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O-R FAB Sport Cage
By Cole Ford

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To Cage or Not to Cage?
That has been the question on many Jeepers' minds for ages. When trying to answer this question, the first thing we need to do is define what we want to accomplish and why.

For many years, the tubular framework inside a Jeep has been referred to as a "roll cage." To be more politically correct and to change consumers' mindset in recent years, the phrase "roll cage" has been replaced with "sport bar" or other similar phrases. This was also done to keep the auto manufacturers out of hot water, in case of lawsuits.

No matter which words you use to describe it, the general purpose of the cage is to offer some level of protection to the occupants of the Jeep. The level of protection could vary from keeping low-flying branches out of your face to keeping your body contained within the Jeep while tumbling down a 2,000-foot cliff-side.

The level of protection you choose is going to depend on the type of wheeling you do, the amount of money you want to spend and how easily you want to be able to get in and out of your rig. No matter what you decide, keep in mind that a little something is better than a whole lot of nothing.

For example, last year, I had the misfortune of tipping my YJ up against a tree in Carnage Canyon. If it had not been for the factory crossbars we would have gone all the way over, crushing both my passenger and myself. The factory setup came to the rescue in this situation.

But the factory set up on a YJ or TJ has some disadvantages, too. For example, you can't put the windshield down with the crossbars in place. To me this seems like a major flaw in the factory design of the sport bar and windshield setup. With the windshield up and the sport bars in place you rely on the windshield frame for protection. The windshield frame can be plenty strong for the average tip over. But, what if you want to use the folding windshield option on your Jeep? Then you lose the protection of the windshield frame and the cross bars of the sport cage, because they will have been removed.

So what can we do to improve this situation for the purpose of Project Cross Trainer?

Caging the Beast! ("Sport Barring the Beast" just doesn't sound right)
As usual, we explored our options for enhancing the sport cage in the Cross Trainer. To stay true to the "Cross Trainer" theme, we needed a sport cage that would basically enhance the factory design without creating any other difficulties. We had four options available to us.

Option "A"
The first option is a complete tube sport bar that bends out around the dash and down to the floor. While this satisfies our need to put the windshield down and still have some protection it also creates some difficulties that we feel go against the Cross-Trainer principle. The tubing that comes out around the dash interferes with entry and exit of the Jeep, legroom while sitting in the Jeep, blocks access to the heater vents and your ability to remove dash panels to access speakers etc.

Option "B"
A sport bar that does not go around but down through the dash. This option was thought about a lot. It would offer plenty of protection without interfering with entry or exit to the Jeep. It does, however, require cutting of the dash panels, rerouting of the heater hoses, and would interfere with the foot room just slightly.

Option "C"
"C" is for "Custom." I love custom-fabricated stuff, if for no other reason than it is unique to your Jeep. Custom-fabricated stuff can be really cool and also really expensive! In this case, the only thing a custom cage could do for us would be to add any custom handles etc. All the other designs I can think of are being produced for mass purchase.

Option "D"
The last option for a sport cage is the type that runs tubes down to the dash and then take the mounting and support design flat to bolt to the existing dash and body bolts. The idea has been around for several years, however, it has just been recently that several manufacturers have exploded on the scene with these type of cages. The advantage is a sport cage that allows you to lower your windshield and offers some protection but does not interfere with legroom, heater vents, maintenance, etc.

We explored the options out there for this type of cage. Many of the designs are very similar. Some have options like extra handles, dash cross bars, etc. Some of these options require removing the factory sport bar padding or make it difficult to access the dash panel.

We decided on the O-R Fab kit for two reasons. First, because it was a very clean and simple design. When it is installed it looks like it came from the factory that way. The second reason is the floor mount option that connects the whole assembly to the floor, body, and dash. The floor mount kit does all this without getting in the way of your feet or legs and still looks like a factory item. Overall, this gave us a design that allowed us to drop the windshield, gain some protection, and maintain the factory look and function of our Jeep.

Key Features!
Ok, here is the stuff that you really want to know. The O-R Fab Sport Bar fit seamlessly into the "Cross Trainer." Most of my passengers either do not notice it at all or they just shrug it off as a factory item. I was even able to re-use the factory sport bar padding to retain a clean look with just a touch of sewing required.

The floor mount kit comes with a dash brace for the backside of the dash. This sandwiches the jeep body between the 2 sides of the cage for more strength. Even with the floor mount kit in place, the sport bar almost vanishes into the interior of the Jeep.

The overall fit and finish of the kit was very nice. The high-gloss black powder coat makes the kit blend perfectly with my Jeep and gives it a clean, factory-type look. What I like most about this kit is its clean, no-nonsense design. No extra handles, tabs or do-dads clutter up the look.

I have had this kit in the Jeep for several months now. I installed it last spring before I was ready to take my hard top off for the summer. The hardtop fit back on just like it was supposed to. The doors fit just a touch more snug, but not to the point where it is a problem. Since the door straps now connect to the floor mounts, I had to take my short straps out and go back to the factory originals. The doors swing open to a nice comfortable level now.

When I switched over to my soft top, everything went on easily, with the exception of the plastic door surrounds with the factory top. It just takes a bit more effort to move the padding out of the way to put them on. All and all, though, this is not a big deal.

I then removed the two bolts that connect the windshield frame to the sport bar. This made it so I only have to remove the two lower bolts in the windshield frame to put it down. I drove that way all summer with no problems at all. I put my windshield down on nearly every trail we do. It is very nice to use this feature of the Jeep and still feel like I have some level of protection.

CONCLUSION!
The last several months with the O-R Fab sport bar kit installed have been very interesting. The kit blends into the Jeep so seamlessly that I often forget that it is there. Most of my passengers don't even notice it. On the trail is a different story. As soon as you drop the windshield or someone notices it, then everyone on the trail is over at the Jeep checking it out. This feature has been one of the key elements in the Cross-Trainer design. It has allowed us to take the Jeep one step further toward a rugged trail rig but not change the daily function of the Jeep at all.

O-R FAB, INC
www.orfab.com
2010 W. Cheryl Drive
Phoenix, AZ 85021
Phone: (602) 749-0588
Fax: (602)-749-5668
E Mail: fabguys@orfab.com

O-R Fab Sport Cage
The cage comes complete with everything you need.
O-R Fab Sport Cage
Here you see a partially pre-assembled cage.
O-R Fab Sport Cage
The basic kit mounts to the tub through dash.
O-R Fab Sport Cage
The windshield fastens to the cage with Torx bolts
O-R Fab Sport Cage
The floor mount kit gives extra support and strength
O-R Fab Sport Cage
The floor mount plate is bolted through the floor for added strength.
O-R Fab Sport Cage
Floor mount kit with carpet installed
O-R Fab Sport Cage
If your TJ has a wiring harness cover on the driver side, then you will need to make a cut for the floor mount kit to pass through
O-R Fab Sport Cage
With the windshield down, the installed sport cage looks like it belongs there and came from the factory.
O-R Fab Sport Cage
Installed sport cage
O-R Fab Sport Cage
Use of the plastic soft top supports is retained

 

Cole Ford

Cole Ford is a staff writer for ROCKCRAWLER.com and resides in Littleton, CO. Cole is the owner of Project Cross Trainer. Read more about his project here.

Contact Ford at xtremjeepn@rockcrawler.com