I had finished up my 2000 Memorial Day weekend trip at the volcanic Cinders Recreation Area near Flagstaff, AZ when I decided it was time to think about some added safety for the TJ.  Going up and down those craters was enough to get me thinking that a 300′ roll down the hill would NOT be a great thing to do with the TJ, especially with the factory bar being the only protection.  Having it attached to the windshield frame makes for a sturdy windshield, but I am not so certain I want to bet my life on that holding up in a heavy roll over.  So….with that in mind, I decided to get some work done and beef things up a bit.  As luck would have it, I was running a trail a couple of weeks later and met a fellow that had recently had a front bar put into his Jeep.  I checked it out and liked what I saw.  He slipped me a business card of the two guys that did the work, Off-Road Fabrications in Phoenix, AZ.  They go by O-R Fab, and I gave them a phone call (602-749-0588) and got some preliminary information.  I stopped by their shop later on that day to talk with Wayne and discuss my needs.  After 30 minutes of cage talk, I set up an appointment to have the work done in two weeks.   On the day I dropped it off, I removed my hard top and a few other things (CB antenna, etc.) so they would have easy access to the vehicle.

I picked it up earlier today.  How do I like it?  Pretty darn good, I think.  Obviously, this is one mod I hope I never have to try out.  But if I should I will feel a lot better now than I did when I dropped it off.  Here are a few shots of the installation I took after getting it home.

Here is a view looking forward from the rear seat area.  I had these two extra spreaders installed, which are not part of the regular installation.  I wanted some extra tubing between the new front tube and the factory bar.

Here is a closer shot of the two center spreaders where they welded them into the factory bar.  Aside from welding these two bars into the factory bar, I did not have any other work done on the factory bar.

The bars that connected the corner of the windshield frame back to the rear bar were also replaced with thicker walled tubing (about .110″ if I measured it correctly). 

In the above picture, you can see where the front bar comes down and transitions to a bracketed steel plate.  This plate is bolted into the vehicles dash area where the Jeep is built up fairly well.  OR-Fab uses this area of the vehicle to secure their front roll bar.  The factory metal in this area is pretty beefy and I guess it makes sense that it is, as it serves as the front crash zone area for the vehicle occupants.

I opted to have additional bracing installed, which continues down the side of the dash and terminates in a steel plate that is bolted through the floor.

I have not attached this plate through the floor and to the frame.  It would strengthen the cage but if done this way, it needs to have a full six point attachment to the frame.  For now, it will just stay bolted to the floor.

Here is a picture of the bracket that supports the windshield frame.  It is a simple T-bracket.  The T portion uses the two existing threaded holes in the windshield frame.  The stem of the bracket is bolted to a nut that is welded onto the tubing as it bends down towards the dash.

Anyone familiar with a roll cage construction would want this plate tied into the frame on the bottom side, which it is not right now.  I’m considering doing that and might have the guys do up a plate for me.  While Wayne and I were talking about the cage during my first visit, he did mention that they had had a client roll his Jeep with one of their cages installed.  It was the same one I had made except that it did not have the braces that went down to the floor.  Wayne said it took the roll very well and held up nicely (I hope he wasn’t saying that just for me…grin).

My cost for the cage was $405.  Wayne knocked a few bucks off for me since I was getting more than the regular front bar (the extra spreaders and lower brackets).  What is left for me to do?  I need to do a little bit of painting and the wife said she could modify the old pads and covers to accommodate the places where the new spreaders were welded to the factory bar.  I’ll be mounting a couple of my ham radios onto the spreader bars.  Wayne was nice enough to measure the radio I had sitting on the dash and set the spacing of the center spreaders so that I had an extra inch to play with.

So, if you are thinking of doing a roll cage, you might consider Wayne and Mark.  I don’t know much about metal fabrication, but these guys sure do have a shop full of fine looking tools….tubing benders and metal punches (all of these are hydraulic), welders, ….you know, metal fab stuff!  Anyway, if you decide to pay them a visit, tell them you saw their handy work on my off-road page.  They will no doubt give you a really big discount (grin)!

Update 06/26/2000:
I put the hard top back on today.  I didn’t get the painting done yet.  Too bloody hot outside! I’ll wait till this fall when things cool down and I have a few days to work on it.  The top went on with no problems at all.  The front latches cleared the bar so that was good news.  I had asked Wayne about that before I ordered it, and he assured me that they moved the bar back enough so it would not be a problem.  I also moved one of my ham radios to the front bar as well.  I had it mounted to the inside front edge of the hard top.  Now it is attached to the roll bar which makes it easier to pop the top when I do the painting.

Lady’s Custom Sports Bar

I finally got around to picking up some roll bar padding from the local 4×4 shop here in Phoenix.  I checked around at a few hardware stores, etc., but could not find any foam padding that was large enough to go over my new bars.  So, I bit the bullet and paid the $7 something for a 6′ length.  Took about 3 lengths to finish up the job.  My wife had gotten some material and was going to sew the covers for me, but after I got the pads in place, we both decided it looked just fine without the extra effort.
Here are a couple of shots of the completed project, with the roof back on!

Lady’s Custom Sports Bar
 

October 29, 2003

I stopped by Toys by Troy this morning to have a little more work done on what was already installed under the hard top.  Troy and I have previously discussed putting in a dash bar.  I wanted something from which I could mount a very small laptop (Panasonic Toughbook) and a dash bar looked like a good option.  At the same time, I would be beefing up the existing cage with one more bar so I couldn’t go wrong there either. Our plan was to make it a bolt in bar.  Troy’s sport bar kit bolts into your TJ.  He manufacturers a dash bar that can be welded in place.  Lots of Jeepers don’t have welders so Troy though he might try making a prototype bolt in bar and my TJ was going to be the test mule.  As it turned out, the bolt in was not going to work on mine since we needed to remove the existing cage to do some of work.  Since mine was welded to the factory roll bar, what started as a fairly simple fab project was going to take much more time than we had budgeted.  The prototype was put on hold and we proceeded with a a weld in dash bar.  My Toughbook would not know the difference! Late breaking news:  I just got off the phone with Troy.  He was at the laser cutter’s shop.  They were working out the specs for the bolt in dash bar (the part that needs to bolt to the “T” bracket on the sport bar).  Troy decided that it was time to get this item to production and said it wouldn’t be too long before they would be available.  OK, back to the rest of the write-up.Since I was supplying some sweat equity for this project, I pulled Lady into the back of Troy’s new shop (he moved to a really nice facility a couple of months ago).  It took a few minutes to loosen the hard top and fold down the front window so we would have easy access to the front of the existing cage.

Troy hooked me up with Larry, one of this employees, for the remainder of the project.  After Larry cut the required length of tubing, he placed it in the tubing bender and put the two requisite bends in the proper location.  Troy gave me a little info on this tubing bender.  Made in Germany, this little sweetie is microprocessor controlled.  You tell it what bend to make, and it will even compensate for the ambient temperature of the tubing so that when the tubing springs back (bending pressure is released), the angle will be correct.  TOO COOL!  Kind of makes that $79 unit from the Chinese import tool store look pretty sad (which it really is).  Oh….the cost of Troy’s bender was well over what I paid for Lady (when she had 10K miles and was only a year old).  People wonder why fabricated parts can be expensive. Obviously, there is more than just labor and materials that must get factored into the price that we pay.  A quality tubing bender doesn’t come cheap. 

With the dash bar’s bends in place, it was time to cut the ends of the tubing so that they would fit the roll cage.  While I would have been forced to use a grinding wheel, Larry set up the next machine to cut the curved section out of the tubing.  Larry set it up to cut at a slight angle so the bar would rest in the desired position once it was fitted and welded to the cage.  No way would I have gotten something that exact with a grinder. 

Larry cleaned up the burrs and we dropped the bar into position.  Actually, it was just a bit too snug to dead blow into place, so we used one of those hydraulic power tools to push on the roll cage (just a tiny bit).  The dash bar dropped into position and we were ready to go.  Since I can’t weld a lick, Yonik volunteered to do the honors.  I’ve seen his work and many of you have to, assuming you have one of Troy’s bumpers, roof racks, etc.  I new it would be a good job.  The guys grabbed some fire blankets and carefully cover the hood and interior of the TJ.  Yonik lit things up and the bar was properly secured in short order.

I thought you might like to see what it looked like from an “end shot” perspective.  Hey!  I still have the majority of the defroster vent available for use!  You can’t beat that and its is straight too!  We used one of those digital levels while we were fitting the bar into position.  When we were within 1/10 of a degree, I told Larry we were close enough.  After welding, it was still sitting where we put it.

I forgot to snap a picture from inside the vehicle once we finished up so I just ran out to the garage and shot off a quick one.  Once I get the Toughbook bracket details worked out (the parts for the prototype are sitting the garage….just gotta put it together), I’ll tape things up and rattle can the dash bar.  Since the rest of the roll cage is also spray painted, it should look just fine. 

A big thanks goes to Troy for squeezing me into an already tight work schedule.  The dash bar turned out great.  I think it was Gordon (he installed my Alumi-flex LA lift) that suggested I might consider applying for a job at the shop.  While Larry was doing some work on the tubing, I managed to lend a hand on a couple of other things and didn’t even drop a Jeep off of the jack stands either!  Hey….if the job at the nuclear plant ever dries up, I just might check into it!

TBT Sports Bar Rollover
 

Update:  04/29/2002

Yesterday, I got back from a week’s worth of Jeepin’ in Moab.  I was glad to say that Lady came home in one piece.  She needs some work (control arm bushings), but nothing that a Saturday or two won’t take care of.I met a another lady while at Moab.  Her name is Tracy.  She had the unfortunate luck of rolling at the top of Hell’s Gate (on the Hell’s Revenge trail).  I am so glad to say that Tracy survived the roll over with just a bump on the head.  Here is a what Hell’s Gate looks like from the bottom of the obstacle.  Here is a video of the roll over.  (It is about 6 MB in size).   I was not on the run that Tracy was on when this happened.  I was coming back from a run I had led when I heard about it on the radio.  I just happened to be going down main street when I saw Tracy and friends turning the corner just ahead of me.  After talking with her for a few minutes, I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple of pictures.I thought some of you might be interested in them….I know I sure was.  Tracy has nearly the same front roll bar as I do.  Hers was made by Challenger.  There is a dispute as to who made the first design (the OR-Fab folks or the Challenger folks) because they all use to work for the same fab shop (or so that is the story I was told).  Regardless of who made what first, the point is that her cage and mine are basically the same (except for the one bar going side to side that connects the side bars above the tail gate).  She also had a pair of stringers going down the center between the front bar and the stock bar, just as I do.   

The TJ was driven off the trail under its own power and back into town.  I’ve no idea as to the complete extent of the damages.  From behind, I could tell the passenger rear wheel (or flange) was badly bent.  It was and inch or two out of true.  The folks at the roll over said the front bumper hoop prevented the radiator from being taken out.  It was a little bit tweaked, but looked to be in pretty good shape given the circumstances.

A picture from the side of the vehicle.

Most of the parts that came off, including the spare tire, were piled into the back of the TJ.

This is probably the most hotly debated part of this roll bar design…..the point where the front bar bolts into the dash area.  There was damage here, as there was all over the vehicle.  The flat plate that bolts in here did pull away from the dash area by about 1/2″.  I’ve heard people say that this area will fail completely in a roll over and leave the driver with no protection.  Well folks….this one did not fail completely and Tracy walked away from this roll over with no injuries.  She did not have the floor supports, as I do, that connect this area to the floor of the TJ.

The windshield was not much to look at.  Given how badly the frame was crushed (it does extend a bit above the roll bar), I have no doubt what so ever that Tracy would have been severely injured had she not had this roll cage in place.

I tool this one so that all could have an idea as to how un-tweaked the entire case actually was.  As you can see, it is sitting pretty square to the world.  

This is where the rear tire carrier plate was mounted.  I realize it has nothing to do with the roll bar, but I noticed it while taking the above pics and decided to snap one of this too.I realize that one rollover does not prove that a roll bar design is completely safe.  However, I’ve been on the trail where Tracy rolled.  I’ve helped recover a Jeeper from that very spot who almost went over a year ago.  There are no places in Arizona that I’ve wheeled that present that kind of risk (note I said that on the trails I have wheeled).  After having seen Tracy’s TJ, I am satisfied that my OR-Fab roll bar will provide me with the safety factor I expected when I purchased it.