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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Built on a Budget YJ: 2 Car Garage Build Story

IF you like JEEPS, OFFROADING, BUILDING, and you're looking for a starting point on where to begin, then this thread is for you. This jeep was my first car, and I quickly realized that a stock out of the box jeep wrangler yj can be a lot of fun, but is limited to what it can do. Fortunately, jeeps are great platforms to build a trail rig, with unlimited aftermarket support and parts.

Got into offroading when I was 18, and bought this as my first car.
'91 4.0L ax-15 with 2'' lift springs, 1'' lift shackles, on tore up old 33" bfg's. Torn soft top, ripped seats. $4200

Bought in October 2003. Engine threw a rod out the block a month later.
Got a 93 4.0L transplant from a HO Cherokee with 80,000 miles for $700.
(would have loved a V8 swap if it wasn't for the smog laws in the county I live.)

I had fun in it, just because it was a jeep. I didn't know any better because I'd never been on any serious trails. I threw on some corner guards, trimmed the body, made some rocker guards (my first welding project), and bolted up a used PE8000 MM winch, and took it everywhere i could.....

But after 2 years and maxing out the suspension and capabilities of stock open axles on 33's, I thought it was time to throw a little more money at upgrades.

Upgrade Build #1.

-Another Dana 35 axle swap rear with 4.56 and lunchbox locker for $200, -Dana 30 front axle swap with 4.56 and Detroit Trutrac for $250.
-pulled the stock axle shafts and kept for spares
-New 33" Mickey Thompson Baja Claws
-Shackle Reversal Front
-5" spring under BDS springs front
-4" Rusty's spring under rear springs
-Stainless Steel Brakelines

First trip to Slick Rock at Alpine Lake near Bear Valley, CA. Also did Deer Valley Trail near there.

This setup lasted for about a year or so. Then the rear locker grenaded on the highway, which blew the r & p.
Instead of fixing rear axle, I decided it was time to start piecing together another few upgrades . . . .

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Budget Build #2

Rear Dana 44 built from ground up with 4.55 PORC R/P, full Detroit, Seals and bearings, drums. -$1200 for all
NP231 SYE kit - $200
CV driveshaft built by South Bay drivelines - $250
Flat belly skid plate - $50 from metal yard
Rear Bumper with hitch (homebrew)
Swing away tire carrier (homebrew)
Sold old 33's and tires for $500, picked up some new (slightly used) 35" MTR's and black rockcrawlers for $800.
Front roll cage added.
Notched rear frame for extended Rancho gas shocks

Pismo Dunes, CA.

Hollister, CA. Tank Trap

My Dad's first time offroading in the jeep. (Poser Shot at lunch time)

This was the best setup so far, and did everything I wanted the jeep to do, except this kept happening . . . . .

And if any of you know how much of a chore it is to have to disassemble a 3 piece axle D30 while you should be having fun on the trail, you probably feel my pain. So after running this setup for a year, I finally decided it was time for a major overhaul. . . .

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
NOT SO BUDGET BUILD #3: Why keep fixing when you can upgrade right?

NOT SO BUDGET BUILD #3: Why keep fixing when you can upgrade?!!!

So I planned and researched what other guys had and what I wanted out of my rig. I made some brainstorming sketches with the only pens and highlighters I had in my backpack in class.

-Decided to kick down for a 220v plasma cutter to make life and this project easier. Lotus Brand, $450 from a guy in town. Cut through 1/2 inch steel. Worked great so far.

So I then started collecting parts for a year

Dana 60/14bolt axles setup with 5.13's and Detroit's = $2300 + gas driving to Gualala Ca.

(Note: Dana 30 carrier/ ring gear next to the massive Corporate 14 Bolt.)

40x13.5r17 (4) picked up brand new wholesale in Sacramento. $1,000 + $80 Gas

Stock H2 wheels craigslist special for $100, had BFG A/T's I sold for $100.
Shipped them down to Champion Beadlocks for a beadlock conversion.
$1200 with tax, shipping, and all hardware included.

F-O-A 16" Remote Resi Coilovers. 2" Body, 200lb 16" spring with and double spring hardware kit 275lb 16"spring. (2 coilovers) =$650+shipping

RuffStuff Heim Joints, brackets, Diff cover Kits, etc.

I got pretty good welding with my 220v Lincoln SP175. Diff cover came in pieces to weld yourself, which Ruffstuff no longer sells as an option for $20 cheaper.

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
While collecting all these parts, I had time to research. I wanted something street worthy and trail ready. I also acquired and saved tons of pictures (thanks Google Images) of other guys rigs to see what there were doing. I knew I wanted to build an all mountain type of rig, instead of a dedicated rock crawler. One that could go on a week long excursion through the Sierras. Since I had the axles already and wheels and tires, I did a lot of mocking up and measuring. I decided I wanted the wheelbase to be stretched front and rear to get somewhere around 110'.

Front Setup
I decided to go with coilovers front with a 3 link, and extend the front axle forward 6-8 inches to achieve a 0* approach angle.
I went with the panhard bar and drag link with hydro ram assist to keep it roadworthy.

Rear Setup
For the rear, I kept the leaf spring setup because of the $$$ and the ease of building. I figured cherokees use coils up front leafs in the rear. I kept my springs (rusty's 2") and moved the whole setup back 8 inches.

And so the Build Begins . . . . . . . .

Chem-tool and a match trick seated the tires nicely. Dangerous but friggin cool!

After a few beers, we set the tires up at 110" and had a little fun)

Then we shaved that 14 bolt. I will later weld on a bottom plate (not pictured)

Rattle can semigloss

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)

I saw a lot of guys running OBA systems and some had to carry 2-5gal tanks to hold air volumes. So instead of a tank, I decided the rear bumper/crossmember I wanted to use not only to make a good mounting point for extending the rear axle via repositioned spring hangers, but also used for a funtional air tank.
So I got a piece of square tube stock same size as the frame rails and welded up the ends with 3/8 thick steel plates (already cut up at the local surplus metal yard). I also notched it in the center and used a 2" I.D. square tube for a hitch receiver and drilled it for a pin. I welded it up in the notched section of the crossmember and made sure it was a solid bead all the way around with good penetration so I wouldn't have to weld up any air leaks later. I dropped out the gas tank and skid plate and tacked the new crossmember in place then welded it in.

Next I made my own shackle hangers to weld to the rear with the bushings with 3/8" 2"x4" tube stock and spring bushings and sleeves from RuffStuffSpecialties. Cut round notches with plasma torch!

Next I cut off the front stock hangers, ground the edges and tacked them into place in the new position with the leaf springs attached and the shackle's the same position driver and pass side. You do have to know how much to compensate on shackle swing when you put the weight of the body down on the leaf spring with axle installed.

With axle and tires put on (after welding on spring perches from RuffStuff)

Next I put the weight of the vehicle down on the tires to make sure it was all lined up and good, and put jack stands under front to rip out the old D30.

After axle was out, I through the new D60 under the front end, and started prepping the frame I.E. taking off front winch and bumper, and torching the old leaf hangers.


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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Next I had to make the tabs for the link arms. Had to get creative for the drivers side since the Ford D60 has a short axle tube with the spring perch cast into the pumpkin. So came up with this.

Welded on both sides then welded both to the axle.

Next put the wheels and tires on the axle and rolled it to where I wanted it set.

After picking how long I wanted the link arms, and where I wanted to mount the link tabs on the frame, I needed to fab up a bracket for a 3rd Link and Panhard Bar on the axle. After brainstorming I came up with this design

Next I cut my link arms to length, and welded in the bungs for the links. Poly bushins for the frame link side, and 1.25 heims for the axle side (this will help limiting chatter from links resonating through the frame. Welded up the tab for the 3rd link on the pass side lower link arm and used 7/8 heims for the 3rd. Also used 7/8 heims for the panhard.

Connected everything and cycled the suspension a little to check for binding and contact issues.
At this point I also tossed the old steering box because of the amount I am pushing the front axle forward(the rear faced pitman arm will contact the pumkin) and replaced it with an Astro Van Steering Box and front facing flat pitman arm($100 at local auto wreckers). This will later be sent to ******* Ram to get it drilled and tapped for hydro assist.

Everything looked great so then I started planning the coilover brackets and tacked them into place.

I also started mocking up my drag link and tie rod stuff using a shoelace and tying to the pitman arm and steering arm. Since I have a ball joint D60, the flat top knuckle high steer arms are out of the question, unless I did some specialty machining, which gets expensive. Having a good tie rod setup is key, so I decided to go with an idea I had to keep the tie rod high enough so it was out of the way. I made a tab on my tie rod to accept the drag link heim. This kept the tie rod linked on top of the arm. I made my rods from 1.25" .25 thick and 7/8 heims. Drilled out the tapered stock steering arms.

After it was all linked and I had the steering and suspension cycled, I lifted the front of the jeep to the ride height I wanted, and then measured for the coilovers figuring an 8" compression on the shock length after the weight of the jeep was on them. I had a guy bend some shock tower hoops for me out of 1.875" .25" tubing. Cut and tacked on the frame to mock in place. Welded up shock tabs at the angles I measured. Took into consideration how the coil will move towards the frame during swing or compression during flex.


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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Next the Astro Steering Box was shipped off to ******* Ram in Texas. I ordered a ram with a 1.75" rod with 8" stroke and all hoses. I also had them re-index the pitman arm on the splined shaft on the box so that it would have the same stroke length side to side. It was about a week turnaround time and $300.

Installed steering box, hoses, and welded up the tabs for the ram.

Also wanted to make my own steering box brace because of the new force that would be put on the pitman arm with 40" tires, so I ordered the two piece horseshoe brackets from M.O.R.E for $15 with bolts and welded my own bar to the inside frame on the pass. side, and tabbed the other side to accept the brace. Painted all arms, brackets, and tie rods.

***Note: If you do your steering setup like this, you will have to most likely shave the top of the diff cover a little so the tie rod doesn't hit during full turning.***

Also Installed a PS fluid cooler ($5 at swap meet) to keep the temp down during excessive hot summer wheeling:D You connect the top of the cooler from the top of the steering box (where it would normally go back to the reservoir), then it runs down the cooler with aid of gravity, and exits the cooler and goes back into the system reservoir.

Also ditched the stock clutch fan and shroud and installed a 16" electric fan ($56 at Kragens) and a 210 thermostat switch (Deraile online $30).

I then made the cross link bar for the shock towers to help support the weight of the vehicle evenly and strengthen the geometry of the towers when the coilovers put leverage on them. Bar is 1 7/8 with tabs from RuffStuff.

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
With all the Front Linked, Painted, and Ready, I took a little time and comp cut the rear fenders out.
First Cut: Didn't really care for the angles and look. Was trying to keep the gas filler hole available if needed for stock use (smog).

Second Cut Angle. Much Better:D

Then I started building up the cage. Mind you this was the cheaper side of the project, but I still wanted it to be original looking, and safe.

First made the bar for the 4 Point Harness
(2 new Sets of 4 Point 3" Simpson Racing harnesses $80 craigslist)

Kept Stock Main Roll Bar and rear Bars and welded added bars from there. After intense planning, measuring, remeasuring, and cutting (to fit the stock soft top hardare as well) this is what I came up with.

Rear is mounted to the frame via 2x2" material welded to top of rear frame, coming up through the tub, and welded to rear crossbar.


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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Next I did the 14 Bolt Disc Conversion like everyone else usually does. Drums are so dumb when you could have a kick A$$ braking system for $300. Pieced everything together myself from online instead of spending the $500 that companies usually want for the kit.
$50 ruffstuff brackets
~$250 3/4 K20 Calipers, pads, rotors from Summit Racing

Some people complained about the bent style brackets bending under intense braking overtime, so I added a little bracing to the brackets after I got them.

First thing is to pull the axle shaft out after removing the 8 bolts. Then use a screwdriver to pull off the thin metal retainer. Next there is a small key (looks like a square peg) that you'll need to pull out. Usually a needle nose plier works fine. With that pulled out you can either use a screwdriver and a hammer, or buy the spindle nut key for $30 to get the nut off.

Once the nut is threaded off, you can pull the whole drum and hub right off the spindle. Be sure to do it slow so you don't loose all your roller bearings. Next you'll have to bang the studs out of the hub. These are splined and usually corroded, so a small sledge works well. If you're lousy at being accurate at hammering, you can thread the lugs back on the studs so they are flush with the edge of the stud, then slam on it a few times to break them loose. After that, you'll have to bang the crap out of the hub to break it free from the drum. If you do it from the back you'll most likely ruin the bearings and surfaces. I hit the front edge of the hub where the studs come out, and rotated it probably 5 times around while doing that until it losened up and broke free.

Next Remove the 4 bolts from backing plate, and just pull the whole backing plate off.

Use the Same bolts, or new ones if you'd like to replace them with new grade 8 to bolt the new caliper brackets to the axle tube.

Next place the hub through the new rotors, and stuff the studs back through. Once in you can use a old 8" bolt or rod to press the studs back through.


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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)

Go ahead and slide the rotor/hub back onto the spindle. Tighten down the Nut till the rotor spins with a little drag on it, then back it off about 1/8 of a turn. Reassemble key and retainer.

Next is putting the caliper and pads on. Slide over the rotor and place allen head bolts through the brackets and caliper. Make sure the pads are on correctly.

Hookup Brake Lines, and your done (Bleed when fronts are connected)

SO Easy, even a caveman can do it!

But seriously, this is the easiest project you'll do. 45 mins for both sides, 1 hour if you weld the braces to the brackets like I did.

Next was to Upgrade the Master Cylinder to push the new fluid volumes for the 4 disc setup. The stock MC won't have enough volume to brake effectively.
There are a few Choices to go with. Most on the forum for a 1 ton setup usually go with an E350, or a Dodge 2500.
I did the dodge 2500 because it bolts up easily and works very well. Plus it's cheap $60 new at Autozone and comes with a bench bleeder kit.

Here's the link that discusses it more in depth: http://pirate4x4.com/forum/showthread.php?t=677082&highlight=yj+proportioning+valve

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Picked up some generic racing style buckets brand new from a guy who was going to put them in his rice rocket honda but totaled the car out before he could. Brand new Never Used:D $175 for both. Full recline, and suspension springs.

After they were mocked in place, I took them back out because I was going to paint the cage after it was out of the garge.

Then I did my last big welding project while the JEEP was still in the garage.
That was the rear shocks. Since I was going Cherokee XJ style; having links up front and leafs in the rear, I also thought it would be cool to keep that cherokee look by having the rear shocks mounted angled in. I drilled 3 sets of symetrical holes for adjusting the angle of the shocks, and welded in the crossbar between the frame where the gas tank's stock location was. Then I attached the shocks and bolted up the shock brackets on the other end of the shocks for mocking them to the axle. (brackets compliments of Ruff Stuff ~$40) Finish welded and bolted in. Ready to Rock!

Then after all welding was finished in the rear, I painted the whole tub with roll on bedliner, and then a coating of ultra aluminum enamel. Then got a rubber mat and some foam padding for the rear, and placed the stock tank in the rear of the tub. Then bolted in some "I" bolts and washers to the body for strapping the tank down.

It's getting close to rollin out! Next was to get the rear driveshaft measured and built over at South Bay Driveline. They did a great job. $280 for rear.

I also replaced the drive pucks that the axles had, with Warn selectable hubs ($230 from M.O.R.E. (keeping the poly performance pucks for trail spares)


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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Time to Roll Out!!!!!

Gave everything a once over, tightened everything, hooked up all the gas tank electrical and plumbing, and measured for garage door clearance.

Originally, i thought my springs were going to be a little lower after the weight was on them, so to get out of the garage, I had to make up a 4" difference. I lowered the front springs as much as possible, and literally took out the valve stems from the rims to lower it enough to get out of the garage. And it worked!! Cleared by 1/2 inch.

Then Started filling the tires again. 20psi.

Once out I also fabbed up the rear traction bar (for anti springwrap). Had one with the 35's and can't imagine without it with 40's.

Made from the same material as the drag link and tie rods. 1.25 O.D. with 7/8 heims.

Rear Bumper holds almost 3 gals. of air. Pumps up to 150psi and holds air no problem.

Hood Installed. Cleaned all paint over spray off tires and rims

Next was Painting the cage while the seats were out.


Final coat was Rustoleum Charcoal metal flake.

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Let me know what you guys think. I'm sure you want to see some real Live Action wheeling shots. Unfortunately when this project was finished in november, my budget was a little low to go out and play, and I was hit with a problem that I posted up on the thread a few weeks ago that I'm trying to solve with the front brakes locking up during driving.
I'm in the process of fixing, and hopefully getting out on the trail in a few weeks:D:D:D

On the flipside, I have had some cool projects come in and out that I've got to gain a little $ and experience on while the jeep stuff was planned and processed.

Projects include:
1972 Baja Bug

Buick V6 Longtravel Sandrail

6.5 footlong Charcoal grill for Local Pool Club.

Transformer costumes for high school church kids.


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There are a few things I would have done differently but overall a very nice build.......But i definately think you need to look at a longer track bar
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