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Old 10-08-2018, 12:32 AM
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Beetlejuice Overland Build

I'm a little late on making this build thread. It's been on my list of things to do, but I never could any time to do it. Now it's been two years and I have a back log of things to show. I will try to keep it to the abbreviated version.

I've always wanted a Jeep Wrangler since I was a kid, but I could never afford it. I had a Subaru Forester for a long time and it served me well going across the country and "off-roading" as much as I could. This is my (now wife) girlfriend and I exploring the back country of the canyon lands between Arizona and Utah border in Paraia Canyon and other nearby areas:









We ended up pushing the Forester too far into the mountains on one point of the trip and got stuck there with very little daylight left.



We had to have a Jeep come and rescue us and that's when I realized that I need to just bite the bullet and buy my dream vehicle - aka Beetlejuice.



Beetlejuice started out as a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys Wheeler edition, and bought brand new with shy of 16 miles on it. The options that I elected to go with are:

2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys Wheeler
Automatic
Connectivity Group
Max Tow Package
Power Convenience Group
Hard Top
Mopar Slush Mats
UConnect 430

The name started out as a joke because I drove her a LOT, and she was always covered in bug juice, and she was black and white. So the name just stuck.

My goal for this build was always to transform her to an overland vehicle. The transformation had to be very slow because of finances. I can't afford to just get everything all at once, unfortunately. I tried to be as methodical as possible and not get any unnecessary items. I also don't plan to do any insane rock crawling, so adding crazy large tires and lifts does not make sense to me. In addition, this is my DD, so I need it to be safe on the road. I want the vehicle to be capable offroad so that it can get me to hard to reach places, but not so capable that I can't use it for anything else. I mainly want to be able to live out of it when I go on long trips.

My initial goals:

1. New front bumper to allow more front clearance and to allow for a winch.
2. Flat fender to allow for larger tires
3. Rear bumper to allow for tire carrier
4. All around new LED lights because JK lights SUCK

Long Term Goals:

1. MetalCloak Game Changer suspension with 2.5" lift, rocksport edition
2. 34-35" KO2s
3. Rooftop tent - haven't decided between Ursa Minor or James Baroud
4. Solar panels
5. Genesis dual battery system
6. ARB twin compressor and fridge
7. sPOD switch system
8. Long range fuel tank
9. Some form of shower system
10. Fridge/freezer with some form of minimalist kitchen

As soon as I bought the car, I had to take it "off-roading" (I put it in quotes because my first adventure wasn't really off-roading but more just going on a fun drive and enjoying the Jeep).





...to be continued on next post...

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Old 10-08-2018, 12:54 AM
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I wanted the open feel of the air and to be able to take my best friend with me in the back, so my next modification was the Bestop soft top and the Rugged Ridge rear cargo cover.







I ended up disliking both items quite a bit. The Bestop soft top was a massive pain in the ass to install and it leaked constantly. The Rugged Ridge cover was easy to install, but it wasn't designed very well and was extremely bagging around different areas and felt a bit clunky to me. Since I had it installed though, I decided to go on a trip with them and test them out. First trip we took was to go to northern Arizona and camp near an amazing waterfall there.





There is something really special about sleeping next to the roaring sound of a waterfall and waking up to a beautiful sunrise over the water. Though my wife wouldn't stop complaining about there being too many bugs



I ended up taking the Bestop soft top off immediately after the trip and selling it. Good riddance. I love my hard top too much now. I did add the hard top liner to the build and there was a dramatic decrease in sound and temperature control inside the Jeep.

It was right around my best friend's (and the love of my life) 10th birthday, so I decided to take him camping up in Flagstaff, AZ area. All the campsites were completely full so we took a random trail off the campsite and went out to a middle of nowhere and found a cozy spot to setup camp.





Keeping the little sucker warm in the chill:



He was really crapped out when we got back the next day:


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Old 10-08-2018, 01:10 AM
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The next step was to update the headlights and tail lights on Beetlejuice. I can't tell you how much I hated the OEM lights that Jeep sent me home with. When I was driving in back country at night, I might as well not have had any lights. I couldn't see anything to save my life - literally.

This was by far the easiest and straight forward installation, and I absolutely LOVED the results:







While I was at it, I also decided to change my antenna to a stubby to make Beetlejuice look less gangly.



After a build or addition, I always try to take her out somewhere. I try really hard to avoid falling into the trap of always modifying the Jeep, but not actually using it for what it was intended. So every time she gets metal surgery, I take her out somewhere pretty. Next stop, Schnebly Hill in Sedona, AZ.



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Old 10-08-2018, 01:38 AM
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My first big modification was to add a new front bumper with a winch. I wanted an aggressive looking front bumper (like the Poison Spyder style bumper) but with a recessed winch area to drop the winch and hide it away. After A LOT of research, I ended up going with the MetalCloak mid-width front bumper and mid stinger.

I am going to go on a mini rant here because I've been meaning to write a review about MetalCloak for a while, but never had a chance to until now. Let me preface all this by saying this: I absolutely LOVE MetalCloak products. They are well built for function (what I like), they look good, and they have one of the best customer service I've ever dealt with. Anytime I've had an issue with their product, they made sure to fix it ASAP.

With that said, I will now say that I think they have one of the worst quality control I have ever seen. I don't have a lot of experience with different Jeep third-party manufacturers so they may all be like this, but it is RARE that I get a product from Metalcloak that doesn't need some significant modification for fit. Maybe it's just my Jeep that's out of whack and I have bad luck, but the adjustments that I have to make to make their product work are usually not small. In addition, on multiple occasions I have received one of their items that had scratches on the powder coat or some noticeable rust. They ALWAYS fix the issue, but I just wish they could get it right the first time.

Again, I don't want to bad mouth them because I really do love their stuff (in the end). Most of the stuff on my car are from MetalCloak, so that goes to say something about how well the parts work once you get them installed.

This is Beetlejuice without her front teeth:



Carving out her cavity (aka vacuum pump):



After hours of grinding away on both my frame and the base of the MetalCloak bumper (I had to grind almost 1/4" off the bumper base):



Finally got the bumper on:





While I was at it, I also installed the MetalCloak rear seat support bracket. Honestly I am not sure if this actually makes any difference unless you weigh a lot. I don't really recommend it as a useful purchase.



There was a spot missing so I decided to fill it up with a Smittybilt X20 waterproof synthetic winch. I really wanted the Warn winch, but honestly couldn't justify the cost. As I don't have a ton of money, I have to be extra careful about my purchases and I decided that the Smittybilt would serve my purpose just fine.





And we're off to Colorado!







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Old 10-08-2018, 01:56 AM
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My next batch of upgrades was some small, but very useful additions. My favorite of the batch is that Beetlejuice finally got her own decal! The name is official and can't be changed at this point:



There is another one on the other side. I am looking to add the name to a third location to make it complete, but have to wait a while before I get there.

She also got two additional stickers and a spare tire cover. I am generally not a fan of putting stickers on vehicles, but these are my two calling signs and are always on every vehicle that I own.



Next up was to add the Springtail Solutions tailgate table. The install was relatively simple. I have a lot of complaints about this product though and will eventually replace it with the Outback Adventures Trailgater. My biggest issue with this table is that it has a very clunky opening and closing mechanism that has pretty much stopped working at this point. It used to be that you could close it and it would snap in. Now you have to pull the pins out separately and slowly jam the table back in. I think this can be fixed relatively easily, but I have other issues with this table that's causing me to want to sell it.





Finally, I added the Bartact seat covers. I really LOVE these. They were a huge pain in the A** to pull over the seats, but they work wonderfully now.



Of course I immediately took her out to some back country trails in AZ:





Had a little Mexican standoff with this cow on the trail. It would not budge and I didn't have a lot of room to maneuver. It took about 20 minutes before I finally could squeeze past her.

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Old 10-08-2018, 02:21 AM
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At this point, I had to take a pause in the build because I got a job in upstate NY doing some R&D for GE. I had to leave my poor wife home by herself, but she did accompany me across the country while we visited multiple states. We went through northern AZ, Utah, Wyoming (my favorite state), South Dakota, and many other wonderful states across this incredible country.









Some wise men:



Beetlejuice really lived up to her name on this trip:



Work kept me really busy during the 4 months that I was there, but I did get a chance to explore some. I also started a new expensive hobby - sailing! I had an absolute blast sailing with some co-workers. We raced every Wednesday and managed to win second place against some of the big boys out there on the last race while I was there.







After my research was done, I was all packed and ready to head back to AZ.



On my way back, I made a point to stop at some of my beloved canyon lands of the southwest.



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Old 10-08-2018, 02:43 AM
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Once I was back in AZ, I was right back to modifying Beetlejuice to get her to the final overland state. My next round of items was installing the flat fenders and the rear bumper. Since I already had the MetalCloak front bumper, I decided to use them for the fender and the rear. I did the install on this very slowly over a few days and it was a lot more enjoyable than doing it all at once. I highly recommend this type of installation method for those who are extremely busy in their lives.







I took this opportunity to install some new hood latches to remove the insane hood flutter issues I was having during my cross country trips.



Finaly assembly of fenders:





And the rear bumper:



I made a mistake of trying to mix and match aftermarket manufacturers. I really did not like the inner fender shielding that Metalcloak offers so I tried to go with the ACE design because it looked better.



Unfortunately the stackup made some clearance issues and I had to take it off and install the MetalCloak ones (no pictures of these). While I was at it, I also installed some lock boxes under my car seat. I had to re-route some of the cabling under the seat, but that was the most painful part of the install. Fairly straightforward otherwise.







I decided to do a slightly different off-roading this time. I have to say - it was a lot of fun, but I prefer wheeling in my Jeep.







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Old 10-08-2018, 03:10 AM
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After the last mod, I took quite a while off from working on Beetlejuice. I recently got a job in California, and between the insane living expenses there while trying to support a family on a single income, I almost came close to selling her and getting a cheaper vehicle that had better gas mileage. I ended up talking myself out of it, but at this point I am taking the builds a lot slower than before. I have a daughter being born in a couple of days, and have to think of her over anything else.

My next batch of items to add are:

1. Beetlejuice desperately needed new brake pads - I ended up going with Hawk Performance LTS brakes. They have made a noticeable improvement on my braking performance.

2. New Shoes - I went with 285/75R17 BFG KO2s and couldn't be happier. I realized that I do not need anything larger than this, and this ended up being the perfect match for Beetlejuice.

3. sPOD 6 switch system

4. ARB Twin Compressor

I first did my brake change and installed wheel spacers as the stock Willys wheels do not have enough backspacing to allow for full range of motion. This is what my rotors and brakes looked like prior to install (your wheels on drugs):



And after taking a small metal brush to it with my power drill:



I have to say, it was oddly satisfying removing all that corrosion. It felt SO good to get her clean. For the curious, this is what the difference in backspacing looks like with the 1.5" Spidertrax spacers:



And here she is with her new shoes:





After the new tires, I started working on install the sPOD switch system. All in all, relatively straightforward install. It took about 3-4 hours but that was mostly because I had to switch the orientation of the bracket mount (by MetalCloak).





I also installed some Rigid Industries Hyperspot Cube LEDs:



I also tried installing my ARB Twin Compressor, but the compressor cable harness was damaged, so I am just waiting on ARB to respond to me about a replacement. I did install the mount though (by MetalCloak).



And here she is after a well deserved detail:



Finally, based on recommendations from a different build thread, I decided to install the Brawlee tailgate LED by Done Right LED. The install was fairly straightforward and ended up looking very professional. One pro tip though, please throw away the wire tap connectors they give you and go straight to doing a buttsplice with a nice clean heat shrink tube over it. It works better and looks nicer. This mod added a TON of clean lighting in my cargo area. I HIGHLY recommend this mod.









And finally, I had to add my Overland Bound emblem.



My next upgrade is going to be adding the ARB compressor and adding the MetalCloak rear tire carrier so that I can add the 5th KO2s. Right now I did not upgrade the spare wheel tire because the tailgate can handle the additional weight of the 34" tires. The new tire carrier should take care of that. Will update soon when these are done!
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Old 10-08-2018, 07:03 AM   #9
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Welcome to the forum Alik! I really enjoyed reading your posts and watching your build evolve

Life happens, post more when you can! You're right, family first!!!



-Steven
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Old 10-08-2018, 07:53 AM   #10
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Great thread! Thanks for sharing your build
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Old 10-08-2018, 12:13 PM   #11
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Throughly enjoying this build..great read & pics! Congrats on the newest addition to your family!!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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Old 10-08-2018, 01:52 PM   #12
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Congrats on the new (future) Jeep driver in the family. Great write-up on the build. Looking forward to seeing more of those great pictures of the places you visit.
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Old 10-11-2018, 03:30 PM   #13
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Great build! Love the pics. I am building a JKU for overland use as well. It’s been slow as things are expensive. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
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Old 10-12-2018, 08:26 AM   #14
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Loved reading through your story...great build and some cool pictures. Looking forward to future upgrades.
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Old 10-13-2018, 01:01 PM   #15
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Alik53, nice build. Question for you, the picture with the 285/75/17 KO’s and flat fenders, have you installed a lift yet? Or is this just with the flat fenders/spacers and no lift? I am thinking of doing flat fenders, 285/75/17, and no lift (maybe some recon springs I got for cheap). Thanks.
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Old 10-13-2018, 07:26 PM
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Alik53, nice build. Question for you, the picture with the 285/75/17 KOís and flat fenders, have you installed a lift yet? Or is this just with the flat fenders/spacers and no lift? I am thinking of doing flat fenders, 285/75/17, and no lift (maybe some recon springs I got for cheap). Thanks.
There is no lift on this vehicle. I am planning on adding one at some point (maybe 2.5" max), but flat fenders with a 1.5" spacer is more than enough for that size of tire.

I have not had a chance to test its full articulation yet, but there is so much room between the top of the tire and the fender that I would be surprised if there was any rubbing.
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Old 10-13-2018, 07:41 PM   #17
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Thank you.
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Old 10-21-2018, 07:45 PM
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I've had a pretty busy couple of weeks with the newest member of the family and the future inheritor of Beetlejuice. She's kept us up almost all day and all night for two weeks now.



I had a chance to finally install the ARB Twin Compressor with the MetalCloak bracket onto the Jeep. I have to say the MetalCloak bracket, while useful in design, was a massive pain to get installed. The extra support bracket on the bottom is very difficult to attach and get in once the compressor is on there. I can think of many ways of improving it, but it is what it is for now.





I also had some old lighting stuff installed that I had forgot to mention previously. I installed some under the seat (front and rear) RGB LED lighting that is bluetooth controlled. It's a neat feature, but more or less useless. It cost me about $200 to setup and install.



Finally, here is the shot of the Brawlee rear cargo LED that I showed previously. I took this photo at night to better demonstrate how bright this damn thing is. I LOVE it. My only issue is that it does not go off once the engine comes on unless you shut it off with the remote. Not a huge deal, but a bit annoying. I will contact them to see how to fix it.




Items On Order:

1. Vector Offroad JKE Dock
2. 67 Designs Carbon Fiber Phone Mount
3. 67 Designs Camera Mount

Soon To Be Ordered:

1. MetalCloak rear tire carrier and accessories
2. KO2 on my spare

Future Additions:

1. Genesis Dual Battery Kit
2. ARB/Dometic Fridge
3. MetalCloak 2.5" Game Changer suspension Rocksport edition
4. Ursa Minor Rooftop Tent
5. Goose Gear 60% delete kit and side cubbies
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:18 PM   #19
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For the rear li ght no going off, you might use a tilt switch. I like this one because of the metal tab I can bend it to the angle I want for the most part. I also use 3M molding tape to secure it. I haven't tried on the Jeep, but under the wiper motor cover might be a good place for it.
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:46 PM
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For the rear li ght no going off, you might use a tilt switch. I like this one because of the metal tab I can bend it to the angle I want for the most part. I also use 3M molding tape to secure it. I haven't tried on the Jeep, but under the wiper motor cover might be a good place for it.
That's a pretty cool idea. I wonder how it would work offroading though - how sensitive is the ball inside the switch to normal vehicle motions offroad?
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:17 PM   #21
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That's a pretty cool idea. I wonder how it would work offroading though - how sensitive is the ball inside the switch to normal vehicle motions offroad?
IIRC, this unit is about 6" long and has a good amount of travel. It's been about 10 years since I used one. Another thought is a hood security pin switch.

This is a lil more intrusive and without going to see how/where it would mount, I can't be sure it would be reasonable. Hood tamper switch



Or a magnetic window tamper switch.
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Old 11-27-2018, 09:19 PM   #22
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Thank You! I am a new Jeep owner, and have no idea where to start. I really enjoyed reading your build!
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Old 12-02-2018, 07:02 PM   #23
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Nice build AliK53. You best friend is beautiful. Looks so much like our Rex.
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:31 PM   #24
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very nice inspirational thread. Thank you for sharing that with us
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:33 PM   #25
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I'm leaning on an Ursa minor as well. I would prefer the AT Habitat because it can sleep 4, but they are discontinued. The only thing that holds me back from the Ursa is I like to remove the freedom panels and hard top when I have the family with me on trails and you can't have that feature with the Ursa Minor. I am leaning towards a Gobi rack and rooftop tent. Just sucks knowing it'll be about 4-6 months before I even get a Gobi or any updates as they seem to have crap customer service and take months to ship.
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Old 12-12-2018, 12:14 AM
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I'm leaning on an Ursa minor as well. I would prefer the AT Habitat because it can sleep 4, but they are discontinued. The only thing that holds me back from the Ursa is I like to remove the freedom panels and hard top when I have the family with me on trails and you can't have that feature with the Ursa Minor. I am leaning towards a Gobi rack and rooftop tent. Just sucks knowing it'll be about 4-6 months before I even get a Gobi or any updates as they seem to have crap customer service and take months to ship.
I like the Ursa minor roof top tents because it's really well integrated with the rest of the Jeep, but they are just so damn expensive. For half the price you can get a solid James Baroud hard shell (even if you account for selling your original hard top).
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Old 12-13-2018, 07:25 AM   #27
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Oooh I cannot wait to see more. Have you had a chance to use your winch? I was hoping to here a review on it. I like Warn products, and I like to see what matches up for a few bucks less.

Keep up the good work!
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Old 02-22-2019, 01:54 AM
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Finally got a chance to install some of the items that have been sitting around my house:

1. Teraflex Tire Carrier and 34" spare tire
2. Rhino Rack with Pioneer Tray
3. Vector Offroad Dock
4. 67 Designs Phone Mounts

This is the final update to the Jeep. Unfortunately my life circumstances have changed sufficiently and I will have to put her up for sale. This has always been my dream car so the goodbye will be bittersweet. I will of course go back to owning Jeeps once life allows me to.












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