Converting a factory JK/JKU hardtop to modular

jscherb

Expedition Leader
About running the top without the side panels as I've shown in some of the concept images...

I've regularly run my LJ modular top without the side panels in the summer, and that's possible with this modular conversion as well, but two more things have to be done.

1. On both the JK 2dr and the JKU, the bottom of the rear panel will have to be bolted to the tub. The factory bolts to the tub only along the sides, and without the sides in place the back of the top won't be secured. Holes will need to be drilled in the bottom of the rear panel and in the tub rail so the two can be bolted together.

2. On the 2dr, the roof panel will have to be secured to the roll bar. The factory JKU top has two bolts that go into the main roll bar hoop, and those will secure the roof panel, but those bolt holes aren't present on the 2dr JK. If I had a 2dr JK I'd work out the details of securing the roof and post what's necessary, but since I don't have one, but since I don't have one, I'll just describe it - where the two rubber bumpers on the underside of the roof panel rest on the main hoop of the roll bar, you could either bolt through the main hoop at that point, install nutserts in the main hoop, or weld t-nuts into the top of the hoop. There may be other options as well, but I don't have a 2dr to look at.



And once you can run without the side panels, it's also possible to make roll-up roll-up soft sides like the ones on my LJ...



I'll post the details for soft sides in a few days.
 
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IPA

Observer
jscherb, two things always impress me: 1) Your ingenuity and skill, and 2) Your willingness to go to lengths to share it with others.

Very cool project and thank you for taking the time to share the details.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
jscherb, two things always impress me: 1) Your ingenuity and skill, and 2) Your willingness to go to lengths to share it with others.

Very cool project and thank you for taking the time to share the details.
Thanks for the kind words. I hope I've provided enough info and detail for people to tackle this project on their own (if not, people should please ask questions :)).
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
When I bought the 2dr hardtop shell it didn't have any windows. That wasn't a problem because the reason I bought it was to create the window retrofit kit for it. Don't need windows if I'm going to design my own :).

It didn't have a liftgate either, so today I rectified that with this $150 Craigslist score:



I really didn't need the liftgate because I don't have a 2dr and therefore have no use for the modular hardtop once the window retrofit project is done, but for that price I figured when I finish the window retrofit kit and sell the modular hardtop it would be nice to include a liftgate with it (as well as a set of slider windows).
 

Comanche Scott

Expedition Leader
Very well written and photographed set of instructions. Thank you for posting this. :beer:
What a fun winter project this will be!
Now I just need to score a good hard top in black. :)
 

Outside somewhere

Overland certified public figure brand ambassador
That is just about the coolest thing ever. I am too chicken to drill holes into my hardtop for a Rhino rack so there is no way I'd ever do this. However if you find yourself in North Carolina with some free time... Seriously though, excellent work.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Thank you for the write up good sir.

Can I have first shot for when you decide to sell this top?
You're welcome. I've started a list of people who have already asked me that :).

Before I can get rid of the top I've got to use it for its original intended purpose - the design of the retrofit kit for installing sliders, windoors or cargo hatches in place of the glued-on factory windows. It'll be a little while because I'll need it until I receive pre-production prototypes to test fit from the companies that will be manufacturing the windows and the retrofit kits.

I'm already working on a prototype retrofit kit using with "gullwing" cargo hatches for the first prototype. In this photo the hatch is just sitting in the opening, but within a few days it'll be nicely mounted in a retrofit kit with trim ring.

 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Very well written and photographed set of instructions. Thank you for posting this. :beer:
What a fun winter project this will be!
Now I just need to score a good hard top in black. :)
It's a little too far away from you, but here's a JKU top for $650 not too far from me, seems to be complete with all the windows, and comes with freedom panels too: http://buffalo.craigslist.org/pts/5638129762.html I'll bet you could sell the freedom panels on eBay and make back most of the cost of the top.

That is just about the coolest thing ever. I am too chicken to drill holes into my hardtop for a Rhino rack so there is no way I'd ever do this. However if you find yourself in North Carolina with some free time... Seriously though, excellent work.
No reason to be chicken if it's a top you can find cheap on Craigslist :).

I don't know if this is a coincidence or not, but before the slider windows I designed for factory half door uppers were released, I regularly saw used uppers for sale, often with bad vinyl windows or zippers. Since the slider kit has been on the market I haven't seen a single set of used uppers for sale anywhere. Hmmmm...

 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
I took some storage idea photos this morning... the rear panel (with the new liftgate glass installed) fits nicely under a single bed, as two both side panels. The roof panel will fit under a queen or king bed but I don't have one of those here to demonstrate with. The panels in these photos are pulled slightly out to show them, they do fit all the way under.



 

Espo78

Adventurer
Excellent write up, as are all of the ones you do. If you had to put a price on the labor involved, do you think it would be reasonable or cost prohibitive? I don't have the skills currently to tackle a job like this as I've never worked with fiberglass before so I'd want to start with something smaller. In all honesty though I have no desire to mess with fiberglass. This does however seem like an excellent business idea for someone with that set of skills. Acquiring used hardtops is easy, and I'm wondering if there would be enough margin to make this project profitable for someone that wanted to help others out and make some money on the side. I could see someone paying an additional $500 on top of the hardtop cost for this type of conversion. Its unfortunate that Mopar did not design the hardtop like this in the first place.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Excellent write up, as are all of the ones you do. If you had to put a price on the labor involved, do you think it would be reasonable or cost prohibitive? I don't have the skills currently to tackle a job like this as I've never worked with fiberglass before so I'd want to start with something smaller. In all honesty though I have no desire to mess with fiberglass. This does however seem like an excellent business idea for someone with that set of skills. Acquiring used hardtops is easy, and I'm wondering if there would be enough margin to make this project profitable for someone that wanted to help others out and make some money on the side. I could see someone paying an additional $500 on top of the hardtop cost for this type of conversion. Its unfortunate that Mopar did not design the hardtop like this in the first place.
The design and process I documented is what I believe to be the most efficient and easiest way to get accurate, high-quality results when doing a one-off conversion in a home garage. It should take most people a week of evenings to complete the project (there are quite a few steps where you need to wait overnight for something to cure before continuing). You can estimate the labor involved in a week of evenings.

If this were to be done in quantity, I'd recommend an entirely different process that would allow one person to achieve an output of two tops per day, although it would require a little bit of investment up front which would have to be amortized over the number of tops modified. If you wanted to figure labor rates on one person producing two tops per day that would be the low end of the labor cost.

If someone wants to be in business doing this I'll be happy to advise them on more efficient ways to do the conversions in a volume way.
 

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