YJ/TJ/LJ Drop Tailgate Conversion
Article by Ed Holnagel
Of all the improvements made to Jeeps over the years, one is not the swing out tailgate. The drop style tailgate of the CJ has been sorely missed by the Jeep community since Jeep did away with it starting with the YJ. Those used to having a place to sit, lay out lunch or using their tailgate as a workbench have all mourned the loss of the drop tailgate.
Recently a friend came to us and asked if we would help install a new drop tailgate kit he had bought for his TJ. Eager to see how this kit went together we agreed.
Although complete, we found that there was nothing special with this kit. The hinges and tailgate cables are readily available though online outlets and the hardware is available anywhere. There was of course some steel plates and a secondary latch for the passenger side but as we will point out all of this can be put together in your garage with basic tools for a lesser price. Besides that we weren't all that crazy about the engineering behind this kit either.
What You Will Need
For parts here are your options. You can buy the same replacement CJ hinges online from several sources, but as we will point out there are cheaper and better alternatives.
Hinges: Stock CJ style hinges like the ones provided in the kit are available from Rugged Ridge, part number 11207.01, Black powder coated. We found these hinges for around $28/pair at the cheapest online. If you prefer stainless you can get them for around $40, Kentrol part number 30419.
The problem with the stock CJ hinge is that it has a small bend in it which I am sure is necessary for the CJ but one needs to make sure that it is shimmed correctly when using them for this conversion or else you end up drawing the bottom of your tailgate out from it’s seated position, a condition we noticed with the commercial kit due to a shim block used on the lower side of the hinge which is too thick. The other flaw we noted with the commercial kit was that the lower hinge mounts put all the weight to bear on the lower body panel in a concentrated area and produced a noticeable bowing in of the metal in this area when even slight weight was put on the door. We certainly would not feel comfortable sitting on the tailgate this way.
We chose a set of black powder coated gate hinges from our local hardware store for $6.00 each. We found the tolerances to be much tighter on these hinges vs the CJ hinges provided in the commercial kit.
For the tailgate cables we ordered two replacement CJ cables from Quadratec part #22504.90 at $8.99 each. These are the exact same cables supplied in the commercial kit.
Beyond that you will also need:
3” x 5’ 1/8” flat bar.
4” x 2’ 1/8” flat bar.
¼” x 20tpi, Nutserts (qty, 8)
We prefer to buy a bit more metal than we need and make the final cuts ourselves. You can however ask your metal supplier to cut the pieces to the exact size you need. The added few dollars may just be worth your time if you don’t have a good way to cut metal.
First a note about drill size. Except for installing the nutserts or drilling a hole to be tapped, you do not necessarily need to use the exact size we did. This isn't’t rocket science and if you only have the next size larger then use it.
Be sure to center punch all holes to be drilled. Start out using a small drill bit first as larger ones can “walk” and can end up putting the hole where you don’t want it. Once you have a small hole in place then move up to the size you need to finish with. Take your time to lay out your holes to be drilled very carefully and if possible use a drill press for drilling the flatbar.