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XJ pile project

Author Topic: XJ pile project  (Read 105 times)

Offline Muddyfish

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XJ pile project
« on: October 08, 2021, 06:16:22 AM »
So after just one trip to PA with the club, I realized I had to build a rock rig.  Maybe because the Jimmy project is nearing completion or just for an excuse to fab more random stuff.   Bought a pretty cheap 96 XJ that has had a lot of past mods already,  some of which I sincerely question.  The kid I bought it from really had no idea what was what other than it used to run, had one ton axles and a winch.  He kinda got in it for no good reason and never really did anything with it and his dad wanted the eye sore out of the yard.

The good:
-It has front and rear dodge dana 60 axles, drivers side diff
-3 link coil job in front
-Full hydro steering
-Racing seats with 4 point Schroth racing harnesses (although seats and harnesses are not actually attached to anything)
-Most of a roll cage

The bad:
-Very much a hack and wack cage and an odd/spotty conversion from a front unibody to a rear custom rectangular frame
- rear has leafsprings with an odd and busted trackbar thing???
- front end fender unibody framing is a bit of a mess so uch so that there's no room for the battery and there are 6 foot cables running to behind where the seats would mount.
- random wires running everywhere, bit of a birds nest in places
- hood is not attached to anything- not sure why, and the windshield is busted out - no a negative but there's still glass remnants around.
- intake has no filter or screen of any kind

At sale time it was not running, kid thought starter was bad so I had no idea what shape the engine or tranny or anything else was in.   

After figuring the good parts were useful regardless of the rest of the rig, I brought it home.  After a bit of tinkering, investigation, and recharging I found out the following:
-Motor starts and runs seemingly well (let idle 30 minutes without issues) - had a bad battery (still has half a tank of gas!)
-has manual switch controlled rad fans that really seem to push a ton of air
-tyranny cooler
-hydro steering works fine,  although seems like it responds very quickly (certainly not the older ratio I'm used to)
-rear diff is welded and I'm assuming front is as well
-4.10 gears
-standard Cherokee setup with 4.0l I6, AW4, 231
-winch works, although the synthetic line is shot


One thing I'm questioning due to my lack of experience with jeep engines (predominantly worked on gm and ford's) is is this 4.0l worth keeping? I know the AW4 isn't a great tranny vs a th350 or 400 or modern 4L series but it's already hooked up and the conversion parts cost would just drive me to do a full on 5.3ls swap anyhow. 

So if you were about to create a custom rock crawler rig, would you keep the current setup (which I'm inclined to do for the time being just to see how cheap I can do this) or plan to do the swap and sell the current setup.  (I still need to check compression yet - that'd make my mind up easily ifn it's not good). 
Looking to add 4 link to rear regardless. I don't have any experience with link suspensions so what better way to learn than to dive in and build!  Original plan was to custom build (or buy) full frame/cage on front and rear linked one tons with an automatic  transmission.  Motor, tranny and t/c as well as gears were all tbd.

Any input is welcome and appreciated!

Pics attached as soon as I can shrink the sizes down for the upload max requirement...

Offline Wingman

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Re: XJ pile project
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2021, 07:02:33 AM »
Tap-a-talk is a good app for forums and will allow easy pic uploading. Our website is pretty terrible for that.

XJs are a great entry rig but not easy to keep straight in the long run. Unibodies will eventually rot/crack/shear/fold even with the bracing from stiffeners and cage work.

The engine/trans/tcase are stout and take a LOT of abuse. You’ll probably want a doubler and/or axle gears for some lower crawl ratio options though.

My $0.02: get it wheeling as cheaply and safely as possible and get a lot of seat time. Research, save, and shop for your next build.

Online MrMindless

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Re: XJ pile project
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2021, 08:56:53 AM »
I just bumped the attachment limits up. hopefully I don't give us a space issue but we'll see! will still need to resize from full-rez photos though, they're just too big.
Michael Maskalans
#571 Last Minute Motorsports
High Miler: 07.5 Ram 6.7 6sp 4x2, ARB, 19.5s
2003 R'Audi Allroad 6sp
Road Block: 98 Dakota 203/205 triple stick, 42" SXs
Dumpbus: 97 Ram 24v P-pumped, RoadRanger 13sp
'87 AMC Eagle Wagon

Online MrMindless

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Re: XJ pile project
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2021, 08:59:44 AM »
hopefully it was cheap, reminds me a little bit of Tom's buggy. fix the bird snot assembly, go through the wiring, and see what works. rear leaves may not be so bad to begin with, I'd shake down the rest of the assembly before deciding whether it is a good base to work from or if it should just be considered parts. I'd also leave the drivetrain alone for now - it's relatively durable if it's all working correctly.
Michael Maskalans
#571 Last Minute Motorsports
High Miler: 07.5 Ram 6.7 6sp 4x2, ARB, 19.5s
2003 R'Audi Allroad 6sp
Road Block: 98 Dakota 203/205 triple stick, 42" SXs
Dumpbus: 97 Ram 24v P-pumped, RoadRanger 13sp
'87 AMC Eagle Wagon

Offline Muddyfish

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Re: XJ pile project
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2021, 04:40:57 AM »
Thanks for the input, guys!  I think I'm going to drive it around the yard a couple times to see how it runs under load as well.  I drove it off the trailer last night and it had a hard time finding a transfer case lever position it liked before it would move.  I'm sure there are other problems as well. 

Oh I forgot to add in the bad section that it's missing front brake calipers (no idea why) and there's no line to the rears so it's really more of a "get outta the way" rig.  Thankfully my property is fairly flat.

Offline smichaelR22

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Re: XJ pile project
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2021, 07:23:19 PM »
i saw that unit listed nice.  fix some hacks and beat it. 

does it still have the CAD on the front axle or was it deleted.  nothing wrong with the 4.0 aw4.  i found my ZJ with 4.10 gears and same your going to want some better gearing sooner than later. 

also consider some engine/trans skid plates if it doesnt have them- torn pans are no fun on the trail. 
572 single seat race buggy
573 Brolite '97 Ranger, '96 backup ranger
1997 ZJ 35's
2014 Ram 4500 Cummins 6 speed 4x4
48' enclosed trailer

 

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