I've been putting this off for some time now but it's time to start documenting the madness. Hehehehe.
I've been thinking about buying a Jeep for some time now. I used to have a 2001 GC that was slightly modified with 2" lift, air lift in back for carrying heavy loads and trailering, 31" tires, and a few other goodies to make it a long distance rig that can handle some moderate off road. I did many trips in this rig to Big Bend, South Padre, CO, UT, AR, and deep in Mexico. It had the venerable 4.0 and Select Trac 4x4. It was a great rig. I'm also heavy into dirt biking so I'd throw my XR650R on the back and go for a ride.
Fast forward a few years and I've sold the Jeep and now wanting to get another. I wanted a project my son (12) and I can work on together...yeah it's a ploy to get him off devices. I thought about a JK, TJ, LJ as base for a build and started looking for a candidate when I came across a 1978 Jeep Cherokee Chief in SoCal. I've always like Chiefs. My cousin had one when I was a kid and we'd go hunting/camping in that thing. I like the extra room of the FSJs. So what the hell. I pulled the trigger, rented a trailer and me and the boy took off from Texas to SoCal to pick it up. I've been talking with the PO and he kept sending me pictures and letting me know all the issues...which were mostly dry rot, steering, and some rust on rear fender. He was totally up front and when we got there I told my son if it's bad, we are not going to get it. There will be another. However, it was in fact as he described so we loaded it on the trailer and headed back to TX. My son, decided to name the Jeep Gerald. Did I mention he's 12.
This is my first car project of this size. I've helped replace engines, transmissions, and wiring on friends projects and have some body work but not much rust repair. I was avionic tech in military and worked as a tech when I got out for another 6 years. I've also done frame off restorations of old motorcycles. Most of my body work experience is fixing dented/rusted tanks and fenders. I'm a bit worried but I've got a few buddies here to help me out.
What am I going to build? I want a Jeep that will be a daily driver and explorer. The latest term that is thrown around is an overlander. I've been 'overlanding' for almost 20 years now...just not splattering it all over the internets...well there was none back then. I'm not looking to build a crazy rock crawler but I wanted more performance and ability than the GC. It has to carry enough gear for camping, tow a dirt bike trailer, have a somewhat quiet and comfortable interior and be user friendly. Long term I plan on giving it to my son when he graduates high school. What I'm not going to do is keep it stock. The engine, tranny, and anything else I deem not up to par will be replaced.
After a couple months of research and reading a LOT of threads here and IFSJA, I've decided on the following:
- LS Swap with modern tranny. I thought about a Cummins 2.8 swap that I saw at Expo West last year but the cost is high.
- 241c transfer case
- 4" lift with at least 33" tires
- Creature comfort for long trips
- Replace rack with something that can carry more than a loaf of bread
- Swing out bumper with spare and add ons
- Dual battery
- On board air
If you've already looked...I'm almost done with the deconstruction. As a matter of fact the body is ready to come off the frame now. It's completely stripped down except for the rack. My son calls it phase one - demolish Gerald. I'll post comments on particular things that I thought were interesting. I've also sourced and engine. But I'll hold off on that for a bit.
There is no timeline to complete. But there is pressure to get it done. Most of the work is done in my garage and there's always friends/neighbors dropping by to check on my progress. I can't let them down or my kid. He's already got a lot of hours helping me with the demo.
I'll do my best to post here but like any resto of this magnitude, there may be some downtime. And as always time and money will determine how fast things go.
I hope y'all enjoy. Any and all feedback is most welcome.