98 Jeep ZJ "SHTFV"


Hello Portal!
I have been on this website for a little while now, primarily just digging through pages and pages of information/inspiration. Truth be told, I was told that I need to be on this "overland" action by a very good friend a few years ago. He was right. I am creeping up on the big "40", and find myself slowing down a bit to "smell the roses" - if you will. The days of sliding my vehicles around corners at break neck speeds are winding down, and my desire to explore and appreciate the great outdoors is filling that void. I have come to appreciate the adventure of traveling, seeing new places and meeting new people. My wife and I have been giving some strategic thought to the dispersment of our expendable income(little as it may be), and have decided that we would generate a vehicle that could suit a few purposes. Its funny when you grow up a little, you have to justify your expenditures, unlike the days when Top Ramen was the only thing on the menu for a few months due to a new turbo that was needed for one of our Rally cars, but I digress. We have decided that between our geographical location (California, earth quake capitol of the world), and those in charge of maintaining a sound currency or peace in this once great nation, we had better prepare ourselves to be able to travel on a moments notice and be gone for several days. This is why we have dubbed our project "SHTFV", or "Stuff Hits the Fan Vehicle". Now, before you start developing opinions and helping the wife and myself into the "preppers" boat, we want you to know we are a fairly normal couple without a lot of money just doing what we can to make sure our family is capable of escaping peril should it find us. That would be purpose number one (or so I tell the wife while I am busy trying to make her paranoid so I can extract excess funds for purpose number two). Purpose number two is to give us an oppertunity to escape together. It seems as though if we do not have plans to leave town, then one of us will always have something to do, making just spending time together at home almost impossible. I would be the most guilty of the previous statement, as sitting around just burns my ***, I need to be on the move, accomplishing, living. So, we will continue to build this vehicle, little at a time, until it is the way we like it!

The base rig is a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8

We managed to secure the vehicle at the very fair price of $2500. Granted, it is an older Jeep with a ton of electronic goodies, half of which don't work. This is not bothersome to us, as we are aware of its intended use, and would rather fix what we need and not sweat the small stuff. Just after we purchased the rig we hit the road, completely unprepared and unscripted, you can read about that adventure here...

Here is the way the Jeep looked the day we got it....




I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee some years ago, but was more into rock crawling back then. The new ZJ will be modified with some of the same features, but far more geared toward Overland travel. Here is a shot of my old Jeep


I will try to update this thread as I build up the Jeep, as well as get you caught up to where the Jeep is today. Thanks for Reading!!


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stalling, at best

Ok, so I came home this weekend with the best of intentions to get some work done on the ZJ. I was all set to get cracking on the next step of my build when I saw it out of the corner of my eye, My XJ. I could almost hear it pleading for my attention, arguing about how beautiful the weather was, and how there was at least 2.5 hours of daylight left. It when all bad from there. I began the justification process, considering how long it would take to get the tools out, use them and put them away, how much work could I actually get done? On the other hand, I could be driving, and working on our personal trail. Ok it was settled, driving it is!

I made sure I had the necessary supplies and hit the trail


The "Orange Crush Trail" is maintained by me and all my friends and lies accross the street from my house. It is full of challenges like this bridge, that is on its last leg!


It also has this tunnel obsticle that is almost impossible to make it through, thankfully I managed without winching this time around!


Truth be told, I probably should have spent some time on the ZJ, but I like to play with all my Jeeps, and lord knows I spent enough time working on this one too!


If you want to see the build process on my trusty old XJ, please click on this link:


I promise next time my post will be on topic and about my ZJ, thanks for looking!!


If Not Now When?
At first I was like sick XJ! Then I scrolled down a bit and was like whoa its like XJ is mini and those obstacles are freakin HUGE! Then I read it, now I know! hehe!


In case anyone didn't feel like clinking the link for the red Jeep, it is an RC crawler, good detail though.

Even if it is RC, it is still an adventure, and that is what the Jeep brand means to me :)

At first I was like sick XJ! Then I scrolled down a bit and was like whoa its like XJ is mini and those obstacles are freakin HUGE! Then I read it, now I know! hehe!

Truth is, I would love to build an XJ like that in full scale, too much $$ though

Yeah I was totally thrown there for a while. lol well played sir

haha... I guess I was playing a bit there. I hope you guys liked the build at least!


some prelim mods

We decided to head to Death Valley soon after we purchased our new (to us) Jeep ZJ. About 2 days prior to our departure, I decided to dig through the archives in my garage and see what kind of stuff I could throw on the Jeep to assist us in our journey. I discovered a GPS system from the 50's (ok, not from the 50's, but from the 90's, about the same thing). Then I discovered an old back up camera system with a suction cup mount. Due to my apprehensiveness about permanent use of this archiac piece of positioning equipment, I felt it would be best to put it into service on a temporary basis. I dove in the garage and whipped up a mount to make it work...

OG Eagle Accutrail GPS system


Back up camera system...



I removed the ball from the back side of the monitor



I then had the parts needed to make a swiveling suction cup system for our GPS


Next step was to make a bracket to hold the GPS to the swivel system


I decided to use aluminum


I grabbed a sharpee and threw out a basic design..



I brought the aluminum sheet to the shear and started slicing some strips to make this happen.


Then I had to drill a few holes


Then came the tricky part. I had to break it at the perfect angle so the holes would line up correctly


After a little negotiating, it seemed to fit just fine!


I had to make one more bracket for the top, and to keep it from swiveling down



Ok, all the pieces are made, time to put them together



I placed some double sided tape on the top portion of the bracket to help avoid rattling against the GPS unit


Time to test fit it!



I guess it would have been wise to make sure the GPS worked before going through all this effort to make a mount for it, and... Yes! It worked...


It actually fits quite well in front of the passenger. It rests on top of the dash and angled where ever we like it to be angled.


Again, for temporary use, I just bent up some aluminum to mount the GPS antenna on the roof. Notice all the duct tape remnance on the antenna. I can remember taping it to the t-tops on my buddies cars in the past, to see who's was fastest. There was a firebird vs. a camaro. The camaro won going a cool 141. Man, we were not too bright as youngsters.


In hindsight, this was a ton of work for what it was meant to do. Perhaps there would have been an easier way to accomplish the same thing. Either way, it worked great for our first trip to DV, and our second trip to DV, and still today :)


I also found some KC lights from some of our old Baja excursions. I was lazy with the camera when I was messing with the light mount set-up. To make a long story short, I was running out of time right before we left, and decided to take a short cut and tig weld up a mount, and then weld it on the front of the Jeep instead of bolting it on. I figured I could cut it off in less time than it took me to weld it on, so what the hell, right? I just wanted the option of doing some night driving, and the yellowed stock ZJ lamp lenses were not going to cut it off-road.....


The result turned out ok, not the best lighting option, but it would work for the time being...



They did the trick on our first trip, and have suited us fine until recently.


Adventure IQ

In case anyone didn't feel like clinking the link for the red Jeep, it is an RC crawler, good detail though.

I love rc stuff and have been building a track in the backyard. Your xj is one of the best I have seen.

I often take some kind of rc rig with me into the back country


I love rc stuff and have been building a track in the backyard. Your xj is one of the best I have seen.

I often take some kind of rc rig with me into the back country
Thank you for the compliment, I think it took as long to build as my ZJ will :) I always keep a scaler in the rig with us, you never know what sort of terrain you will come across!

I like what you did with the gps mount....thinking of soething like that with mine
I think it may be overkill, but if I get a new one, I can always loan that to a buddy for a quick mount up and usage!


New Tires

The wife and I decided we were going to take a trip through the new years holiday this last year, and came to the conclusion that we needed to run some different tires on the Jeep. The stock tires had been more than good to us, getting us safely through Death Valley and several more local one day excursions. I had been hearing a lot of buzz about the new Falken Wildpeak tires so I decided to give them a shot. I ordered some (5) 245-75-16 Falkens to fit to the Grand. One of the things I heard about these particular tires is that they are virtually bullet proof. When I picked them up from the shop, I was floored at how stiff the sidewalls were. When I went back and inspected my order, I realized that I had purchased the E/10 versions, which are made for a very heavy load! When originally shopping, I was looking at size only, and saw that this part number measured 30.6" in height compared to the D/8 tire that measured 29.6" tall. I intended at that time to install some spring spacers to make the extra clearance to clear these tires. Like everyone else, I found myself too busy to get around to installing the lift spacers, so I mounted them up, and did a little "Massaging" of the bumper tips for clearance :)

We were off and running on the 30th of December and headed down to run the "Bradshaw Trail" that runs from the Salton sea to the Colorado river. If nothing else, this became a very good test for those new Falkens. I aired them down a bit to attempt to soften the ride, and it did an alright job. Considering we dont have onboard air yet, I was stuck with these pressures, and didn't want to push it. I am thankful we didn't, because we ended up exploring some old mining areas with some of the sharpest rocks I have ever seen. We also found ourselves on trails littered with steel debris half burried in the ground. The Falkens had performed just like we were told they would, They offered great traction for the steep climbs, and the confidence to attack trails littered with sharp objects.


At some point, we will have to do a trip report for our adventure on this road. I saw some really cool stuff while on the way to the trail head like this rig.....


and a little inspiration for the old ZJ..


This trip was a lot of fun, someday we will do it again!


Adventure IQ

Please tell me that laser isnt going for an aircraft.... I got hit with a handheld laser coming in for a landing the other night.....otherwise that is a great pic

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