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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Edit: A more in depth forum has been transferred to this link: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/...a-poptop-camper-build-the-jeepagon-v2.198456/

For original Jeep forum Thread:

Hey guys,

This will be my first build thread on the forum, and will be an ongoing series on the modifications and conversion of my 2000 Jeep XJ into a full-time livable camper and expedition vehicle.

This thread is specifically dedicated to the conversion into a pop-top camper, adapting and redesigning a vintage Volkswagen Westfalia Pop Top from a 1974 VW bus.

So a little background before I start diving into the technical aspects and detailing each step in this custom DIY conversion...

This jeep has a few main goals. Being a lifestyle and adventure photographer, the jeep will be made to be reliable, have enough space to store all needed clothing, camera equipment, food, water, supplies, and extras like surf and skateboards, as well as room for a full-time sleeping setup, pullout cooking setup, and more. It will be a compact vanilla styled build when done, yet have the overland capabilities to go much further off the trail (and have a bit more fun too!) BTW, this is my website I will be linking writeup, photos and videos from as the thread progresses http://www.jakegrovephoto.com

As far as I have seen, this has only been done on an XJ once before, and was a popular thread here on jeep forum back in 2009.
@Arbslikewhoa started the initial westfalia conversion from a junkyard roof, and although my build ultimately used many different techniques and concepts than his, his write up was a huge help in my design and decisions. Thanks David! Original Jeepagon Thread here

I had read over his thread time and time again this past summer, and had played around with my own concepts, before pulling the trigger and buying a westfalia pop top off craigslist. Living in San Diego, there is a HUGE demand for vintage volkswagen buses and vans, specifically the campers and all the original parts that go with. The price of a vw van continues to climb! I found my roof off of a 1974 Volkswagen split window bus, and got it for $500 with an aftermarket (fairly new) canvas, and the luggage rack, hinges, hardware, etc. This was more than i would have liked for a project is was still uncertain of, but being in So Cal, the only alternative i found was VW parts yards selling the complete assembly for $750 up. I picked up the roof and began diving into the conceptual side of re-fitting it for a cherokee before i would chop and refibergalss it a few weeks down the road. So there I was, ready to plan for the conversion with only @Arbslikewhoas forum to base off of.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I just posted a first blog writeup through my website with a little additional background on the jeepagon concept in my own practice, and showing the stock pop-top assembly I obtained.

That jeep blog writeup can be found here

I did a quick youtube vlog styled video and walk around on the pop-top as well so you can see it in action, and collapsed.

More pictures, and the first details of reshaping the roof soon!
 

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Looks awesome.


If you haven't already, check out 'Descend on Bend'. Its one of the largest Vanagon life cult(?) that host events all over the country starting in Bend, Oregon.

I bet the Vanagon guys would love to see the jeep and would probably be a good idea maker for your own build. Almost every Vanagon is unique it seems... I bet there is some pretty cool ideas that are not found in the jeep world that you could adapt to your project.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Looks awesome.

If you haven't already, check out 'Descend on Bend'. Its one of the largest Vanagon life cult(?) that host events all over the country starting in Bend, Oregon.

I bet the Vanagon guys would love to see the jeep and would probably be a good idea maker for your own build. Almost every Vanagon is unique it seems... I bet there is some pretty cool ideas that are not found in the jeep world that you could adapt to your project.
Thanks for the feedback guys!
@Arbslikewhoa I will definitely have to check that out. Good idea getting input from the vanagon community as well.

I'll be posting this week with details on the dimensions i cut the roof to and initial mods for it to fit.
Big things to come as well, talking with my fab guy at Pinobuilt down here in SD, and we got some concepts in the works.

Subscribe, and follow along for the next posts!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ended up busy this past week with work, the new school semester starting, and helping a buddy lift his Ford ranger... turns out the company sent us the wrong spindle and we couldn't tell until assembling everything when the brakes didn't line up to the spindle mounts... ahhh gotta love all that work and the project being put on hold. Was a bit worn down and frustrated from that and working late, so I took a few days away.

Ended up going to a San Diego vanlife meetup the other day, and that was a great break. Met a lot of van dwellers, and of course they liked seeing the jeepagon. Talked a lot of concepts and got some good input for my build! Cool community and the bonfire was a good turnout. Really glad I got to check out Jon Burtt's tacoma build with a custom pop top camper setup. I'll add a few of that day's photos below



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·


Well, my plans to do a full how-to have been put on hold since the new semester at school started. More than full time credits, and working 30 hrs a week. Meanwhile, ill post things I've done to the build as a whole as they come. If you have a question on the poptop ask away and I'll explain my process.

Finally had a weekend off work too and made it out to the Tierra Del sol event outside of San Diego. Good times and really impressed with the xj. With factory LSD in the 8.25 rear it was able to handle all the trail that wranglers on 37's were hitting. Only one sketchy situation in the picture below, and that's driver error lol (bad line).

When I have a week off work I'll be doing the camper interior.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Today's a year since I brought the '00 XJ home, so here's a little nostalgia post.

Sold my '94 2wd xj for $2500 and turned around and bought this for $3k.

2000 XJ Sport, 214,000 miles. 4.0liter, AW4, np231. 8.25 rear with factory LSD. Come farther than I would have thought in a year, and can't wait to push it (and the budget $) further.
You know the nostalgia feeling: No death wobbles, a way quieter ride, and that "new-to-me but still old" car smell.





http://www.jakegrovephoto.com/Blog/Vanlife-Jeeplife/Westfalia-Poptop-Conversion-How-To[URL]
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·



Finding time in between school and work to get some tasks done on the build before returning to the camper conversion...

Did a full exhaust overhaul from the manifold down. Dorman stainless manifold, walker downpipe oem, magnaflow Cat, flowmaster 50 series. At the same time, cleaned the intake manifold thoroughly, seafoam, all that. Filmed a how to video on the manifold I'll edit when I have a moment.

This weekend tackling the steering. But replaced another steering gearbox (free thanks to oreilly lifetime warrantee!), welded on a bracket extension to my bumper to work as a frame stiffener/gearbox brace. And installing the cavfab complete steering. Fab shop will be welding all new brackets onto my axle as well early next week. Trying to eliminate death wobble finally... oh and ordered C-Gussets to beef up my Dana 30!

Lots of parts and jobs, little time is always the case lol
 

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Lookin good. I really like the camper top you have on there. How is the fit? You said it came of a VW bus? but it looks like it fits the roof of the XJ really well.

And regarding the tie rod, why would you need spacers on those heims? You should need misalignment spacers on the drag link heims to prevent binding as the axle droops, but the tie rod should not need any sort of misalignment spacers. The will just cause it to drop lower in front due to the weight and the bends.

Also, how is the bump steer with that steering setup. I run a somewhere similar setup but with GM TRE's instead of heims but a long drag link and a short track bar, and the bump steer is definitely noticeable. Drivable and predictable, but noticeable.

Really cool build so far though, looking forward to seeing the cage work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Lookin good. I really like the camper top you have on there. How is the fit? You said it came of a VW bus? but it looks like it fits the roof of the XJ really well.

And regarding the tie rod, why would you need spacers on those heims? You should need misalignment spacers on the drag link heims to prevent binding as the axle droops, but the tie rod should not need any sort of misalignment spacers. The will just cause it to drop lower in front due to the weight and the bends.

Also, how is the bump steer with that steering setup. I run a somewhere similar setup but with GM TRE's instead of heims but a long drag link and a short track bar, and the bump steer is definitely noticeable. Drivable and predictable, but noticeable.

Really cool build so far though, looking forward to seeing the cage work.
Thanks! Just dropped the jeep off all prepped at my buddy's fab shop today. Should be three weeks to a month and I'll have her back.

I see your point on the tie rod. May have been my Jeep OCD never liking anything to bind like that lol. I've been happy so far though. Ever since I stepped up to the 3.75 backspacing and 32x11.5 and the lift it developed bad death wobble. All gone now and no noticeable bumpsteer at the moment. (Bad, bad California potholes give a slight jerk but returns to center quickly).

After installation it did have bump-steer but adjusting the trackbar placement and aligning the two angles improved it greatly.
I've been happy with cavfab so far especially at the price I got it all for on Black Friday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Restarting this thread since I just finished work for the season. Back in class and days off can go to the jeep.


Since summer started I pulled the westfalia pop top and chopped my roof all the way. Had a cage put in at my buddy's fab shop down here in San Diego. Here's a few pictures and I'll attach the link to the feature on my website. Let me know what other write-ups you'd like to see. Trying to cover everything I've done and continue to do to the XJ.
https://www.jakegrovephoto.com/Jeep/Fabrication/Roll-Cage

 

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Looks good!
 
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