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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This thread is getting a bit long so for those that don't have the time to burn here's a quick summary of the current status:

Suspension: Clayton long-arm; 5.5" lift; Bilstein shocks; RE extreme-duty track bar; Currie steering​

Powertrain: 5.2 V8; NP242 w/ SYE; Iron D44 rear w/ Detroit locker & alloy shafts; HPD30 front w/ Tru-Trac; 4.56 gears; Solid diff covers; Tom Wood's driveshafts​

Misc: 265-75R16 BFG KM's; Pro-Comp 7073 wheels; skid plates; Aero muffler w/ custom tailpipe; Hanson bumpers​







In the works: Rocker replacement, winch, NP231, Swampers

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Finally getting around to posting some pics and details about my Grand Cherokee ZJ.

First, the basics. It’s a 1996 Grand Cherokee Laredo that I purchased in ’98 with about 33,000 miles. The vehicle was a lease that the original ‘owner’ turned in early. I picked it up in virtually showroom condition for $22,000. It came with a 5.2L V8, Quadra-Trac (NP 249), Infinity sound system, and overhead console. For the first 5 years the vehicle was my daily driver and remained 100% stock. During this time I did a fair amount of off-roading but mostly fire roads and sand, very limited rock crawling and mud. Here’s a pic of the stock vehicle:



The following pic shows what can happen if you park too close to the train tracks. I was visiting some old college buddies up in northern Maine and arrived at their place late at night during a blizzard. I parked on the side of the road never realizing the tracks were there. In the morning I heard the train coming, blowing its whistle like crazy. I looked out the window just in time to see the railing on the locomotive scraping across the front end. This little mishap landed me on the evening news. The fix cost about $4,500 which thankfully was covered by insurance. If I had parked a few more inches closer to the tracks then I’m sure the vehicle would have been a total loss.



About 4 years ago I picked up a Mazda6 for my daily driver and kept the Jeep for camping, towing, and winter driving. At this time my Jeep had tallied just over 180,000 miles. The transmission and axles were showing their age so I installed a remanufactured transmission and rebuilt the axles to stock specifications (which, in retrospect, was a mistake). I wanted to get back into some more hard core wheeling after being out of the game for over 10 years so after a little research my first mod was a RE Budget Boost and 31-10.50R15 BFG All-Terrains on the stock wheels. I liked the look and the Jeep could definitely go places that would be tough at the stock height but in my opinion the handling degraded much more than it should have given the relatively mild amount of lift. In an attempt to improve the handling, I widened the track with 1-1/4” Spidertrax wheel spacers. The spacers did help the handling a bit and also kept the tires from rubbing the suspension when the steering was fully locked. In fairly short order I decided that the BB was not cutting it and upgraded to the RE 3.5” Super-Flex suspension. At this time I also installed a RE adjustable front track bar, Rancho RS9000X shocks, and a Borla cat-back exhaust system. Here’s a pic with the RE 3.5” kit and BFG tires:



Overall, I have been satisfied with the RE kit. The on-road ride is acceptable, noticeably more stable than the BB, and the off-road capabilities are greatly enhanced over stock. The bolt-on rear track bar relocation bracket that comes with the kit is definitely a weak link. Within months of installing the kit I noticed that the bracket was cracking. Fortunately, I noticed this before it broke completely off on the trail. I welded the bracket on and had no problems since. If I had to do it over again, I would scrap the bracket and go with an adjustable rear track bar. I’ve found the front sway bar disconnects to be the other weak link in the RE kit. The disconnects that came with the kit (Gen 1) were always sloppy and difficult to use. Eventually they corroded and became impossible to use so I upgraded to the RE Gen2 disconnects. The Gen2 disconnects look impressive but the design is weak; in less than a year they were trashed. After some research, I went with the Tereflex disconnects which look to be about as bulletproof as they come. Here’s a pic showing where the RE Gen2 disconnects failed:



Several months ago the viscous coupling in my transfer case started going bad so I began researching my options. This is when I first stumbled across NAGCA. Over the years I’ve grown attached to full-time 4WD. At the same time I was interested in having a 2WD option, primarily so that I could do donuts and smoke the tires. These requirements led me to go with the NP242 transfer case in place of the stock NP249. I scored a NP242 transfer case from a ’99 Grand Cherokee from a local parts yard for $200 and rebuilt it using new bearings, chain, and a Tom Wood’s slip yoke eliminator kit. I cannot speak highly enough about the quality of Tom Wood’s products. Here’s a couple pics of the transfer case in place:





The project was supposed to end with the transfer case but after seeing all the rigs on NAGCA I could not stop. Before I knew what had come over me new bumpers and tires were on the way. I went with Hanson bumpers front and rear. These bumpers are not cheap but in my opinion they are the best looking ZJ bumpers out there. Actually, I guess I should say they were the best looking bumpers out there because the line is apparently being discontinued! I was talking with a guy at the shop and he said they are too difficult to manufacture. Judging from the Hanson web site it looks like all they have left in stock is the rear bumper w/o tire carrier. For tires, I went with 265-75R16 BFG Mud-Terrains on 16x8 Pro-Comp 7023 cast-blast alloy wheels. The 265’s on wheels with 4” backspacing are a perfect fit for the 3.5” lift. With stock 3.73 gears the V8 has plenty of power to get this thing moving, there is no rubbing, and no trimming was required (although maybe the stock bumpers would have needed some trimming). Here’s a pic comparing the stock tires, 31’s, and 265’s:



Here’s some poser pics with everything bolted on:





Here’s some pics of a few trail scars that have been picked up along the way:







Here’s some pics of the test drive with the NP242. Everything seemed to work fine in the driveway but when we got to the trail it would only shift into full-time. I opted to go for it anyways:









The saying used to be that a picture was worth a thousand words. Now that we have YouTube I guess a video is worth a hundred pictures:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijI92ehiEeA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwUEv9Mg8Es

As for future mods, I have plenty of ideas. The most immediate (after fixing the transfer case shifter problem) are to paint the side cladding black and get some rock rails. I’m leaning towards JCR Offroad for the rails. I’ve decided to stick with the Dana 30 front axle but I want to upgrade the shafts to 30 spline with Spicer-style u-joints, add a limited slip (probably Detroit Tru-Trac), and beef the steering (bent the stock components twice already). I’ve got less than 40,000 miles on the rebuilt rear axle but I want to scrap the aluminum housing and go with a real Dana 44 and Detroit Locker. Lastly, the original engine now has over 220,000 miles on it. Even though it still runs like a champ and does not use any oil I figure it cannot last forever so will be looking for a remanufactured engine, probably from Jasper.

Stay tuned!
 

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nice rig.... PM sent to you.
 

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Nice rig!
 

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Dude, Im sorry but I was cracking up about the train thing! I just kept picturing telling that story "I got hit by a train." Nice ZJ man, I really love the newer look! I actually have the GenII's and had them on for well over two years no, probably closer to three, without issue. How did yours break?

Last Q, how much did the Tom Woods run you? I need to do the SYE kit and Shaft. Thanks man, nice ZJ

RockZJ



Never pay again for live sex! | Hot girls doing naughty stuff for free! | Chat for free!
 

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you should at least put a hp30 in there..bolts right in and way stronger than a lp30, and a 44a isn't a bad axle...i've never heard of one breaking, i've come to believe that they are better off than a regular 44.

http://www.nagca.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=22770

just skid it and you'll be fine...and you can upgrade shafts and find a aussie locker around sometimes used...or just weld it up
 

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Looks good.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
RockZJ said:
I actually have the GenII's and had them on for well over two years no, probably closer to three, without issue. How did yours break?

Last Q, how much did the Tom Woods run you? I need to do the SYE kit and Shaft. Thanks man, nice ZJ

RockZJ
Concerning the GenIIs, beyond what the photos show I don't really know how they broke. Went to disconnect one day and the stud just fell off. Upon closer inspection the stud on the other side was cracked and the threads in both aluminum pieces were stripping.

The Tom Woods kits was $500, $900 up front minus a $400 core charge when you return your old shaft and tail housing. Without the driveshaft the kit is $400. Given that driveshafts alone can run $300 - $400 the kit seems like a great deal.
 

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Very cool rig, love the look!! [smilie=bal_cool.gif]
 

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Great looking rig Technohead. You've inspired me to get busy on my heep.

PM sent.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The last wheelin' trip resulted in bent steering components . . . again. Thats three strikes on the stock V8 linkage so I finally decided an upgrade was required. I opted to go with the Currie HD tie rod system (CE9701) which uses the stock inverted Y configuration but is considerably stronger. I know that the inverted Y attracts some scorn in the wheelin' community but I think it has superior on-road characteristics compared to the alternatives and provides the best compromise for a dual-use vehicle. Initial impression on-road is that the Currie set-up is much more tight and responsive. Maybe thats not saying much given that the bent stock components reacted like a wet noodle. I need a new front driveshaft before giving it a test off-road. Hopefully this weekend. I should also note that the Currie system is listed for TJ, XJ, LJ, and MJ on the Currie website but it fits just fine on the ZJ. Here's some pics:











 

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Discussion Starter #13
Finally got around to installing my new front driveshaft. I've had the shaft for a few weeks now but have been putting the job off because I figured dealing with the pinion yoke would be a b*tch. I'm attending a trailride and campout hosted by the Rhode Island Off Highway Vehicle Association (RIOHVA) this weekend which forced the issue. Turned out the job went smoothly. Here's a pic of the new shaft next to the old CV shaft that blew its cookies:



Pics of the installed shaft:





Also installed some new shocks. I went with the new Rancho RSX to replace the Rancho 9000XL's that have been on there for four years now. I ordered the shocks from 4 Wheel Parts. Unfortunately, when I went to bolt on the rears they were about 3" too short. Upon closer inspection it turns out they shipped the wrong part number. Kinda obvious from the pictures ain't it? Arrrrgh!







A couple months ago I noticed a small crack where the inlet pipe enters the muffler on my Borla cat-back system. Borla has a "million mile" warranty on these things but I needed the original sales receipt in order to cash in. After four years I had no clue where the receipt was located so I contacted the original vendor (4 Wheel Drive Hardware) and asked if they could get me a copy. They did. I faxed the receipt to Borla figuring I would get jerked around. Much to my surprise a brand new system was sitting on my doorstep two weeks later no questions asked! Having knocked off the driveshaft and shocks (at least the front ones) no problem I went ahead and installed the exhaust as well:

 

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Lookin good man!! [smilie=bal_cool.gif] Sucks that the rear shocks were wrong, now gotta wait on more to ship. I hate the wait! Have fun on the ride and camp out!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
It’s been a while since my last update; except for a handful of camping trips and brew festivals, saltwater fishing consumes my life between May and October. Fishing season is now over for me so I took a couple days last week and worked on my Jeep from sunrise to sundown. The modifications basically fall into three categories:
  1. Cosmetic (paint the cladding, replace fenders and front lights)
  2. New steering box
  3. Rock sliders
Here’s a pic of the final result:



I’ve wanted to paint the stupid looking gray cladding for months now and finally got the job done. After removing the cladding I washed it down with soap and water, wet-sanded it with 400 grit, washed it again with acetone, and then sprayed on 3 coats of flat black Rustoleum. It looks pretty good. Let’s see how long it holds out. Both of my front fenders were pretty well banged up so I picked up a couple same color replacements in near perfect condition from a local parts yard; $75 for the pair. One of my front side marker lights got smashed out this summer, one of the turn signal lenses was cracked, and both of the headlamp lenses were faded so I picked up all new aftermarket replacements from 4Wheel Drive Hardware. The header panel (headlamp mounting panel) was held together with duct tape from carnage a couple years ago so I picked up a new aftermarket replacement ($90 compared to $190 at the dealership).

Fitting up the header panel and fenders:



Relocated charcoal canister:



It took quite of bit of tweaking (and something like six beers!) but everything finally fit together just about as good as the factory:



Next task was to replace the steering box. The stock box was rather sloppy after 220,000+ miles. I considered aftermarket boxes from AGR and PSC but in the end went with a remanufactured stock replacement from NAPA. I figure if the stock box can hang in there that long, and live through three bent tie rods, then it can’t be that bad. Besides, the AGR and PSC boxes go for $500-$600 whereas the NAPA box went for $200 after the $200 core charge.



I ran into a little complication pulling the pitman arm off the old box. Normally if I get the pitman arm puller nice and tight, then give the pitman arm a couple good wacks with a B.F.H it falls right off. This time I got the puller tight and just as I was about to wack it, BANG!, the puller fractured. You can see in the pic below a sharp corner that causes a stress concentration and which is a very poor design. Even just a small radius there would probably double the strength. I went and bought a new puller from NAPA (which had a smooth radius instead of the sharp corner) and the pitman arm popped right off.



I coated the pitman arm splines with Never-Seez in case I’m the one that has to take it off the next time:



Here’s a pic of the installed box with new hoses:



The last task was to bolt on the JCR Stage II sliders. Here is a good example why you want to have sliders:



I guess its better to get sliders late than never. And good thing the cladding springs back into its original shape. The JCR sliders fit about as good as can be expected for this kind of part. Each slider mounts to the “frame” using two flanges and a total of eight bolts:





Then they mount to the rocker panel pinch seam using 1/4” thick bar stock and five bolts:



With the flanges snug against the frame about 3/8” clearance existed between the pinch seam and the bar stock. I probably should have cut the bar stock off and welded it back on in the correct position. Instead I just drilled and bolted which caused the ends of the bar stock to bend a bit and separate from the pinch seam. No big deal:



Here’s a driveway pic of the installed sliders and painted cladding:



Now comes the fun part, banging the new sliders on the local trails. You need to make it past this rock if you want to climb the hill:



At the top ready to come back down:



I landed on this rock hard enough to push the entire vehicle sideways. No damage to the sliders but some of the rock was turned into dust:



Another solid impact here, but no damage to the sliders:



I picked up this log from the bottom of a mud hole and it came very close to ripping off a brake line. The tire had to be removed in order to get the log out:



The only downside to the sliders is I lost a bit of clearance . . . but I know how to fix that! For a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of JK axles (which would require new wheels), a long-arm kit, and 5 1/2” coils. Unfortunately, I ended the fishing season with a blown powerhead on my boat motor and now I’m looking at a $5,000 repair bill. Therefore plan B, a long-arm kit and HP D30 front axle, is probably more feasible given the financial realities.
 

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Got any after shots of the sliders? Looks like they held up [smilie=bal_cool.gif]
 

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Techno, looks good man. Love the great pics of the slider install!! Thanks been looking for good pics like that!! Trying to build my own and those pics helped a lot!!
 

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nice ZJ!!!! and i couldnt help but notice the Lamb of God sticker on your rear bumper. Horns up!!!!! you are only a cpl hours from me, so let me know if you want to get together some time and wheel. i live near a great area but all trails are closed till next summer.
 
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