The Triple Threat Grand Cherokee (2003 WJ)


i've got a build thread on pretty much every other forum that i frequent, so i thought perhaps it was time to do one here to. i won't be repeating every little detail, instead i'll just highlight the major mods and expedition related goodies - as well as post some pics from the better trips! my main and more detailed build thread is on the Offroad Passport site:

i'm calling this the "triple threat" because my rig must excel in 3 areas - daily driver, weekend trail rig, expedition/camping rig. it pretty much needs to do anything except 4+ rock crawling and stay reliable while doing it.

to start, here's a couple of my favorite "on-expedition" pics:

those are both from our October 2010 Maze District trip
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general specs

she's a 2003 Limited Grand Cherokee WJ in "Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl" with the 4.7 HO V8 engine. It has every option that the Overland had except rain-sense wipers and adjustable pedals.

price back when new was nearly $40k, but I picked her up used with about 75k miles already on the clock for a bit over $12k if i remember correctly. A comparable one is much cheaper these days, probably $8k... oh well!

i've been through a couple configurations, but currently have a Clayton Offroad 6" long-arm lift kit, with 35" KM2 tires.

the previous 4.5" lift & 33s was actually better for daily driver duty and most expedition trips, but wasn't cutting it for the weekend trail rig requirement when i wanted to do some tougher stuff.

i have the crazy factory aluminum Dana 44HD in the rear upgraded with 4.56 gears and an Aussie automatic locker and PowerSlot rotors

the front is the factory Dana 30 (it's WJ specific, wider than TJ/XJ ones and uses weaker CV joints instead of U-Joints), upgraded with 4.56 gears and an ARB air locker and PowerSlot rotors.

front also features JKS track-bar, tie-rod, and draglink.

JKS SuperNerf rock rails on the sides, a Clatyon ZJ belly-skid (custom mounted), and a factory gas-tank skid act as armor.

when i was more street and mild trail oriented, i had a rear Addco anti-sway bar, but currently have no sway bar in the rear. i have the factory one up front with JKS disconnects.

Eagle Alloy 17" wheels hold the 35" KM2s. The 17's were a bit much for the 33's (not leaving enough sidewall), but are perfect with the 35's now.

i swapped in a 242HD transfer case and a custom SYE from Tom Woods, with locally sourced heavy duty (thick walled) 1310 driveshafts front and rear.

the exaust is a 3" flowmaster delta flow 50 with a turn-down pipe (due to the rear long arms). the 50 has a nice sound, but with the turn down is a bit too loud for me. i'll probably replace it with a 70 one day, but it's a low priority.

that's about it for basic setup.

here's a pic of her a couple weeks after purchase with nothing done but de-badge and clamp-on Rola roof rack. i actually wheeled it just like this a ton on forest roads and some easy desert trails with even the stock street tires for a few months!

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the jeep is currently sitting at Lost Offroad / Absolute Offroad getting axle swap and a few other goodies.

i'm swapping axles basically for more reliability. as soon as i upgraded to 35's with that ARB and factory 30 in the front, i started becoming much lighter on the pedal. the consensus is that i'm just very lucky to have not snapped a shaft yet with that setup.

also i've bent a rear shaft twice when loaded heavily for an expedition and still tried to go a bit fast on forest/desert roads ;)

the front ball-joints constantly wear out on me, and i'm also going through upper control arm bushings a couple times a year (that is common to most long arm Y-link front ends though).

so the plan (if the wallet holds up) is to swap in these:

  • used JK Rubicon axles that i purchased about a year ago with...
  • 5.13 gears
  • factory e-lockers
  • front tube sleeves
  • front c-gussets
  • dynatrac diff covers
  • rear superior 32 spline shafts
  • front RCV shafts
  • rockkrawler gen 2 tie-rod, drag-link, and track-bar

i'm using mainly a full bracketry kit fro Iron Rock Offroad to put them in. the kit was designed for their long arm 3 link lift, so it's having to be modified some to work. i believe Clayton Offroad now has their bracketry kit all worked out now and that would have been the smarter move if i had known it would take me this long to actually do the swap.

i'm also putting in the Currie JK front upper control arm Johny Joint kit to improve articulation and get rid of my constant killing of rubber bushings.

then i currently have regular yokes in my driveline except for on the rear output of the t-case (the SYE) has a flange yoke. i'm changing to all flange style yokes front and rear. and i'll have a third spare driveshaft made that will fit front or rear at that point.

finally, i purchased a used Redneck Ram hydro assist package (lines, ram, tapped box). i'm having the mounting for the ram done during this swap, but won't tackle the actually conversion to hydro assist till later (myself).

i'll also be doing the wiring of the lockers myself after i get it back and any other small stuff that i can do to save money.

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one of the first major trips with this jeep was the mojave road:

first time it rock crawled was Woodpecker:

that was also it's first carnage... haha, nothing in comparison to what would come eventually:

one of the next expeditions was to the Anza Borrego area, where it got it's first real battle scars:



some early mods

the corners of the front bumper seem to be getting pretty chewed up. the foglights had already been removed first thing due to the larger tires catching them. so i went ahead and trimmed the bumper up:

also needed to mount the hi-lift somewhere, so modified the factory rails and used some stainless steel bolts/washers/nuts and a small stainless lock:

this was still back in 2009, had a great little camping trip up near Lake Mary around then too:

another small mod was to wire in some red LED's and a switch for the center overhead lamps. the regular white lamps still come on and off as normal, but the red button turns on the red LED's for when you are wheeling at night and need a little cabin light for something but don't want to ruin your night-vision:

near the end of 2009 i went from the 4.5" to 6":

just after that, i also first visited the Canyonlands, which has become one of my all-time favorite places!



next major mod required for extended travel was a better roof-rack setup. the goal was to mount my clamp-on Rola basket more securely.

i came up with an idea, bought some steel, cut it all and tack welded some pieces into place with a cheap harbor freight welder i had. then i took it over to my friend George (Number 7 on here) and he welded it up for me and provided a couple other good ideas for where to add gussets and such.

here's the gist of it - a long flat strip in place of where the factory rails mounted, with some angled bar stock coming down from the basket:

we added some gusseting to those support "legs" after those pics.

a few days later G helped me finish the project by adding shovel/axe and hi-lift mounts:



one of the next mods to make things more convenient was on-board-air.

i moved the battery to the un-used spare tire well and put 2 costco/pep-boys compressors in it's place, and also put a 5 gallon air tank in the old spare well.

full details on that whole thing are here:

the little compressors didn't like being exposed and died in less than a year. so currently i have the DC7000 (same as puma PD-1006), but the rest of the system has worked out great still:

this was also the start of my dual battery setup, which i now have all the parts for but still have yet to install!


Fantastic build! The grands are a great platform for exploring.
thanks dude! yeah it was either a grand or a Disco II, i drove them both (both 04 models actually) and just felt the Grand had way more get-up-and-go and just seemed like it would be better for the daily driver duty portion. plus i already was familiar with Jeeps from owning an XJ, so that was a decider. I'm sure the Disco would have been fine too, and probably and even better expedition platform as it's roomier and more utilitarian inside. all in all, i love my WJ though!


at this point, my 33's were nearly bald and in preparation for moving to 35's, it was time to trim... talk about point of no return!

in the back you basically cut off all but a 1/2" that you then fold back over towards the inside, then cover it all with some seam sealer:

in the front, i didn't want to try and roll them as i would then have to re-paint (since the paint would crack), so i elected to just trim the line i wanted and cover the edge with door edge molding from Pep Boys:



more misc mods

the door started out with a mag light and an extinguisher, but has grown to a full-on gear warehouse!

i had twice mangled the lower radiator support area, once bad enough to pop the radiator, so that was an expensive weak point. until i allocate some funds for a better front bumper that protects that area, i needed some kinda skid. again my friend George helped me out. this time i left it all to him while he had me re-do some wiring on his rig, here's what he came up with:

it's a thick piece of angle-iron, with just a short bit on the back side. when i come down on a rock, the corner of the angle takes the hit and then spreads the force out all over the radiator support instead of letting the weak tube cave in or bend up. a hard hit could still collapse the tube sides, but this has saved me a couple times now, so thanks again G!