Jeep Nathan and Tanja's 99 XJ Build up

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#1
Well I figure I will finally start this build thread.

I had a 1987 Ford Bronco with an EFI 460, NP435, NP203/205 doubler, Front dana 60 Rear 14 bolt. It worked really well. It was 6500lbs of trail weight and the body was really starting to tear a part. After much discussion we decided to build up our bone stock 1999 Cherokee. It has a 4.0L an AX-15 and has been a pretty reliable vehicle.

We wanted a full roof, A/C and Heat. We want something that is streetable and will be legal to register in Utah. We also really wanted to spend the time and money to do it right.

We also wanted to have more capability than the Bronco and knew that the sacrifice would be cargo area and to make a lighter vehicle. It is nice to start with a vehicle that is about 3700lbs, it gives you a lot of room to work even if you have to add a frame.

So really the only major thing we decided to keep off the Bronco was the axles, the tires and wheel will be used for now but will swapped for some new 37x12.5x17 MTR’s. When we do that we will be able to use wheels with regular backspacing instead of the 15 inch wheels with 2.5 inches we have now.

Please keep the “you should have done this or that to a minimum” I do want your input but I have spent years researching most of this and with the parts already available and the money available this is what we have decided to do. I am by no means a jeep expert and tend to think of things with my 10 years of full size expertise.


Here is the donor Bronco on its final Moab trip in Oct 2010.


Here is the project vehicle


Before I got started I added some gas struts to hold the hood up.


One of the things that kicked ass about the Bronco is that I had a pair of batteries in it. This seems like a pretty small thing but when I put two batteries in the bronco the truck just ran better, it started quicker everything seemed to work better. Also with two batteries some welding cable and some sticks you can make a 24v stick welder on the trail. So the first project was to cram a pair of optimas under the hood. *edit (at some point I moved my battery temp sensor to the top of the 2nd battery see post #194)*


full album here;
https://plus.google.com/photos/116333554950363953131/albums

While I was at it I added a 136 amp alternator from a Grand Cherokee, this required more grinding than I was lead to believe, This is a Bosch alternator I think the Denso’s have a smaller case.


So then came the first real fabrication to the jeep, adding a York for OBA.
Bracket work in progress;




Bracket finished


Installed and running. (there is still a question on if there is enough belt contact on the PS pump, we shall see) *Edit 4 years latter I have never had an issue with the belt squealing*


I have no idea where to put an air tank, about the only decent place seems to be in the spot where the factory spare tire goes.
full album here;
https://picasaweb.google.com/thenag/YorkAndPS?feat=directlink

Ok so now that most of the under the hood stuff is done (except a permanent solution to the radiator overflow bottle…) We can get to the good stuff. *edit (3 years latter I installed a permanent coolant bottle, see post #195)*

We got a frame from Ruff Stuff Specialties.


I installed the C&C hubs on my 14 bolt, actually dually hubs, and disk brake brackets from Ruff Stuff Specialties to run dually hubs on a SRW axle. This will get the rear axle at 63.5 inches WMS-WMS. A little wide for a Cherokee but still good.


Here is a shot of the rear axle pushed up to the xj. Remember with “regular” wheels it will be a total of 4 inches narrower.


The front axle was out of a 1996 Ford f350. So it is a ball joint Dana 60. The driver side tube is actually lengthened to take a GM short side d-60 shaft. This should put the front diff in a good spot and give me enough tube to work with. The passenger side will be a custom length axle shaft.

There was much discussion on what to do for suspension. Poly Performance makes some great stuff, they have some great xj brackets and some great universal parts that would make a great suspension. One thing was for sure I didn’t want a radius arm setup up front. I don’t know why, I know they work well and are well proven. I just figured that it was worth doing, a true 3 or 4 link. I also knew that we were doing a coil conversion in the rear. It seems like a lot of the xj creaking and flexing go away when you put coils on the rear. I spent many hours online and some on the phone talking to different companies and pricing stuff out and eventually we decided that it wouldn’t be that much more to buy the big daddy Clayton kit than to piece together other kits or to build something from scratch with the skills and tools available to me. So we ordered a Clayton Pro Series with the rear coil conversion. The thing with the Clayton kit is that it is hella expensive but it is one of the best and probably the most complete kit available. It even comes with brake lines and sway bar disconnects. Also I am embracing the whole “buy a kit for it” that is an option when working on a jeep, that was not really an option on the bronco, it all had to be home made.

This kit with a front pro series setup
http://claytonoffroad.com/xjcc.htm
http://claytonoffroad.com/product_info.php/cPath/18_127/products_id/311

I had a remarkable experience with Clayton the sales people I spoke with and emailed with were knowledgeable and polite. There was an error with my order and they took care of it quickly. My order, which was not "on the shelf" shipped less than two weeks from when I ordered and before they said it would ship.

For a transmission we are keeping the AX-15. I thought about using the np435 in the jeep but all the research I did seemed to put the shifter in the dash or required some crazy shift linkage in the cab. Also the AX-15 isn’t that bad a transmission so we will keep it until it gives us problems.

For a transfer case we talked about using the np203/205. so much so I was ready to go get a dodge 203 so I could get the 203 to mate with the ax-15. But then I started looking into a np231/d300 setup. Quickly the decision was made to go that way. The 231/300 is about the same length as the transfer case that is under the jeep, this will make working around that Clayton kit much easier and it is 100lbs lighter than the 203/205. So it quickly became a “this is the best most cost effective way to go”. I did acquire a d300 that is in good shape, and am in the process of building the 231/d300.




I will update more soon.

Nathan
-99 xj working on it...
 
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sixstringsteve

Well-Known Member
Location
UT
#2
sweet! I've wheeled with ya in your old bronco a few times, and it did well. I'm excited to see how this build turns out. Looks like it's going to be top-knotch.
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#4
sweet! I've wheeled with ya in your old bronco a few times, and it did well. I'm excited to see how this build turns out. Looks like it's going to be top-knotch.
Yeah the philosophy on this was to do it right, not do things on the cheap, but try to be reasonable with budget too, of course I think budget has gone out the window. The Bronco was feeling hacked together so hopefully this won't feel that way. We have the time and money, and hopefully enough knowledge to do a really well built full body vehicle.

Glad to see you finally posting up some progress. :cool:
I feel like I have been teasing everyone because I have been talking about doing this for so long. If all goes well it should be sitting on wheels by Memorial day. (notice I didn't say "driving"):rofl:

And I will still carry some 6011 rods for you Shane, of course now I know how to use them and have a much better battery welder setup. (an actual stinger and actual welding cable!)

Nathan
-- 99 xj on jackstands
 

Herzog

somewhat damaged
Admin
Location
Kamas, UT
#7
And I will still carry some 6011 rods for you Shane, of course now I know how to use them and have a much better battery welder setup. (an actual stinger and actual welding cable!)

Nathan
-- 99 xj on jackstands
I forgot that was you that had the rod! :D 3 pairs of sunglasses, 2 batteries and welding rod. Worked pretty good! I actually wheeled that driveline a few more times before I rebuilt it due to the vibrations. :D
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#8
I wanted to detail the front axle a bit.

I started with a 1996 Ford Dana 60. I had the driver side lengthened to take a GM short side shaft. I then had the passenger side narrowed to take a custom shaft. The width ended up being 62.5 inches WMS-WMS. Remember the rear is at 63.5 inches.

Shot of it back from the shop


picture of the custom length chro-mo long side shaft above the OEM long side


This picture doesn't really show it but the differential is just barley toward the center of where the OEM front diff is. (remember those wheels have 2.5 inches of backspacing)


I really think this is the way to go with a jeep dana 60, my attitude may change as I add suspension links on to it but the GM short side length seems to line up great. This also means that I only have to have one custom shaft, everything else is OEM length, even the rear shafts.


New topic, removing rear leaf springs
I have had experience with leaf springs rusting in, however on previous vehicles you could grind the bolt head off and grind/cut the nut off then remove the leaf leaving the spring hanger intact. We are putting coils in the rear so I am not worried about trying to keep the leaf spring hangers. I also don't know how anyone would be able to reuse them once the bushing sleeve and the nut (which is part of the uni-body bracket) welds-uh rusts to the bolt.

So I don't have a torch or a plasma cutter, I do have a stick welder and some 6011's, that burnt through the sheet metal hangers with ease. The carpet has already been removed for future "frame" welding(we are past the point of no return now!)















The next thing to figure out is how to get a np231/d300 under the xj without cutting into the floor (too much).

Once that is figured out I can then make my Ruff Stuff Frame Stiffeners and my Clayton cross members play nice and add some support for the d300.

Nathan
 
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X1994J

XJ's Bring the Uni-Suck
Location
Herriman, UT
#9
Looks like a cool/fun project. Been there done that with the leaf spring bolts, I too finally cut the bracket off and ordered parts for links. Should be a cool rig when it's done.
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#10
Looks like a cool/fun project. Been there done that with the leaf spring bolts, I too finally cut the bracket off and ordered parts for links. Should be a cool rig when it's done.
I actually followed your build quite a bit. It seems you and Straton do nice work.

Nathan
-99 xj on jack stands
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#11
More progress;

The speedometer from what ever d300 I had will swap out with the one from the 1999 xj.


I got the 231/d300 put together and temporarily in the jeep.

I welded my backing plate on with a stick welder and aluminum rod, only time will tell if that was a bad decision.





Putting a 231/d300 in a Cherokee is a very tight fit. The 231 can really only go two ways, the way it was which won't work with a d300 since the part of the box that the shifter etc is in will be in the way of the front output of the d300. and pretty much upside down. I wanted to mount it straight down but then the box hit the transmission mount.

I did have to cut a small hole in the floor for the 231. The d300 I can hang pretty low due to the skid plate with the lift kit.









I also would like to know if anybody has a 231/d300 in a cherokee and how exactly they are shifting the 231. The nut for the lever is about an inch from the exhaust hanger.


I am actually impressed with how tough the OEM lower control arm mounts are, or maybe I just need a plasma cutter...

Nathan
99 xj on jack stands
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#12
a long weekend of grinding cutting and welding.

I put the 231/d300 in temporarily. I need to put seals in both boxes and figure out shifting but it is in there so I can figure out pinion angles and how it will go around the suspension cross members.





took off the OEM lower control arm mounts, they were tougher than I anticipated, but a few hours later I had this;




Then I got to make the Clayton front cross member and the Ruff Stuff frame stiffeners one piece.







and then some really ugly looking under vehicle uni-body to 3/16th welds


driver side is in, I need to clean up the welds with a grinder and maybe weld a few more spots.

Passenger side mount is not nearly as complicated since only the driver side has an upper link.



I ran out of time there, so the passenger side is not welded at all and there is still some under coating under the jeep on that side. I am going to try to get a couple nights of work in this week on it.

Nathan
99 xj on jack stands
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#16
Hang onto that D300 speedo gear housing, those are hard to come by anymore.

The rest looks beefy so far!
Yeah I don't know the whole story on those but it seems like some of the d300 tail shaft housings will bolt up and some won't. So I guess I got lucky and got the one I needed.

On Gravesdiggerxj's build he indicated that he needed a different one than he had, but he also told me it would bolt up fine.

Worked out for me without any issues, better to be lucky than smart i guess...

(woo-hoo my builld thread just hit 2 pages!)

Nathan
99 xj on jack stands
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#17
Well why you guys were all down in Moab wheeling and bbq-ing I was under the jeep. I got busy and didn't take nearly as many pictures as I should have.

Friday I finished off the frame stiffeners and front cross member. I also got to tack weld in the rear cross member as the sun was setting.


I have to say the Clayton kit is great, the fit is really nice, getting this rear cross member to line up was really easy.



Saturday I spent most of the day finishing welding under the jeep and adding the rear coil buckets.

I added a gusset between the Clayton rear cross member and the frame stiffener.


This is where the driver side coil bucket goes


that frame rail is really thin


I did set a seat belt on fire, we had pulled the carpet but the seat belt happened to be touching the back side of where I was welding. We need a new rear driver side seat belt if anyone has one laying around.


And then of course on the other side I burnt through and kept trying to fill the hole only making the hole bigger...


lower control arms in


rear truss sitting on gm 14 bolt


the plates for the kit needed to be exactly 43.75 inches apart and centered on the axle and level to the ground with the pinion angle set. So I welded them together temporarily so I would get them level and spaced correctly.


Lower control arm brackets welded on, shock mounts and coil seat still need to be added.


I like the collection of used welding rod in this picture.


I didn't get any pictures of welding on the coil seats and the shock mounts.


The rear is on, and it is sitting on the ground, I hope those springs settle a lot. (also when it rains I get a small lake in my shop, that is why the floor is wet)


on to the front axle


I lucked out on the control arm mounts, if I pushed them right up to the inner C's they were exactly where they needed to be.




I did have to clear the C's for the shock bolts


However the coil seats are not going to go where they need to go due to the C's. I placed a piece of 2x3 scrap (the black and white piece) and it will get me close enough that I can work with it. I will have to get 2 inch shorter springs.


I still need to build an axle truss for the upper link mount over the diff.

hopefully I will have the front axle in next weekend and have all the MIG welding done so I can return my friends MIG welder to him.

I need to go to work for a few days to recover from my holiday weekend.

Nathan
-99 xj on 2 jack stands
 

thenag

Registered User
Location
Kearns
#20
Wow it seems like I am going slow but I just realized that May 13th was when we pulled the stock axles out and on June 4th it was sitting on wheels again. No track bar and I don't have the front lift springs but it was sitting on wheels.

My brain is quite scattered so I will try to go through these in some kind of order.

Friday I worked on raising up my coil seats on the front axle 1.5 inches and building a front axle truss for the upper link.

I got some 1.5 x 4 inch channel.


test fit


test fit


beginnings of the axle truss. You can see that the extra 1.5 inches actually gave me more material to tie the axle truss to.

axle truss coming together


The axle truss is ugly as sin but I am pretty proud of it, this is the first time I have made something so elaborate that started out as just 1/4 x 3 inch flat steel.

axle all ready to go in, I threw some paint on the top part of the axle, I figure I will paint the bottom when it is under the jeep.


almost in


and it's sitting on 4 wheels (with no track bar and stock front springs)


The front axle is pretty much hitting everything. The upper link is just hitting the floor, the differential is close enough to the oil pan that if I shake the jeep they will barely hit. So good news I know how big of a bump stop I need. Does anybody know of some good extended bump stops for an xj?

So since I don't own a MIG welder and the one I am using is borrowed I figured I would finish up the sheet metal work so I can get the tool back to my friend.

First thing was the hole in the floor for the np231 doubler.
I made the hole a little bigger and cleaned the paint off.


started with this plate


then forgot to take some pictures and ended up with this, man that is ugly I am so glad the carpet is going back in. I also added back in the rib for the seat and forgot to take a picture of that.


These pictures don't really show what I did to well. If you remember this is how the Clayton Coil buckets go in the rear. They weld in to really thin metal on the floor and really thin metal on the frame rail.


Dan from Ruff Stuff said in a post "With an xj it is all about distributing the load" Well the entire weight of the rear of the vehicle rides on that coil bucket. So I wanted to distribute the load a little further and run a plate from the front of the coil bucket back to the rear end of the frame stiffener and add a little plate on the rear of the coil bucket to go back a little more on the "frame".

I went on just the bottom (instead of the side or the bottom and the side) because there is a gusset in this picture that goes to one of the rear seat belts. I didn't really want to mess with that, I am sure it is not hard to re-engineer it but I didn't want to deal. (also notice the rear axle is back out of the jeep)


and here is a little piece of angle added to "distribute the load out back further"


I think that was it for this weekend.

Now I just need to do about 100 little things to get the thing drivable.

Full albums still here;
https://picasaweb.google.com/thenag

Nathan
-99 xj... uh it was on wheels, now it is back on jack stands...