This is the transformation of my 2001 Jeep TJ SE. This thread will step through the purchase of the Jeep, and the minor and major steps taken from there out.
I will highlight the specifics of my build plans along the way, but the basic theme is one very common these days.....LCG TJ.
My wife and I purchased the Jeep in April 2010. It had about 87k miles, 4cyl, 5spd, and no A/C and was in overall great condition.
One of the previous owners installed a 4" Rough Country Series II lift, 35" Pro Comp MTs, and black steel wheels. The Jeep was otherwise in stock condition........oh, other than about 10lbs of stickers and rags for a soft top.
This was me leaving the lot about to start a 200 mile trip back home.
As soon as I got it home, I started working on removing the decals.
If you haven't already seen in the pictures above, the soft top is worthless and only hanging on by a couple zipties. As soon as the decals were gone, the rags came off.
With the top off and the decals gone, there is now room for pride to come through, and real work can begin.
The TJ has no A/C from the factory, and while it will be installed at some point (hopefully before next summer), it gets plenty hot so the top would stay down most of the time. I did however need a top for rainy days and just for practical reasons.
I knew I wanted a Bestop or an OEM top, but I could not find an OEM at the time I was purchasing so I turned to an aftermarket top. I made the decision to save a few dollars on the top, justifying it by the fact that it would not be used any more than necessary.
I bought a Pavement Ends top. It is the value line of Bestop.
I knew the canvas was thin compared to an OEM or Bestop top, and I knew the window plastic was also thin. I was ok with this for the very low price of the top.
I was however not ok with the fit of the top. The worst part is that the plastic clips that slip into the door surrounds are only about a half an inch long/deep and slip out of the door surround as soon as you begin driving. Other issues were the rear window being too long and uneven at that. The very front part at the windshield is saggy.
The bottom line is that I paid for a value line top, and I got that, but to me that means thin material....it doesn't mean it should not fit correctly. I did not return the top because it was a few weeks after I got it that I even used it and I felt that I missed my opportunity to return it. Houston, Texas starts getting hot in January, and even with the sun, it is still better not to have the top on at all.
The important thing is that I have a top and it keeps the rain out of my Jeep. I do hope to get a hard top at some point in the not too distant future. I am fortunate that my TJ is already factory wired for a hardtop.
With the tires being 35" and the spare being 31"....I yanked it. It was an almost brand new BFG AT on a Cragar wheel.
The 35s were in sad shape tread-wise, and I knew a change would happen soon so not having a spare was not a concern.
At the same time, I turned to modifying my stock front bumper. It will be a while before I get the aftermarket bumper that I want, so 'chopping' mine was a good solution for a little edge.
Some quick measurements and the grinder with cutoff wheel made quick work of it.
The fender flares were terribly faded, as what tends to happen. I pulled them and prepped them for paint. I used Krylon Fusion 'satin black'. I have used this paint on both of my previous TJs and the results have always been great. I think 'flat black' would also be a great option.
While the Fusion painting was in progress, I painted the headlight rings too.
It really is starting to look like a different Jeep. The simple cosmetic things are silly to some, but make all the difference in reality.
At some point along these lines, I swapped in a Pioneer radio that I have had for about 8 years. It has been in a few vehicles of mine and worked great. I also swapped in some Kicker KS5250's 5.25" speakers in the dash that I had in a previous TJ. I used some adapter brackets made by www.mjmautoinnovations.com. These are something you can certainly make yourself, but for $13.99...it wasn't worth my time to make them.
The soundbar has some previous owner installed Pioneer 6.5" 3-ways, which get the job done, but will soon be replaced by another set of Kicker KS5250's which are far superior.
I mounted my brackets in the garage to hang my full doors. I used these for my first TJ and they work very well with the weight of the doors. It's really nice just to be able to store the doors off of the garage floor.
I had a Cobra CB radio and Firestick II antenna sitting in the garage from my first TJ, so I decided to install those. I had a radio mount from JeepinOutfitters that I had never used from my second TJ, so I went ahead and installed it all. It honestly is not an ideal location to keep prying hands away, but from a function and use standpoint, it is perfect. I made a quick disconnect wiring harness for it so I can easily install and remove it when I don't need it.
I picked up a horizontal antenna mount from a truck stop and used the upper half of it. I bolted it to the rear bumper using one of the factory jug screws and another self tapping screw. If it turns out to be a weak mounting setup, I will reconfigure it.
The coax is run under the Jeep along the driver's side frame rail and up into the engine bay and then into the cab through a factory grommet.
We are at the point now where the major transformations are about to begin.
I do some Jeep work 'on the side' where I install lift kits, bumpers, lights, winches, stereos, etc. Nothing crazy....no custom fab stuff, just bolt-on work.
I did a lift kit install for a guy and because he did not have time to sell off the stock suspension parts or brand new tires his 2006 LJ had, he gave them to me.
Because my 35s were in such bad shape, I put the near brand new 30" Goodyear Silent Armor tires on stock Ravines on my TJ.
My reasoning was a couple-fold....I did not feel comfortable running 35s with the stock d35 rear so I did not plan to buy another set of 35s with the current setup, and the suspension was very rough due to worn out and very stiff shocks.
I decided with the 30" tires and the stock suspension now in hand, I would remove the 4" kit from mine and bring the Jeep back down to stock. There is just no point in running 30" tires with 4" of lift; especially if you plan to remove the lift in favor of another setup anyway.
I started with the rear. The PO had installed (or had someone else install) a dropped pitman arm, so I had to order and wait for a stock pitman arm to come in.
The rear track bar bracket was welded on instead of being bolted, so that had to be cut off.
Otherwise, it was a pretty smooth uninstall and install of the stock suspension. The rear shocks had barpin eliminators installed.
My TJ did not have factory tow hooks, so I picked some up at 4Wheel Parts for $4.99 each. I bought the longer grade 8 bolts and lock washers from ACE to install them. I am still in need of a rear recovery point.
Last Friday the stock pitman arm came in. I was able to finish the transformation on Sunday by uninstalling the front lift and installing the stock parts.
Not only did the Jeep have an unnecessary dropped pitman arm installed, but it had a track bar lowering bracket installed. Like the rear bracket, it was also welded in place. More grinder fun .
(In case you are wondering, the bracket is made by Tuff Country and I have absolutely no idea what its purpose is)
The lower control arms from the kit can be fairly rigid. They happened to rip the front passenger side lower control arm mount from the axle. The PO had a plate welded on in addition to having the bracket re-welded to the axle.
When it was all said and done, I had removed track bar brackets front and rear, swapped a dropped PA for a stock PA, swapped back to stock lower control arms, swapped in stock LJ coil springs, swapped in stock LJ shocks, and swapped in stock sway bar links front and rear.
This gets me to how the Jeep sits today.
As unfortunate as it is to be soooooo low and stock, it really is a good feeling basically now starting from a stock standpoint. Every modification from here out is all me. There is a good feeling there.
The good side is that it rides 10x better than it did with the lift.
*edit - oh yeah, the face plate from my 8 year old CD player was stollen a couple weeks ago. I had to put the junk Panasonic radio that was in there when I bought the Jeep back in there for the time being.
The modifications planned for the Jeep, like for most people, won't happen over night. I have however planned the entire build in 4 stages. Of course each stage of build can take any amount of time, so it's really just my way of explaining and rationalizing the build-up of my Jeep to my wife.
My first stage consists of creature comforts and 'glam' items. Unnecessary to some, but important to me for an overall comfortable, functional, and complete Jeep.
I have and will soon be installing a JKS 1.25" body lift and a 1" Rough Country motor mount lift. I like the JKS BL because of the way the pucks 'hug' or wrap around the factory body mount bushings. It makes for a very clean look. I have installed a couple of the JKS and Rough Country BMMLs and they are almost identical. I prefer the RC because the new stud has a flat spot on each side of it to allow you to use a wrench to tighten it on the motor mount; the JKS does not have this and is smooth all the way around.
Some items planned for this round include:
new radio - Alpine CDA-117
new soundbar speakers - Kicker KS5250 5.25"
new sub - JL W0v2
IPF headlight housings with DDM Tuning HIDs
IPF aux lights for the windshield and bumper - 968s
seat covers - possibly Smittybilt...the right side of my driver's seat is torn pretty good
Tuffy center console - as I have nothing now
Tuffy glove box - as I just need more secure storage
Cragar Soft 8s
spray-in bedliner - Monstaliner - I will spray myself
I have a few skid plates on the list as well....
steering box - Rokmen
radiator - Skid Row
gas tank - Rokmen
They are important but some of the less expensive skids to start with.
The second stage gets into bumpers, armor, and recovery.
rear bumper/tire carrier - Jeeperman
front bumper - Rokmen Mercenary GT
sliders/rockers - Rokmen Mercenary
corner armor - Rokmen Strykers
front fenders - TnT Customs hiline tube fenders with flare
roll cage - KOZ Offroad full cage
winch - Warn 9.5ti
I am focusing on a low center of gravity. The hilines will make room for eventual 37" tires.
I know most people jump right into a lift, but I don't expect to be able to begin building stronger axles for larger tires for a while...which means I won't go up too big in tire size in the meantime...which means I don't really need to worry about a lift at this stage of the build. To me, it makes more sense to focus on armor and protection....the suspension comes next.
The third stage brings on the suspension. Nothing is set in stone, so this may happen sooner than later, but to do some of this, it requires the rest of it, so it is kind of an all or nothing deal.
As of now, I have decided on AEV 3" coils front and rear. With the 1.25" body lift, the 3" coils, and the hiline fenders, I will have plenty of room to comfortably run a 37" tire.
I will pair the coils with Bilstein 5100 series shocks.
I plan on Rokmen adjustable control arms all around. I can only imagine I will go with the arms with the JJ on one end and the rubber bushing on the other.
I like the Currie front trackbar that makes room for a larger diff cover and I plan on a rear JKS track bar.
The front will also have the Currie HD steering and anti-rock. The rear will have some JKS adjustable sway bar links.
The next step will be a JB Conversions HD super short SYE and CV ds from someone.
Between the SYE/CV ds, BL and MML, and the adj. CAs, I will be ready for a Undercover Fab high clearance belly-up skid plate.
From here, I'm pretty much now just waiting on a set of built axles so I can start running some 37s.
It's hard to say exactly which direction I will go, but I am thinking of one of these combos: TJ d44 front/d44 rear; TJ d44 front/Ford 8.8 rear; JK d44 front and rear.
Regardless of the setup I choose, they will be built with gears, ARB lockers, and upgraded shafts.
The performance/lift stuff would be great, but I can't see the need right now. These 30s only have about 2000 miles on them and when they wear out, I will probably only step up to a 31" tire. I don't need 4" of lift with 30"-31" tires, so I figure I might as well hit the protection stuff first.