By on November 7, 2013

2000 Jeep Grand Comance Project Car

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a new project car in TTAC’s “garage,” a 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited. I of course use the term garage simply because “gravel driveway” fails to have the same ring. Why a car guy doesn’t have a garage is a story for a different time. All I will say on the matter is that I was promised a garage with a 2-post lift and I am still waiting…  Back to the car. Before we chop the lid off the WJ Grand Cherokee to convert it into a two door, two seat Grand Comanche we needed to tackle a few projects. We need a lift kit, off-road rubber, then we need to ditch the interior and take care of some general housekeeping items.

Iron Rock Off Road 3-inch lift kit

The whole point of this project car is for the Jeep to act as a farm utility vehicle. Since this 2000 Limited model was equipped with the “Up Country” suspension package it had a factory lift of one inch to 10.3 inches of ground clearance. If that sounds better than a John Deere Gator’s 8.5 inches, remember that the farm utility vehicle has a really short wheelbase. Translating that up to the project car meant adding three inches. (Keep in mind that since our Jeep had the factory one inch lift, the three-inch lift kits increase the height by only two inches since their base number uses the stock 4×4 ground clearance. )

After a an intense Googling session, I settled on the $499 Iron Rock Off Road lift kit. My logic was simple: it was the cheapest three-inch lift kit I could find. Why not four? According to the Jeep experts I asked, a four-inch lift would have required more complicated modifications including lowering the transfer case. I fell for the suggestion to toss in a $70 shock upgrade and my out-the-door was $633.98 after shipping.

Lift Kit In Progress

The kit arrived on time and in two large and heavy boxes. Everything was well packaged but the instructions could have been a bit better. While I pride myself as an above average DIY-wrencher, I would have liked some more detailed instructions simply as a safety margin. If you’re not comfortable disassembling your suspension, you’ll be paying hundred for the installation.

Because I’m a moron with a desire to live, when one of my spring compressors gave up on me, I decided instead of compressing the spring on side (and making it look like a big banana) I would just unbolt the suspension from the body so it would be low enough to install the springs without the compressor. This meant jacking the Jeep up one side at a time (two jacks would cost money and I’m cheap), placing a large concrete paver on the gravel to support a jack stand and then raising the other side in the same way. Right about the time I was breaking suspension bolts loose with a 24-inch breaker bar and making the Jeep sway on my dollar-store jack stands I realized this was stupid. Yet I continued.

With the lift kit installed after about 6 hours total I was able to bolt on the next item.

ProCom 16 inch steel wheels

Pro Comp 16-inch steel wheels

No project Jeep would ever be complete without steel rims. Black steel rims. Since I didn’t want to go crazy big and I wanted a large aspect ratio tire, I stick with a 16-inch wheel diameter and jumped up to an 8-inch wide wheel. Cost: $377.88 delivered. Yeehaw.

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 265/75R16

When it came to the tires my choice was limited. Because I opted for just a three inch body lift, I knew I couldn’t go too crazy on the rubber. I trolled all the Jeep forums I could find and my 30 second research indicated that a 265/75R16 would be the biggest thing I could stuff in there without pushing the wheel outside the body or sawzalling the body to pieces. After 30 seconds of online comparison I found a deal on Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires in just the right size for a grant total of $1,007 at my door. In hind sight a 4-inch lift kit would have helped me out here and something around 6 inches would have allowed me to get more serious 33-inch tires, but I was committed at this point.

Because I have a few connections in the fleet world, I was able to snag some time in the mechanic’s bay of a local company with a service vehicle fleet. Being the cheap bastard I am, I mounted and balanced the tires myself for free. This is also why one wheel has about 7 wheel weights on it, although I seem to have balanced them fairly well as there isn’t even a faint vibration on the highway. Score one for the cheap dudes.

Although there are more aggressive tires out there, I decided that it would be handy to be able to drive the Grand Comanche to the feed store directly. The alternative would be to drive something else to the feed store, pick up hay, straw, feed, etc, then swap it into the cut-up-hoopty for delivery. Even so the on-road toll is obvious with the tires being significantly louder than all terrains.

Jeep on alignment rack

Oops

This brings our total to $2,018.86 in parts followed by a $79 four-wheel alignment which is required after you disassemble this much of any car.  Since the car was gifted to the project, I considered this good value thus far. Then I decided to cross the creek and drive through the woods. More on that later.

 

This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

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23 Comments on “Jeep Grand Comanche Episode 2: We Jack ‘Em Up In The Yard...”


  • avatar
    cgjeep

    At 3in you will need an adjustable front trackbar and new swaybar end links. Can get the front swaybar endlinks with disconnects. Will get serious flex wit the swaybar disconnected. Will need bumpstops or you will stuff a tire through the fender. Also migt was well remove front bumper cover, or you’ll tear it off. If you already had the UC springs,could have just gone with a 2in BB for $99. Also if you have the front Repazza drive shaft (CV joints)it will now break. JKS makes the trackbar and end links.

  • avatar
    MK

    “…265/75R16 would be the biggest thing I could stuff in there without pushing the wheel outside the body or sawzalling the body to pieces”

    This makes ZERO sense in the context of preparing to hack the friggin roof off…you know…. Sawzalling the body to pieces.

    Is there a pirate thread yet? If not, you’re missing a chance to grow your audience, and thicken your skin at the same time! Win WIN!! :)

  • avatar
    segfault

    Feed store? Are you raising chickens out on the farm? Also, is that a Mercedes visible in the background of the first picture?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “Right about the time I was breaking suspension bolts loose with a 24-inch breaker bar and making the Jeep sway on my dollar-store jack stands”

    This is where one of those battery-powered impact guns is really handy. Even the cheaper ones are good enough for weekend projects like this. You get the bolts out quicker and you’re a lot less sore at the end of the day.

  • avatar
    Feds

    Man, you’re missing out on the joy of endlessly searching craigslist for half-decent off-road-ish tires. “Oooh, I can totally assemble a set of mudders from never-touched-the-road spares off Wrangler Rubicons”

  • avatar
    ajla

    I need a new project vehicle. All my current cars are too competent.

  • avatar
    xander18

    WHEN DO YOU START CUTTING?!

  • avatar
    wmba

    Jeep Grand Comanche Episiode (sic) …. Headline for article.

    Really? What is an episiode? Sure, I know, but your spelling is getting no better, Alex. Maybe I should have been a copy editor, but my brain expects certain things and errors leap off the page at me. Pattern recognition, I’m told.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    I REALLY want to see this turn out well, but if you’re looking to use this as a hauler, I’m concerned that you’ll have serious rubbing issues in the rear with some weight in the truck. I’ve heard good things from people running Monroe load levelers on WKs, maybe those could help you out if you’re sagging in the rear.

    Mainly, I want to see if the “you’ll fold like a taco if you hack the unibody” legend holds true.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Don’t. Do. This. Please. Weld together some sort of military grade rear bumper with a pintle hitch. Then build some super sprung Franken-trailer. The pintle hitch should handle whatever freakazoid camber challenges await on your rugged off-da-grid compound. Way more utility than this ExCamino/RanCherokee thing that burns in your loins.

    If anyone can understand the giddy delirium of a SawzAll, it’s me. At 17 I took the rotted vinyl roof off of a 1972 Bel Air ($200 in 1986) and turned it into a death trap convertible. A girlfriend christened it with nail polish on trunk lid “Flexible Flier (sic).” I sold it at the end of the summer and photocopied then mailed personally the title transfer. Two weeks later it was found abandoned after folding in half on the other end of a railroad crossing grade. Thank goodness my accountant stepdad taught me to control the title transfer process on a car because the angry deputy told me tat there was quite a bit of blood at the scene.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    This is a bad idea. You should start with an Avalanche type conversion, and proceed from there. If the roof (which we all agree is an important structural component) must come off, I suggest having a few reinforcement bars going behind the seats connecting the B pillars.


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