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Unread 10-26-2015, 11:47 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Paso Robles, CA
Posts: 6
96 XJ: The Wheeling Beer Can

I sold my 94 toyota pickup and decided it was time to try out a Jeep! I drove to Bakersfield the Sunday before finals week and got myself a 1996 Cherokee Country with a 4.0, 140k miles and AW4 trans for $1200. It has a high pinion Dana 30 in the front and a Chrysler 8.25 in the rear currently geared to 3.55. Only catch, you can almost stick your hand through the roof in a few places. Needless to say it will be getting a super sexy bikini top in the future. The goal is to take it from a mall crawler to something I can do the Rubicon in within the next few months.

Full flex while still totally stock.

It hadn't been driven in over a year so first step was to take it on some back roads, get it to pass smog and register it. Then I got to cutting... The old man gold plastic fender flares were the first thing to go in the trash.

The rear was a little harder because there are structural pinch welds along the entire fender. These got cut in between each weld and then hammered in.

Now it was time to find a way to stuff some 35" BFG KM2's in it. To lift the front I bought Synergy 3.5" lift springs and then put in Pro Comp JK shocks that I got for free in the tire sale. To lift the rear it first got the Synergy long travel shackles. This didn't lift it quite enough so it looked like this...

As much as the thought of having a pre-runner turns me on, I put an end to that quickly. So next came some 2.75" Old Man Emu lift springs to replace the stock leaf pack.

I used the Liquid Iron front plating kit and Ruff Stuff's channel reinforcement for the rest. Grinding everything off was super fun...

To get the Ruff Stuff one to fit flush I used a floor jack and my trusty block of wood to give it a good push.

Because I am swapping new axles in I pulled the front axle (with the help of Spud). This made it way easier to grind out and tack in the Liquid Iron kit.

To get the front one to fit well Spud helped and we used c-clamps and a dead-blow hammer.

Then my boyfriend had a little fun on a slow day at work. Here's his forum post on the axle shave:

Originally Posted by casey4x4 View Post
I spent way too much time on this ActionFab inspired hair brained idea, and didn't gain that much, but it was a fun project without much risk of destroying an expensive axle. I think these modifications will help keep this axle alive while providing an extra 7/8" of clearance. For the most part I'll let the pictures do the talking.

This axle will be going under a 96 Cherokee chop top that is in progress. I'll post a build thread when there is a little more to show. The basic theme of the rig is light weight, inexpensive, camping/trail rig on 35s.

The fixturing left something to be desired in the rigidity department, but it worked.

No turning back now!

Used the press to clamp the entire carrier and spun with one hand while I held the grinder with the other. I have a lathe, but this was easier. I didn't take much off the ring gear. Maybe .150 total.

You can just see the edge of the holes from the two cover bolts. This is where I stopped. So I removed a total of 3 bolt holes and will be adding two back later.

Machining clearance for the ring gear in some 1/2" cold rolled I had laying around:

Cut out the profile on the band saw and smoothed it out with a flapper
It fits!

Gained a little clearance.


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Unread 10-26-2015, 11:50 PM   #2
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Location: Paso Robles, CA
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Originally Posted by casey4x4 View Post
That was my first time welding to cast. I did some reading and consulted friends. In the end I used regular er70s6 wire did some preheat with a propane torch and wrapped it in a fiberglass blanket to cool.

Added a small bottom truss tied into the bottom plate to hold it all together. It is also welded to the cast ribs that go down to the axle tube.

Boxed in:

and top truss also gusseting the upper link bracket:

Riley shaved the rear axle to get me another inch of clearance and then it got bolted in. My OME's were a little too tall/stiff so a leaf got taken out. Now the Jeep is a lot more level.

The rear bumper was a birthday present from Spud. The diy kit comes from JRC offroad and goes together real quick. They give you the specs for bending all of the pieces and then you just weld it all together. Riley did the welding and I got nasty with the angle grinder to smooth it all out. The bumper is actually designed for a newer Cherokee but it lines up well enough.

Riley designed the front bumper and I love how it turned out. Eventually a winch will get mounted on top.

It took a month and lots of annoyed phone calls to get Ruff Stuff to send me all of the parts for their DIY long arm kit. I kept getting a few pieces at a time with the promise that the rest of the stuff "will be in next week". So once those got here last week it was time to get cranking.

First step on the front axle was to replace the super blown out ball joints. The ball joint pulley kit from Oreilly's was able to get them out no problem. Next step was to to re-install the gears (4.56s) in my new front axle (Riley took them out when he shaved it). The bearings were pretty worn so I installed new Spicers. Because the axle housing shifted it was kind of hard to get the gears in. We tried using a case spreader but they just weren't lining up well. Finally we decided to take out a shim out on each side. This allowed the gears to go in nicely. To make sure everything was still aligned properly we used some lipstick as gear setting paint (you have to get resourceful in King City).

Everything looked good so we moved on to setting up the links. The DIY kit from Ruff Stuff allows you to cut everything to your preferred length. We started with the lower links (2x.250 DOM) and cut them 29" long. After adding the bushings and rod ends it made for a 34" radius arm. The upper links are 1.5x.250 DOM. The axle side brackets came with the axle I bought, so we only had to weld brackets on the frame side. We drilled out the stock axle side supper bushings to fit a 1/2" fine thread bolt instead of 7/16".

The axle also came with a Teraflex high steer knuckle. My steering is also 1.5x.250 DOM. We drilled out all of the steering holes to 3/4 and inserted tapered bushings so that I could have 1 ton tie rod ends for the drag link and tie rod. The only bracket we had to make was the track bar bracket. In order to keep the tie rod from hitting my dif when I turn I used the ruff stuff offset tie rod ends.

Right now my shocks are limiting my droop and my coil springs are limiting my bump.

Bailey has already become accustomed to being a shop dog.

I had Paso Robles Welding bend the sliders to make them fit the body lines. They are made out of 3/16 hot rolled plate. They are mounted to the rockers with rivet nuts. Square tube is welded to a pinch seam to tie them underneath with kickers back to the frame stiffeners.

The roof is still there, for now... It will come off once the caging process starts.

I told Riley I wanted to cage the Jeep in a weekend. He looked at me like I was crazy. But we did it...

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Unread 10-26-2015, 11:50 PM   #3
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Location: Paso Robles, CA
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I took the wheeling beer can on her maiden voyage this past weekend to the Rubicon! To get her ready she needed a belly skid, gas tank skid and the sliders finished. I bought JCR's 3/16 steel gas tank skid. It didn't come with the right hardware but a quick trip to the hardware store fixed that and I had it installed in about an hour.

Riley made the belly skid out of 3/16 aluminum with a crossmember behind the cat. He had been itching to try out the spool gun so it was a perfect project. He added the cross bracing to make it more rigid.

I had been waiting for Riley to get an 1 1/2" die for his bender so that we could finish the sliders. Hopefully it will keep the rocks out of the doors.

The last thing it needed before we left was pink rock lights! I ordered some pink Eagle Eye's off of Ebay. At $20 for 10 of them you could light up the entire Rubicon and still have money left over for beer. We stayed with friends in Sac on Friday and headed up to the trail at 5am on Saturday. We ended up wheeling Wentworth Springs Trail which spits you out onto the Rubicon Trail just past the slabs.

There is one really fun section on Wentworth Springs that I go really bound up on. It broke the tangs off the yoke on my rear axle and shot the u-joint caps out. I pulled the caps off of my spare u-joint and put them on but the straps had stretched so we shimmed them with strips of beer can and tack welded the caps to the yoke using two 12V batteries, some jumper cables and a stick rod.

With four people and all of our camping gear it was riding dirty low and rubbing in the back. We had pulled a leaf out of the OME pack to try and get it to ride more level but that ended up making the springs S under load. Someone in our group carries two xj overload springs because he is notorious for breaking front main leaves. With those and some custom Sierra Edition bump stop extensions I was good to go.

The rest of the trail was smooth sailing and I had a blast. We made it to Buck by late afternoon and had almost the entire trail to ourselves. Sunday morning one of the guy's rigs wouldn't start up (no compression) so we ended up having to tow him all the way back to the trailers. The Jeep did awesome but I want bigger tires so an axle upgrade is probably in the near future. Riley has a 9in and hp 44 out of full size Bronco laying around that I might try to steal when he isn't looking...

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Unread 10-28-2015, 04:24 PM   #4
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2001 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Posts: 6
Wow, super cool! I love the way XJs look with the back chopped off and roll bars put in. I keep thinking I want to do that to mine, but with no garage and Midwestern winters, I don't think that's the right choice right now, haha. But maybe once I'm back in the southwest! Rad jeep, dude!
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Unread 10-30-2015, 04:09 PM   #5
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1996 ZJ 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: El Paso, Texas
Posts: 1
That's one hell of a build. Looks bad a$$.
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Unread 11-15-2015, 01:41 PM   #6
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Location: Paso Robles, CA
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Going bigger so the old axles are for sale if anyone is interested!

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Unread 11-15-2015, 05:21 PM   #7
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1985 CJ7 
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Location: kingston, Ontario
Posts: 10
Wow seeing rust on the top confuses me being from the rust up area . Nice setup. Looks like you have some plans for it !!

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Unread 11-16-2015, 03:05 PM   #8
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1995 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Posts: 44
Wow... this makes anything I have ever done or ever will do to my Jeep look... well, pathetic

Nice build, most impressive
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Unread 11-17-2015, 08:18 PM   #9
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Pulled the old axles in about 45 minutes (having a two post lift is awesome ).

So now the plan is to get the new ones swapped in before new years! The original plan was a 44/9" that were laying around the shop but then my boyfriend got a killer deal on a dana 60. So as of now that is the plan!

He also got an awesome deal on a np241 DLD at the junkyard. With a little experimenting and a lot of luck we were able to swap the fixed yoke parts from a 241D with a cracked housing into it. First step was to pull the case apart.

The first difference between the two was the diameter of the output shaft pilot bearing. The 241d is the smaller one in this pic. I couldn't use the input gear from the 241d because the gear pitch on the planetary was different.

The outer diameter of the bearings was different as well.

We had looked online but couldn't find the right size bearing to adapt it so my boyfriend machined an adapter out of steel. The adapter had a 1.627 OD and a 1.498 ID.

Then I pressed the bearing into the adapter and the assembly into the input shaft of the 241dld.

The 241dld used a journal bearing on the output shaft where the chain gear rides. And the 241d uses needle bearings. But the chain gear ID was the same size on both so we swapped the needle bearings from the 241d onto the 241dld chain drive gear.

The tail housing on the 241 dld is in two pieces so we needed to make a new seal housing. The seal housing also needs to retain the output bearing. I found a part from an old machine that happened to be the perfect size. All that was left was to modify for the seal and drill the bolt pattern.

We also need to plug the 3 holes left from its previous application. I realize most people won't have a cracked 241d laying around but in my case it was a really cheap way to get a fixed yoke, driver drop 241 with a 23 spline input and the correct bolt pattern for a jeep. In the end I have a bolt in six planetary wide chain case with 32 spline outputs for about $200 and half a days work.
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Unread 11-23-2015, 11:51 PM   #10
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Location: Paso Robles, CA
Posts: 6
Had another productive weekend at the shop! On Friday morning I drove up to the bay area and picked up a set of 37" Nitto trail grapplers. I had heard good things about Chassis Unlimited, which is located in Livermore, so I decided to swing by. It turns out they had almost all of the stuff I needed and the owner was super awesome. He gave us a tour of their shop (all of their products are made in house) and gave me a killer deal, koozies and a t-shirt!

Now that I had the tires it was time to make room for them. Here's a pic of the old vs the new. The new ones came on 8 lug dodge wheels so I picked up a set of alloys off craigslist, painted them black and swapped them out.

I had gotten a set of leaf springs from an explorer at the junk yard. They are 4" longer than the stock xj leafs so the current brackets weren't going to work. They are 2" longer in the front half so it gave me 2" of wheel base stretch. We moved my synergy shackles to the back, flipped them backwards, notched out the body and welded them in. My bumper should fit back on with a little grinding.

In order to get to full bump we had to weigh the back of the Jeep down. Luckily I had a few bags of concrete and plenty of tires laying around.

Then it was time to cut the inner fenders!

Then we slid the inner fender back and welded it back in.

Next up was building the shock towers. I wanted the rear to be sealed and to keep as much bed space as possible.

Then it got a coat of bed liner and with a little modification the plastic panels went back in.

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Unread Today, 11:11 AM   #11
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Rochester Hills, Michigan
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Really nice work on this rig, congratulations on preserving another XJ!
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