JK130 | Custom TDI Diesel Parallel Hybrid Jeep Wrangler with composite camper build.


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Hello everyone. I have decided to base my build thread here; as opposed to the TDI Forums, or the regular Jeep forums, though I have some partial threads there. I hope that by documenting my progress here (and on Youtube) I will be able to also inspire others to build their own.

I have a 2007 JK that I am basing this project on. My goal is to take much of the ideas from the expedition campers I have seen built on the Land Rover Defender 130s, and use them to create a custom vehicle that I plan to use for about 25 years.

I live in the US, and the ideal (in my view) vehicle to build one of these on.... is the defender 130, but they are nearly impossible to get in good shape in the US without spending more that I expect to have in the whole conversion to just get an older defender here. Also; parts for the defenders are hard to get in the US. I have always liked wranglers (this is my 3rd), and since it is paid for, and has no rust, (Florida jeep) I think it will be a good candidate for this conversion.

I have been thinking of this kind of a project for several years, and my inspirations are from the list of people who have made these hard-sided composite campers over the years. The platform isn't all that important. My favorites cross some of the different types of vehicles available; but they all have something of interest that I hope to use in my own project.
Some of my inspiration comes from:

AEV Outpost II - Wrangler
Wild Fennec - Defender 110
Everlanders - F-550

The A2A Expedition - Defender 130

The project will take at least another year, and possibly two.
My budget for the conversion is $20,000 for the basic conversion, with another $10,000 expected over the next few years for additional upgrades and changes.

This section for sub-threads on this project. I won't cloud up this thread with the details that are related to things outside of the larger scope of the project, but I will link them here:

My Thread on TDI Club detailing the electrical and mechanical side of the TDI Conversion.

Thread on controlling the Brushless DC Motors for the Hybrid side of the conversion.
Youtube Video Links:
Links to videos that I have published on the conversion.

BHW TDI Engine Running On Test Stand
JK130 December 2021 Update #1
JK130 Project Update #2, December 24th 2021
JK130 Part 3 Transmission, Engine Mounts. Jan 05, 22
JK130 Intake Modification. TDI BHW to BRM modification

JK130 Part 4, March 2022 , Balance Shaft Delete, Intake, Engine Work
JK130 Part 5, April 2022 Engine In the Frame.
JK130 Part 6, Engine Mounts DONE April 2022

Goal Tracking.

I will try to remember to keep this section updated to keep track of the current amount spent on the conversion. This cost is what I have actually spent, and will not include the cost to rent the garage, or any additional tools I buy for the project, but will include consumables used in the construction. I expect I will recoup a small amount of this in selling extra parts, scrapping stuff etc., but I won't bother to track this.

Project Completion Goal:Summer 2022Completed:TBD
First Phase Budget Goal:<$20,000Spent so far:=$9655
Second Phase Budget Goal:<$10,000Spent so far:=$2000
Empty Weight Goal:<5,700 LBS (2,600KG)Current Weight:coming soon
Diesel Capacity Goal:=40 gallons (150 Liters)Results:no tanks yet
Fuel Efficiency Goal:=>25MPG (9.40L/KM)Results:TBD
Lithium Battery Goal:=>10KWHRResults:no batteries yet
Solar Goal:=>1.14KWResults:no panels yet

Donor Vehicle List.

For fun, I am going to track all of the parts that I use in this project that originated on different types of vehicles. I will keep updated with what I use.

2007 Jeep Wrangler JKFront half of body, frame, transmission, transfer case, axles.
2005 Volkswagen Passat TDIEngine, Turbo, ECM, Wiring Harness, Throttle Pedal.
2007-2018 Wrangler JKU UnlimitedB-pillar outer panels
2019 Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup Truck with 5.7 Hemi with eTorque (X2)12kw Brushless Motors
2002 VW Beetle TDICoolant Flange For Rear Of Engine.
2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-SpecFront Leather Seats
2012 Hyundai VelosterGauge Cluster

I hope to take this vehicle from Alaska to Argentina, from London to Moscow, from Paris to Dakar.... You get the idea.

I will do 90% of the work myself. I can weld, I can wire, I can paint, I can wrench, I can design, I can learn what I need to learn to get the project to completion.

Lets get started by covering what has been done so far.
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B8FEB999-7FF3-4B29-B85C-F62D1D71B82D.jpeg Though all of this has been removed, I want to show some of the changes that I had made to the Jeep before deciding to do a complete rebuild. I completely re-did the interior using seats from a Volvo XC90. The rear, and the front seats folded completely flat, so that even though this was a 2 door JK, I could put a mattress in the back and sleep in it.

This view shows the rear seats folded flush, and the front seats, and the front center-console fridge removed.

I also made wheel well covers, and speaker housings with a top-mounted access doors for storage. It worked really well, but in the end the size of the 2 door JK limited me. These photos might be of use to someone who would like to make a similar system.
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Here you can see the center-console mounted refrigerator. It was built to drop into a cradle that provided power.


I also built a small 12v AGM battery into the fridge, that way I could pull it out and put it on a picnic table and still have power for about 2 hours. I plan to keep this refrigerator in the completed camper. (There will be 2 refrigerators)

I won't keep the same plastic case for the fridge however... I plan to build an aluminum housing for it, and relocate the temperature controls to the dash. I will also likely remove the ability to self-power, as I rarely used that feature.
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A46C6C7C-FA7C-463A-884B-9517D01CC82B.jpeg Although we had lots of fun in this Jeep, and used it for many adventures........ (pictured are my two daughters, and one of their friends)

It is time to make some drastic changes.

See my youngest daughter in the front seat? She is ready to go!

So lets start.
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This is what it looks like now.

Stripped to the frame, and the rear chopped off the tub.

Modifications to the frame start this coming weekend.

Wheelbase will be changed from the stock 95in JK wheelbase, to a 127inch wheelbase which will mirror the wheelbase of a defender 130.

Next: Coilovers, TDI conversion, and then start building the camper body.

A word on costs so far.
I have purchased 2 VW Passat donor vehicles with the 2.0 TDI BHW engine, they cost me about $700 each.
I bought a replacement Oil pan and sump pump for one of the engines. $50ish
I have bought various electrical connections fuse boxes and wire loom supplies. $50ish
I also bought an ECU Benchtop programmer, (I don't consider this a tool, since I plan to permanently build it into the dash, so I can program the ECU in the field) $100ish

My total cost so far is about $1,650
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273B0E21-3AC4-45B8-AEC6-74AC3248DB19.jpegThis middle section of frame is an insert that slides inside the boxed frame. As I understand it; the JK and JKU used the same front and rear frame sections, but simply used a longer or shorter insert here.
A JK has a wheelbase of 95 inches
A JKU has a wheelbase of 116 Inches
The Defender 130 has a wheelbase of 127 inches.
My plans are to remove this section and add a longer insert that will increase my length by 30 inches.

Wait... so I want to get to 127inches, don't I need to add 32 inches of length?

I plan to move the axles by one inch in front, and one inch in rear while I am doing the coilovers, so that will get me to 127 inches of wheelbase.

The insert is an odd size. It must be a custom steel extrusion. It is about 2.5x5.25, so I am going to use two square tubes 2.5x2.5 with a welded center section between the tubes.

I got the idea for the frame extension technique from this Jeep truck build thread:
I am making a bit of a modification to the technique. (the welded center section between tubes)

I have begun cutting the factory welds, and will pick up the material on Friday after work. If all goes well, my next update will show the completed frame stretch.
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This is sweet. I am intrigued by the whole thing and have wanted to do most all of this at different times myself. I also looked into the TDI swap but ruled it out, thinking that to get the appropriate amount of power was pushing the reliability. So I am very interested to see how this works out. I ended up swapping a Hemi but can honestly say I wish id gone diesel of some type for a little more money.


#1 awesome idea, 2 do you have anymore info, pics or how to on the rear seats? Looks like a good idea for third row seats in a wrangler unlimited.


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#1 awesome idea, 2 do you have anymore info, pics or how to on the rear seats? Looks like a good idea for third row seats in a wrangler unlimited.
I did 2 threads on the fold-down seats:

You would have to look at both of the threads because some of the photos aren't showing up on both threads.

In reality all you need is a 3rd row set of seats from a Volvo XC90 ( used a 2005), and lots of fabrication time. They should be able to fit in the rear of a JKU as 3rd row seats, but I am not sure they would have enough room to actually fold down. (they are a little tall)

I still have my set, and they are setup to click into the factory mounts for the rear seat of a 2door JK if anyone wants them. (it would only cost you a trip to Florida to pick them up)


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This is sweet. I am intrigued by the whole thing and have wanted to do most all of this at different times myself. I also looked into the TDI swap but ruled it out, thinking that to get the appropriate amount of power was pushing the reliability. So I am very interested to see how this works out. I ended up swapping a Hemi but can honestly say I wish id gone diesel of some type for a little more money.
A Hemi swap must feel great! All that power on tap!
My reasons for going TDI are less dramatic, I am looking for maximum range, fuel economy, light weight and simplicity.
I don't feel that I will miss the horsepower, and the extra torque at low speeds will be very welcome.
I will shave off about 150lbs going TDI.
Land rover sold Defenders with a similar engine to a small TDI, and though they might not slam me back in my seat with acceleration, I think they will give me what I am looking for overall.

Did you consider the crate engine 2.8 Cummins? It might have been a good balance between the hemi and a TDI?
I seriously considered that one, but I think I can have two rebuilt ready to go BHWs for about the same price... So I am happy where I ended up.