TTAC has a new project car and it’s a beauty. Thanks to my dad who volunteered to drive from Austin to San Jose, I’m now the proud second owner of a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with 151,500 miles on the clock. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, then you might have guessed this project would involve a Jeep, but up till now I have kept the depth of the planned Jeep perversion secret. What I’ll be attempting over the next few months might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done: converting a perfectly good unibody SUV into a “pickup.” Say what?
This isn’t the first time I have floated this kind of idea before. My last inspired vision was the Comanche reborn out of a Jeep Patriot. Sadly Patriots are holding their resale value too well and after months of searching I was unable to find something worth cutting up. Undeterred by my setbacks I saw an ad for a high mile 2007 Patriot while I was visiting my folks near Austin, TX. Although the lead turned out to be a bust, my crazy parents decided to buy themselves a snazzy new 2014 Grand Cherokee because “we’re already at the dealer.” Gotta love the logic. After hours of bickering, the dealer offered $1800 for their immaculate daily driver and my brain shifted gears. I offered the same price and my dad, in a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, said “why don’t I just give it to you son.” My new plan was put into action.
It is now time for some disclosures and important statements. 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.
Why on earth are you trying this?
Aside from the obvious perverse pleasure gained from sawing the roof off a perfectly good car, I need a vehicle that I can use around the house for moving manure, feed, hay/straw and possibly the odd animal or two. I have 9 acres of heavily wooded mountain property, so 4WD and knobby off-road rubber are a must. Logically something like a John Deere Gator would have been a good idea, but they are expensive, boring, and use a crappy rubber-belt CVT and a carburetor that has to be adjusted every hour to work properly.
Why a 2000 Grand Cherokee?
Well, it was free. It’s also easy to find parts for, fairly inexpensive to replace and there are a host of aftermarket off-road accessories that should make my conversion easier. Also, the unibody design on the Grand Cherokee is fairly stout for its age and it has “beefier” “frame rails” than most unibody SUV/CUV designs of the time. This additional floor strength should allow me to cut the roof off without too much issue.
It’ll fold like a taco!
Maybe. And if it does it should be incredibly funny. Hopefully it will also get caught on video.
What’s the condition of the donor car?
Near perfect for a 2000 with 151,000 miles on it. Since the Jeep was driven by a little old lady from Texas (my mom is 72 and 5’2″), everything is original, it has always been dealer serviced, has a recorded service history three miles long and everything except the CD changer works. The engine had some valve troubled at 140,000 miles and had a partial rebuild to address the problem, it has never towed and never been taken seriously off-road.
As soon as it arrived, the first thing I did was swap in a 3-inch lift kit with new springs, dampers, tie rods and a new track bar up front. Once the lift was complete I slapped on the 16-inch black steel rims shod with 265/75R16 rubber and that’s what you see before your eyes. What’s next? The removal of the interior.