Over the years I have owned a number of Jeep CJs, from a CJ5, three CJ7s, and two Scramblers. With the end of the CJ we were introduced to the new YJ Wrangler and as things would have it, two of them eventually made it into my stable.
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Enter 1997 and Jeep unveiled the TJ, bringing back round headlights and amongst other things, a modern suspension system. With all the “improvements” touted on the CJ successors, one thing that they lacked, and I missed the most, was a tailgate.
There is much to be said about the utility of a tailgate. You can use it as a table or prep area for your trail lunch or you can just use it as a place to sit on. It can be a work bench for trail repairs or, like a truck, can be used to haul longer loads from the local Home Depot to home (providing you somehow secure your swing away tire carrier). No matter what, I was determined to somehow put a tailgate on my TJ.
I was surprised to find a number of write-ups online on grafting a CJ tailgate to a Wrangler. As things would have it, a CJ tailgate in excellent condition came my way via a friend. Article after article, my pros and cons list began to take shape. The cost seemed a little bit up there. A good CJ tailgate will set you back around $100 and a body shop quoted me $225 to paint it to match my TJ. Add a few dollars more for some miscellaneous hardware and a few hours time and presto, you’ve got a tailgate on your TJ. To me, it was have been worth the $325-$350 costs for the convenience.
Now for the big problem: my hard top. Due to the design of the Wrangler rear lift window, there is no real way of “locking” a CJ tailgate to keep it closed tight to avoid both weather and rattles. I considered replacing my Wrangler rear window gate with a CJ one but after making some visual comparisons it didn’t seem possible. In any case, if your Wrangler wears a soft top year round, you are in business.
But what about those of us with hard tops? As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a conversion kit online, accidentally. A kit that would convert my TJ rear door to a real pull down tailgate. No more having to look for nice CJ tailgate, no buying a cheap aftermarket CJ tailgate, no expense for a body shop to make it look like it belongs on my Jeep.
For little more than the price of a nice CJ tailgate, Troy from SWAG Off-Road will send you a custom kit to convert your TJ or YJ rear door to a swing down tailgate. One that not only looks good but will lock and not rattle. For you JK owners, he has a kit for you too. What you get is a box full of parts and hardware with detailed instructions on the conversion. I liked what I saw, the price was within any Jeepers budget so naturally I ordered one.
Jeep has a very cool spider web design. The steel is unpainted so you can either paint to match or as I did, buy a can of my favorite Rustoleum Hammered paint in black. It will look good with the stainless steel bolts that come with the kit and blend in with my body armor on the corners.