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Discussion Starter #1
I've been posting in other forums here, with various ipdates on how the project is going. I figured it was time to just make my own build thread, and post pictures and updates here. Ya'll can follow or not, I like navel gazing and sharing pictures.

First, let me introduce you to Ghost. She (yeah, I guess she's a she. dunno why). She's a 2015 JKU Manual with 58,000 miles.
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I boughther from a.. lets say non traditional dealer here in the Boston area. I had some misgivings, but the price was right, and even after a Lemon Squad inspection, everything looked fine. Slight surface rust on the bottom, but was clean, drove fine, and already had 31" wheels on it, and was a manual. I had sold Old Yeller, my yellow 2000 Jeep TJ only a few weeks before, and I was already missing my Jeep.

I bought it.

Now my goal with this build is to do overlanding. I love camping, hiking, and being in the outdoors. I'm not looking for a rock crawler or hill climber. I need her to be independent, comfortable, and well equipped, able to take care of herself and me for a couple days out in the open. My accessory list is already set up and in the pipeline:

  • Gobi safari rack
  • Roof top tent (not sure which one yet)
  • Running boards / steps
  • Non-stinger (hate those things) front bumper and winch plate with winch
  • Rear bumper upgrade with room to carry jerry cans for fuel and water
  • Camping gear setup for food, storage, power, etc.
There are a few misgivings, and things I'll need to change right off the bat.

First, it has no hard top. Soft tops are great for the summer and beaching and woods runs, but in the winter and for overlandingk you need something durable and solid. More on this later.

I have some issues and things I need to work out though, and this is where I begin to worry.

First, I'm having a wheel wobble / ticking / rattle noise from the front end. Particularly when slowing down, I'll get a strong wheel shake. This I know may be some form of the Death Wobble, but it hasn't been that bad. I crawled under the front end to see if I could find naything loose or obvious. Nothing budged under my hands, but I saw evidence of some repairs, and a lot of the plastic trim was zip tied in place. (See my thread here about researching these problems). When I get an update from the garage, I'll post it here.

The audio system appears to be junk. It's the stock head unit, but it's loose and not mounted well. That's gonna get completely replaced (I like my tunes).

So that's the backstory on Ghost. I have some more updates i'll continue in another post, but even with the worries, she's a beautiful JKU, and I hope to have a lot of fun out ont he road.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
So as noted in this thread I found a fellow nearby who was GIVING AWAY a hard top! There was an absolute caveat - it was damaged. Not severely, but a tree branch fell on it and even though the glass and hardware was okay, there was one hole and several good sized cracks in the fiberglass. I've done some fiberglassing in the past, and the guy has been super-nice. He tossed in two soft tops as well (one has a busted rear window) - it was basically cleanout day for him. So we piled into the truck and drove the house and ahalf down to the shore to pick it up.

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Everything fit int he truck, and we brought it home and spent today cleaning it up. The pieces are in remarkably good shape and cleaned up just fine. The fiberglass damage looks repairable, and isn't of the variety "This will fall off the jeep if we don't fix it" - it's more "The roof will leak if we don't fix it". The siderails and channels are not in bad shape, which is good -t hat's harder to repair. Here's my wife helping with the cleaning. The cleaned part is closer to the camera... the dirt and grime and general 'yech' came off pretty well.

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The previous owner had patched the holes with a type of tape i'm unfamiliar with. But it's nigh on impossible to get off. So that'll be a project.

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The holes are not bad. I think I can clean them out and fill with resin and horsehair or similar material and then bondo the exterior surface to make it look okay. Again, for free, I can't complain.

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So next step is to get the proper materials together, fire up the drill and dremel, and pick a spot to start cleaning material out of. I'll keep ya'll posted (assuming anyone reads this).
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So a lot has happened in the last month and a half :). I guess the biggest change was... Ghost turned out to have some SERIOUS issues. My local mechanic found that it had been in a front end accident - probably went over an embankment and smacked nose-first into something. All the body bolts were bent forward (like the body slid forward a half inch), part of the frame had been cut and re-welded (very poorly), and there were numerous other problems (entire bolts missing or mis-sized, a lot of trim work haphazardly attached, etc). I took this up with the dealer, and we decided to nix the entire deal. Returned Ghost, got a 100% refund, all moneys back in my pocket, and we walked away.

The poor kids working at this dealership though. I took the guy aside (the one I dropped it off with) and said "Look, I know you guys are going to just turn this around and sell it again. But please. Please be careful. This thing is dangerous as is. It's tracking poorly, there are pieces missing - I can't tell you what to do or how to run your business, but I would suggest you get this thing fixed up better than it is now before osmeone gets hurt in it." I doubt they took my advice, but I felt like I had to try.

So, I did another 2-3 week search, adn found... hell, I'll call it Ghost again. Because this new guy looks virtually identical to the old one - except it has stock wheels, is a Sahara config, and has white fenders. Oh and a hard roof. I give you... Ghost fer realzies:

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So far, things have gone well. It's a 2013 Sahara JK with 79,000 miles on it. I've had it about 3 weeks now, put a few hundred miles on it. It has a manual transmission, the nice running boards, the Alpine stereo (sorta - more on this in a minute), and seems pretty good. The tires are shot on it (some dry rot), so hence the threads elsewhere about getting new wheels and tires.

I have gobs of equipment and changes in the pipeline, but right now I'm just enjoying having a nice solid platform to work with. The only modification I've done so far is to add in some Wild Boar grab handles - the missus is quite short, and she really needs something to grab onto to climb in. These were great - relatively inexpensive (about $60 I think), front and rear bars, and once installed, they are ROCK solid.

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I'm waiting for it not to be super-blazing horrible to do some more work (it's looking nice right now), but so far... I'm happy to be back on the road with something that doesn't feel like it's going to shake itself to pieces.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Wow I'm really behind on my updates. But let me start with... this is what Ghost looks like as of today. I'm over the moon how the project is going. I'm about 70% of the way to my goal...

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So, on to some details.

New shoes! These are KO2's - on a set of Rubicon wheels I got on craigslist (great deal for all 5, which made the price for the tires more palatable.). I absolutely love them - stable, smooth, a little sticky-hum sound which is fine. Very stable and smooth and not harsh. Very happy!

Smittybilt front and rear bumper - another Facebook Marketplace / Craigslist find. The rear one is an XRC (some slightly older generation) and the front has the full winch plate, but no winch. One step at a time ;).

Mounted the lightbar - thats part of the Gobirack I'm halfway through installing (see newbumper above). The lightbar came with the Gobirack - I think a full 50" LED bar is a big much, but hey, it was part of hte package, and the whole thing was a gret price. So On it goes!

Internally, I've installed a Vector utility bar on the dash. Really like this thing, great for accessories and build out.

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Nest steps are a light control panel for the LED bar, replacing the stereo head unit with an android unit, and god willin and hte creek don't rise, getting the damned gobirack completed.

Then we can talk about going camping :)
 

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im glad to hear you got your money back, you avoided a massive headache! congratulations on the new to you sahara!
 

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Here's a little bit of a minor update. Still working on some other projects, but just banged this out yesterday. Was remarkably easy and only took about 45 minutes.

Amazon, being the crafty bastard it is, suggested the replacement gas cap / door for a reasonable price, and since I'm a sap, I went ahead and clicked it. Seemed like a pretty straightforward change to add a little bit of niceness and customization.

Things I learned:
  • The rear brake lights are only held to the body with 2 screws. There are 4 in the fitting, but two of them only go through into the plastic of the light frame. Meh
  • Taking off the read lights gives easy access to the inside of the chassis. That's nice.
Anyway... here's some pics

Stock gas cap, nothing surprising. Previous owner put on the brush guards over the rear lights, which I like - though they're faded and need a coat of paint.

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Light off... the plug for the fixture took a little wiggling, but came apart without requiring any plastic breakage.

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LED light fit nicely inside so I could see everything! Old fitting is off..

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And all set to put the light back on. I took the opportunity to clean off some of the crud on the paint while it was all taken apart.

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Another weekend, another series of projects completed. This really has been my first 'soup to nuts' build of a jeep - going from what amounts to 'mostly stock' (a 2013 sahara) to "my overland dream machine". I'm no mechanic - I'm basically a systems engineer who likes the sounds of ratchets - but just digging into the LITERAL nuts and bolts of this whole thing has been great.

Okay, first set of changes. I have a big LED light bar that came with my Gobi rack. After a couple questions on the forums, I realized I should get myself a switch relay box, and a remote switch face. I like having switches above the rear view mirror (MY SPACE FIGHTER IS READY, SIR!), so I got a kit that mounts to the metal loop under the roof. I got the Voswitch 8 position switch panel off Amazon ($179). Installation was relatively straight forward, with the only 'real' challenge being taking apart the trim around the side of the window to run the control cable. I goofed partway along here, and may have crossthreaded one of the bolts on my Wild Boar grab handles. That'll be a fix for another day.

The backlighting on the switch plate matches the lighting in the cockpit, so this was a great addition. I only have the LED bar right now, but now that I have the relay box under the hood, adding more accessories will be a breeze.

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But the big story on Action News tonight was I finally completed the install of the Gobi rack. I got this rack off craigslist about 3 months ago and it's mostly been sitting in the garage. When Ghost v0.1 didn't work out, the whole thing just got pushed further back in the pile and I waited.

When this Jeep came into my osition, I started a frustrating conversation with the Gobirack people to try and understand what the proper mounting tower was. You CAN mount the rack while having the stock bumpers, but I knew I didn't want to stick with stock. The 'right' ones would be a Smittybilt XRC Atlas, which is a beautiful bumper, but very expensive (particularly right now). I ended up ordering one, with the tire rack, but the supplier ran into a problem and cancelled the order (was super nice about it). I found another XRC bumper on CL, bought it from a nice guy down in CT, and installed it, but it turns out - this isn't an XRC Atlas, it's just an XRC Gen 2. Smittybilt has a version problem. But as I tried to get answers from Gobirack about if the towers I had would work with it, I rqn into some SERIOUS communication problems. 7-10 days to get emails returned, calls and messages left (they were there, they were answering the phone, but apparently there is only ONE person at Gobirack who knows what they're doing, and he's only in in Fridays? And is very terse and unhelpful.

After literal weeks of going round and round with them, I finally got them to confirm that the XRC bumper I had would not work with the towers I had (ARRGH). And I needed to use the 'stock' mount. I asked are you SURE this will work with the XRC bumper I have? No response. After reading the online installation documentation a bunch, I decided to take the plunge, get the stock mount. This took another 2 weeks of unreturned phone calls before I got them to take the order, and finally ship the towers. If the Gobirack weren't such an amazingly well engineered, damned good looking system, I would seriously reconsider ordering from them.

At any rate, the towers arrived, and I went to work. These towers are extremely high quality steel welded tubes and parts that were obviously fashioned specifically for the odd geometry under the back of the jeep. There are 5 major steel parts - 3 adjustable bracxkets, the main bracket the rack attaches to, and a nut plate that fits on the inside of the body of the Jeep.

I had to remove the rear bumper to give easy access to the corners of the body (tricky to do by yourself - those bumpers are HEAVY), but got it off and put it aside. It was a super rainy day on Saturday, so it was a good time to be in the garage working on stuff. Once I thoroughly understood the directions, I went to work.

The entire installation on the passenger side (which you do first) took me about 2 hours. A bunch was making sure I understood exactly what needed to be done, but the instructions were meticulous and detailed. I did have one surprise though. There's a nut plate that goes on the inside of the rear body, behind the rear tail lights (there's a ton of space in there). Opening up the right side, I looked in and saw.... this...

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EGGS! ALIEN EGGS IN MY JEEP! THEY'RE EATING MY BRAIN AND MAKING ME LISTEN TO JOHN DENVER MUSIC!

No, not really. That's foam insulation overspray. But it looked terrifying - I was seriously not expecting that. The nut plate needs to sit on the bottom of the space, so I basically tore out the piece of foam that's closest to the camera, and was able to finish the install.

Here's what the tower looks like installed, and what the mount underneath looks like. Sorry for the low quality underside pic, I was holding my phone upside down poking back up at the bracket installation.

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Once everything is snugged down and tightened, these brackets are ROCK solid. They have to hold a lot of weight, so that's good to know, but they're clamped to the bottom of the body via that nut plate, as well as to the seam on the edge of the body. They're not going anywhere.

After that, the bumper went back on, and I called it a day. Total time in the garage was probably 4-5 hours - I'm a slowpoke, and I was being super careful. If I had to do this again, I could probably do it in half the time.

Today was the completion of the project - the light bar was in, the brackets are in, it was time to put the rack on. I had a friend help me place the top rack in top of the hard top, and I was able to do the rest myself. This was primarily SET ALL THE BOLTS. Bushings and bolts on the rear clamps, bolts holding the up-rack on the back to the top rack, bolts attaching the front of the rack to the light bar bracket, and then snug everything down.

I was also able to figure out the ladder mounting (which was a little confusing, but once everything was together, where it went was pretty obvious). The end result is... exactly what I wanted it to look like. My Ghost is rapidly becoming the dream overlander jeep I always wanted. It looks totally bad ass with the Rubicon wheels and KO2's, the light bar, the rack, the bumpers... it's all coming together.

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It's time to start shopping for roof top tents so I can get out there and spend time camping. Unfortunately, roof top tents are STUPID EXPENSIVE, so this'll be a rough shopping cycle. I have lots more work to do on Ghost still - need to replace the stereo / head unit, replace the headlights, get a winch... so much money to spend.
 

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Had a good afternoon to work in the shop yesterday, so sat down to do a couple changes. The first was easy, replacing the windshield wipers. Nothing more infurating than going out when its raining and "omg, for $15 this wouldn't suck" - so now it won't suck.

More importntly though, I've been wrestling with the craptastic headlights that come with the 2013 JK. I feel like I'm driving some 1800's coach and my way is being lit with oil lanterns. With a huge variety of lights out there ont he market, I went for a basic LED setup. Yeah, I know, everyone says if you're doing lights, don't skimp on them, and get the JW Speaker headlights. But I wanted a halo light (sue me), and I wasn't ready to drop $500 on headlights.

These are basic LED boring amazon lights, but HOLY CRAP what a difference. The installation wasn't particulaly difficult (aside from being really dirty. Seriously, how much crap can get on the wiring harnesses and fittings in the front end? Yuck). Most of the clips holding the front grill on were still there nd viable. One problem I did run into was the retaining ring around the outside of the driver light was sightly corroded, and one of the mounting tabs broke off while I was uninstalling it. That means that light is now mis-aimed, which ain't so good. I ordered a new ring off amazon (where you can apparently get any part), and it'll be here on Thursday. Should be a relatively easy swap out.

I'm hoping after the ring is in place I can make sure these are all aligned so i'm not That Asshole on the road. We'll see!

Here's a pic of one of hte lights done, the other still running the old light. The difference is amazing.

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This weekend was THE BIG DAY! My Smittybilt XL rooftop tent arrived and it was time to install. I'm very happy with how everything turned out. The installation was a lot of work, and I think I'm going to work on a fast-latch system that lets me remove it if needed, because there are going to be times I'd like to use the jeep without the big tent on top.

So here's how it looks...

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This thing is INCREDIBLY comfortable and roomie. Setup time is pretty quick (but does need some scrambling), but compared to setting up a camp site, it's a breeze. And CLEAN. You're not putitng your tent on the ground. It's super-comfy. Here's the missus lounging
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Hopefully I'll be able to go camping int he next week or two. Time to work on fleshing out the cooking and water supplies!
 

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This weekend was THE BIG DAY! My Smittybilt XL rooftop tent arrived and it was time to install. I'm very happy with how everything turned out. The installation was a lot of work, and I think I'm going to work on a fast-latch system that lets me remove it if needed, because there are going to be times I'd like to use the jeep without the big tent on top.

So here's how it looks...

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This thing is INCREDIBLY comfortable and roomie. Setup time is pretty quick (but does need some scrambling), but compared to setting up a camp site, it's a breeze. And CLEAN. You're not putitng your tent on the ground. It's super-comfy. Here's the missus lounging
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Hopefully I'll be able to go camping int he next week or two. Time to work on fleshing out the cooking and water supplies!
looks great man what rack is that?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
A brief update. Took Ghost out for a shakedown campout this weekend. It's getting pretty cold here at night (September? Really?) so I took along a ton of blankets and other warm-y gear. It was a great trip, and everything went wonderfully. The jeep did great, the tent did great, I cooked a couple meals, and no complaings!

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I'm definitely looking at some more additions and a few changes. Camping gear needs to be secured better (i have a couple ammo boxes that are great for this, but they can move around). I need a better cooler arrangement (that's gonna be a money sink), and a few basic ways of carrying water.

Probably my biggest need will be a power system. It's the modern day. Things have batteries. Charging off the jeep's main battery for more than a short time when the engine isn't running doesn't make a ton of sense. I'll be hunting around for something.
 

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A brief update. Took Ghost out for a shakedown campout this weekend. It's getting pretty cold here at night (September? Really?) so I took along a ton of blankets and other warm-y gear. It was a great trip, and everything went wonderfully. The jeep did great, the tent did great, I cooked a couple meals, and no complaings!

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I'm definitely looking at some more additions and a few changes. Camping gear needs to be secured better (i have a couple ammo boxes that are great for this, but they can move around). I need a better cooler arrangement (that's gonna be a money sink), and a few basic ways of carrying water.

Probably my biggest need will be a power system. It's the modern day. Things have batteries. Charging off the jeep's main battery for more than a short time when the engine isn't running doesn't make a ton of sense. I'll be hunting around for something.
i hear the goal zero yeti 150 is pretty good I'm actually considering one for myself its at a fairly decent price too
but then again it depends on how much gear you need to charge and how long you go camping for
 
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