton of money. I settled with stock replacements that KC offers. I haven't yet been able to test them out, but just by their appearance it seems they will work much better. In the coming days, replacement fog lights will go on. I also installed guards, and a black bezel I previously had in storage. After working along forest service roads the past week, I felt this necessary due to road conditions. I also painted the chrome colored retaining ring to make it all look consistent, and remove the unneeded chrome look to the Jeep.
Life is Good
Update: I finally got to use the new headlights a few weeks ago. They are much brighter than stock lights, but have an odd beam pattern. The first 20 or so feet of the rig are lit up super bright! The light then slowly but continuously fades out to a hundred feet or so. Then comes some sort of spot beam pattern. Yep...a few hundred feet out you suddenly see bright spots again. I'm not sure what this is really about as I've never seen headlights like this before, and it is somewhat odd...but I like it. It allows for better visibility in areas where using the off-road 100/130W lights are not responsible. But, I do feel bad for oncoming traffic as these stock replacements (H4 bulbs) likely are blinding.
A few days after installing the new factory replacement headlights, I also installed KC factory replacement fog lights as my originals were cracked. The new fogs have a plastic housing that seems pretty cheesy, but looks plenty strong enough for the need of the part (assuming you don't go beating on it with a baseball bat). I painted the front stone guard housing to get rid of the bright white KC lettering and help deter theft/damage. These fogs work well, but seem dimmer than the factory parts. Thinking back, I probably would have just gotten factory parts if these were not cheaper. Also, due to the bright head lights, the fogs are almost not even needed. The replacement head lights are so bright up front for the first 20 or so feet, fogs are not even really needed anymore. So I pointed them slightly to the sides to help light up roads (and ditches) while going around corners, but they are not angled so much that they should cause harm for oncoming traffic.
Conclusion - though these are a good set of lights, in the future when money begins to flow again, I will opt for LED options. After sketching a wiring diagram for how I want to set up my off road lights (flood X4 at 100W each (one set for the front, one for the rear), driving pattern X2 at 100W each, and spot pattern X2 at 130W each) I realized I can be running upwards of 65A with just the off road lights (facing forward). This is a heck of a lot of power, even for a 200A alternator (which will go on once I upgrade my wiring to dual batteries and use 1/0 GA wiring). Thus, the realization of the desire for LED's quickly hit me. Sadly, I have not yet seen many LED lights that offer what I desire, and that would not cost nearly 2K for an entire set-up.
Up next...roof rack install and off road lights plus bussman electrical box(es) - hopefully...see 'roof rack woes' for details.
Life is Good