Jeeps are not money pits. On the contrary. Spending time and money on any Jeep is an investment in fun and freedom. It can bring you closer to your friends and family and keep you out of trouble because you'll always be in the garage or lying in the driveway. When you're done, your Jeep can take you as close to, or as far away from civilization as you want to get. Perhaps the hardest part of modifying a Jeep is knowing what to do next. We get a lot of questions from readers who want to run their buildup plans by us to get our feedback. We find that we keep recommending similar steps and a lot of the same sources. So if you've got an old Jeep you're working on, or just rolled off the lot in a new '03, we've got 10 more mods that you should add to your list.
Remove The TopThis is the cheapest modification we could think of. It's free. If you own a CJ that has never had the top off you should be ashamed of yourself. People who have just bought an '03 Rubicon are only allowed a grace period of two months before they must go topless. We don't care if there is still snow on the ground. If you own a Jeep and don't even have a top for it-you're our kind of guy.
Engine SwapWe've concluded from all the letters you've sent us that the only Jeep engines you consider keeping in your Jeep are the 4.0L I-6 or the Mopar V-8s. The rest of you want to swap your Jeep engine for a small-block Chevy, Ford, or even Buick and Chevy V-6. If you need help selecting which engine is right for your budget, read through the "Knowledge Base" section of Novak Enterprises' (877/602-1500, www.novak-adapt.com) Web site. One engine swap you won't see there is a new Mopar Performance 435hp 402 crate engine into a Grand Cherokee. In fact somebody out there better be working on a twin-turbo Porsche Cayenne-killer with this engine to defend the honor of Jeep owners everywhere! The engine will cost you about $4,600 (see your local Mopar Performance dealer or www.moparperformmance.com) and will bolt in place of a tired 5.2L. If you're resourceful enough you might even be able to adapt the factory EFI to run it. It might be hard to get it past your local emissions test though.
Transmission SwapThere are two reasons to swap transmissions. Your engine is too powerful for whatever you have or to get a better selection of gearing. When selecting a transmission, pay close attention to rear driveshaft length. By the time you add up the length of the new transmission and the adapter to mate it to the transfer case, you may only have room for a 10-inch driveshaft. Spend some time under your Jeep with a tape measurer before you head to the junkyard. Plus it's a good idea to order Advance Adapters (800/350-2223, www.advanceadapters.com) free buyer's guide to get an idea of what components will work together.
Slip-Yoke EliminatorJeep requested that New Venture Gear move the slip from the driveshaft to the transfer case so that it could save assembly time and money. Not to worry though, because the aftermarket has kits to convert your transfer case to a bolt-on style yoke and give you back 3-4 inches of driveshaft. Kits like Currie Enterprises' (714/528-6957, www.currieenterprises.com) cut, drill, and tap the original shaft and bolt a flange on that you can adapt a yoke to. Those available from Advance Adapters (800/350-2223, www.advanceadapters.com), TeraFlex (801/256-9897, www.teraflex.biz), and Tom Woods (877/4XSHAFT, www.4xshaft.com) supply a new output shaft and often a new tailshaft housing. When selecting a kit you might want to consider upgrading the rear output shaft to a 32-spline piece sold by JB Conversions (337/625-2379, www.jbconversions.com) instead of the stock 27-spline piece. You'll need to plan to spend another $200-$300 for a 4-inch-longer double-cardan driveshaft too.