Introduction: Unique Custom Jeep Build
So just a little background here. Maybe at about the wise old age of 10 years old, I started to notice and become completely infatuated with Jeeps. To this day I can remember seeing Jeep Wrangler Renegades driving by (with no top) just wondering what trails they might be finding on the weekends. I had just about every Jeep toy I could find as a kid and still have a few to this day. And I always thought that someday I would have my own Jeep Wrangler. As I grew older I started to notice how customization Jeeps seemed to be and I began to imagine what I would do if I ever had my own. The downside of the Jeep I had designed for myself was not practical as had come up with an idea where the Jeep was a permanent convertible or would have no top. The years passed and only just recently I found I had the opportunity to add an additional impractical car to the garage. So I started searching for a 2-door Jeep Wrangler. I was able to find a decent condition salvage Jeep for a great price (which is an entire story on its own). The fact that it was a salvage Jeep also made it much less stressful to start ripping it apart to build exactly what I wanted. SO now onto the build process - I hope you enjoy it!
SUPPLIES: You will need a number of tools and additional materials
- 2012 Jeep Wrangler
- Power Saw
- Angular grinder w/
- Cut-off blades
- Grinding blades
Step 1: Design Your Build
My first step is always to plan out on paper what I want my outcome to be. So I found a simple Jeep sketch online and used some white out, scissors & markers to redraw the idea I had in my mind.
Then I happened to find an older plastic model and I could not resist buying. Then I proceeded to build a miniature version before starting on the real thing. These both really helped as I was going through the actual build. Planning is SO important in any project.
Based on this drawing and the model I decided on the following major customizations.
- recessing the front an rear bumpers
- Tilting the windshield back
- because the/line between the door and the windshield would no longer be standard I would need to replace the doors with what is known as a half door (a door with no window)
- Replace the roll cage to create a different look
- Replace the tires with a larger size
- Raise the fenders to accommodate larger tires
- Convert a newer Jeep's tailgate to look like one from the 60's
- Have the Jeep painted/coated
- Enjoy the Custom Jeep
Step 2: Tear Down
The first step is pretty simple. Start with the newly acquired Jeep and take everything apart. Remove top, bumpers, fenders, doors, muffler, padding from roll cage & even the interior (to keep it from getting marred by the cutting, grinding and welding. Place all screws and bolts in ziplock baggies and label the baggies. Being as detailed as you can will help tremendously when putting everything back together.
Step 3: Recessing Bumpers
First I ordered the front Bumper that I liked. Then because I wanted a relatively low profile (or close to the grill bumper) I needed to cut off the front portion of the Jeep frame as can be seen in the pictures.
Then I primed the bumper and test fitted it on the freshly cut frame. I found that there was a gap between the top of the bumper and the grill that created too much visibility to the working parts behind the bumper.
I then removed the bumper and welded a strip of steel to the top of the bumper to close the gap. Re-primed the bumper, test fitted again and then painted the bumper. It turned out wonderfully with a gap only about 2 mm wide. Not large enough to see anything behind the bumper. I followed a similar process on the rear bumper but did not take as many pictures.
Step 4: Tilting the Windshield Back (brackets and Hinge)
Next I wanted to lay back the windshield. First I removed the windshield by removing the bracket on each side and the hinge in the center bottom of the windshield. These three parts are all that hold the windshield to the body of the Jeep.
The second step was to cut the side brackets in half so I could decrease the angle that these brackets would hold the windshield. After cutting the brackets, I placed them back on the windshield and Jeep. And while having a friend hold the windshield at the angle I wanted, I welded the brackets back together. Then the brackets were once again removed additional welding completed to strengthen the brackets and then the brackets were grinded, primed and painted.
After welding the brackets I found that the center windshield hinge needed to be extended. I added an additional plate to the hinge and drilled new holes to accommodate the new angle of the windshield. The finished hinge can be seen in the final pictures.
Step 5: Tilting the Windshield Back (closing the Gap Under the Windshield)
Once the newly tilted windshield we put back on I found that there was a noticeable gap between the hood and the windshield. I went to work adding a strip of metal to each side. The gap was not a uniform rectangle - I used strong magnets to hold the metal (steel) strips in place and marked them then cut and grinded them until they fit just right. After getting the shape right I welded them into place. I made sure to cover up the windshield with tape to protect it from welding sparks. After completing the welding the windshield was once again removed. Then the welds could be easily cleaned, ground & finished to make them nice and smooth.
Step 6: Switch Full Doors for Half Doors
Replacing doors on a Jeep is a relatively easy process. Basically you need to remove the screws on the two brackets that hold the door to the body, remove the door and replace with an alternate door. However, I also took the time to remove the locks from the original doors and reinstalled the locks in the half doors. Not that I needed the locks as there would be no top but I still did not want to carry around two different keys (one for the ignition and one for the doors).
Step 7: Replace the Roll Cage
Replacing the roll cage was the most time consuming task.
The first step was to cut off the stock cage with an angular grinder.
Then there was a lot of test fitting and measuring angles to make sure everything was square and even. I started at the front and moved to the rear of the Jeep. Measure-Cut-Weld-Grind-Repeat..........
Once the cage was finished it was primed and painted.
Step 8: Add Larger Tires and Wheels
Another somewhat simple step. Order your favorite tires and wheels in the size you'd like (these are 37x12.5x18 tires) and either have them installed or use a good jack to lift each corner up. Remove and reinstall each tire/wheel.
Step 9: Raise the Fenders to Accommodate the Larger Tires
Generally a Jeep will require a lift kit to raise the entire Jeep to accommodate the larger tire sizes. However, I wanted to keep the center of gravity lower on this Jeep. So instead of lifting the Jeep I created more room for the tires by removing some of the material in the wheel wells and raised the fenders.
I found some fenders I thought I liked but after placing them on the Jeep I found I did not like the styling. So what did I do? Well - these were made out of fiberglass so I decided to cut them apart and build them exactly how I wanted them. I cut the sides off to make them more square and used tape to make sure I liked the lines. Then I re-fiberglassed the new shape, sanded them and painted them.
Step 10: Convert a Newer Jeep's Tailgate
The final big change I wanted to make was to create a tailgate that resembled a Jeep CJ's tailgate from the 1970's.
What this entailed was taking the original tailgate and cutting out the center.
Then I found a tailgate from a 1974 Jeep CJ and cut the center out of that tailgate
Then I welded the 1970's tailgate into the hole in the current tailgate.
The next step was to complete a little body work to give the tailgate that finished look.
Then the tailgate was primed and painted.
You can see the next step in the pictures was to cover up the indention left behind by the original hinges on the right side of the rear of the Jeep. A similar process was followed where a plate was welded over the indention, completed body work, painted and primed.
Step 11: Painting
The last step was to repaint the Jeep. Painting is not within my expertise so this step was outsourced. After much thought I decided to have the Jeep lined rather than painted. Liner is what is used in truck beds to create a very durable and grippy covering to protect the truck bed. In my situation since I planned to drive the Jeep on trails I wanted a very durable exterior that would not scratch easily. Once I decided on going with a liner I needed to decide on a color. I used my basic Photoshop skills to edit the color of the Jeep. I decided on Blue. Then dropped the Jeep off at the Liner company and waited for about two weeks. Both the interior and the exterior were fully lined.
Step 12: Final Result!
The outcome can be seen in the pictures. I have been SO happy with the result. The color is perfect, and it has been more durable than expected. Hope you also like the results!
Second Prize in the
Motor Vehicle Contest