By on November 1, 2013

2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

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?

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche "30 Second Photoshop"

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche “30 Second Photoshop”

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.

YouTube Preview Image

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.

John Deere Gator

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.

 

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54 Comments on “The Jeep Grand Cherokamino aka The Jeep Grand Comanche...”


  • avatar
    Feds

    As someone who owns a 300,000 km original cherokee that I use for approximately the purposes described above, I wholeheartedly support this plan. I actually have the reverse problem with my cherokee: The bottom is so rusted, I’m afraid it will fold in half whenever I open the doors.

    Set yourself up for success: Weld the backs of the rear doors in place at least, or run some tubing from the rear wheel well to the top of the B pillar at most.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I have a feeling this is going to end up like SCC’s B15 Sentra weight-loss campaign.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Put 12,000 pound winches front AND back and see if it can tear itself in half.

    Well, as a last resort.

    Why?

    Because it sounds hilarious, obviously.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Drop a 3 litre Merc V6 diesel into it, that’ll make it into a proper off road vehicle.

  • avatar
    redav

    “no person or company has given this project any free stuff”

    Except your dad, who gave the project a free car.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Good to see project-car stuff on here. The industry stuff makes decent filler, the honest car reviews are very informative, but we need more of this kind of stuff on here!

    Here’s an idea. How about for some weekend filler you guys reach out to the B&B here. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose had a project vehicle, or a few. Pick some people, have them do a write up, and maybe once every weekend have a feature. Project of the week or something like that. I’d love to see something like that and would make this site a little more well-rounded. Business mon-fri, some fun reads on the weekends.

    Be better if it could be start-to-finish in one article to keep things fresh (some projects get to drawn out, or never finished). They don’t all have to be big builds or complete restorations. Some modded new stuff, some minor fix’r up classics.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    As a lover and current owner of a WJ you will find it much cheaper to kill it quick. Jeep stands for Just Empty Every Pocket. I think it is a fine way to destroy one and fun in the process but I don’t think it will work. I know people that take the doors off and wheel it and it barely survives. Take the rear hatch off however and see what happens. So I suggest taking off the rear hatch as a start to see what you’ll be dealing with. As a warning, if you wheel it with the hatch off you’ll never be able to put it back on again. Jeep worked with Porsche to design the unibody on these and the reason stated was to make it stronger, but I suspect it was really to make it as light as they could get away with.

  • avatar
    suckbangblow

    I have been a follower of this site for a while and this article actually convinced me to register for the site. I am a owner of a 2004 grand cherokee and have often thought this would make a great platform for a small truck. In my opinion this was the last of the “real” Grand Cherokees. Two solid axles, coil springs, a real transfer case with matching shifter and available with the Zombie apocolypse bomb proof I6 or v8. Despite all this heavy duty equipment is very comfortable to drive everyday and isnt the size of a tractor trailer. This has all the things that are missing in todays trucks. In order to get this type of offroad equipment and everyday comfort your in f250 territory which of course is totally useless off road due to it being slightly larger than what a dump truck used to be 10 years ago…

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Also since your spare is now useless, remove it as the well makes an awesome cooler.

    http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a361/blkdvl/IMAG0083.jpg?t=1301373366

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    Or how bout you just go down to tractor supply and buy a trailer? And use the free jeep to tow it around the property?

    • 0 avatar
      The Butler

      So….. Didn’t read the article, eh?

      “This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead” are pointless”

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        Oh I read the article but I find the thought of chopping up a mint condition jeep to be painful.

        • 0 avatar
          typhoon

          If it makes you feel any better, a) they’re not especially rare or valuable, b) they were the third most commonly sacrificed vehicle in Cash for Clunkers a few years back, c) anyone in need of cheap wheels would be pretty desperate or stupid to get a 4WD Grand Cherokee at this point because of the fuel consumption, and d) chopping up old Jeeps is like half what people do with old Jeeps.

        • 0 avatar
          tooloud10

          I can’t lie–it bugs me a bit, too. What’s the point of cutting up a perfectly good car to use as a pickup when you could just trade it for a pickup? $1800 worth of Grand Cherokee plus the money for the lift and cutting the roof off would get you a pickup that would work way better for the intended purpose than a heavily modified Jeep.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            This is one of the rare times I will ever say this : It’s his time and money, so why get in a tizzy? He’ll be sharing the information for our entertainment and frankly why not? It could turn out well….or not. I’ll be fun to see.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      I know it misses the point but I bought a similar vehicle that can go anywhere on my property. Got an olds bravada which is a blazer (almost) clone. The trailer is the best answer for the type of versatility. I have several and they allow the vehicle to do most anything including unhooking it and using it as a normal car. That problem is that it reeks of common sense and is a solution designed by and for sane people.

      Therefore, cutting up a perfectly good old mans car makes excellent sense for you and is fodder for countless stories. Being an old man I think the olds fits me perfectly as the jeep would your dad. For a young man the sawzall or torch is a reasonable course. Enjoy.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Well, as one who mentioned a friend who cut up a VW bug and made a stake bed truck out of it, I’m in no position to criticize. I was talking about making an El Camino out of a car, though. You’re going to keep it street-legal, right?

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Having had four Jeep Cherokees an XJ, two ZJs and a WJ. The WJ is by far the best built and most ideal for what you plan to do. There’s a large network of steel beams, rails and pillars that provide a safety cage around the occupants, so you might want to do some research as to where the best place to cut might be. Since the underbody is mostly high-strength steel, I doubt it would “fold like a taco” It’ll will be interesting to see the results

  • avatar

    Weld the doors. Cut out the top You may want to add some steel tubing along the top edges of the cut then tie them into the new bulkhead and th frame near the tail gate. That part shouldn’t be to hard. There is both an XJ and ZJ here in town with the roof and side windows cut off behind the rear doors that are used for heavy offroading so my guess is the WJ wouldn’t present much more of a problem. I think the fabrication of the bed floor and aft bulk head (and possibly the tailgate) will present more interesting challenges than the roof cutting. On a side note i would have cut out the fenders to fit thIe tires rather than lift the jeep feels much better on side hills with the lower CG. I had an xj with a 3″ lift.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    OK did I miss it or did you tell us if the vehicle in question has a V8 or an I6?

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      Yes; that is a very important question. The I6 is indestructible; the V8 likes to overheat.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The post is tagged “4.7″ and “V8″.

      Considering the scope of the project, I’m guessing he could modify the cooling, exhaust, and PVC systems however he feels.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The “had a valve problem and was partially rebuilt around 140K” is a big tip off that it has the 4.7 boat anchor.

      • 0 avatar
        Ian Anderson

        I was going to post, “Please tell me it has the Jeep six and not that valve-dropping, chain-snapping, coolant drinking POS known as the Powertech 4.7.” Hell 4.0 Jeep sixes and Chrysler small blocks sometimes end up with blown head gaskets or cracked heads but it’s usually not the end of the world and they’re cheap to fix. Every Jeep/Dodge 4.7 I’ve come across has been the biggest money pit.

        In this case it is a 4.7, so it’s probably best that it get chopped in half and folded like the dollar bills that it likes to consume.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Yep. It’s the V8. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that all limited models at the time were V8s. Either way, it’s the 4.7.

      • 0 avatar
        cgjeep

        Nope, could get them with I6 or V8. All in all the 4.7 is a good motor. While it won’t last as long as the 4.0(few things do)it did come with a much better transmission and stronger rear axle. So you come out ahead longevity wise with the 8, just not necessarily with the motor. There were a lot of changes made to the 4.0 for the WJ and they don’t hold up as well as 4.0s in other Jeep applications. 140k before needing work on a motor that was only in its second year of construction isn’t bad. The majority of the WJ community thinks the 4.7 is the one to get. They don’t however tolerate poor maintenance and once you heat one up its toast. Switch to 5W20 oil to get those chains lucubrated on a cold morning.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          5-20 is a bad idea in one of those engines, it won’t get oil to the chains in the cold any quicker than 5-30 and it won’t protect as well once the oil is up to temp.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Do it because its wrong.

    PS: put a set of zoomie pipes on it, coming straight through the hood.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Yep, the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.

  • avatar

    I hope you replaced EVERYthing important in the suspension while you lifted it. I’ve never been in to the whole lift-kit stuff, but I do know that you are in great danger of needing a complete suspension rebuild if you just slap the lift kit in and cheap out on the rest. Something to do with completely destroying the ball joints and bushings because of the different stresses/change in wear patterns. Maybe the springs, dampers, tie rods, and track bar will keep the front end from munching itself, like I said, I don’t know the ins and outs of lifting a vehicle. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well it has a straight axle so lifting it in itself doesn’t cause any issues the problem lies in the larger, heavier tires and wheels. Those stiffer springs on the other hand will help shorten the time it takes for it to look like a taco. The big problem though is those tires and wheels moving from the stock wheels with 2″ of offset well shred the front wheel bearings and won’t do any favors for the ball joints.

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX8bE7V8uQA

    Skip to 3:00 minutes in.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I’m at war with myself.

    The engineer that is me loves the idea of doing something cool/unique/fun/just because you can/because you want to.

    The obsessive pragmatist hates the thought of you doing it to such a mint looking vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I had a similar conflict but fortunately the pragmatic side sought a peace agreement at the eleventh hour with the engineering side, when it was decided the results will either turn out to be epic or quite a fiasco and it was worth a roll of the die for results.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Outside of the Great White North, it’s not at all uncommon for a completely “used up” vehicle to look completely mint on the outside. (“used-up” meaning the mechanicals are completely falling apart and the interior is shot) In this case, the interior is probably fine, but neither that engine (V8) nor transmission have exactly legendary reliability.

      Around North Carolina where I live, about the worst that can possibly happen to 10-15 year old cars on the outside is faded paint; absent body damage or a horribly defective factory job, rust is simply not that common.

  • avatar
    Fat Man Of La Mancha

    And if it all fails you can just run it at leMons.

  • avatar
    southern m

    Great idea! I had a 1998 MB E320 wagon purchased new that the wife used to haul kids to school. It was eventually handed down to me as a daily commuter to work and the airport. We hit 15 years and 200,000 miles this year, and I finally replaced it with an Audi TT Coupe S-Line edition – great fun! However, I always wanted to chop the E320 into a variation of an El Camino since one of its biggest advantages was it’s hauling ability. I often thought about how I would do it – cut the roof out, maybe use the rear lift-gate welded behind the seats to enclose the front cabin. Planned to leave the side windows all the way back with some type of custom bed, although worried about stiffness if the roof was gone. Alas, no time to tackle it even though car ran great, so off to CarMax where they paid $1,700 cash to take it off my driveway. Anyone out there ever tried anything like this besides Alex?

  • avatar
    flatout05

    This project is pointless, inane, and an affront to all decent people.

    I heartily endorse it.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      Couldn’t agree more. Utterly pointless, using a vehicle far outside of its intended purpose and sure to annoy all good Jeep fans. I can’t wait to see a video of it in use.

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    Excellent idea! And I don’t care if it was VIN 00000001, freshly removed from a nitrogen-filled cocoon in the Walter P. Chrysler museum – take the Sawzall to it! (how many of these things did they make anyway?, 3 or 4 hundred thousand?)

    The youtube video of the XJ had a good idea too: once the plastic interior panels are removed, close them out with a continuous piece of sheet metal, riveted to the unibody … if the metal’s thick enough (maybe 18 ga?,) that should provide some additional bending strength. You could tie the thing together from the hatch all the way to the B-post that way.

    Once the “box” is all riveted and welded up nice, you can probably carve up the plastic bedliner from a compact pickup to make loading/unloading messy cargo easier (HDPE is actually pretty easy to work with – all you need are a high-wattage soldering iron and a heat gun, and you can create whatever shape you want.)

    Cool project. Definitely keep us posted.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Take a good look some old-fashioned bridges. You’ll see lotsa triangles in the truss structure. You need some of them, because after you chop off the roof, the Jeep may fold up like a cheap umbrella if you take it anywhere not pool table smooth. You might find that less hilarious after you invest enough time in project. B-pillar roll bar, diagonals off the top of the roll bar back to a strong-looking area somewhere near the rear suspension mount and maybe a lateral bar or two to obtain more torsional stiffness than a slinky. Weld the rear doors, front as well as back. etc, etc.
    For background reading, I suggest J.E. Gordon’s Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down. No more math in it than a fifth grader could handle. Written in a dotty professorial style, it’s a better read on engineering than most of my texts ever were.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Cutting the roof off a uni-body car is very unlikely to turn out well. It is part of the vehicle’s structure.

  • avatar
    MK

    A jeep shop I used to use in Clearwater/largo area did this with a wj that some kid had rolled over in a mall parking lot.

    this was a cheap-n-cheerful kind of shop project just to dick around with it but he put some 35-38″s tires on it, no lift just cut the fenders WAY back. I took a couple of rides in it and the body flex was just unbelievable. The roof is a KEY component of chassis stiffness don’t forget.

    The cool thing was that this was a seriously low center of gravity build before I had really seen anything like it, it would go sideways across hills so steep that my ass was ripping chunks of foam out of the seats trying to stay inside. FREAKY stable.

    However it was totally useless for anything other than goofing off.

    I don’t know alex’s fabrication skills so I’ll hold off.
    If you haven’t already, you should go ask for build advice at the Pirate forums and keep a build thread of this adventure. It’ll be fun to watch no matter what happens or how good you are!

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Maybe it would be more elegant to attempt a Chevy Avalanche style chop.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Here’s something to inspire you…

    http://www.dodgeram.org/rides/08/stephen_w/2003/GrandCherokeeTruck.jpg

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    Obviously it’s apples-and-oranges, but the better wagon-to-pickup conversions I’ve seen made out of old Volvos tended to use the hatch as a bulkhead/rear of the cab. Not sure how feasible that would be with more rounded styling, however.

  • avatar
    TheZombie

    I did this with a ’90 S15 Jimmy, but it was a 2 door and of course the s-Series has a frame. I don’t think I’d do it to my Cherokee, though. The distance between the A and C pillars makes me think it’s a little risky. I’d suggest welding the rear doors in to make the bedside all one piece up to the front door. I’d also suggest a roll bar. If you don’t want a roll bar, at least consider an X brace at the belt level of the B pillar. For a tail-gate, you could get the latches and strikers from a pick-up or Blazer and make something that holds the bed together as a box. Also, you can use the roof to make a cool bed floor. There’s my $.02. Good luck with it!

  • avatar
    George B

    Alex, would removing the rear seat, building a wall behind the front seats, and equipping the SUV with a cargo box on a truck bed slide for messy cargo meet your needs? http://www.joeybed.com/ That way you’d keep the structural integrity and rain protection of an SUV while having a way to load and unload bulk cargo. Not as fun as cutting the roof off, but it would be something cool that you can’t just buy.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    These things are such gigantic piles of garbage. Save yourself some heartache and just push it into a ravine somewhere.


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