Jeep TJ Topless - Lapis Blue


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Genesis :
2 years ago, my daughter asked me build her a scale truck.
I build a Jeep TJ out of spare parts I had in my workshop.
- Nikko Body Shell
- frames from Keith Racing
- RC4WD R2 transmission
- Tamiya TLT axles
- self milled transfert case

I loved build that truck especially the body.
On the other hand, there are a lot of small details that I would have done differently if I had made this car for me.
I finally found a second body and start my definition of a TJ.

I have ordered chinese Yota axles and dig an old Integy frame out of my chaos.

The chassis :
As for all my built on links, I install the axles and the frame in their final position on a wood plate.

Then I made the links out of Traxxas rod ends and threaded shaft.
I'll made the Panhard bar later. I cut prototypes of the side plates out of PVC plate.

Just for fun, I put the body on the frame with the wheels (1,55" RC4WD rims and Austar tires)

At this point, I started to work with my little CNC to made all the parts I cannot buy.
First, I milled the side plates in Epoxy and a Transfert case in Delrin.

About the transfer case: It has an internal ratio of 1:1 with an overdrive of 1.15 to front axle.
It's made up of 3x 32DP pinions with 5mm axle. There are 6x 850 bearings to guide everything.

Et Voilà! in the frames:

As long as the milling machine is out, I make the rear cross member for the shock absorbers as well as a frame side support for the panhard bar:

Barely deburred, I install the crossbar. We can also see a plate with the rear body supports:

Same punishment for Panhard's support. I also made the bar:

I position the transmission (RC4WD R2) on the frame to size the supports:

This supports are immediately drawned on Autocad et sent on the Easel Website to mill them. Here are them onto the frame:

For the first time the chassis stands alone on its wheels with all its mechanical components installed:

A front block is milled from Delrin to install the steering servo and front body mount:

I switched the transfert case for its final one. the shaft are also installed.
The Truck drove his maiden flight so:

For the first time, the body is installed rigidly on its chassis:

First flex shot:

I needed a Battery case. I first made a paper prototyp:

Installation at the fuel cell position:

It's all good. I cut 0,8mm metal sheet and glued it with 2 component Epoxy:


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The Body Shell:
I don't like the stock front bumper. Nikko made an existing one but I preffer an other version of the bumper.
I sketched a new one on Autocad and milled it:

Ditto for the arch. Too massive on the Nikko toy, I prefer something thinner.
I am embarking for the first time in the bending of Ø6mm aluminum bars.

Here are the new parts temporarily installed:

I tried an aluminum solder with a kit bought at a fair a long time ago. Obviously it does not work ...
Plan B will be to glue the whole with epoxy aluminum from Facom.
The rest of the bodywork preparation is fairly straightforward.
I integrated reflectors in the lenses of the original headlights. Here they are those of the YJ Tamiya.
I also dug out the positions of the parking lights and the front turn signals.
I didn't have the original spare tire shell so I'm using the one from the YJ Tamiya which I closed with a styrene plate milled to the correct diameter.
after rough sanding, everything is ready for painting:

Details and finishes:
While it dries up, I get down to other details. The rear lights are in European format but fully orange.
I want to make a US version of my TJ so I redesigned the taillights with the design specific to this version.
They are made in two parts to keep the reversing lights transparent without having to struggle with the paint.
I would also like to have lighted meters.
I am inspired by the work of AMPro-Engineering and I draw a block of displays that will be painted and where only the dials will be lightly sanded to let the light pass.
There are two slots at the back for LEDs in SMD format. I printed the transparent resin parts in my Anycubic Photon:

After painting, the rear lights in two parts are assembled:

The meter also goes into painting. Like AMPRO Engineering, I painted everything in silver and then in matte black.

Then, we gently sand the relief of the writings and graduations on a sheet of sandpaper placed flat on the worktop to remove the paint.
I install two SMD3528 LEDs in the locations provided on the back of the unit and the result is immediately obvious:

The paint arrived and was immediately applied to the body.
It is "Lapis Blue" from the Jeep TJ catalog in 1997.
The specific decoration is made with a plotter in silver vinyl.
I sweated well with that. The "WRANGLER 4.0L" lettering is 1.8mm high.
Everything is protected by 2K varnish

An important point for me was the choice of a realistic light kit. Since I have been doing model making, I like to install lights in my machines but I have never found a realistic and easily configurable kit.
And then one day I hear about Werner Lane. It is a German expatriate in Shanghai who offers open-source kits.
They are extremely realistic in their operation because they relate to the logic of a driver and not a simple ignition programming.
The turn signals, for example, do not come on when you turn the steering wheel while driving. They only engage when the vehicle is stationary and you steer fully.
On the track, it makes a big visual change.
The reversing lights turn off after a random pause once we have returned to neutral, as if the driver were quietly taking the time to manipulate his gear lever.
There are plenty of small features that deserve an explanation but I'll let you discover them in his videos and on his Github.
LaneboysRC - Github
LaneboysRC - Youtube

Choice in programming was essential. Here you can configure the 16 outputs of the kit independently via a web page.
Each output is dimmable. For my TJ, I was able, with a single click, to combine my taillights to have a US appearance.
That is to say that the 2 rear LEDs are used for position lights, brake lights and indicators.
I had nothing to do other than choose the lighting power (in percent) for each function and choose the "US lights" option.

Carried away in my tracks (or my madness), I installed 13 LEDs controlled by the tiny LaneboysRC kit.
It is so far the best rendering that I have obtained on a scale truck.

The seats are repainted in matt gray and the seats are covered with gray self-adhesive velor:


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During the JS Scale Experience 2020, I was very impressed by interiors.
I wanted to detail mine too. The convertible body offers a beautiful view that needed to be enhanced.
I did not want to go into the cliché of the backpacker with all the equipment and I preferred to start with the idea that the driver uses his TJ daily but does not hesitate to think outside the box when necessary.
He likes junk food and occasionally offers himself a McDonald's. On the menu, Cheeseburger and French fries.
For the cheeseburger packaging, I found the template from the 1998 paper.
I print it on a sheet of cigarette paper that I taped on an A4 page:

For the fries, I drew a cone printed on normal paper. I garnished with yellow flexible Fimo sticks:

still had a set of details from Finelline-Modellbau.
I installed here ignition-keys, a K7 and sunglasses:

I put my fries and a magazine stuck between the passenger chair and the center console.
This is a 1998 "Road & Track" cover about America's best cars. For the reverse, I printed an advertisement for the Jeep XJ.
The inner pages are made of cigarette paper. You will also notice the laying of the carpet on the floor:

We go outside with the license plate. The plate is printed and then laminated. The frame comes from the Fineline-modellbau kit.

The hard cover for the spare wheel is painted in body tone. An advertisement for a fictitious garage is made with the plotter.
(The names come from one of my other passions). On the photo, you can note the light kit under test (a reversing light is not connected) with the third brake light:

During the JS-Scale Experience 2020, I fell in love with the cans made by Jeremy. They are functional and the movement of the liquid really brings the car to life.
As soon as I got home, I had drawn some for myself which I printed on my Anycubic Photon. There is a 20 liter and a 5 liter.
Here they are ready to be installed:

Obviously a driver is needed for this TJ. My little Karl will take his place behind the wheel.
This is a Madelman figurine from a lot that I looted on ebay Spain a long time ago.
The interior is a bit too high in the body and although I have already removed 1cm from the base of the seats, Karl was still too high.
Unfortunately, he had to give of himself to be able to sit properly in his new car.

For some security reasons, he has to fasten his seatbelt.
There aren't onto the Nikko Toy.
I made the myself.

No jealousy, the passenger side also receives a belt:

This interior is really starting to look real but one last detail shocks me.
There is no door trim. After a little CAD, we released a first prototype of the Photon:

There, I realize that an important element of the cockpit is still missing: An interior mirror.
One more CAD spoon and I run a 3D print.
The result is satisfactory and I painted and decorated it with a magic tree.

I added a few more elements to increase the realism.
You now have all the details of this construction.
I will post you some overviews after the JS-Scale experience. I keep a bit of exclusivity for the event.
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Putting it in "H"
Seriously cool project! Those TJ's are very hard to come by these days. Applause for building a nice truck.


Great details! And correct me if I'm wrong, but "Darnell & Sons" is a reference to Stephen King's "Christine," isn't it?


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Thank you guys for the kind words.

Great details! And correct me if I'm wrong, but "Darnell & Sons" is a reference to Stephen King's "Christine," isn't it?
Yes, Darnell is the workshop where Arny repaired Christine.
The Licence plate is the one of Christine in Cameron's movie but moved to Maine state.
Derry is a fictional City in the Stephen King universe.