Truck Conversion: 1999 Jeep Cherokee

The list of small 4-door pickup trucks isn’t very large — a fact pointed out by the builder of this custom machine, who writes: I built this because I have always felt that the US manufacturers totally missed the boat on the mid-size 4-door pickup market. They built some – but they were all weird-shaped, weird-looking, independent front suspension garbage with too much motor and not enough simplicity. Dodge Dakotas, Chevy Colorados (or those really rare and weird 4-door S10s) Ford Exploder, etc. At least the Fords were kind of square for a while.  I love the idea of a rugged 4-door pickup and this thing with a built-in tool/gun/ammo box looks ready to rock. Find this 1999 Jeep Cherokee offered for $6500 in Omaha, NE via craigslist. Tip from ISAUN. 

From the seller:

1999 jeep cherokee

condition: excellent

cylinders: 6 cylinders

drive: 4wd

fuel: gas

paint color: green

size: mid-size

title status: clean

transmission: manual

type: SUV

Greetings Jeep Fans, Craigslist, and my Fellow Americans!







First, I’ll tell you WHAT this is. Then, I will tell you WHY. Plus a little bit of HOW I did it. I’ll try to keep it informative, short, and interesting.



WHAT – it’s a 99 Jeep Cherokee Sport that has been converted into a 4-door flatbed pickup.



4.0 liter inline six-cylinder (70,000 mile engine – and you know these engines will go 250,000 to 300,000 on a regular basis)



AX-15 5-speed manual transmission



NP231 transfer case



8.25 Chrysler rear axle



Manual windows



4-inch lift (tubular control arms upper and lower plus a super heavy duty track bar and quick release swap bar links)



Converted to a flatbed by moving the steel tailgate forward to the rear seat seatbelt mounts



48” long flatbed with 3 rows of ‘Unistrut’ built in to mount gear (also two rows of Unistrut on the ‘headache rack’)



10’ long roof rack (great for a roof top tent or two, and lots more expedition/camping/hunting/fishing/bugout gear)



4 toolboxes below the flatbed



48” slide-out drawer under the flatbed (between the rear frame rails)



2x6x.125 rectangular tubing rocker panels



No Rusted Body Panels (the rockers are new steel tubing, the quarter panels are now a flatbed and tool boxes)



125” wheelbase







WHY – I built this because I have always felt that the US manufacturers totally missed the boat on the mid-size 4-door pickup market. They built some – but they were all weird-shaped, weird-looking, independent front suspension garbage with too much motor and not enough simplicity. Dodge Dakotas, Chevy Colorados (or those really rare and weird 4-door S10s) Ford Exploder, etc. At least the Fords were kind of square for a while.



Only the Jeep XJ family was the right size, with a simple inline 6 and a solid front axle. But they never gave us a 4 door pickup. And the 2 or 3 4-door Comanches that have been custom built are a mile too long and the doors/rear cab area always turn out like crap. And the handful of chop-top XJs are cute, but the rear seat (seatbelt) mounting areas are destroyed, so there is little gained and a lot lost on those units. The Toyota HiLux 4 doors are great, but try finding one in the states. As a Jeep lover – and a person smart enough to know how common XJ parts are – that’s most of the WHY behind this particular machine. Simple, relatively rugged, inexpensive to fix, repair parts are EVERYWHERE. This would make (and is intended to be) and excellent extended-range travel/expedition vehicle. Taking all the stuff you want up into the most remote campsites. Smaller than a full size truck, more capable than most anything else in it’s size range. Similar to the new Gladiator – at 10% the price, and way less expensive to operate/repair. I don’t think you have to look very hard to come up with a lot of really good reasons to have a vehicle that helps you stay a long, long, long way from people for extended periods of time.



HOW – as mentioned – the whole thing started by moving the steel tailgate up to the rear seatbelt mounting area. That way you keep all the factory crash engineering for the seatbelts. Then, I added 2x6x.125 frame rails behind the stock rear frame rails. Then an additional set of 2x6x.125 frame rails above the stock/extended rear rails. Between those rails, and the bed/rack construction methods, the unibody is as rigid (much more rigid, actually) than it originally was. Additionally, as part of the ‘base’ for the build, and for the toolboxes, the rocker panels were removed and replaced with rectangular steel tubing (2x6x.125 as mentioned previously). With the new frame rails in place, it was a relatively simple matter to move the entire factory rear suspension (but with lift springs, not stock springs) back 21”. I made fixtures and jigs to place the suspension components properly on the frame rails, and I am very happy with the visual result as well as the way this unit drives. The frame of the flatbed is 2x3x.125, the ‘fender flare’ areas for the rear wheels are 2×2.25, and the bottom rails under the rear toolboxes – which integrate into the rear bumper- are steel channel.







The bad – It needs a windshield, but that may be replaced by the time you see it. I need to re-glue some of the rear headliner – which may be done by the time you see it. The body has 277,000 miles, but with the rust gone and the 70k mile engine, that’s just data, not a problem.







I am very happy with how the conversion turned out. I am very happy with how it drives. I am very happy with how it looks.







Time to put it in someone’s hands who will use it a lot, so I can get on to the next creation.







So much for keeping this short.



See a better way to drive something rugged? tips@dailyturismo.com