Lola - 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee

This thread was formally titled "2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee - Offroad Minivan". However, due to a change in "terms of use" photobucket broke all of my image hosting links and basically made the thread useless. I don't have time or energy to fix the old thread so, I'm starting current and moving forward

I have been into Jeeps and off-road since I turned 16. My days began in a 1999 TJ 4-Cylinder and then evolved into a 2005 LJ when I graduated college and started making some money. I have a love for TJ's and LJ's and I hope one day to find myself back in a soft top Jeep. As life moved on I found myself with one child and then a second, resulting in the need for a 4-door vehicle. I traded the LJ in on a very nice, low miles 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I found the WJ to be a perfect fit for me and it checked all of my major boxes for a vehicle, to include solid axles and a V8!

My build goal with Lola is to create a vehicle which maintains good road manners and daily driver attributes while being a good family overlanding platform with enough ability to tackle the occasional difficult trail. I want her to be a sleeper vehicle, not appearing too overly modified. To date Lola has tackled trails in Colorado and Moab as well as local east coast destinations.

2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Engine: 4.7L
Tranny: Automatic
Transfer Case: 242 (Selec-trac)
Axles: D30/44a

OME HD Coils w/ 3/4 rear spacer
Bilstein 5100 Shocks
Moog Steering Stabilizer
JKS Quick Disconnects
Front Suspension Limiting Straps

245/75/R16 Goodyear Duratrac w/ stock wheels

HK Off-road Overland Front Bumper
Rock Hard 4x4 Rear Bumper w/ Tire Carrier
IRO Transfer Case Skid Plate
Custom High Clearance Rock Rails

Interior LED Light Conversion
Smittybilt XRC 9500 Winch w/ Synthetic Line
Factor 55 Winch Thimble
Rock Lights
Auxbeam Rear LED Light
Hi-Lift Jack
Maxa Escaper Buddy Traction Mats
5LBS CO2 Air System
Custom rear drawer system
Indel B Fridge
Front Runner Roof Rails
ARB Awining



So why the name Lola? In 2015 we went to Colorado and Utah for two weeks and during the trip the decision to name Lola began. While sitting at a particularly difficult obstacle on the Golden Spike Trail the song "Lola" came on the radio, and my co-pilot and I instantly agreed to her name.
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OME Lift, JKS Disconnects, Limiting Straps

Keeping with my intended use of the WJ I settled on a suspension which offered a moderate lift, good ride, and load support. I landed on the OME HD lift paired with Bilstein 5100 shocks. This seemed to be the recommended combination, favored by many. The alternative route was a IRO 3" lift, but their spring rates seemed softer and I didn't think it would support the intended weight.

Immediately after I installed the lift:


After having the lift for several years now, I am overall please. I find the ride to be near stock, and the lift has held its height over the years. The only issue I have ran into was a sagging rear end, due to an extremely heavy rear bumper and tire carrier. With my Rockhard 4x4 tire carrier, tire, and water the suspension sagged about 1/2". I rectified this by installing 3/4" spacers. This put the Jeep at the correct height and set it up correctly for pulling my trailer.

I ran into a significant suspension problem while wheeling the Jeep in Colorado and Utah, the front springs kept falling out. I found the front suspension to flex to the point where both springs would fall out. This happened in two precarious spots; the Black Bear Trail and on Poison Spider. Luckily, when the spring shot out of the front suspension it didn't go crashing down the cliff on Black Bear! I played around with several solutions and ended up purchasing some limiting straps. I went with "Speed Straps" purchased from Amazon. I measured the distance between my mounting locations at the point just before the spring would fall out, and subtracted 1" for strap stretch. Here is my mounting location:

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Armor: HK Offroad, Rock Hard 4x4, and Custom

I wanted to put some thought into the armor I chose for the Jeep; bumpers, rockers, and skids. For the front I chose HK Offroad's Overland Bumper because it matched the Jeep's body lines, was lighter than other options, housed a winch, and didn't kill the approach angle. HK achieves this by removing the front crossmember of the Jeep and recessing the winch. The winch fitment is still tight, and requires some decisions on where to mount the solenoid box. I decided to disassemble my box, and flush mount the winch plug to the front of the bumper, with the winch solenoid mounted in a void behind the plug location.




The main reason behind adding a rear bumper was for the included tire carrier, to move the tire out of the floor of the Jeep. While changing a tire is a pretty rare occurrence, it can be a real pain if the tire is buried under the floor with gear and a fridge on top. I also wanted my bumper to support water or fuel, a hi-lift, and be convenient to open. I found all of these features in the Rock Hard 4x4 Patriot rear bumper. The only down side to this bumper is, its heavy, resulting in 3/4" spacers to bring the rear of the Jeep back up to ride height. Ignore the blue tape in the photos, this is temporary wire routing for the rear mounted light.




The latch mechanism is simple to use, and allows for one hand operation. And there is a hold open feature when the tire is swung open.


When I decided on rocker protection in 2015 there wasn't anything commercially manufactured which fit the bill for what I wanted. Since I don't intend to lift this Jeep more than how it sits, and it will probably never see 33's, every inch of clearance counts. All of the commercially manufactured rocker protection for the WJ was some sort of bolted rail, which robbed ground clearance. 4xGuard makes a product but I just wasn't sold on it, so I turned to my local fabricator, HCORE4x4.



Additionally the WJ is sporting an IRO Transfer Case Skid.

Stock image from their website.
New Headlight Housings

Got these from Rock Auto. The old housings were showing age and had a good haze. Definitely an increase in light output with the new housings!

Out with the old and in with the new.


No rubbing on the body however, under serious flex I stuffed the front driver's tire into the windshield washer reservoir, breaking it. I will post up where I remounted the reservoir soon, and that Napa part number.


Expedition Leader
Looks great. Absolutely love that front bumper. My son just bought a 2001 GC with the 4.7L V8. It has 200,000 miles on the chassis, but the motor only had 100 miles on it after a fresh rebuild. That was Friday. A couple days later, the motor burped up its head gasket. Darn it! There goes the upgrade budget! Not a great introduction into the world of Grand Cherokee's but I think it still has some promise. Where else can you get solid front and rear axles, a comfortable interior, near ideal 105" wheelbase, and a V8, for under $5k? I think GC's are the hidden gem that Monteros want to be, but never quite reached. I giggle when I read about people experiencing too much flex! Definitely not a problem in Monteros. I am looking forward to having this thing on the trail...eventually.
Nice Wj , I love ours, I went with the iron rock 3 in and the spring rate is soft but great for wheeling. I will be looking ant getting the same skid plate for tcase for mine.
Travall Cargo/Pet Barrier

The main reason for selling my LJ and purchasing the WJ was the addition of two kiddos. I wanted a sturdy cargo barrier to keep dogs and tool bags from flying up and hitting one of them in the event of a crash. There aren't many options out there for the WJ other than the cheap universal barriers which just use up and down tension against the floor and roof. No thanks.

Enter Travall, a primarily European company which sells products in the US. This barrier wasn't cheap at the tune of $155, but it seems well made and mounts in a sturdy location while also being quickly removable. The company also sells a divider which I will be purchasing soon.




I also recently purchased this Atlas 46 tool bag. It is available in a standard and XL size, this is the standard. I have found it fits all of my trail tools with the exception of a breaker bar and hammer. It is designed with a shoulder strap so the bag can be laid out, and if you pick it up by the strap the bag rolls up so you can move it around. I like it.


More Travall Cargo

I was pretty pleased with the quality of construction and ease of installation with the Travall cargo barrier, so I purchased the pet divider also. The pet divider screws and hooks into place, basically dividing the cargo area at the split for the rear seats. While this is all nice, it doesn't really fit very well with the dimensions of my cargo box(s). With the divider in the designed location it put the cargo box area to be about 25" wide and I have one box that is 20" and another which is about 18". So I drilled some additional holes into the main cargo barrier, allowing me to slide over the pet divider flush with my passenger side cargo box and fridge.



The beauty behind the whole system is that I can go from bare cargo area to fully loaded with boxes and fridge in about 10 minutes. This is super key in a vehicle which has the main job of being a daily driver.

The cargo box is constructed out of 1" aluminum tube with 1/4" plywood coated in Plastidip, with a home made fridge slide on top. I modeled the box construction after Goosegear.
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Expedition Leader
Can you take more photos of that trail tool wrap/bag thing in relation to something else, like a jerry can or your tire, so we can get a better idea of scale?

NEVER MIND! I see the photo in the post above with it in the back of the storage area. Smaller than I thought!
Cargo Box

I changed up the dimensions of my cargo box for the rear of the WJ, and ditched the aluminum frame for the drawer part and went solid wood. Pretty pleased with the results.