I'll start by stating what I'm trying to accomplish and why.
I'm starting off with a '97 TJ sport that I've had since new and has grown with me over the years. It's in pretty good shape as it's rarely been winter driven and has been garage kept most of it's life, and at only 115000 km still has lots of life left. It's currently sitting on a set of 35's with 3" springs and 1" body lift. It still has the stock axles, Dana 44/30 combo, but they are running 4.56 gears with a zip locker in the front and an OX in back. It's running the stock 4.0 but with a swapped in NV3550 and a 231 with a slip yoke eliminator.
When I bought the Jeep I was much younger, single, and just wanted a fun vehicle. Fast forward 16 years and I've aged some (havn't we all), have a wife and 2 boys that love to wheel, but are getting bigger by the day (the boys not the wife). We love wheeling as a family but we're outgrowing the Jeep. I thought about going to a Cherokee or Grand, but like having the removable top. Looked at selling this and getting and TJ unlimited, but I'd lose too much money for the difference. So I started researching doing a stretch, and found a couple of others that had done similar projects, including others on this forum (thanks guys). Then this summer I found a TJ unlimited back half with rollbar at Davey's Jeep in Clevland for $300 and took a day trip down there to pick it up. While I was there I went over to 4wd hardware just down the road and picked up a Bestop TJ unlimited soft top, that was $850, but unlimited soft tops are near impossible to find used, so... They've been mostly sitting in my garage now for the summer as we've been wheeling, except for removing some excess pieces of the unlimited that I won't be needing and unbolting the roll bar and pulling out the wiring. After getting back from one final wheeling trip the end of September, and not having any other plans until the spring I decided it was time to start, so I removed the spare, hi-lift, tools and the right side corner/wheel flare and mocked it up on the body to see where things would need to get mounted and how it would look.
as you can see the unlimited was hit and it folded in the front, this has to be cut out
Mocking up my TJ corners
This is a filler piece for my Swag tailgate conversion, maybe I should just weld it to the corner this time, and tie it all together
For anyone that doesn't know the 6 comes from the CJ6 which was a long wheelbase version of the CJ5 and the TealJ, well I think looking at my Jeep it's obvious where that's coming from.
Discovered there is a difference in how the tailgate hinge is held to the body, the weld nuts (which I knocked off) are from the unlimited body, while the plate is from the original TJ, this left more wiggle room to adjust the hinges, also note above that the body on the unlimited has a divot between the hinge bolts on the body while the TJ's is flat (see next pic)
also found some mud in the body supports, when I pulled out the rear wheel liners, this will have to get cleaned out, and I'll have to figure out a way to keep it from getting in again, if possible
Got a bit more work done, drilled the holes for the corner, tacked on the filler plate, welded the weld nuts back in, cut out the fender to match the corner, drilled out the side marker hole and filled in some holes in the rear box section, it's not sealed, but this should help reduce what gets in.
Used a hole saw almost the right size
Then a carbide burr to clean up the hole to size
Finally a test fit
Next the filler plate
I'll finish weld it and smooth it when I take the corner off again
Then on to cutting the excess material
Add a couple welds to the brace, sorry about the bad pic
Fill in the holes in the box section, not the nicest, but should do the trick
Got a couple things done, didn't have a lot of time, but that's the way it goes.
Cut out the hole for the LED tail light, started with a jig saw, but that didn't work too will, so ended up using a body saw, it took time because my compressor was not happy with how much air it uses, then cleaned it up again with a carbide burr.
Then the test fit, if anything it's a little loose, but it won't fall out.
Next I fit the right side latch for the tailgate in place, I think I'll weld this one in too, but need to make sure the tailgate is in the proper position first
Got the other corner taken off the Jeep and mocked it and the tailgate into final position.
Put in the filler plate and backing plates for the hinges.
Cut the left side light holes. Fuel filler hole had to be moved back 5 inches. A bunch of supports had to be cut out in the fender well, hopefully the corners will keep everything from flexing too much. With some better metal blades my jigsaw was actually the easiest way to cut the holes and fender, makes pretty clean cuts so there isn't too much cleanup afterwards.
Got the soft top, speaker bar, rear roll bar crossbar, and front seatbelts off the Jeep with help from my 6 year old. I also cut all the wires running to the back in the body, will need to splice those into the harness that's on the new tub. I'll have to label them all as I'm guessing the wiring colours changed between my '97 and the '05 body that I have (luckily it included the rear harness with a generous portion of wire)
Put some primer on the all the cuts and other areas, need to pick up some gloss black for the outside where is sticks out from the corner guards.
I also spent some time on figuring out where to cut the corners and how the filler piece (15" long) is going to to go in. Will need to figure out the best way to cut the existing corner so my line is as straight as possible, may try the jigsaw as the width of the cut isn't that wide and if I clamp a peice of angle iron on it should stay fairly straight. Could always use a cut off wheel on the 7" angle grinder too, but that thing is a little harder to keep straight.
Let me kow what you think and if you have any suggestions, I'm sure I'll make some mistakes along the way, but I'm trying to go slow and steady and think everything through before I do it. I want to build my Jeep not destroy it.
Got a few more things done in the last few days.
Picked up some front arms and springs from the guys over at AEV, they are getting out of TJ stuff, so some things are on sale. Although I didn't need new front springs or to go long arm in the front, I couldn't pass up a good deal, and I needed the new rear springs with the extra weight out back.
Marked where to cut the rear corners to add in the extension.
Got the old roll bar out.
Jeep's looking kind of naked now.
Also started work on moving my old rear seat frame in to the new tub, no pics yet, but it's going to be a fair bit of work.
Got some more done.
Worked on getting the captains chairs into the back, including modifying the seat frame I'd made for the '97.
Started my mounting the frame, needed all new holes because of the different rear seat mounting between the early and later TJ's.
Then I had to do some body massaging to get the seats to fit.
The seat frame also needed some massaging.
Including welding in a new support plate to fill the cut out piece.
Should end up something like this.
While I was there I had to make some new seat belt anchors as the old ones were not in the right place anymore, I ended up getting them painted, siliconed in place and then adding a rivet to keep them from moving.
Thanks for watching and leaving comments, nice to hear.
So finished some little things on the unlimited tub.
Finished mounting the seats.
Then I took everything apart again and removed the tie down loops in the floor and welded up the holes, along with a bunch of other screw holes that someone had put in the floor for something or other.
Put some primer on the welds after grinding them smooth
As you can see a lot more storage room, 9" more, as I gave the kids 6" more leg room
I then started work on the old tub, I centre punched, drilled and used a spot weld cutter to remove the floor welds
Then I marked the edge of the B-pillar and drilled some small holes to mark the edge, this is where I'll make the cut in the body, I'll do final trimming later
Taped up the sides and marked where the initial cuts are going
Just starting to prep a few things before the cutting of the frame. Got the body lifted up off the frame about 6" so I could work on the frame easier. Marked my cut locations and made some marks and measurements to make sure everything goes back together straight. Removed the rear body mount on the side of the frame as it's right where I need to cut.
Tacked a brace across the back half of the frame too, to make sure it stays straight.
Also removed the fuel tank, fuel and electrical lines on the left frame rail, rear tires, muffler (what a pain) and the skid plate to make access a little easier and to not damage anything.
Need to figure out the best way to extend the fuel line too. I'm thinking of trying to find a longer flexible piece that goes between the tank and frame, the current one is 16" long and has 5/16" female quick connects on both ends, so I need one that's 31" long. Anyone know where I can get a line with the quick connects made?
Need to get the steel for the sleeves and plates in the next couple of days, the frame measured 4"x2.5" and is about .150" thick, although it's a little hard to get a precise number until I cut it and clean it up.
Alright got a few things done and found some new issues too.
Removed the rear axle and discovered the BDS upperlinks need to be rebuilt, not too bad considering I'm not using them again, and then cut the frame.
Found a tonne of mud in the frame, not sure how to prevent that or make it easier to clean up.
Cut off the upper and lower control arm brackets and discovered a few issues, so I'll have to pick up some plate to fix that with (the frame's been flipped upside down).
Well I found some 4"x2.5" steel, it was only 1/8" wall, but with the innerplates and fishplates I'm going to put in, it should be plenty strong enough. Cleaned up the left frame rail, cut out the cancer where the upper control arm bracket used to be, fit a couple of the inner sleeves and chamfered the tubing. Also cut and welded in a plate where the bad section was. That should be all for a while as I have a couple of other things that need doing the next 2 weeks.
The sleeves are two pieces of 1/8" plate each bent at a 90 deg angle, they will run all the way through the new tubing and 6" into each of the existing frame rails. I had to grind off some additional material to account for the extra thickness of the frame (.175") vs the tubing (.125").
Well didn't think I'd have time tonight, but I got a package from Staang's Fab today and I had to see what was in it.
Started by fitting the plate to the 231 front half case that's been laying in my garage and marking where it had to be cut.
Cut the front output off of the 231.
Looked at my 300 and fit the adapter ring to it after cleaning up the surface and running a tap through the mounting holes. Sorry the only pic I had of the 300 was of the twin sticks, with I removed and won't be using.
Then did some grinding to fit the block off plate onto the 231. Ended up with about 0.060" of adapter sitting up, so I'll see about getting that machined down rather than grinding the entire plate.
Overall a nice setup, will have to see how everything clocks up later, but a good start anyway.
Finally got back to it, a little at least.
Painted the 231 after getting it sandblasted and cleaned.
Installed all the guts and checked it works, still need to get a new seal for the shifter though.
Then started looking at the 300 again. Pulled off the yokes, and cut off the extra area around the shifters. Didn't like what I saw, the seals are all pretty cruddy, so time for a rebuild.
Pulled the front yoke off of a 231 I had and it will work fine on the 300, then ordered a replacement for the other one, seeing as I need both to go to double cardans instead of the single u-joint that the 300 is setup for. Hopefully my clocking ring, cable shifters and rebuild kit come in soon and I can get back to that, but I still have lots of other things to do in the meantime.
Got the track bar bracket and left UCA bracket cut off, still need to clean up the tube, but it's coming along. Tore down the 300, I'm glad I did because the bearings and seals were all in bad shape, but the gears all look good. Did tweak the shift rods some gettin them out, so I'll need to order replacements.
Worked a bunch on the rear frame section, got the cancer cut out of the right side and welded in a filler plate, also plated the bottoms of the frame with some 1/4x2" flat bar. I added a 1" drain hole in the area that was rusted the worst to try and let the crap back out.
Installed my new clocking ring from NWF on the 231, still ended up having to slot one hole in the trans, but better than all of them. Not sure I really like the position though, I think I'm going to have some body interference even with the 1-1/4" body lift. I'll have to wait and see when the lift comes in. If it's not too much I'll use a BFH, but I'd rather not cut the body, oh well we'll cross that bridge when it comes.
It's been a while since I posted, been busy with the holidays and progress has been a little slow, but I have gotten a few things done.
As I said in my last post the body did have some interference with the flipped 231, but luckily nothing a BFH couldn't fix, and a bonus was that the area above there is hidden by a body support.
The body lift is in, sort of, will be replacing all the body mounts with ones I picked up from Swag offroad, but that'll have to wait until the frame is back in one piece.
Speaking of the frame, I got the extensions welded onto the rear section, but the front will have to wait until I clean out the frame. I'm going to get rid of the threaded inserts for the trans crossmember and replace them tubes that go to the top of the frame, thanks Thing1 for the idea.
Also been working on the Dana 300, got it cleaned and painted and started the reassembly with my new set of 4:1 low gears from JB conversions, hey there was pitting on a couple of the stock gears, so what was I to do?
While I'm waiting for a few parts for the t-case I got back to work on the frame. Finished the prep work for the front half, including finishing drilling and welding in my tubes for the crossmember, cleaning out the frame some and beveling the weld edges, before throwing some weld through primer into the ends of the frame.
Finally getting ready for the two halves becoming one again
So some more progress, got the welding finished on the frame and started working on placement of the control arm brackets, upper mostly as I can't finish the lowers until I have the t-cases in place. Also got the new body mounts near the fuel tank skid plate and the rear ones on the side welded in.
fish plates are 27" long and I put them on both sides of the frame, so I think it might be a little overkill, but what's another spool of mig wire
Trying to figure out exactly where to put the upper links
Getting the axle lined up
made some raised body mounts, so I don't need to use the body pucks
While waiting for some link material and axle brackets to come in, and with some parts for the t-case arriving, I got back to some work on the dana 300 case.
Started with installing the shims to reduce the play in the input gears, and installed the input housing along with a new double lip Viton oil seal, seeing as this seal with ATF on one side from the 231 and gear oil on the other from the 300. I also put thread sealant on all the bolts as most go right through into the inside of the case.
I then assembled the rear output housing and yoke, but the oil seal got deformed, so I need to order a new one, made sure to get a double lip one of those too. Ended up not needing any shims to get the proper end play for the output shaft, but I seem to have misplaced the yoke washer, so we'll see if I need to readjust later again, hopefully not.
Now I just need my new front shift rail, and I can button up the case. I just dropped the old one and the material off at the machine shop, so hopefully it won't take too long to do.
Got back to the rear axle. Removed the LCA brackets after determining that they needed to be about 20 degrees, using the accurate tape and framing square. This resulted in an order being placed to TMR for some 22 degree axle brackets. Had to do some minor trimming to fit them around my nth degree shock brackets and then I welded them in. Of course I had to remove the brakes and axle shafts to get proper access to the outside of the brackets, but oh well.
A little more progress. Got the upper links welded as well as the tabs to the truss. I know the pic is of before welding, but I forgot to take one from the after.
Then put the gas tank back in to check the clearance to the diff, it's tight, but until I get the lower links on and the pinion angle set, I won't know for sure.
Then I decided to put the t-cases in to determine my rear crossmember location, which is where the rear t-case support will mount and the lower link bracket.
Starting getting the plates and frame tubes installed for the lower link crossmember. The belt on my drill press went on me, so I couldn't finish the 2" hole in the plates. I also need a bigger/slower drill for doing these 3/4" holes as my little 1/2" drill was smoking trying to do this, it doesn't help that this area has 3/8" thick walls as that's where my fish plates and inner reinforcements run. I also ran out of 3/4" .120 wall DOM for the inserts, so will have to wait until Monday to pick that up.
More progress in the last few days. Finished welding in the frame inserts, got the crossmember welded up and modified the brackets to fit the 2" tube (were designed for 1.75"). Got the transfer cases and driveshaft in place to check for clearance and tacked in the lower link bracket and dana 300 support. Also measured for my lower arms last night, and got the material today.
As you can see the driveshaft needs to be lengthened just a touch
Lots of welding tonight. The lower link bracket and dana 300 support bracket were welded in to the crossmember. Then the lower links were chamfered and the bungs welded in to them. I the cycled the suspension to see if there are any issues, a little tweaking but otherwise it looks pretty good.
Making sure I dad enough clearance to the tank.
At full jounce
Then at full rebound
Also with articulation
Close, but it clears
Tomorrow I'll check how the sta-bar fits and then pull the axle and weld the truss