It’s probably safe to say that most folks want to keep their “new” stuff looking new…..at least to the point where it isn’t getting messed up for reasons that are not related to its intended use. In some cases, keeping it looking new serves a bigger purpose than just having it look good. For instance…..the plastic windows in your upper half doors. If you have them, you know they are going to get scratched. It is simply the nature of the beast. Most will probably agree that looking through a badly scratched plastic window is not all that great and in some situations, might even lead to an accident (sun glaring on a scratched window makes it hard to see the oncoming traffic).
When I picked up my used soft top, it came with a pair of brand new soft upper windows (never mounted on frames). At the time, I had no lower doors (metal or soft) but I figured one step at a time. I used my full metal doors with the soft top for a while and then picked up a pair of used metal half doors that a friend offered at a good price. A trip to the local Jeep salvage company, AMC 4×4 Salvage, provided me with a pair of used frames that only required a little wire brushing and a few minutes with the rattle can before they looked good as new. With the help of my wife, we managed to fit the windows to the frame and I was ready to hit the trail with my “new” used half doors.
Most will agree that the beauty of half doors is being able to remove them when the weather is great. The fact that you can more easily see your driver’s side front and rear tire (compared to the full metal doors) is just extra gravy on the potatoes. But….what to do with the soft uppers once I was on the trail was a problem I wanted to solve. A friend of mine leaves the soft uppers at home when he goes on a trail run. It works….they never get scratched that way but it can lead to some uncomfortable travel time. I was doing the half door project in January and even though we don’t see snow here in the Phoenix area in January, the temps can still hit freezing and commonly do. Add a 65 MPH wind chill to a 30 something temperature and that hour spent getting to the trail can result in a slightly frozen Jeeper, not to mention his faithful short-hair dogs that are riding in the back of the TJ. I needed a way to safely store the soft uppers, not get them scratched, and still leave all the room I could in the back for my two 65 pound dogs.
So….the first thing to accomplish was a storage cover of some type that I could put the soft uppers in when they were not on the half doors. My wife sews (a lot) and so when I asked her if she could put something together for me, she pulled out this camo flanel material and asked if it would work. (I won’t tell you how much sewing material she has stashed in the back room.)
She took some measurements of the doors and disappeared in her room for about 30 minutes. When she emerged, I had a storage cover with a divider panel in the middle. The divider is there only to keep the two windows from rubbing against each other. I told her a couple of flaps with Velcro on them would be just fine to keep the cover in place. I couldn’t see Donna going through the hassles of doing a full zipper.
A couple of years back, I picked up some Raingler nets for the TJ. I had one that I was not routinely using, which was the Partition Barrier net. Its intended use is to either separate the front half of the cab from the back half (attaching the net side to side on the roll bar directly behind the seats) or using it to close off the area directly above the tail gate (by attaching it to the rear uprights on the roll bar).
For this project, I decided to attach it to opposite sides of the roll bar. It would act something like a hammock that was slung across the roll bar. Since I also have a mounting bracket right in the middle of that area with my ham radio gear bolted to it, I had to leave a little slack in the 4 mounting straps.
Onboard Half-Door Storage
With the upper doors slipped into the storage cover, they are laid on top of the Raingler net. The net is a good fit for the doors….you might almost think the folks at Raingler had it in mind when they made it (although I am quite sure they did not as it is not displayed on their web site in this fashion).
Some time back, I had picked up a few 1″ wide nylon straps at the local camping store. I think I’ve seen them in the sporting goods section at Walmart and other such stores. I decided to use these to secure the half doors to the net itself so that they would not accidentally slip off of the net when doing a steep hill climb or obstacle.
Here is a pic of the two straps wrapped around the net and doors. I’ve hit the trail with this configuration now a couple of times and it does very well. The doors stay put quite well on the cargo net. I lose some visibility in the rear view mirror due to the “bundle” hanging where it is. How much will depend to some degree on how tall you are or are not and if you have your inside rear view mirror inverted or in the regular position.
When the soft uppers are mounted on the metal lowers, I fold the storage cover and lay it up in the net, ready for the next time my upper doors need a place to “hang out”.
Since my doing this, a friend has bought the Raingler net and is in the process of getting a storage cover made for his uppers. He tried it with a beach towel but the towel slid around while on the trail and before we were done, his windows were scuffing up a bit. The storage cover is worth the little extra effort needed to make it all work like it should.
That is about it. If you are looking for a place to store your soft uppers when out on the trail, this is one method that seems to work quite well. If you come up with some others, drop me a note. I would like to hear about your idea.