Jeep XJ Westfalia Camper Build - The "Jeepagon" V2

jakegrovephoto

Active member
Hey Guys,

Just got into the flow of things here at expedition portal, and the community is great.
I've had more and more questions coming in about my ongoing jeep xj overland camper build and want to make a place to house everything in an open forum.

jakegrovephoto-jeepagon-jeep-xj-westfalia-pop-top-conversion-camper.jpg

Here's a brief on the build:
A 2000 cherokee with a retrofitted westfalia camper top system from a mid model VW bus. All custom fit and fabricated. Eight-Point Roll Cage. Drivetrain overhaul and countless other modifications. Interior camper and fabrication is currently a work in progress.


History behind the build (skip down for actual ongoing content):

Introduction:
I bought my 2nd (and current) Jeep Cherokee back in March of 2017. It is a 2000 Jeep XJ Cherokee and was bone stock, never offroaded and a Daily Driver.
I drove up to LA from San Diego and bought it within a few hours of the ad going live, they go like hotcakes down here.

It was a fair price for the age and had just passed smo with 214k miles on the clock. All ran well other than a covered up overheating issue (resolved long ago).

Factory Specs:
4.0 liter high output I6 Jeep engine (0331 head)
AW4 4-speed automatic transmission
NP231 Transfer Case
Low Pinion Dana 30 front differential (open)
Chrysler 8.25 Rear (Factory limited slip)
3.55 Gear Ratio / 225-75-15 tires


The first month I owned it I swapped over some 30" BFG K02's and did some refurbishing and upkeep while waiting to sell my '94 2wd I had previously restored as a commuter.

At the moment of creating this thread I've done a good amount of modifications, fixes, and have learned a lot to share with all. I will do category specific posts when I have the chances to and as upgrades occur but until then am happy to answer any questions on my set up.

I have just began putting together write-ups on my photo website in detail, that will be updated continuously and found clicking here!

Also, here are a few videos to see the journey of the build as it progresses and hear me talk a good minute on my concepts:


 
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jakegrovephoto

Active member
Before getting into my current build, a short tribute to my original jeep. One that taught me plenty on the XJ platform (and as a first car, a lot in general)

This was a ‘94 that my dad bought new out of college. It was given to my cousins in the mid 2000’s and came back my way in April 2016. It was faded hunter green. Eaten through to primer. 2 wheel drive with an open rear end. But it ran well at 215k; a reliable daily driver. With minimal fender trim it ran 30” K02s and had a police issue gun-safe bolted to the inside for photo and skate gear. Towards the end of its life in my garage it had a dirtworx front bumper and a junkyard S10 "bastard" pack supporting the rear. It was a simple overland rig but provided many great memories of skate trips to empty pools and desert spots along the way.

The body was rattle canned satin black while the hood went gloss with the roller method (surprisingly good for the home depot aisle). It sold for $2500 when I decided the 4x4 life was calling and pursed the updated body and interior of the 97+. Nothing like first jeep nostalgia...



 
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jakegrovephoto

Active member

The first month I owned my current XJ. Make it reliable before heavy modification. Learn how it handles on and off-road stock.
First Modifications:
30" BFG KO2 swapped from '94
K4 Halogen Headlights
Replacement Clutch Fan (ZJ Upgrade)

 
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Whaler

Adventurer
I like the pop-top, good job. I'm curious about how you attached the fabric tent to the roof of the jeep and if you manage to keep water out completely.
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member
I like the pop-top, good job. I'm curious about how you attached the fabric tent to the roof of the jeep and if you manage to keep water out completely.
Thanks @Whaler. Originally it was riveted down every 3 inches to the portion that factory rack bars would bolt to. This did a decent job but being in San Diego It hasn’t seen serious storms yet. I’ve seen some VW models use rails that sandwich the canvas to the roof, when I reinstall the updated top I think I’ll try that and perhaps have a slight overhang on the inside to use RTV between the metal track and roof as well.
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member

Above is when I first picked up the VW top from Craigslist. It was $500 with canvas hinges and extra pieces. All good condition for the age. It came from a split window and according to the owner was not an original factory westfalia to his belief. He "never used the camper setup and preferred a ragtop"

Image below is the first “jeepagon” I’ve seen that circled jeep forum and here a few years back. @arbslikewhoa on jeep forum adapted his but sold it not too long afterwards and doesn’t sound like anyone has seen it around since. Cool guy and he has a solid writeup as well on his pioneer approach.

 
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rubicon91

Explorer
Hey Guys,

Just got into the flow of things here at expedition portal, and the community is great.
I've had more and more questions coming in about my ongoing jeep xj overland camper build and want to make a place to house everything in an open forum.

View attachment 475627

First of all an introduction:
I bought my 2nd Jeep Cherokee back in March of 2017. It is a 2000 Jeep XJ Cherokee and was bone stock, never offroaded and a Daily Driver.
I drove up to Anaheim from San Diego and bought it within a few hours of the ad going live, they go like hotcakes down here.

It was $3000 and had just passed smog, had 214k miles and ran well other than a slight overheating issue at the time.
Factory Specs: 4.0 liter high output I6 Jeep engine, AW4 automatic transmission, NP231 Transfer Case, Low Pinion Dana 30 front, Chrysler 8.25 Rear with factory limited slip. 3.73 gear ratio.

The first month I owned it I swapped over some 30" BFG K02's and did some refurbishing and upkeep while waiting to sell my '94 2wd I had previously restored and flipped.

At the moment of creating this thread I've done a good amount of modifications, fixes, and learned a lot I'm excited to share with all. It has a westfalia poptop from a 70's VW bus adapted to fit and is now caged in addition to a good bunch of other extras. I will do category specific posts when I have the chances to, but until then am happy to answer any questions on my set up.

I have just began putting together write-ups on my photo website in detail, that will be updated continuously and found clicking here!

Also, here are a few videos to see the journey of the build as it progresses and hear me talk a good minute on my concepts:


That is sweet. I will have to go and check this out.
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member
Before getting into the camper build a fast forward through the suspension.

JGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-suspension-lift-rubicon-express-3.5%22-shortarm.png

Following stock vehicle repair the lid was the next major component.
My kit was sourced from a couple different donor jeeps to achieve my ideal combination for budget/capability.

Rubicon Express 3.5" Superflex Lift Kit
RE 3.5" Front Coils - 240lbs/in (PN# RE1300)
RE .75" Coil Spacer (PN# RE1333)
RE 3.5" Full Rear Leaf Pack - (PN# RE1463)
RE Swaybar Disconnects - Source from TJ (PN# RE1131)
RE Monotube Shocks
Brake Best Extended Soft Lines (PN# BH622067, BH622065)

Originally:
Fixed Pressed-bushing LCA
OEM Upper Control Arm

Currently:
Cavfab Adjustable Heim/Pressed Bushing LCA
Cavfab Adjustable Heim UCA (PN# 229RAW)
Artec Truss W/ UCA Johnny Joints (PN# XJ3003)





JGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-lift-suspension-rubicon-express-3.5%22-install.pngJGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-offroad-bumper-swingout-dirtworx.pngJGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-dirtworx-bullbar-stinger-bumper.png

Following Lift Installation bumpers were ordered and installed.

Dirtworx Front Bullbar Bumper (Widened to fit XJ front)
Dirtworx Rear Tire Swingout (W/ Hitch, Hi-lift, Jerry Can, Shackles)

JGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-32%22-cooper-stt-discoverer-pro-tires.pngJGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-tires-32%22-cooper-stt-discoverer-pro-procomp-69-wheels.png

Tires and Wheels were then purchased and installed.

32 - 11.50 - R15 Cooper Discoverer Pro STT (DT PN# 11505)
15" Pro Comp 69 Series Alloy Wheels (DT PN# 72802)
Splined Lug Kit
 
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jakegrovephoto

Active member
JGP-jeep-cherokee-westfalia-poptop-camper-conversion-volkswagen-bus-donor.png
The poptop assembly as I bought it. Being that a VW bus doesn’t have a hood the roof is much longer and comes in two parts;
the tent top and the luggage rack. On this model bus the tent was in the rear and opened with the high side closest to the driver cab.

JGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-westfalia-poptop-camper-conversion-volkswagen-fiberglass-parts.png

^ This is the part that is used to fit the cherokee, it is still too long even without the luggage rack.

JGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-westfalia-poptop-camper-conversion-fiberglass-overhang-fitment.png



Above is the luggage rack. I set this aside and had no use for it (later sold).
The original jeep forum “jeepagon” spliced the edge of the rack to the open end of the poptop.
I decided not too as the splice is a pain and has a upward facing crack to leak. Mine rather glasses a new profile to the open end.



JGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-westfalia-camper-poptop-modification-fiberglass.png
Original Prototype Glue Up. a thicker board was used. Glassed with 2 plus of mat and then trimmed to fit.
The top was redone and no longer uses this method. See further into the build thread for later modification.

The original rear was slightly slanted out and maintained a flat profile.
The canvas from a bus is also too long so I trimmed and re stitched it.
Luckily the mesh on this one was just about the length of the XJ so It was preserved for the most part.

JGP-jeep-cherokee-xj-westfalia-conversion-camper-hinges.png
Spring Bar Mounts

Much hardware on the vw was old and not installed the best after decades of use.
Luckily all hinges were straight enough to use without binding.

JGP-jeep-cherokee-westfalia-poptop-camper-fitment.png

I flipped the top around so that the "back" of the VW bus would be at the front of my XJ.
This worked well and fit the curve above the winshield once trimmed.
 

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jakegrovephoto

Active member
You installed frame stiffeners yet? IMHO, that should be the very first "mod" any Xj owner does if they plan to build it. Extends the life of the unibody exponentially.
I have not installed the traditional 3/16” plate stiffeners as JCR and others make.

The way my sliders were installed it welded into the unibody at 4 places/side with reinforcement then welds into the cage at two points. Cage stitches into all the pillars and also with floor plates at the other points. I have braced the front along the Steering with plate, but still unsure of the weight and bulk of fully plating front to back.

Thinking of fully plating the front, and my bumper/gas skid system in the rear will take into account reinforcements.
 

jeepdreamer

Expedition Leader
You installed frame stiffeners yet? IMHO, that should be the very first "mod" any Xj owner does if they plan to build it. Extends the life of the unibody exponentially.
I have not installed the traditional 3/16” plate stiffeners as JCR and others make.

The way my sliders were installed it welded into the unibody at 4 places/side with reinforcement then welds into the cage at two points. Cage stitches into all the pillars and also with floor plates at the other points. I have braced the front along the Steering with plate, but still unsure of the weight and bulk of fully plating front to back.

Thinking of fully plating the front, and my bumper/gas skid system in the rear will take into account reinforcements.
As long as it keeps body flex to a minimum without placing all the load on small points, you should be fine. As good as the XJ platform is, they just don't have the stamina of an on-frame vehicle over time. Glad you've addressed it and the Jeep is sweet! Do you ha e any more pics or a link to that drawer style fridge? It's pretty cool!
 

VanIsle_Greg

I think I need a bigger truck!
Very cool. I followed the original build thread way back in the day on Jeep Forum. I was kind of sad when it just sort of abruptly ended. I am pretty excited to see this project of yours!
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member
Very cool. I followed the original build thread way back in the day on Jeep Forum. I was kind of sad when it just sort of abruptly ended. I am pretty excited to see this project of yours!
Thanks Greg! I had been trying to message the owner of the previous jeepagon while starting mine, and finally got in contact when he saw my thread pop up. Sounds like it made is way to other owners after he initially sold it and hasn’t gotten word of it since, but has built a good few other rigs since. His thread gave me a lot of idea on how to adjust it to fit my build best.
 
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