Prepping a Vintage CJ for Cold-Weather Freeway Driving
We add a Rampage Products Windbreaker and vintage Kayline doors to the UACJ6D.
If you're like me, you can tolerate extreme heat a lot better than extreme cold. I don't know why, but I have no troubles piloting an open-air 4x4 on the trail when it's 125 degrees, but flip the script and make it 25 degrees, and I'm a big, "No, thank you." Two of the most miserable drives I've ever had were in open-air vehicles. One was driving my Ramcharger to Moab EJS 2002 through a nighttime snowstorm in Flagstaff, Arizona. The other was returning home from Moab EJS 2018 at 3:00 a.m. in the UACJ6D. The nighttime temperature on Interstate 70 through Fish Lake National Forest that time of year was in the high teens, and I was absolutely miserable despite wearing every stitch of cold-weather gear I owned. I vowed on that trip to do whatever I could short of installing an enclosed top to make the UACJ6D a bit more bearable on long, cold-weather drives.
The biggest issue when driving an open-air vehicle at freeway speed is always the slipstream biting into you and sucking every ounce of heat from your body wherever it can. Remove as much of the wind, and you'll retain as much heat as possible. To that end I decided to install a wind breaker behind the front seats and a set of half-doors. Neither would do much to impede trail visibility and both could be easily removed and safely stored during the warm weather timeframe.
Early Jeep CJ Half-Doors
For starters, if anybody wants fabric half-doors for their early Jeep CJ, Bestop makes a nice pair that you can purchase for only a couple hundred bucks. They look great, they fit well, and they're super well made. However, for me and the way I drive off-road when I don't have the Bestop doors on, I always seem to whack my elbow on the door latch bracket Bestop provides that bolts to the body tub. So when it came time to put doors on the UACJ6D, I knew I wanted another set of hard-to-find vintage Kayline doors, not the easy-to-purchase Bestop ones.
I had run a set of black Kayline half-doors on my first CJ-6, Project Hatari!, that I peeled off an old CJ-5 parts Jeep that donated the engine and some other components to make that CJ-6 a runner. The Kaylines swoop down at a steeper angle than the Bestop versions to meet the tub. Plus, instead of a latch bracket that bolts to the tub, the Kayline doors use the inner door handle to latch the door in the closed position. That way, when they're off, there's no bracket to whack your elbow on. The only trouble is, those Kayline doors haven't been made in years, and they're getting a bit hard to find. I put out a call on my Facebook page as well as on my @hbombindustries and @christianhazelofficial Instagram pages to see if anybody out in the Jeep community was selling some. Sure enough, Marty Tilford, the son of Herm Tilford of ATV Manufacturing fame, had a set of nearly mint doors in spice color that just about perfectly matched the rusty patina of the UACJ6D. Marty and I struck up an incredibly fair deal for the doors and an NOS bikini top in the same spice tan color just before Moab 2019. And as luck would have it, another fellow early CJ enthusiast, Mitchell Carter from Mule Expedition Outfitters, was able to pick up the doors from Marty and deliver them to my condo in Moab.
Rampage Products Windbreaker for Early Jeep
With the knowledge I had doors on the way, right before leaving for Moab EJS 2019 I ordered a Rampage Products Windbreaker, PN 90017R. Although the Windbreaker is made for a '76-'06 Jeep, it mounts with easy-to-manage straps, and the general fit is very good on the custom 2-inch-diamter rollcage in the UACJ6D. The Windbreaker has a very generous window that doesn't greatly impact trail visibility, but the unit really cuts down on the amount of wind that blows back on the front seat occupants when going down the road.
Kayline Door Installation on Early Jeep CJ
My last set of old, black Kayline doors had a different bracket design than the newer spice-colored ones I purchased from Marty Tilford. The brackets on my first set were a simple L-shape gate style that dropped simply down onto sheetmetal retaining brackets that bolted to the outside of the tub. These newer spice-colored Kayline doors had brackets that were similar to old Toyota FJ40 soft doors, which use a T-shaped upper bracket and an L-shaped lower bracket with a much shorter pin. Since I didn't get any of the retaining brackets for the tub, I built some retaining brackets out of some angle iron and thin-wall tubing that snugly fit the door hinges.
The first step was to position the doors on the tub. The Kayline doors are a nice fit, and the inner latch holds them in place nicely so they don't want to fall out while you're messing with measuring and trial-fitments.
The latches bolt to the inner bracket. By loosening the bolts, the hinges can be moved forward or back. I originally thought I'd be able to utilize the Meyers hard top brackets the UACJ6D is still sporting, but the Kayline hinge pins are too small to be a good fit. The door would just fall off when opened if I used the Meyers bracket.
Using some super high-tech tools (a 4.5-inch angle grinder and a welder), I built a lower hinge bracket and bolted it to the inside of the door opening lip.
The simple little hinge bracket is a good fit in the Jeep tub, and when the doors are off it's not that obtrusive or noticeable. I resisted the urge to paint the bracket, instead slathering it with some oil like the rest of the raw 'cage and bumpers on this Jeep. In time the raw steel bracket will patina and match the rest of the Jeep.
For the upper hinge with the T-shaped bracket, I welded on a longer section of tubing and then used the grinder with a thin cutoff wheel to cut the tubing in half down the top two-thirds of its length. The result mimics the factory FJ40 soft door bracket, which provides a stop to keep the doors from popping off.
The Kayline doors are made of the same type of waterproof denim fabric as most soft tops sewn across a simple solid bar tube frame. As a last-ditch effort before Marty Tilford came up with this set for sale, I was contemplating just building my own.
My old set of Kaylines had a zippered flap on the inner door pocket, but I think I prefer the open top with a slight banding on these. I'm sure they'll fill with dirt and dust on the trail, but regardless, they're a super handy place to keep your wallet, phone, and other easy-to-lose items. I'll just keep a couple ziplock baggies in there for when I'm out on the trail to keep everything dry and clean.
Unlike the Bestop doors, which used a bracket that bolts to the top of the tub to retain the door in the closed position, the vintage Kaylines are much simpler, opting to integrate a latch into the handle.
The Rampage Products Windbreaker install on the UACJ6D was pretty straightforward. The fuel tank mounts behind the rear seats, which prevents the Windbreaker from rolling all the way down to the floor and attaching with the included footman loops, but it still blocks a majority of the wind that used to assault the front-seat occupants.
Simple nylon straps loop around the rollbar and can be tightened or removed very quickly.
The rear visibility is excellent with the Rampage Products Windbreaker, and there are enough straps to keep it taught at speeds of up to 80 mph. It doesn't flap and flutter in the wind like some of these we've used in the past, which is nice when it's right behind your ears.
Although a lot of wind is still gonna get to the front-seat occupants, the majority of the blast that gets you when driving at freeway speeds generally comes from the lower front of the door opening and from directly behind. With the Kayline doors and Rampage Products Windbreaker, this Jeep is a whole lot nicer to drive in really cold weather.