1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

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Prophet159
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1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby Prophet159 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:43 pm

I’ve been meaning to start a build/restoration log of my 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. The history of this Jeep is a little unknown to me. I bought it from an older guy in Blaine, WA who intended to restore it, but had too many other projects on his hands. He got it from a guy in Arizona, which is all I know. I do not know the last time it ran, but I am guessing at least 10+ years ago.

I have wanted to restore a classic car since I was a kid and had finally reached a point in my life where it became feasible. I have also been in to trucks, Jeeps and off-roading since I could drive, so I thought I would combined the two things and restore an old Jeep. I started looking for a Wagoneer or Cherokee towards the end of 2016. I was aiming for something running, but with minimal need for body repair. I have almost no experience fixing rusted out body panels or pulling out large dents. I found several candidates on Craigslist over the course of a few months, but I usually end up finding too much rust or other problems I wasn’t comfortable with for their asking prices. In April 2017, I found a 1979 Wagoneer that wasn’t running, but the body and frame were in near perfect condition.

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I had actually been searching for a Cherokee, as my family had a ’76 when I was growing up and the nostalgia was playing a part in my search. I took a look at the ’79 above, and was very excited with what I found. The body (while in need a fresh paint job) was damn near perfect with only very light surface rust in a couple areas. The typical problem areas on these jeeps (floor boards and rear fenders) were in excellent condition with at worst very minor dime sized spots of surface rust you could clean off with a Scotch Pad. The trim pieces, plastics and glass were all in great shape and the interior wasn’t too bad either. The drawbacks were that the engine, tranny and t-case were not in the vehicle. In fact, they were sourced from a different ’79 the owner had come across. With those components not in the Jeep, I could not be sure I was getting everything I needed to make it run again. I also wasn’t that excited about it being a quadratrac Jeep with the offset rear differential. I had done plenty of research on it before hand and decided, while not perfectly ideal for me, it will still be a good setup. I could do the Mile Marker conversion, but I do not think I will; I am now starting to warm up to the original AWD setup.

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After looking it over, it seemed like I had pretty much everything I would need, so I made an offer and he accepted. I loaded it up on a flatbed trailer I borrowed and headed back home.

I took the next couple of days I had off to wash the years the Pacific North West had deposited on it as well as clean out the interior to get a better assessment of what I had. I was excited to see the green moss wash right off, revealing shinny chrome trim underneath, which would require minimal effort and expense to fully restore. I reinstalled the grill and headlights. I also mounted the Dick Cepek light bar and lights that were on my family’s ’76 Cherokee that I had been sitting at my parents’ house for the last 25 years. I took off the tow mirrors, but I think I’ll keep the plastic body mount points installed for future possible uses of the tow mirrors.

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As I started examining the motor, I started realizing that I did not have most of the accessory brackets or components. A York A/C compressor was sitting the cargo area, but the brackets for the compressor, alternator, power steering pump and air pump were missing. While not hard to find on eBay, I was not excited about the cost to acquire these brackets and components were adding up to. I spent a couple months after the purchase of the Jeep skimming eBay and Craigslist for a chance to source these parts and bought them when I found them reasonably priced.

I started mapping out the electrical and comparing it to the TSM my Haynes manual. Everything seemed to be there with the exception of the lighting harness. Funny enough, there is not a single bulb or wire in the Jeep for lighting. I have an EE degree, and I was actually planning on completely gutting the electrical wiring anyway and redoing it myself, so I wasn’t that disappointed.

A front bumper was sold with the Jeep, but as it turns out, it’s the older 3-piece style and does not appear to be compatible without fabrication. A newer style 1-piece is on my shopping list when I get around to it. I have not made my mind up about the bumper as I would really like to get a winch on this thing, but I don’t want a big ugly bumper on it. I am thinking I might try my hand at fabbing up a hidden winch setup like Ramsey(?) used to do.

It took me a couple months to establish a plan and the priorities for the Jeep. I initially was just going to do what I had to get it running, and then slowly fix it up. But with how much it was missing and the work I knew I was going to have to invest in it just to get it running, I started leaning towards a nut & bolt restoration. Plus, I was having trouble turning the engine over and decided I would have to rebuild the engine immediately. I had always planned on rebuilding the engine, but after I had it running and could get a better idea of the Jeep’s strengths and weaknesses and determine what needed attention first.

Before I start talking about the rebuild, I’ll establish what I have decided on the priorities for this Jeep restoration:

1. No cutting corners. Everything will be torn down, cleaned and rebuilt with new components if needed.

2. Power, capability and reliability. I don’t need a power house, but I want a strong V8 under the pedal. This Jeep will be the weekend cruiser, family camping and fun rig. It has to be able to wheel and off-road on easy/moderately difficult trails (moderate trails at Moab, or maybe the easy lines of the Rubicon). This means the Dana 44s will get rebuilt and upgraded with selectable lockers. 4 or 6 inch lift with 32” or 33” tires as well. Along with capability is reliability. I do not want to break down on the trail, out on a trip, or event just down the street. The carb will be swapped out with fuel injection. This also means brakes will be completely redone and upgraded.

3. Budget. I will spend as smartly as a I can, but I tend to buy the best components I can find. Having said that, I am not made of money. The project will move at a pace I can afford.
1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Prophet159
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Restoration Begins Now!

Postby Prophet159 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:45 pm

The Restoration
Engine Rebuild. I started tearing the engine apart piece by piece and examining each part. Everything was old and dirty and I couldn’t be sure what I would be reusing, so I have been saving everything.

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Starting from the top and working down was the carb and intake manifold. The carb looked like it is in need of a rebuild, but I know I will not be reusing it. I pulled off all of the hoses as well when I took the intake manifold off. The intake manifold looks good, but I plan on using an Edlebrock Performer Intake. I went ahead removed the distributor and the rest of the hoses and wires hanging on it.

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The engine is still look’n pretty good and I haven’t found anything bad about it. I still couldn’t turn it over with a breaker bar on the crankshaft. I began disassembling the valve train and removing the cylinder heads.

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The valves looked decent but there was some wear on the push rods, so those will be replaced. The cylinders were dirty, but no scoring or significant wear is indicated.

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Heads and valve train removed and organized by cylinder.

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I then turned my attention to the front end with the water pump and timing chain cover. The pump came off easy enough, but the timing cover had a seized bolt in it that ended up breaking off flush with the timing cover. I tried getting it with some liquid wrench and an easy out, but no luck. While trying to loosen the cover off the bolt, I ended up cracking the cover. I decided to just cut the cover off around the broken bolt.

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At this point I was starting to be more convinced that this engine had seem some level of overhaul or had been rebuilt in the past. I had found that some of the bolts on the intake manifold did not match, not all of the push-rods were the same style and the fuel pump lobe on the cam was on backwards. This wasn’t that concerning to me, but now I knew that the cylinders might have been bored out already as well as bearings and what-not might not be the ones from the factory.

I made short work of the timing chain and cam. However, I was still unable to turn the engine over. It was at this point when I realized that the bolts on the crank shaft for the flex plate were tightened to the point that they were pressing against the block, preventing the engine from turning. DOH! I was relieved and a little annoyed with myself at the same time as I could have been able to do some compressions tests when the engine was still together, but now I have missed that opportunity.

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I got the crank and pistons out effortlessly and started cleaning the block and heads up. My next move is to take them into a shop and have them inspected as well as any work that may need to be done. I do not have the tools to take accurate measurements of the cylinders and crank, so I think I am going have the shop also install new crank, cam and connecting rod bearings, the piston rings as well as install the crank and pistons into the block. My intent is to do everything on this Jeep myself, but I would feel more comfortable with professionals doing those parts to ensure the correct sized parts were used and installed correctly.

I have shopped around a few shops in the Tacoma and Olympia area and I think I’ve found the shop I am going with. We haven’t agreed on the final price (they still have to see the block first), but worst-case-scenario isn’t that bad of a price tag. I’m going to save up the cash for that expense before I drop the engine off. So in the meantime, I’ll dedicate my time towards things that don’t cost much, just require labor.
Last edited by Prophet159 on Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Prophet159
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Axles!

Postby Prophet159 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:45 pm

I am pretty familiar with axles, and was very excited to get started on the Jeep’s. I decided to do one end at a time, starting with the front.

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I pressure washed the front and rear a few months ago, while they were still attached, so this is pretty much what I am starting with. I never drove the Jeep, so I am not even sure how they ride, but I cannot feel any slop in any of the components with my hands.

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I unbolted the shocks, pitman arm and springs from the Jeep and rolled them out. Gave them all a thorough pressure washing to get off as much grease and dirt as possible. They were about as dirty and grimy as you could expect a nearly 40-year-old truck to be. My plan was to tear the axle completely apart, clean everything and replace parts as needed. I am also figuring that since I will have it completely apart, I’ll probably replace all ball joints and tie-rod ends as well. The only thing I will not mess with is the differential. The breather tube had stripped out, so an unknown amount of water had most likely found its way into the differential, so I pulled the cover off, drained and cleaned the differential realy well and put the cover back on. I then put a little bit of gear lubricant in the diff and used a rubber hose plug to plug up the breather port while I cleaned the rest of axle up.

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I continued the disassembly of the axle to prepare it for the wire brush. I don’t have any pictures of the axle between pressure washing, but before the wire brush, but the washer did a pretty good job most of the heavy grime off. Here’s the axle after a first pass with the angle-grinder with a wire cup attached.

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I took the knuckles off and finished off the wire cleaning of the axle and gave it a good alcohol wipe down to prepare for primer.

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I admit, I did not do a ton of research on paint selection, but I have had good luck with Rustoleum paint in the past on other projects, so I went with their primer and flat black paint. I got spray can primer, but I bought cans of flat black to use in my spray gun. I got spray cans of the primer so I could quickly apply it after getting the axle cleaned, not giving rust a chance to form before I could get a coat on.

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The above is a picture after the first coat of primer. I have since done another coat, but I don’t have a picture to post of it. This weekend I’ll continue with wire brushing the rest of the front-end components and getting them primer’d as well. After I have all of the components all primer’d I’ll set up a temporary paint booth and paint them with the spray gun.

I’ll rebuild the axle with new ball joins as well as upgraded tire rod ends. The hubs are probably fine, but I am going to replace them with the bigger bearing style as well as the hubs to match. New rotors and rebuilt calipers as well. I’ll get an upgraded differential cover as well. I haven’t decided which lockers I am eventually going to put in it (this will be way down the line), but it will most likely be ARBs.


This post brings y’all up-to-date with where I currently am.
1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Prophet159
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The End Goal

Postby Prophet159 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:25 pm

The end goal of the Jeep is to maintain the original color, but with a brighter and little more metallic tone to it. I like the original brown, and plus this will keep me from having to paint every square inch of the body (inside and out).

It’s going to look and drive great and be a head turner, but also be a good wheeler. Lockers front and rear, 32 or 33 BFG All-Terrains under a 4 or 6 inch lift. I am leaning towards the milder 32” tires and 4” lift for better road manners.

I haven’t posted any pictures of the inside yet, but I’ll eventually gut the interior and refurbish it completely. I have a brother whose very experienced with interior work and I will enlist him in the future for that purpose. I have some trick ideas to mount an air compressor in the fender well as well as trail / recovery tools as well.

I am keeping the stock 8-track player / radio. But I plan on installing a hidden Bluetooth receiver and some new speakers. I am not really a stereo / audio enthusiast, but I appreciate having a decent audio system and being able to connect to it with my phone for Pandora.

The air conditioning system will get fixed up as well, but that’s down on the priority list. After the axles are repainted, I might unbolt the body and roll the frame out from under it and clean it up nicely too. I’ll have to make that decision based on the conditions at the time though.
1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby d4xycrq » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:12 am

Awesome post! Keep those excellent pictures coming!
Ray

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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby Stuka » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:26 am

Nice start so far :)
1981 J10 AMC 258 with HEI and Weber 32/36 DGEV Carb, T176, NP208, D44/M23 with 4.56 gears and Detroit Locker, 6" lift, 33x12.50 Cooper STT's, BJ's Offroad Rear Dozer Bumper.
2017 JKU Rubicon Lifted
Pevious Jeeps: 1975 Cherokee, 2008 JK, 2005 KJ, 1989 XJ

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Charles Kline
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Re: The End Goal

Postby Charles Kline » Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:00 pm

Looks like a great start!

Prophet159 wrote:Lockers front and rear, 32 or 33 BFG All-Terrains under a 4 or 6 inch lift. I am leaning towards the milder 32” tires and 4” lift for better road manners.

I am keeping the stock 8-track player / radio. But I plan on installing a hidden Bluetooth receiver and some new speakers. I am not really a stereo / audio enthusiast, but I appreciate having a decent audio system and being able to connect to it with my phone for Pandora.


I agree with the less than 33" and 4" lift. 6" and >33" can be a bit much IMHO.


You have a stock 8-track ?!? Pics please.

Nothing worse then trying to fix a hacked up dash, glad to hear your keeping the stock stereo.


-Charles

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Prophet159
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Re: The End Goal

Postby Prophet159 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:06 pm

Charles Kline wrote:Looks like a great start!

Prophet159 wrote:Lockers front and rear, 32 or 33 BFG All-Terrains under a 4 or 6 inch lift. I am leaning towards the milder 32” tires and 4” lift for better road manners.

I am keeping the stock 8-track player / radio. But I plan on installing a hidden Bluetooth receiver and some new speakers. I am not really a stereo / audio enthusiast, but I appreciate having a decent audio system and being able to connect to it with my phone for Pandora.


I agree with the less than 33" and 4" lift. 6" and >33" can be a bit much IMHO.


You have a stock 8-track ?!? Pics please.

Nothing worse then trying to fix a hacked up dash, glad to hear your keeping the stock stereo.


-Charles



Here it is!

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1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Prophet159
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Little more work and interior

Postby Prophet159 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:11 pm

Got a little bit more work done on the front end. Wire brushed the tie rod, drag link and caliper mounting brackets. One of the caliper mounting bracket's dust shield was damage and was barely holding on, so I cut both of them off.

I am hoping for a break in the rain so i can get them primer'd.
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I thought I'd post some pictures of the interior as well.

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1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby az chip » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:00 pm

Nice looking project. I keep up the build thread to reference things later. It helps. These things take a little time.
'81 Cherokee Chief 81 WT Chief/MSD 6/ Rusty 4" Spring lift/ Bulltear oil adapter/K&P Engineering Oil Filter/ NP 208/ Serehill Light Harness/ H4 Headlights/ Evil Twin Fab Roof Rack and sliders/ Ross mirror mounts.

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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby tbrasse » Fri Mar 16, 2018 7:07 am

I am concurrently doing a 79 Chief, but you are way ahead of me. I am in love with this thread. Great pics and awesome SJ!
Tom in Charlotte NC
1979 Cherokee Chief in Morocco tan with the Dealer-installed safari goodies 360, turbo 400, QT with low range.

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Prophet159
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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby Prophet159 » Thu Apr 05, 2018 8:09 pm

tbrasse wrote:I am concurrently doing a 79 Chief, but you are way ahead of me. I am in love with this thread. Great pics and awesome SJ!

Thanks much!
1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Prophet159
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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby Prophet159 » Thu Apr 05, 2018 8:22 pm

Progress has been slow, (mostly to due to the tempo at work and the weather has been non-stop rain, here in Washington) but I’ve finally made some more worth reporting. I finished painting the axles up. I used flat black on the bulk of it. I used a metallic charcoal on the tie rods, shocks and hubs.

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Above you can see the hubs before and after being cleaned up. And below, I replaced axle shaft U-joints as well. Nothing fancy, just standard Spicer u-joints.

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When I was able to get a little bit of time here and there, I would work on polishing the wheels, below you can see a few pics of the progress and how well these wheels cleaned up.

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Above you can see the axle slung back under the Jeep. Haven’t got to the hubs yet at this point, but everything fit back under nicely. I think the paint turned out pretty good. I put a new differential cover on it from BJ’s Offroad. I chose this one because it was priced well and had the features I look for in a diff cover (protected bolts, drain plug, fill plug and sight plug as well). I used a lube locker gasket to seal it up. The vent tube hole is stripped a little bit, so I’ll be tapping that hole and putting a new one in soon, for now it’s just plugged with a rubber hose plug to keep it sealed.

I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but I replaced all of the bearings in the hubs with the kit from BJ’s Offroad and started putting the hubs, and new brakes on it.

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The calipers are re-manufactured units and the pads and rotors are EBC. The Green Stuff pads were pretty tight to fit on the rotor. I hope they wear in quickly.

At this point, the project will be on hold for a couple months. I am moving to Missouri at the end of May which doesn’t leave me too many weekends to start on something else. I have buttoned up the Jeep and put most of the engine, tranny, t-case and other components in the back. I’ll be loading it on my trailer and towing it down there. I hope to be all settled by the end of June and get back to work on it. Below you can see how it sits right now. Due to the upcoming move, we've been accumulating boxes and moving blankets; sadly they have found their way to resting on my Jeep :( .


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1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby Kerry » Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:29 am

Good pics and info. Thanks for taking the time to post.

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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby fulsizjeep » Sun Apr 15, 2018 9:20 am

Nice write up! Thanks for sharing your project. I find it curious you have a 360 with studded rockers. The 70-73 360s came that way but 74 and newer used bridged rockers. I have a head sheet that should help ID the heads. Good luck with your move!

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88 GW, 401/727/208, 5" lift, D44s/4.10s/locked up, 35s, a few Evil Twin mods, http://eviltwinfab.com and a few TT's Fabworks mods, http://www.ttsfabworks.com
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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby jpswapmohn » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:50 am

Looks like you dove in and are moving along.
Quick question: Did you spray paint the rotors when you sprayed the axles? I highly recommend using paint remover of some sort and cleaning that off the contact surfaces where the brake pads make contact. The pads are going to take it off anyway, but the paint can "glaze" your brake pads, making them much less effective. Just something to consider.

I like the look of the diff cover, very clean. The wheels cleaned up amazingly!
One day I will wake up and realize that my jeep is complete...one day, I just know it.
88Wag, LT1/4L60E/NP242, etc.
95YJ, STaK, D44's, SOA, ARB's, Bilstein 5150s, 35" KM2's
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Prophet159
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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby Prophet159 » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:50 pm

jpswapmohn wrote:Looks like you dove in and are moving along.
Quick question: Did you spray paint the rotors when you sprayed the axles? I highly recommend using paint remover of some sort and cleaning that off the contact surfaces where the brake pads make contact. The pads are going to take it off anyway, but the paint can "glaze" your brake pads, making them much less effective. Just something to consider.

I like the look of the diff cover, very clean. The wheels cleaned up amazingly!
The rotors are brand new EBC rotors, came that way from the factory. I am hoping green stuff pads up front will give the Jeep ample braking power. If not, I'll probably upgrade the rear to discs as well, but that will be way down the line.
1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.

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Re: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Nut & Bolt (sorta) restoration

Postby Prophet159 » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:53 pm

fulsizjeep wrote:Nice write up! Thanks for sharing your project. I find it curious you have a 360 with studded rockers. The 70-73 360s came that way but 74 and newer used bridged rockers. I have a head sheet that should help ID the heads. Good luck with your move!

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The valve cover code indicated the motor was a 79, but I'm sure the engine was rebuilt before and I'm somewhat certain this isn't the original engine. Thanks for HEADS up. I'm considering putting on Edlebrock Heads, but I can't find too many people to vouch for them.
1979 Jeep Wagoneer. [Currently restoring] 360, Quadratrac, D44s, STOCK.


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