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Unread 03-31-2008, 11:14 PM   #1
EricsXJ
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Reno, Nevada
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Time to beef things up! - - a build thread of sorts

Table of Contents

page 1: Intro / T&T (now Treks) frame stiffeners and belly pan / RE's Rubicon Gray paint matching
page 2: TMR front frame stiffeners
page 3: new exhaust
page 4: exhaust sound clip / T&T Y-Link suspension - flex testing
page 5: beginning of door removal
page 6: door hinge modification
page 7: 2x6 rocker replacements
page 8
page 9: rocker completion / shortening doors 1.75"
page 10
page 11
page 12: side mirror solution for when doorless
page 13
page 14: trail testing / limiting straps
page 15: rear suspension overhaul / custom shackle relocation boxes
page 16: video clip: came down hard on the frame rail / corrected pinion angle / modified my tire carrier
page 17: sleeving the Dana 30 / new LCA mounts
page 18: trail testing photos
page 19
page 20
page 21
page 22: bodywork and prepping for paint
page 23: new paint job - Patriot Blue to Desert Tan
page 24
page 25
page 26: link to cage build thread
page 27
page 28
page 29
page 30
page 31: new custom rear bumper
page 32: rear frame plating
page 33: Atlas t-case / rear fender trim (removal)
page 34
page 35: rear tube fenders and comp cut / gas tank raise
page 36
page 37: gas tank raise completed / Dana 60-ISU rear axle
page 38: rear disc brakes / front coilover shock hoops
page 39: New book is released!
page 40: link to 4-link suspension video





------------------------------------------------

Its finally time for some more upgrades to my Jeep. I've been running the same setup for a couple years and have been pleased with how it has performed. But I know that the types of trails I like to do (like the Rubicon and similar trails) will take its toll on the unibody - its only a matter of time. If I want the Jeep to last, I need to beef things up.

This round of upgrades will take a while to complete and I'm already into it a couple weeks. But I thought I'd start a 'Build Thread' so you can see what I'm up to and it will hopefully add some more real tech to this forum.

So here is a recent pic of my Jeep.



Without listing all the specs (which can be seen on my site), I'm basically running the RE 5.5" kit with 35's. The suspension is the short-arm kit with drop brackets. I got this in '04 I think before many of the long-arm kits were on the market.

Here you can see it flexes great. This is also the stuff that is hard on the unibody:


Because it has performed well I haven't needed to upgrade so I've basically been waiting until the suspension wore out to the point it really needs to be replaced. I've also held off on a few other things because this project is like a 'Pandora's Box' because once I start with one upgrade I will be forced to change other parts of the rig too to make it work. So I've been amassing parts in my garage until I could take the Jeep out of service for a while to do this. What I am going to do is strengthen the unibody, starting with plating the frame rails, upgrade the suspension, new rocker protection and exhaust and some other things as I go along.

So lets get things started...

Here's what I have now.


Those are Rocky Road "step rails" that I beefed up because the rails flexed up into my rockers. I was also running Rusty's transfer case skid but I already removed it before I took the above pic. Luckily everything I had was bolted on to the frame rails and not welded because it is all that much easier to remove. I'm going to scrap the rails and do something different rather than try and fit these back on after the frame rails are plated.

Here's a shot of the drop brackets. All that crap has got to go!


Next was to prep the frame rails by removing the undercoating and paint. Theres so many holes it looks like swiss cheese.


Prepping the frame rails SUCKED. It was a horrible dirty job and when I was done I had black undercoat dust all over including my face (even with wearing a mask), and the worst of it was I got a particle in my eye that took about 2 hours to get out.

I used the T&T Customs frame rail stiffeners and really glad I got them. I would definitely get them again if I was going to plate another XJ. I added my own 1/2" holes (rosettes) for plug welding.


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2000 XJ "PROJECT RUBICON" 3-link front / 4-link rear / coilovers / running 37's on Dana 60s
My website - EricsXJ.com


Last edited by EricsXJ; 09-07-2008 at 12:51 AM..
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Unread 03-31-2008, 11:16 PM   #2
EricsXJ
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Here's the passenger side. You can see I stitch welded the perimeter and plug welded the sides and bottom. I left a couple holes to allow water to drain out of the frame rails. I put the crossmember back on and drove it a couple days to work. I could already feel quite a bit more stiffness to the unibody.


Next was more drilling to install the T&T belly pan. I'm also going with their Y-link long arm upgrade. The drilling was that much worse because I had to go through not only the stock frame rails and interior supports, but the 3/16" stiffeners as well. My 3/4" hole saw worked well for this but it still took about a day for all the drilling.


More crap to remove! I figured removing the exhaust now would make the belly pan easier to install. I need and want a new exaust anyway.


What I took off = Dynomax Super Turbo and stock Cat
What I am going to put on = Magnaflow muffler and Dynomax universal high-flow cat (both purchased at Summit Racing) and 2.5" pipe throughout.


Problem #1


When I tried to mount the belly pan, the exhaust pipe before the Cat was hitting the control arm bracket. I spent a couple hours clearancing that bracket with a dremel which was all pointles anyway and a waste of time (more on that later). Why I had this problem is because... well look at the other side:


See the exhaust hanger? Its tweeked bad thanks to a trail I ran at night and got some big boulders under the rig that was also responsible for the dents in the muffler and cat. It really jacked up my exhaust and it was never the same.

Oh yeah and before I forget... Problem #2
I'm glad I tried to install the upper half of the control arms before mounting up the belly pan. But I couldn't get the bolts through the mounts because the holes were slightly off. Not only was one side off, but both mounts were the same thing. (Damn you T&T quality control...) I had to drill out one hole of each mount from 9/16" to 5/8" to get the bolts through. But thinking positively, if I had not tried to mount the arms first, I would have gone mad trying to install the arms with the belly pan in place.

So after that ordeal I finally got the belly pan installed. Not only is it stronger than what I had before (stock crossmember and Rusty's skid) but I have more clearance under the rig. I didn't paint the whole thing yet because I have more welding to do.


more to come tomorrow....
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2000 XJ "PROJECT RUBICON" 3-link front / 4-link rear / coilovers / running 37's on Dana 60s
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Unread 03-31-2008, 11:29 PM   #3
Topgun514
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cant wait to see how this works out, looks great
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87 XJ pioneer-Totalled
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3.5" Lift, RE SF LCA's with skids, 31x10.50R15 Duratracs, ARB Roofrack, Custom Bumper, Glasspack, Bored TB, Custom seats
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Unread 03-31-2008, 11:36 PM   #4
Sierra Drifter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricsXJ View Post
Oh yeah and before I forget... Problem #2
I'm glad I tried to install the upper half of the control arms before mounting up the belly pan. But I couldn't get the bolts through the mounts because the holes were slightly off. Not only was one side off, but both mounts were the same thing. (Damn you T&T quality control...) I had to drill out one hole of each mount from 9/16" to 5/8" to get the bolts through. But thinking positively, if I had not tried to mount the arms first, I would have gone mad trying to install the arms with the belly pan in place.



more to come tomorrow....
Looks good Eric, your stitch welds look better than mine... at least most of them do
I had to re-drill one of the holes when I installed mine too, but it wasn't TnT's fault, I measured from the wrong x-member bolt hole....
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Axle swaps & build thread: http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f11/rebuilding-front-dana-44-a-397243/
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Unread 03-31-2008, 11:45 PM   #5
ktmracer419
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any plans to extend the unibody plating further back and forward? from what ive read, having just the tnt stiffeners will focus the stress more on the ends of it (where it meets weak stock unibody) and you will be more prone to problems there.

i am not looking forward to putting my stiffeners on this week... ugh
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Unread 03-31-2008, 11:53 PM   #6
EricsXJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierra Drifter View Post
Looks good Eric, your stitch welds look better than mine... at least most of them do
Yeah... as you know the plate is so close to the floor board that there is no way to get a proper angle with the gun to that joint. After a few beads you find out what works best and they get better. Why do you think I showed you the passenger side and not the driver side? And don't worry I have plenty of very scary welds that I will be posting later...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktmracer419
any plans to extend the unibody plating further back and forward?
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Unread 04-01-2008, 06:50 AM   #7
UKJeepThang
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I can tell that this is going to evolve into a very good thread. I've always admired Eric's XJ and there will be lots of good ideas coming here.

Just hope Eric has the time to keep us all updated!
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RE 4.5 inch superflex lift, RE GEN2 disconnects, 15x8 Crager 352's, 33x12.5x15 BFG MT, ARB Lockers Front and Rear, 4.56 Diffs, Cut & Tap Short Shaft Conversion, CV Rear Prop, B&M Transmission Cooler and Gauge, Bushwackers Cut-Outs, Skid Row Armor, AJ's SuperRails, LeBaron Hood Vents, KargoMaster Rack, Safari Snorkel, KC Daylighters, Midland CB, Brantz Navigation
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Unread 04-01-2008, 09:36 AM   #8
Bobandbeans
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what front bumper is that?
your jeep is pretty sick
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Unread 04-01-2008, 12:21 PM   #9
Topgun514
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Hey Eric, i was just re-looking at your amazing rig, but did i see a jack stand with a brick on the end of it on your bellhousing or oil pan? Or is that a skid plate there?
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87 XJ pioneer-Totalled
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Now: 88 RENIX 4.0 XJ, Project Overlander
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Unread 04-01-2008, 12:48 PM   #10
Mtb Jak
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you have a sexxy rig...

hopefully mine will grow up to be like it someday hahaha

darkblue 2000 aswell
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Unread 04-01-2008, 01:14 PM   #11
JohnnyX
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what do you plan on doing with the rock sliders?
i could take them off your hands
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Unread 04-01-2008, 03:22 PM   #12
89warwagon
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subscribing to the build.....
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Unread 04-01-2008, 11:06 PM   #13
EricsXJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobandbeans
what front bumper is that?
originally BPI Fab but custom made into a winch bumper. All the details are on my site www.ericsxj.com

Quote:
Originally Posted by Topgun514
but did i see a jack stand with a brick on the end of it on your bellhousing or oil pan? Or is that a skid plate there?
Its a block of wood. When you remove the crossmember something has to hold your transmission and t-case up...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyX
what do you plan on doing with the rock sliders?
i could take them off your hands
shipping across country would cost more than they are worth. I'm going to put them up for sale on a local board. No matter what rig they go on, some "adjustments" will need to be made to make them fit.

Now time for today's posting...
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Unread 04-01-2008, 11:16 PM   #14
EricsXJ
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Time to drop the front axle and remove the suspension.


Here's what my LCAs looked like. Time to replace and upgrade.


I figured while I had everything apart it would be a good idea to paint my coils. I got lucky and found that Rustoleum 7786 Smoke Gray is an EXACT match to Rubicon Gray.


More frame rail prep. Thankfully this time it was just paint and no undercoating...


Any guesses as to what comes next? Tune in tomorrow evening to find out.
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Unread 04-01-2008, 11:24 PM   #15
89warwagon
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ooo...oooo I know!!!!
Front stiffeners from
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