Jeep XJ Westfalia Poptop 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

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:


 

jakegrovephoto

Active member
Before getting into my current build, I wanted to throw it back to my original jeep that taught me a lot 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 a rusting green color and 2wd with an open rear end, but ran well and was reliable for a DD. It ran 30” K02s and had a police issue gunsafe bolted to the frame inside for photo and skate gear. It was a simple overland rig but have some great memories of skate trips to empty pools and desert spots in it.

I repainted it flat black with a gloss hood all rattle can and it looked surprisingly decent. Sold it for $2500 when I decided the 4x4 life was calling. Nothing like first jeep nostalgia...



 
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jakegrovephoto

Active member

Here is the first month I owned my current XJ. Make it reliable before mods. And learning how it handles on and off-road stock.

 

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 a year ago this month when I picked up the VW top from Craigslist. It was $500 with canvas hinges and extra pieces all good condition. It came from a split window and according to the owner was not an original factory westfalia to his belief and that 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 god writeup as well on his approach.

 

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, here’s a fast forward through the suspension and such.



While fixing some minor stock issues I began to source together a lift kit. Prowl Craigslist and the local junkyards enough and you’ll find something good within budget.

In my case I got a set of full leaf packs from a RE 3.5” superflex kit for $40 and then a complete 3.5” re kit with steering and an AAL for $300 off craigslist. Sold off the extra shocks and AAL and my wallet wasn’t hurting too bad.



I installed everything, then bought my bumpers from Corona area. The Dirtworx tire swingout with hilift and Jerry can mount, and the front bull bar bumper.



After that the new tires and wheels went on.
32” Cooper Discoverer STT Pro on a 15x8” procomp 1069 alloy wheel. These wheels sat at 3.75” backspace and have a nice stance with the 11.5” rubber.



Since installing these wider tires deathwobble gradually became an issue, which became the next mod to overhaul steering.
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member

Here is 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.



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





Above is the luggage rack. I set this aside and had no use for it. The original jeep forum “jeepagon” spliced the edge of the rack to the open end of the poptop, but I decided not too as the splice is a pain and has a upward facing crack to leak. Mine rather glassed a piece of wood to the open edge.

Anyone have a VW bus and want to throw me a few bucks for the rack? Haha



Originally I used too thick of a piece of wood in the rear (1/2 or 3/4”) so that will be replaced soon to a thinner piece with fiberglass over it. The rear is slightly slanted out but not noticeably. The canvas will also be too long so I trimmed and re stitched it. Luckily the mesh on this one is just about the length of the XJ so I did not have to cut into it. It was also slightly too tall once I trimmed everything to fit.



A lot of the hardware on the vws is old and not always installed the best after decades of use. Luckily all my hinges were straight enough to use fine.


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.
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member


Picked up a Dometic 30qt drawer fridge, model CD-030DC on sale. At just 9.5” tall it will fit perfectly under a sleeping platform that sits flush over the xj’s wheel wells.



Checkout that aluminum tubing being fitted for the drawer system. Spent sometime clearancing the lower for the raised lip of the hatch clip. Sits with just enough drawer clearance to the floor. And using 1/8” bar plate above it instead of tube to keep the height and wasted gap down.

The left side will have a drawer for camp stove, pots/pans and dry food.

Also if you saw my latest video I had the roof off since the cage. I just strapped it back on for the rain we’re expecting but will work on new mounting points later this week
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member


Few day break from working on the camper setup. Ratchet strapped the top in place for the rain lol.

Shot side by side from my college’s lot. Both of those other cherokees are fairly built. The far left has a reservoir setup with a full bed styled cage and was chopped into the body better than most I’ve seen. Has limiting straps and bumps dialed in. The right has the a similar rubicon express lift to mine.
 

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 can change my custom title now!!
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!
 
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