I admit it – we had this customer’s truck in the shop a lot longer than we had originally planned. We had several parts delays, and we made some changes mid-build based upon how things were going together. But innovation isn’t easy; when you’re the first to do something you can expect to spend a little extra time. We attempted to research this vehicle ahead of time but found nothing online, so everything you see here was born of our own minds and creative thinking.
The only true obstacle we weren’t able to overcome on this project was the front bumper and winch. We had planned to install either an ARB Deluxe Bull Bar or the kit from Rocky Road Outfitters, however after talking with the tech folks at both companies we learned that the fitment was not available for the 2017 Grand Cherokee due to model year changes in the front strut mounts. Other than that though the project turned out pretty great (if I may say so myself). So here we are: I present you with the first-ever overland-ready 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee (WK2) Trailhawk.
But let’s back up a little and tell this story in the proper order. First we started off with the electrical work. This was definitely the most time consuming part of the build, but custom electrical work is worth doing right, and with multiple people at the shop with a little OCD going on our electrical work is pretty top notch. We upgraded the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s factory battery to a more powerful – and smaller – Odyssey Extreme. This allowed us a little extra room in the battery compartment (under the front passenger seat) to fit the REDARC SBI12D dual battery controller and associated Blue Sea circuit breakers on a custom stainless steel battery hold down bracket. It was still a fairly tight fit but it worked out very well and keeps things organized and clean.
We ran power to the auxiliary battery mounted in the spare tire compartment inside a custom fabricated aluminum platform and box. We mounted the auxiliary fuse block on one side of the box and another circuit breaker on the other, feeding to a power inverter for charging and powering 110v equipment.
Yes, we just created the world’s very first Steam Punk battery box…
It’s all in the details, right? :)
We then mounted a REDARC LCD dual voltage gauge at the rear of the vehicle so the customer can keep an eye on both battery levels. The gauge has programmable audible and visual alerts to warn of low voltage or overcharge status in case either battery is drained too low or there is a voltage spike somewhere in the system.
We also tucked a couple of fast-charging USB ports and an auxiliary 12v power socket at the rear of the vehicle.
With the electrical upgrades complete we moved on to the fun stuff. We mounted a Front Runner roof rack to replace the factory rails and upgraded to the Alu-Cab 1450mm load bars in order to mount the tent and awning.
On top of the modified Front Runner rack is an Alu-Cab Expedition Series III rooftop tent and a self-supporting Alu-Cab Shadow 270 awning (one sweet setup). When used in conjunction with the tent, the Alu-Cab awning mounts directly to the tent using special brackets. This keeps things nice and streamlined but also provides the extra support this awning needs when open.
On top of the tent we installed an Alu-Cab 1250mm load bar kit to carry a set of MaxTrax for vehicle recovery and a RoadShower for cleaning off muddy or dusty gear (or people), as well as storing potable water for trips to remote areas.
The RoadShower is a fairly ingenious and simple system – the unit heats up in the sun to provide warm water for a shower and can be pressurized using a simple bicycle pump, giving the user a good stream instead of an awkward trickle.
Next was the lighting. Underneath the tent we got creative and fabbed up custom brackets to mount the Baja Designs OnX6 Hi-power lightbar directly to the underside of the tent, just behind the top of the windshield. This eliminates glare on the hood and windshield and protects the lightbar from branches or other potential damage. The OnX6 Hi-Power is far and away the most powerful lightbar on planet earth right now (no exaggeration). At 46,600 lumens this bar is actually brighter than the sun and is absolutely unsafe to look at directly. So don’t do it! But man does it light your way in the dark parts of the world.
One obstacle we had to overcome here was how to operate the lightbar. If you own or have been inside a new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk you know that there are no switch blanks and not even a usable flat surface on the entire dash. We also didn’t want to add an ugly non-matching switch to such a streamlined interior. So we got a little creative and tapped into the factory wiring harness, wiring the Baja Designs lightbar to the factory auto-bright headlight system. It’s now completely automated with no extra switches (or even thought) necessary.
Next we installed a Wilco Offroad Hitchgate Classic (centered) on the rear of the vehicle, with optional Jerry Can mounts. We also added a full-size matching spare wheel and wrapped all the wheels in new BF Goodrich All-terrain KO2 tires, which is our go-to tire here at the shop for both looks and on- and off-road performance and durability.
And there it is. This Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, Adventure Ready Edition.
It is now:
If you have any questions or need parts or recommendations for your build shoot us an email at email@example.com