Part 6: Finishing It Up
Is our Grand Cherokee finished yet? I doubt it. We're still contemplating a few more things to do in the future, like perhaps some wide custom fender flares, a rollcage, going up to 35-inch tires, going down to deeper gears, and perhaps some minor suspension and steering changes. For now, though, it's time to enjoy what we have and run it like we stole it (well, not quite that bad).
The MasterCraft seats were the first modification we made to the Grand; we just wanted to see how we liked them before reporting back. We definitely do. We have used MasterCraft and other manufacturers' seats on projects in the past, and can unequivocally say MasterCraft seats are quality above the others. We opted for the Baja RS model. That's the one with the reclining backs. We also went for the option of a taller back, seat heaters, and a headrest moved a bit more forward. The reclining back allows easier access to the rear seats or storage area of two-door vehicles; however, we wanted them for the multi-position back angle. On long drives, it's nice to be able to change the back position. We had to fabricate a new cross bracket, but we were able to make use of the original power seat's forward and back adjustment as well as seat angle. A simple aluminum plate mounted the controls in front of the lower seat cushion. This was necessary because the seat's wider design prevented access along the side.
Our rear Tomken bumper and tire carrier had some changes done to it. The first came from Tomken in the form of a new latching mechanism that's easier to operate and prevents rattles, unlike the original mount. We also moved the entire assembly over so the tire is now centered with the back of the Jeep. This made room for the mount we built to hold our Power Tank.
The second change to the Tomken bumper was each corner got cut at a 45-degree angle and replated. Partially we did this for looks, and partially because we'd caught our leg on the sharp corner several times. The factory exhaust is designed to exit below the bumper. After smashing the tip a couple of times, we finally figured we could cut a hole through the side of the bumper, sleeve it with a piece of tubing, and run the exhaust pipe through it. No more smashed tailpipes. Oh yeah, we had to relocate the license plate to the left side of the bumper and add a license-plate light.
I am not sure how we have gotten along without our Power Tank up to now. The big problem was that we just couldn't figure the right location to mount it inside the vehicle without taking up valuable inside storage space. The outside mount we constructed on the tire carrier works perfectly. It does invite the notion that someone else might want it more than us, so we've added a padlock and a heavy-duty steel cable for better security and found a weatherproof bag to cover the regulator. We keep the hose inside until needed, and it will reach all four corners with the tank in place.
Another accessory we're really pleased with is the "mountaineer rack" from Olympic 4x4 Accessories. This lightweight rack is held to the Grand's floor with some trick hold-down retainers, making it a one-minute job should you want to take it out. We found it so useful that ours stays in all the time. Heavy stuff like toolboxes and ice chests go onto the floor, and light stuff like jackets and such go on top. The factory cargo net that came with the Jeep is close to a perfect fit to secure our gear in place.
While we were at it, we also ordered up a roof rack from Olympic that was designed for a Cherokee XJ. Now, Grands don't have gutters like XJs do, which is the standard for mounting most roof racks, so we made up some special brackets that fit the factory roof-rack rails and modified the XJ rack to fit these. Most likely by the time you read this, Olympic will have it in production.