The Jeep

2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

Jeep Wrangler Build for Two Years Around Africa

The build of my Jeep is extensive, with each modification carefully thought out and planned. The build focused around primary goals, I will lay out the rationale and decisions for each.
Weight was a primary consideration for each modification, as was limited interior space.

Goal 1: Strong 4×4, big enough to sleep in, fit inside a 20 foot container.

  • 2011 Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.
  • 3.8l V6 Gasoline engine, 6 speed manual transmission.
  • Locking front and rear differentials, electronic sway bar disconnect.
  • 4.10 axle ratios.
  • 4:1 transfer case ratio.
africa jk side zoom dan 720x480

The Stock JK Wrangler soon after I bought it used

Goal 2: Extremely capable off-road

Two years around Africa, especially West Africa, requires a very strong 4×4 vehicle. I chose the Rubicon for the factory diff locks, stronger D44 front axle, and low range transfer case. In addition to that, I have added:

  • Suspension: Stronger and improved handling with mild lift
  • Bumpers: Radiator protection, stronger
    • AEV Front with Skid Plate, AEV Rear, Tire carrier and High Lift Mount.
africa jk with bfg ko2 720x480

Africa bound JK with AEV 2.5 inch lift, Mopar Winter Steel Wheels and BFGoodrich KO2 All-Terrain Tires in 34×10.5r17

Goal 3: Interior living space

A two year expedition is not a vacation, this is my life. Given that I’m building my Jeep into a house on wheels, I want interior living space – to be able to escape the bugs, the rain, or even just escape the world for an evening will help keep me sane enough to continue.

The build and design is centered around a Pop up roof and interior cabinets I designed and built.

The roof is lighter and more aerodynamic than a roof rack + Roof Top Tent combination.

africa jk wrangler ursa minor j30 720x480

The Jeep with popup J30 camper

africa jk interior cabinets 720x480

Cabinets going in

Goal 4: Improved Sleeping, Cooking, Eating

Two years from Alaska to Argentina on my previous expedition taught me a lot.  I love camping, though after two years I was done with Ramen noodles and tinned soup. I want to eat vegetables, cheese and meat. I want to sleep up off the ground out of the mud. With that in mind, the following modifications where made:

africa jk arb awning rear open 720x480

ARB Awning open over my kitchen

Goal 5: Ability to be self-contained for weeks at a time

My aim to to get far off the beaten path, so I need to be able to support myself. With that in mind, I added:

diy 4x4 water tank pump filter plubming wiring 720x480

Completed plubming and wiring inside behind drivers seat. Pump, ball valves, wiring and filter and UV treatment on right

africa jk titan gas tank 720x480

Titan Tank 13 gallon gas tank

Goal 6: Secure Storage for all my stuff

The stock Jeep glovebox and console are just plastic, and the hood does not lock. I improved that with the following:

africa jk tuffy center console 720x480

Tuffy Security Center Console

Miscellaneous Other Modifications and gear

With that, my house on wheels is complete.

africa jk colorado 720x480

Tiny House. Massive Yard

-Dan

61 Responses

  1. Jr says:

    Very nicely equipped Jeep. I will be following your adventure through this web site and also in the JPFREEK mag, that’s where I learned of your first adventure. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Geoff says:

    Your set up looks highly professional and well prepared. Good luck and I’ll be following your travels closely.
    Geoff

  3. moises says:

    Your jeep is dope… I am looking forward to hear from your adventure. Good luck and best wishes

  4. Adam Mucha says:

    How much did the total jeep build cost? Very interested in doing something similar for me and my wife.

  5. Jeff moore says:

    Looks like the journey of a lifetime, enjoy.

  6. Jeff G says:

    Dan

    What an incredible endeavor. Reading stories such as yours tend to bring out the inner, closet adventurer in all of us – making me imagine ways of attempting as you are – though some momentary reflection immediately bring back the (sometimes grim) reality of my desk-bound job, children, mortgage, etc Just know that my envy and admiration of your intrepidness are far more than I could ever hope to convey here.

    As with all things “RV” (used loosely in this instance), you can’t have and bring everything. What are some of the items you planned to include but could not (besides the Merc diesel)? In the same vein, what things do you wish you could bring but are logistically/monetarily impossible?

    Is 87-91 octane mogas available throughout Africa? Will you need to stage fuel in certain areas?

    Safe travels and Godspeed.

    Jeff G. in Riverside, California

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment and insight.
      For sure it’s a compromise in many ways. I wish it was diesel (obviously) – we’ll see how much a problem that turns out to be.
      I wish it was lighter too – though at this point I have no idea what I would do different or not bring to make it so.
      I knew all along it would be “smaller” than most overland 4x4s because I have the interior living space, so I’ve been culling things like mad – only one pair of shoes, few clothes, etc. I don’t have a lot of storage space one I have tools, spares, food and cooking.

      Gasoline will be available, though I will have to be careful about my range and where I go. I might not be able to go some places because I’m gasoline not diesel.

      Thanks!
      -Dan

  7. Kiandra says:

    Dan, AWESOME SAUCE ALL AROUND! Happy you’re FOR REAL living the dream. Living your dream :)
    YAY!!! Many, many thanks for sharing your story. You. Are. Inspiring. Journey on and Safe travels.

  8. Cam says:

    Awesome Jeep and awesome adventure. I think you should do this with two Jeeps minimum and I volunteer to bring mine along (I wish). Best of luck on this awesome adventure. Looking forward to your photos, videos and blogs.

  9. Ali says:

    Hi Dan,
    Will be following your stories… good luck and wish you all the best.
    I have seen in the pics that you are going with BFG A/T, why did you select this tire?
    My wife & I are thinking of a similar trip, but a Jeep might be too small for a couple… Still, we started learning a lot from your notes… again wish you a safe and enjoyable trip.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Ali,

      Thanks for the kind words.
      I think for the JK Wrangler going a little bigger (34″) but not wider than stock is great.
      The BFG A/T KO2 is the strongest, most durable AT tire available, so that was an easy decision.

      -Dan

  10. Ian Parsons says:

    Hi Dan,

    Loving the project and the journey.
    Just wondering if you have water stored in your AEV rear bar as well as underneath the vehicle (according to the AEV website the rear bar can store approx. 5 gallons of water)?
    Would it be possible to store water in the titan tank and connect it to the rear bar so you would have approx. 18 gallons of water easily accessible from the rear bar?
    Then add a long range fuel tank underneath to make total fuel capacity almost 40.5 gallons. In Australia, the 2011 unlimited wranglers can have an extra 68 litres (approx. 18 gallons) added for extra range. As far as I know the US spec unlimited wranglers come with a 22.5 gallon tank standard. This tank also has a heavy duty option for extra strength for off-roading (TA64PHD). http://thelongranger.com.au/ta64p/index.html

    Best of luck on your travels Dan.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for the comment and thoughts.
      I don’t have any water in the AEV rear bar, as it requires a separate kit to get it out, and I find it a bit inconvenient.
      I don’t believe the Titan is rated for drinking water.

      I looked at the long ranger, and it’s awesome for sure, but it didn’t suit my needs for a couple of reasons. It’s not DOT compliant in the US, so it’s hard to get one in North America. I know of one guy that did, and he spent $2000 USD on it – so cost is a big factor.
      Also for me, I’m using my water system multiple times per day – it’s actually one of my most-used items, where-as the aux fuel is something I plan to only use at most a couple of times per week, maybe only a couple of times per month.
      I also wanted pressurized water so I can force it through the filtration and treatment system.
      So for my needs, and my build, the way I’ve done it makes the most sense.

      -Dan

  11. Charles says:

    How do you wash clothes? Thanks for doing this btw, I had similar ideas for a trip like but this is amazing, great job!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Charles,

      Right now I’m doing them by hand, which is time consuming. A few places I have stayed will do them for a fee, though it’s quite expensive.
      I need to my hands on a big barrel – lots of people say that if you throw your clothes, some water and soap in there then drive around for a couple of hours the clothes come out spotless!
      I’m not sure I have the space for a big barrel, so I’ll have to get creative :)

      -Dan

  12. Jeff B says:

    Hey Dan-

    Loving your journey!! I’m living vicariously through you for now, though I do plan to adventure across America and Canada in the near future. I have almost the exact set up as you, 285/75/17 BFG KM2, AEV 2.5 inch with Geo correction brackets and a few other suspension bits and pieces. I have a 2015 Jeep JKU Willy’s and I am currently in the midst of selling my rubicon wheels and replacing with steel wheels. my question for you: Why did you choose steel wheels as well? I see very few people who decide to go this route.

    Keep up the good work and safe travels!

    Best Regards,

    Jeff

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Jeff B,

      Awesome to hear you’ll be out on the trail soon – I highly recommend getting up to the Yukon and Alaska. You won’t regret it!

      I’m running the steel wheels because they won’t crack, and I can beat them back into shape with a sledge hammer if they get bend out of shape.
      It’s basically an insurance policy give that I’ll have no hope of finding 5X5.5 17″ wheels over here, so they have to last the entire trip!

      All the best,
      -Dan

  13. Hector R Carrillo says:

    Surprise to find your story and preparation of the jeep because I recently bought the 2007 Rubicon (Turbodiesel OM606) that you, originally, intended to use in this expedition.

    I’ll be following your adventure and wish You the best in this Journey.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Hector,

      Thanks for finding me, I appreciate it!

      I heard that the guy who bought it off me sold it again! How is it running? What kind of mileage does it get?
      I really did have big plans for that Jeep, I hope you can give it a good life!!

      -Dan

      • Hector R Carrillo says:

        I bought it just a few weeks ago, therefore haven’t test it enough.

        Except for a few lights in the dashboard, it works good once the turbo kicks in. I’ll give you an update once we drive it more, just planning to use it on weekends… not a daily driver.

        • Dan Grec says:

          Hey Hector,

          Thanks very much for the update! Double check the radiator fan comes on – that was one problem I didn’t solve.
          I’m excited to here how it runs and how you like it!

          -Dan

  14. Hector R Carrillo says:

    I just bought it a few weeks ago and not sure how is going to perform, it lacks power until the turbo kicks in and has a few lights in the dashboard, but overall works Ok.

    Just curious, if you had big plans for the 2007 OM606… Why did you sell it and got another one? from your comments in 4BTSWAP… you really wanted a diesel.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Hector,

      After the original OM606 blew up I was out of time and money. I had to choose between keeping that Jeep (and spending more money on it) or getting a stock Jeep and driving Africa.

      I chose the Africa trip.

      -Dan

      • Hector R Carrillo says:

        Presume that OM606 was overheated and blew up, therefore you sold it to Shawn, who replaced the engine and than sold it to me.

        Its working real good, except for some lights in the dashboard and the RPM going crazy, but overall, good.

        I’ll ask Shawn if he upgraded the radiator fan system or I’ll research the best system to keep it cool.

        Hope your trip is going great and won’t need to bribe more custom agents…. wish you the best.

        • Dan Grec says:

          Hi Hector,

          A return line came off one of the injectors, so the engine sucked a lot of free diesel, and it ran away.
          The fan, in theory, can be controlled from the TIPM if you get a new one from a 2010 or 2011 JK and then program it with the AEV procal.
          Otherwise you’ll have to run a manual PWM fan controller witch might get tricky – I never solved that problem.
          Interesting the tach still is not right – I fought that sensor for a LONG time :)

          Good luck!
          -Dan

        • Julio says:

          Check the wiring, spacing of the sensor and ensure its clean.

  15. Mwilima says:

    Great stuff , I will be waiting to meet you and welcome to Namibia, All the best and drive safe .

  16. Julio says:

    Dan, fantastic build. I plan to drive to SAS in a couple of years and bought my Lexus LX450 for that purpose. Doing tons of research and trying to modify according to my needs. Inspiring blog and I admire that you’re at it again on an other continent.

  17. leibuys says:

    Hi Dan,
    I read about your jeep build on 4BT swaps and it directed me to here. I’m actually shocked to see that after all the work you did on this project that it never got used for the intended project. I am in the final staged of my JK Wrangler diesel conversion. My intention was to use the same charge air cooler/inter-cooler that you used from the stock CRD Diesel wrangler that was exported. Can you advise how you were able to order that intercooler? All dealers in USA and Canada turn me away and they say the part is for export only. Sorry again to hear about the misfortune. Any help you could provide would be appreciated.
    Kind regards,
    Joe

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Joe,

      That is a very tricky part to source, and I had to reach out to some personal contacts. It’s not something I can share, sorry.
      Best of luck on your conversion, I hope you can wrangle the JK computer into submission, I know many people have problems (me included!)

      -Dan

  18. Jason Broom says:

    Hi Dan,

    I have very much enjoyed reading about your build and your adventures. Following along on Instagram as well :)

    I see that you are running the Titan Fuel Tanks Trail Trekker Transfer Tank (wow that’s a long name). I have been strongly considering this for my Jeep build. I wish I had put a little more thought into how my build would evolve before I selected a tire carrier (went with the TeraFlex Hinged carrier instead of the AEV carrier, even though I have a bumper that would accommodate the AEV carrier). I would like to equip the TF carrier with this fuel cell, but I’m a bit worried about metal fatigue. TeraFlex has assured me that if I can snug the tire up against the tank and the tank up against the hinge, I should have no problem. From the looks of things, I should be able to snug the tank up against the hinge without issue. However, I am not sure about the tire against the tank, as I have not been able to locate one of these tanks in person.

    Were you able to snug the tire up against the tank pretty securely?

    Thanks,
    Jason

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Jason,

      Yes, the tire is very snug against the tank, and the tank is snug against the carrier. All of those depths are adjustable, so you should have no problem at all no matter what size tire you have.
      The tank has been perfect for my, I think you will love it!

      -Dan

  19. Kurtis says:

    Dan,
    I found your story and read about your build and your trip so far. Sounds like you are having a great experience. I appreciate your approach to travel and your sensible build on the Jeep. Rubicon, AEV, and rational tire size, should serve you well on your long trek. The use of factory bushings by AEV means that you should have long service life compared to aftermarket parts, and they are easily obtained for replacement if needed. Your lighter and narrower tires are less likely to damage the axles like 35″ tires do.

    I did not see any axle modifications mentioned, so I will caution you to go easy on the vehicle because the front axle is still a weak point. Although it is a Dana 44, only the center pumpkin and gears are Dana 44. The remainder of the housing, tubes, axle shaft, steering knuckle, etc. are the same as the Dana 30. Don’t slam into ditches or bumps, or push it hard and spin tires on climbs, or something could bend or break. When abused the outer ends of the tubes bend, and the “C” that holds the ball joints bends, and the wheels will tilt in at the top. It seems you are reasonably cautious, and therefore should not end up with those issue. Do keep an eye on the bracket on the passenger side of the axle that the track bar mount to. Those can break off at the welds due to fatigue. If you see cracks starting, get it welded before it comes off. Also, check the ball joints once in a while because they will wear out. All of this is just caution, hopefully it will all survive your planned 80,000 miles.

    Have a great trip,
    Kurtis

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Kurtis,

      Thanks for all the input and advice! You are right, my front axle is completely stock, though I did upgrade to HD ball joints from Rugged Ridge just before leaving North America. I have been told by a few knowledgeable people the front axle on my Rubicon is a weak point, especially because overall the vehicle is heavy, and I am hitting extremely large pot holes. As you say, I’ll take it easy, and I always lay off the skinny pedal when in doubt. That’s what the winch is for.

      Thanks again, all the best!

      -Dan

  20. Billy says:

    Hi Dan.

    I am burnt out and need to get away. I want to travel but have only a 3.8 l Sahara and no bucks for extras. What are my odds?. I live in South Africa and can afford a limited lifestyle for as long as i can work my way from town to town, city to city….country to country. Not broke but need time out. Your advice will be appreciated. My Jeep is a 2012 model…short wheel base.

    Can you advise?

    Billy

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Billy,

      I drove my bone-stock 2000 TJ Wrangler from Alaska to Argentina and had the time of my life. I see no reason you can’t drive yours around the area and have an amazing time! A ground tent and water container and hit the road I say!
      All the best,
      -Dan

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  22. Chris says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for sharing your adventures and knowledge! Really appreciate it because you give hope to those of us who are in the process of ridding ourselves of the baggage (accumulating more stuff, bills etc) we are conditioned to believe is necessary for fulfillment. One look at that familiar, genuine smile on your face and others from their adventures says it all!

    Few questions. Can you tell me the reason you went with the AEV 2.5 lift/34” tires over say the 3.5lift/xx”? Since I would like to use your build as my reference, your thoughts on adding a portable toilet (Dometic brand, in a draw) for convenience. Also, were you required to lose the vehicle decals? Would fabric waterproofing spray help with the J30 since you mentioned the moisture in your recent review?

    Thanks and All the Best!
    Chris
    *final note – at journey’s end, perhaps you could partner with a builder such as Ursa Minor etc. to create a turnkey build based on yours. Regards!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Chris,

      Thanks for the kind words – it always makes me happy to hear others are inspired by what I’m doing. I’m really happy to answer any questions you have, so fire away if you think of more.

      For the Jeep I didn’t want to go with big tires (35+) for a whole bunch of reasons – they’re expensive, they’re heavy. They would require wheel spacers and probably re-gearing the axles. Also they would be impossible to buy over here. The lift is the same mentality – keep it lower for wind resistance, fit in a container and general mileage. It also looks more “normal” because it’s not on a monster lift.
      I will say though my JK got a lot heavier than I wanted (It’s 6000lbs), and I’m starting to think about a bigger lift that will handle the weight better.
      AEV told me the 2.5 is not designed for my kind of weight, and I didn’t listen. Their 3.5 is designed for a heavy JK, so I’m considering that.

      I personally can’t bring myself to the idea of a portable toilet, but many people do. I see no reason it wouldn’t work.

      I took the decals off just so the Jeep doesn’t stand out so much here in West Africa.
      It was my choice. It still stands out, but I think not nearly as much.
      I also never wash it for the same reason.

      And yes, I just contacted Ursa Minor and there is a fabric waterproofing spray for the fabric they use on the tent. I will search some out when I get to South Africa!

      A turnkey build like mine would be cool, but it kind of defeats the point. The whole idea is to build it yourself so you are familiar with it, you have a sense of achievement and you get exactly what you want!

      All the best,
      -Dan

      • Chris says:

        Hi Dan,

        After your explanation I understand. Still can only imagine the countless hours spent in order to factor in even the smallest of details. Totally impressed! I tend to also take similar approaches. I get your point on building yourself..more appreciation after. I will be sure to ask more questions however you’ve been great in detailing your project so I don’t expect much.

        I see where we all can support through Amazon purchases but I hope you consider a Paypal option as well.

        Thanks again for your informative reply!
        Chris

  23. Mitchell says:

    Dan, this is probably one of the dopest things I’ve ever seen, love all the mods you’ve added to your Jeep. Keep travellin’ and may all your dreams come true!

  24. Flinn says:

    Hi Dan
    one day i want to be like you and travel the world in a jeep.
    Your car has some hectic upgrades.
    Enjoy your trip and keep posting them videos
    p.s your brother mike drives a van

  25. Josh says:

    Hi Dan, I very much enjoyed watching all of your vids on youtube. We watched them all in class for school because your bro was my teacher. The jeeps mods as mega dope and i look up to you as i would like to pursue my dream as traveling around jamacia in a few years. Do you have any handy quick tips on what upgrades i should put on my 2014 toyota land cruiser. Anyway keep up the vids and if you want some feedback from me i think you should start doing vlogs as they really engage the audience in your vids. Thanks cya Dan.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Josh,

      The best advice I can give is not to think about mods. Take your vehicle out and go camping, have adventures in it. Once you have done that a bunch you can start to think about what you might like to change, if anything.
      I would love to do daily vlogs, though the Internet in West Africa is not good enough for me to upload every day…

      Thanks!
      -Dan

  26. Lochie says:

    Hi Dan,
    thanks for all the update videos its great to see how your progressing. Would love to know how much dosh the trip cost you and your car is lit! Id love to get some tips on whats modz to get on my ford fiesta, thanks

  27. alireza says:

    Hi
    I saw you in my English book AEF starter and want to know when you start your travel in United States tank you

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Alireza,

      I drove through the United states just over a year ago before I came over to Africa, and I will probably go back there again when I am done!

      -Dan

  1. October 15, 2016
  2. December 7, 2016

    […] outfitting the Jeep, Dan wrote a number of do-it-yourself guides on topics such as water filtration and outfitting Jeeps for long camping trips, sharing what he […]

  3. February 15, 2017

    […] on wheels are constricted for space, but not as much as this one. Dan Grec is the man behind this Jeep conversion that lets him travel across Africa without any discomfort, […]

  4. March 22, 2017

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