Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD build thread

Romberger

Member
I'm a long time reader of these forums. This is my first time posting. Here's a little background before we dive into this build. You can skip to when you start seeing picks of a WK if you don't care.

I've been offroading since college when I had a lifted Jeep YJ with a locker in the rear. I've wheeled multiple Toyota's and Jeeps through the years. I started the move to overlanding about 5 years ago, and this is my third build. I learned a lot about issues with adding weight, building drawer systems that weren't designed for my gear and general fabrication along the way. Here's a pic of each of my other builds:

image0 (1).jpegimage1 (2).jpeg

I fell in love with the capability of the quadradrive2 system on the WJ. I couldn't resist when I found a 2007 WK with the CRD diesel and Quadradrive2. I promised my wife, Kaitlyn, that it would stay a stock daily driver and swooped it up. Eventually, I got antsy to build another vehicle. We shopped around for trucks and suv's to build, but I wasn't going to be able to buy and build something comfortable enough that my wife would want to join me on trips with the budget we agreed upon. So after some deliberation, we settled on using the budget on the daily I wasn't using as a daily anyway. As of today, I'm in around 10K including the purchase price of the Jeep.

Here's how she looked for two years while I was keeping my promise.
IMG_0248.PNG

First step was to decide what would be most important on the build. We had sleeping platform in the 4runner that was very comfortable, but went back to tent camping when we had the WJ. Kaitlyn doesn't really like sleeping on the ground, and I didn't want to deal with removing everything from the cab to sleep in it, so we decided on getting a used tent. I got lucky and found a package deal for a tent and a 270 degree batwing awning. While the awning looks cool, I do have to admit that I've only used it once. We seem to either find camp late enough at night that we don't need it, or we camp where there's natural shade.

The next step was figuring out what I would fabricate. This was my wish list:
- Rock protection
- Crossbars to mount the tent/awning
- Tire carrier/table
- Winch mount
- Lighting

The Jeep already is pretty well built for offroading, everything underneath is tucked up and out of the way. The only protections I felt would be necessary would be rock sliders. I removed the plastic rocker panels and it looked like I could weld some 2X6 steel against the rockers and get a natural boatside at the same time
image0 (3).jpeg

image0 (4).jpeg
 

Attachments

Last edited:

Romberger

Member
The next project I decided to tackle was the swingout tire carrier. I had thought about this for a long time and had a pretty good idea of what to build. I started by plating the unibody with some 1/4 plating on both the hinge and the latch sides (I don't have the pics, but might add them the next time the bumper is off). Once that was done, I welded up a hinge kit that I got off of amazon and I was ready to build the carrier. The rear hatch on the WK sticks out further than the mounts I welded up so I built a mock up out of wood to make sure I'd clear the hatch.

image0 (5).jpeg
Once I was happy with the angles I built the tire carrier. I thought it would be a good idea to build an extra rack on the carrier to hold a diesel jug. This also has the added bonus of carrying fire wood on shorter trips/when there's no fire ban. The jeep gets good enough of a range that I did the Washington BDR without ever needing to use the diesel in the jug, but it's there if I'm ever worried the next small town won't have diesel.

image1 (5).jpeg

The table was made out of a mesh like material, I was excited to to try something with aluminum since I had never worked with it. Unfortunately I didn't bring a magnet, and didn't notice the weight, so I ended up paying aluminum money for scrap steel that started to rust when I let it sit out in the rain untouched. I ended up painting the table black to match the rest of the tire carrier, which is alright. I think shiny aluminum would have looked cooler. I bought a hitch pin and welded it to the carrier to hold the table up when its not in use. It's both simple and effective, so I'm happy with the result. Sorry for the dirty pics, I'm not very good at cleaning up after myself.
image1 (6).jpeg
image2 (1).jpeg
 

Romberger

Member
Now it was time to work on the winch mount. I took the same approach as Omelet's Bison build thread here so I'll spare the details. It's a 12k winch that's a private label version of a smittybuilt. I got it off amazon. I've been around the private label market for past jobs so I'm confident in this thing.

image2 (2).jpeg

I also built a light bar mount into the core support. It currently has a cheap light bar I had left over from a gambler500 vehicle in it. Better lighting is on the maybe someday list.

image3.jpeg

Once I had the bumper on, I replaced the fog lights with ditch lights after taking the following photo. All the leds are tied into the fog light switch to keep the interior switch free.

IMG_6585.JPEG

The final big fab piece was building some sort of rack to hold the tent/awning package. I didn't want to use the stock rack because the roofline slopes forward too much. It would have made the tent a bear to get level at night and the awning would be pointed at the ground. We couldn't have that. So off went the stock rack and I built cross bars that would be level if the jeep was level.

image0 (7).jpeg
image2 (3).jpeg

The last thing we did before taking the maiden voyage was to mount the tent (it wouldn't fit through my standard sized garage door), got rid of the terrible black rims, and bumped up to a 285/70R17. We finally had an expedition portal worthy rig.

image0 (8).jpeg
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

National Geographic Road Atlas 2021: Adventure Edition [U...
by tional Geographic Maps
From $19.29
Into Africa
by Sam Manicom
From $26.43
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die.: And other mor...
by Jared McCaffree, Jessica Mans, Kobus Mans
From $19.99
Long Way Down: An Epic Journey by Motorcycle from Scotlan...
by Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman
From $40

Romberger

Member
The maiden voyage went really well. Kaitlyn enjoyed the tent, and I had the opportunity to tackle a hill climb that my buddies stock jku could get up. A satisfying feat for sure. He might read this though, so I do have to mention that he has a build TJ that this thing couldn't touch. Different builds for sure.

image0 (11).jpeg
image1 (9).jpeg

One thing that was very apparent was that the suspension needed to be sussed out. I originally bought it with a 2 inch spacer lift that I kept for a baseline. all the weight, especially on the roof made the driving characteristics terrible on the road. I had done the pinch weld mod on the front, but the back tires were stuffing too much on their own. I can get pics if people are interested, but in the front I maintained the front spacers and got some Bilstein 5100 lift shocks. They're set at .75 lift and do a great job at keeping the front steady on turns while dampening for rocks on trails. The back needed to be much stiffer so I went with OME coils and upgraded to a longer monroe shock that also has a helper spring on it. While the back was apart, I made some bump stop extensions. The end result is a jeep with a pretty even 2.75 lift all around that doesn't have any rubbing issues at all. I could hand the keys to anyone and let them drive it where they please.

image0 (13).jpeg
 
Last edited:

Romberger

Member
With the rig pretty much built, I turned my attention to my camp set up. I learned on the 4runner that I like my setups to be removable. This allows me to pull double duty in a crunch. The WJ taught me that cooking certain foods with the hatch open was going to leave you with a stale smell for days. With that in mind, I got two boxes that fit snug next to my ice chest One box has all of my cooking materials as well as lighting for around the campsite. The other is reserved for dry foods and other misc stuff.

image0 (14).jpeg

Behind the boxes/ice chest is my axe, shovel, chairs, oh sh@t kit, recovery gear, compressor and a bathroom bag. These always stay in my car along with a fire extinguisher.

image1 (10).jpeg

I also decided to add a wind deflector up top. I went back and forth on this since I had designed everything in a way that the deflector would cover the sun roof, but I decided to go for it since I don't really use that feature. I got a unniversal deflector off of ebay and fabbed a mount to attach it to the rails on the rtt.

image0 (15).jpeg
image1 (11).jpeg

The deflector seems to work well and I have the option of sliding the entire piece off the rtt if I ever wanted to.
 

Romberger

Member
After using this WK to finish the Washington BDR and camp all over the state of Washington, we decided to move to Phoenix AZ. I sold all of my other toys, and this was on the chopping block as well, but Kaitlyn made me keep it. We were trying to figure out how the move would work, and got lucky when the folks that bought our house also bought our biggest furniture. This left us in a great position to haul our remaining possessions behind the jeep.

image0 (16).jpeg

The jeep did great and pulled my (potentially overloaded) enclosed trailer down the coast for 6 weeks. I honestly love the WK platform with the diesel. We stopped to see friends and got the occasional airb&b. We also got to drop the trailer and have some fun in different places.

image1 (12).jpeg
image2 (4).jpeg

I let one of my buddies that has a ridiculously awesome prerunner, but has never wheeled with 4wd do a pretty steep hill climb that really impressed him. Feeling the way quadradrive2 locks up all the wheels is pretty cool. Here's a pic of the type of offroading he's into. I've been in it on jumps that are way higher than you'd expect it to be able to take. It's cool.

IMG_0253.jpg
 

Romberger

Member
We got settled into our new place early last month and are now getting to explore the area. First up was Sedona. We camped in the valley as well as in the mountains up north. It was a super fun experience. While we were there, I got the itch to do some wheeling. We found an ORV park called broken arrow, which was pretty cool.

676AB395-B56F-49F5-A23C-F6D7496016A4.JPG

On the way down we came across a new Jeep JL on 37's. The guy was having his wife film him doing a decent step up. I couldn't resist an opportunity to show off, so I popped up the same step up right after he finished. While laughing at how easy it was, Kaitlyn told me there's a crack in front of us. I wasn't paying attention and kept moving forward as I asked 'where'. Obviously, that was the wrong move as I immediately dropped into the crack in the rock. My radiator was saved by me recovery points on the front of the Jeep, so the only damage was to my ego. Probably a good thing. We ended up getting the jeep out without needing to winch and left the park in one piece.
 

Attachments

Romberger

Member
Nice set up. And congrats on the move. I really enjoy camping in the deserts
Thanks man! It’s been fun so far. Seems to be a lot of overlanders driving around in the Phoenix area. Now I’m just trying to figure out if they’re on this forum or not.
 

Morgan Weafer

Active member
I really dig your WK build dude. I can't wait to return to Washington to explore. I'm curious, how has your cooling system coped with your hidden winch mount in front of the radiator. Have you experienced an increase temps?
 

jeepgc

Adventurer
Thanks! I see you’re enjoying a WK as well. These things are so much more capable than they get credit for.
Yes they are, we took our WK to Iceland twice (long time ago now 2013+2014) hundreds of river crossings, rough terrain, volcanic ash/sand a lot of washboard. No problems at all.

Jeep is still going well today, but 99% tarmac.

Thanks for posting up, good to see a WK in the great outdoors.

Sent from my I3312 using Tapatalk
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

Overlanding the Americas: La Lucha
by Mr Graeme Robert Bell
From $20
The Total Approach of Getting Unstuck Off Road: 4WD Self-...
by Robert Wohlers
From $59.95
First Overland: London-Singapore by Land Rover
by Tim Slessor
From $15
Motorcycle Messengers 2: Tales from the Road by Writers w...
by Jeremy Kroeker, Ted Simon, Lois Pryce, Billy Ward,...
From $9.99

68camaro

Any River...Any Place
nice write-up and pics. I currently have wk2 but have had GC’s since 03. They are great plarform, cushy on highway and so capable off-road.

I wish I had your talent for mods, you did some real nice ones. There are not rear storage systems for GC’s in US so I may look at having cabinet maker make something like yours.

i wish Jeep keep the ability to open the window on rear cargo door.
 

Romberger

Member
I really dig your WK build dude. I can't wait to return to Washington to explore. I'm curious, how has your cooling system coped with your hidden winch mount in front of the radiator. Have you experienced an increase temps?
Thats a great question. I never had an issue in Washington, but my intake temps got a little ridiculous when I got to Phoenix. I haven’t hurt anything yet, but I plan on relocating my intercooler for better airflow before next summer.
 
Last edited:
Top