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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The hardest part about starting a build thread is knowing where to begin…

I’ve been dreaming about tube chassis, full bodied crawlers for a while now. A quick look around here will tell you that I was not alone. Something about the challenge of building within the envelope of the body and a finished product which is not quite as it seems is either appealing, or as at least one friend proclaimed, stupid!

I’ve had this ’79 CJ-7 since 2001. I picked it up for the cost of a new gas tank (~$80) after the owner’s wife threatened to call the kidney foundation to pick up the “eyesore” in her driveway. I freed the stuck clutch, patched the floor pans, slapped in the new gas tank and drove the bone stock Jeep around for a while.



Soon after, I decided to sell off my TJ and transform the little stock CJ into a trail rig. 15 odd years and 2 motors, 2 transmissions, 2 t-cases, 3 sets of axles, 2 frames, 3 cages, and 3 tubs later, this is where I was at:



Specs were 104” wheelbase, 40” MT/R’s on Trailready’s, 5.0L Mustang motor, T-18, Atlas, full hydro, and leaf sprung D60/14bolt combo. Simple and worked relatively well, but was not without limitations. Regardless, I had the itch to rip into it yet again.

Plans went from just linking the front to linking front and rear, while retaining some portion of the YJ frame I had been running since around 2010. Figured that would keep a good chunk of the Jeep intact and speed the build along, but at the end of the day thoughts of a full tube chassis won out over the relatively simple, but compromised plan.

My goals became:
• Tubular chassis with structural integration of the cage, but still retaining a removable body tub
• 4 link with coilovers front and rear
• 110” wheelbase while retaining a balanced look in the front and without comp cutting the tub

With that decided, I got in a couple last runs in September of ’16 and started the teardown:

 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
At 104” wb, the CJ was pretty maxed out wheelbase wise without comp cutting the tub or stretching the front axle wayyyy out. I knew I wanted a little more wheelbase and thought stretching the tub would be a great way to fill a few relaxing evenings(!)

I picked up a donor tub from a buddy:


Decided on an 8” stretch. Shorter than the common 15” LJ/Unlimited style stretch (see thread title), but I didn’t have any desire to incorporate a full top and no need for all the extra sheet metal. This is just long enough to retain the rear of the tub with more wb and make a lot of people wonder why the hell I went to the trouble.

And measure twice, cut once:



Fitting the donor panels:





Like the rank amateur I am, I warped one of the inner panels. Experimented with heating/cooling to shrink it but ended up cutting out one side and replacing with fresh metal:



The stretch went fairly smoothly. A bunch of sheet metal butt clamps (from Harbor Freight) came in handy. Mating up all the ribbing in the load floor and on top of the inner fenders was the worst part, and not without some judicious use of filler. This ended up being the major time suck on this aspect of the build. Time I’ll later find totally wasted (insert foreshadowing.)

End result of tub stretch complete with temporary rear body mounts:



Wheel cut out hadn't been finalized at this early point so I had not pieced in the outer panels. It will be covered in corner armor, but finished off regardless.
 

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Schweet! I'm heavily contemplating doing the same thing with my YJ. I'll be watching...

And wallysheata, it's because LJ's are awesome! :flipoff2:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Nice looking build, it is kinda crazy how many people are building LJ length TJ/YJ/CJ rigs right now.
Yeah, it's getting to be the norm! I'll never be a trend setter, but this stretch was done way back in 2016:grinpimp:

Schweet! I'm heavily contemplating doing the same thing with my YJ. I'll be watching...

And wallysheata, it's because LJ's are awesome! :flipoff2:
Thanks, I hope it's worth watching!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Another note regarding the body stretch. At 8" longer than stock (vs. 15" longer for LJ length), I'm really hoping this thing will cause people to stop and scratch their heads questioning what's different vs. "it's a LJ length CJ". If anything, I'm thinking some might think it's a bobbed Scrambler. Guess time will tell!
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I stretched the tub in late fall of '16 and didn't get too much actual work done on the Jeep through the holidays.

I did source and purchase some parts in this period, including a set of new Fox 2.0 coilovers (14" and 16" travel), springs, and air bumps/cans from MichaelMaxim's "sixth sense" build on here. Other parts included an ARB for the front 60 (I was preparing to build a custom pass drop hp60 at this point), Artec front truss, Ruffstuff rear 14b truss and a full set of Ruffstuff 1.25" heims plus tube adapters.

Once the holidays were done, I was able to get back on it. Final drive, sans seats, before total teardown:



Switched up garages for this part of the build too:



Tub pulled and chassis mostly disassembled:



Won't be needing this any longer:

 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Next step was to come up with some form of chassis table to build off of.

My buddy Paul (Deadlew on here, and usually hanging out in the Cruiser forum) came up with a clever three piece, stackable design for the table. Important to note here that this is not the last you'll see of Paul/Deadlew on this project--he'll continue to provide serious assistance both in design and fabrication throughout the chassis build. Both the execution and the time frame would have suffered greatly without his help and skills--Thanks Paul!



Deadlew:



Needed to wipe the old brackets off the axles, including the massive Sniperfab ram mount off the front. Black boogers for days...



Prepped front axle with the new Artec truss:



Axles mounted on the table at 110ish wheelbase:



Started mocking up the engine, tranny, and Atlas on the table. Also, I had started fitting the Ruffstuff 14 bolt truss:



Welded some stands on the table for the body. These are staked with corresponding holes in the rocker guards for consistent position since we'd be taking the body on and off the table quite a bit as the build progressed.





 

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Discussion Starter #10
How come you didn't just cut yours and graft on a 8" long piece of the other tub? 1 weld seam VS 2....
Fair question! The donor tub had some damage in one of the corners I didn't want to deal with.
 

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Definitely in to this build. My unlimited build I’m at 113” and I’m stretched pretty far each way. I think as cold as it’s been for you guys this week your going to wish you had a top!

Subscribed.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Definitely in to this build. My unlimited build I’m at 113” and I’m stretched pretty far each way. I think as cold as it’s been for you guys this week your going to wish you had a top!

Subscribed.
Thanks! I haven't had a full top, or even a heater, on this thing for a decade so I'm pretty used to that aspect.

Damn garage was cold when I started in on it yesterday though! Is it Spring yet?:grinpimp:
 

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SUb’d. I’m doing a similar CJ tube chassis, but a much bigger 24” stretch. Interested to watch your progress.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
SUb’d. I’m doing a similar CJ tube chassis, but a much bigger 24” stretch. Interested to watch your progress.
Yessir, I've been enjoying your build. Looking forward to seeing the doors setup.

Nice! and love the Table!
Thanks, Deadlew's table design has worked out well.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
On the topic of build parts, I'm sticking with my current drivetrain components for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I already own them:D.

The T18 is the only part left over from my first round of mods on this Jeep back in '02. It's a rebuilt wide range Ford unit which I purchased from PartsMike after having a hard time finding one locally (16 years later, I think I could source five here before noon today, go figure.)

I swapped the original 258 out for the 5.0L (fun fact #1: from a '91 GT convertible) around 2005. The 5:1 Atlas t-case (fun fact #2: originally in @jeepnchris 's rear engined buggy from back in the heyday of crawling in Crozet, VA) made it's way into the CJ around 2012.

The 5.0L/T18/Atlas combo is far from state of the art, and you could argue successfully that a clutch pedal in a crawler is an anachronism--I've fought the urge to go LS/automatic regularly. At the end of the day I guess I like the small block Ford growl, enjoy driving the manual, and perhaps like being just a little off the norm.

What does this all have to do with the current build? I'm droning on about this stuff because I like the sense of continuity and evolution of a build like this. Ironically, I likely would have been dollars ahead by selling the CJ and starting fresh but then how would I say this is the same "Jeep" I've been screwing around with since '01?

I'll end this tangent with a 2005 picture of the CJ. This didn't end well; note the bound up front tires pointing in the wrong direction!:

 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Moving on!

Next step was to pull the tub back off the table after a lot of staring and measuring and get started on the chassis.

I almost purchased the slick Goatbuilt universal sub-frame, particularly after following Jeepyj2000's excellent "BDR" build. Speaking of Goatbuilt, I guess Drew's "coolest Jeep ever" CJ was the first time I saw a (mostly) tube chassis well integrated with a Jeep body. I still have the JP mag:



Just when you think I'm going full stalker mode, I didn't end up using the Goatbuilt subframe simply because I was going to have to hack the front crossmember up substantially to accommodate my tall T18 trans. When the relatively turnkey solution started getting less so. I decided to start from scratch.



I always griped about the lack of space in the stock Jeep frames adjacent to the clocked up t-case so we went a bit wider. I'll be giving up some ground clearance compared to the old setup. Given the increase in wheelbase and the lower belly I'm hoping breakover doesn't become a serious issue. I'm hoping that the better overall dynamics of the 4 link and the greater inherent stability of the longer wb will trump the decrease in breakover. Time will tell.

Next up were lower link tabs front and rear and ye olde traditional pvc mockup links:



And then laying out and fabbing the rear upper link mounts. We did use the Ruffstuff horizontal upper link mount bracket on the rear:





The start of the rear frame rails, more pvc mock up, and a ridiculously premature set of bumpstop cans with dimpled gussets:



Enough build thread for now--couldn't bring myself to hit the garage this AM after the negative 5 degree night we just had. It just hit 20 so I should be able to get the garage relatively comfortable now.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Looking great! I cheated and went the Goat Built subframe, but it works well for my LS/Atlas combo.
Using the Goatbuilt sub is not cheating--it's smart given that drivetrain! Not going that same direction might be on a short list of things I'd change given a do over.
 
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