96 XJT Salvage Project - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 58 Old 11-18-2013, 10:17 AM Thread Starter
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96 XJT Salvage Project

Long time reader, finally signed up. Just picked up my latest Jeep in a series of Jeeps (97 TJ, 04 TJ, 85 CJ7, 01WJ, 97XJ). Low an behold the newest addition 1996 XJ.

I picked this guy up Saturday. Previous owner ran into some difficult times and I snatched it up for $1000. Here is the current status according to the previous owner:

96 XJ (not sure of trim)
234,000 miles
Brand new motor with ~4500 miles
Brand new transmission with ~4500 miles
Brand new clutch
Brand new offbrand 33" mud terrains
2" Rough Country Suspension lift
Horrific paint job (not sure which owner did this.

As you can see from the picture, previous owner attempted to do the chop. He did not have time to finish before I purchased. When driving this thing the down the road the whole body shakes, needless to say, I will be fixing the chop and doing some other modifications. Front end is also kind of smashed in, not sure if I will be fixing and replacing with stock parts. or upgrade to a 97+ front end. I plan on doing everything for as cheap as possible, this means junkyard parts and custom fabrication. Here is what I have planned:

Finish the chop. I need to salvage a 97+ rear hatch (according to my research al other hatches 84-96 are fiberglass). Cut the hatch in half weld the top half to the c pillars and create a reverse opening tailgate with the bottom half.

stiffen the rest of the uni-body

Install roll bar at the c pillar location.

Install a "notch back" style soft top.

Fabricate new front and rear flat fenders

Rewire the cabin

Install 97+ center console

Fabricate or install new door panels

Fabricate roof rack

Bed line interior and underbody

Flat tan paint job

Removable doors

This will be a long process, hopefully I can remember to take pics of progress. I have built and modified numerous vehicles but I always seem to have trouble documenting my progress. There are a lot of other WTF? things done to this jeep that I will be addressing but if I am missing something please let me know

This Saturday the 23rd, my friend and I will start disassembling and banging out dents. I hope to create a parts list for the junkyard, as it is 2 hours away and I only want to go once. We may even start mocking up the front flat fenders and clearancing the inner fender wells.

I hope to also snatch up a few more pics over the course of the week to give you an idea of how rough it is.

Last edited by kleinjesse; 12-02-2013 at 08:58 AM.
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post #2 of 58 Old 11-18-2013, 11:11 AM
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1996 XJ Cherokee 
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I have a 96 xj myself, although not chopped. Tuned in to see where you take this build.
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post #3 of 58 Old 11-18-2013, 12:44 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. Here is an update:

Decoded the VIN. Turns out this used to be a 4cyl XJ. PO installed a 4.0L

I need to do some research to figure out exactly what axles and gear ratios I have. PO said it had a D30 up front and a 29-spline 8.25 in the rear. Apparently it had the tow package.
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post #4 of 58 Old 11-19-2013, 07:54 AM Thread Starter
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Looking to possibly score a parts jeep this week, unsure of what year it is at the moment. I have not laid eyes on it yet.

Also, looking to get a B pillar hoop, and a C pillar hoop made up. Guy down the road from the shop owns a salvage yard, he does very well. Makes enough money to employ 2 full time people for his "race shop", he is a hobby racer. I'm pretty sure he and I can work out a deal, people always need electrical work done.

We plan on tying in the roof to the hoops, hopefully it will stiffen up the body enough so that it wont shake going down the road, so I can drive it before we start finishing the chop
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post #5 of 58 Old 11-25-2013, 08:05 AM Thread Starter
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Update 11/26/13:
Update 12/1/13: Upload pics

Got some work done on the xjt this weekend.

Flipped the wheels around to fix the front tires from rubbing against the sway bars. Now the stock xj wheels cause the tires to rub the leaf springs.
To fix this, I ordered new 15x8 3.75 backspacing wheels. They are the summit racing version of the Cragar d-windows. at $46.00 each, couldn't really go wrong.

I also noticed when switching the wheels, one of the wheels studs on the rear passenger wheel is boogered up. Ordered 20 new wheels studs from summit. Wheels are currently held on by 4 different styles of lugnuts. Ordered new black lug nuts from summit also.

Grand total of $250.00 shipped.

I had planned to go to a junkyard yesterday to source parts. Ended up buying a complete parts jeep Saturday night for $300. Hopefully I will put pics and details of it up tonight. It had everything I need to get my xjt to where I want it. Plus, when I am done, I can part it out and scrap it to make my money back. Only thing is it has a fiberglass rear hatch. I was really wanting a 97+ hatch because they are metal, but we think we have figured out how to make this work.

We are going to graft the D-pillar into the C-pillar, not to the C-pillar, but rather replace the C-pillar with the D-pillar. Then we will cut the rear hatch in half and re mount everything.

Got the jeep torn down for the most part. Took 1 hour of pressure washing to get rid of all the caked on mud, but it is now clean enough to start working on. We had to pull the driver side inner fender out. We need to do some pulling on the unibody where the rear hatch mounts and then we should be ready to bolt on parts. We also started to de-green it. I find it much nicer to work on a flat black vehicle without the lime green distracting you.

Last edited by kleinjesse; 12-02-2013 at 09:25 AM. Reason: Picture uploads
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post #6 of 58 Old 12-02-2013, 08:51 AM Thread Starter
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Update 12/01/13:

I made some progress on the xjt this week. I got my parts jeep to the shop. I think it is a 90 Laredo, but I was unable to run the vin. Kept saying the VIN did not exist. Ohh well, either way it is a Renix 4.0 Here are some pictures of it.

I pulled off the front end, pain in the ***. All the screws were rusty, all the u-clips broke, the flat head screws (why would someone use them) holding the grille in were rusted to their nuts. We had to do a lot of cutting to get the fenders off. The grille was not salvageable.

We were able to get the fenders and the hood off with no damage. We got them mounted to the new jeep. but we could not get the hood to line up very well. We will work on the hood some other time.

Man, those 33's sure do take up the wheel wells, time to do some trimming. We got out the tape and laid off the cut lines.

This is what decided to go with.

This opened up a lot of space.

We went and visited my friend at the race fabrication shop down the street. Asked him if he could bend up some roll bars, and various other bars. Should be able to get started on them after Christmas.

Hopefully get back to work on it Saturday. I think we might start on the cowl intake. And start stripping out the interior of the parts jeep.

Last edited by kleinjesse; 12-02-2013 at 09:29 AM. Reason: Picture fix
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post #7 of 58 Old 12-04-2013, 02:04 PM
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Nice Build! Look forward to seeing your progress!

My Jeep Build!
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post #8 of 58 Old 12-05-2013, 10:43 PM
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Nice find, anxious to see where it goes from here.

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post #9 of 58 Old 12-09-2013, 08:13 AM Thread Starter
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Update 12/9/13:

Started to fix the chop Saturday. After we removed the rear hatch, and side windows. we made our first marks for cutting.

The way we planned on doing the shop was to graft the d pillar into the rear, just past the c pillar. This gives it a nice finished off edge.

Back to the marking.

Since my buddy and I have chopped a vehicle before, we took what we knew and applied it to the jeep. Overlaying the roof panels give you something to line up. Also give you some more stiffness.

Once we got the parts jeep d pillar cut out. We had to make all of the necessary cuts on the xjt. This required cutting out about 10" until we were close enough to the c pillar.

After about 5 test fits and small cuts, we finally got it close enough and we self tapped it into placed.

Once I made a template for the side plate, we made sure everything lined up and pulled the d pillar section off to drill our holes for the 20 something spot welds. Once the d pillar was in place It was time to weld in the patch panels.

All they need now is a little bit of fiberglass resin jelly to smooth them into the body and it should look pretty good. But for now we just sprayed them with some black etch primer because we still have a lot more work to go. We even got the stock weather stripping to fit back on, it gives it a temporary finished look. Going forward, I might buy some new weather stripping to help seal the soft top.

Hopefully next Saturday we can get the roof panel graft finished, who knew the ribs on a 90 xj were wider than on a 96 xj. Fix a couple misalignment issues, who knew the d pillar was about 1.5" narrower than the c pillar. We will be cutting the rain gutters right at the door gap and smoothing everything else behind it.
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post #10 of 58 Old 12-09-2013, 07:02 PM
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post #11 of 58 Old 12-09-2013, 08:11 PM
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Yea its looking much better already. I would like to do this to my wj one day.

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post #12 of 58 Old 01-02-2014, 07:49 AM Thread Starter
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Update 1/2/14:

I have been pretty busy with other things, but I got to work on the Cherokee over the holidays.

When we grafted in the roof section and d-pillar we had to remove the roof brace from the c-pillar. Turns out, you need it. or the roof will flop around like a dying fish, so we cut it to fit and welded it back in.

Once it was welded back into place we filled the gaps with great stuff on both roof braces. The great stuff will be trimmed in the future and covered with seam sealer.

With the roof braced up it was time to actually finish the roof graft. Grinded all the tacks, added more tacks. Made some patch panels for the corners and here is how it looked.

Once we had everything ground down, we took it on a test drive and guess what? No roof flapping. Solid as a rock. Time for the seam sealer.

After a nice weekend, we got back to it on Monday. It was time to focus on those god awful "bedrails". I had some 3/16" angle laying around that was roughly the correct length. In order for them to fit, we had to do some more trimming. We had to cut and fold the pinch weld at the top of the seam.

We also had to make a couple slices on the inner panels as well, but I forgot to take a picture of that. Once we fit and trimmed and beat everything into place. I got out the level and we started welding.

Once they were welded in and solid, and I do mean solid (I stood on them and jumped), it was time to do some trimming. My buddy really loves his sawzall. It is unearthly the precision cuts he can make with it.

So with all of the nice custom work done to the rear. I could not justify putting stock taillights back in. So off to tractor supply for some LED tails. This required some more trimming and some custom panels.

Once we had the panels cut, we fit and trimmed and fit and trimmed until they would work.

Here they are welded and ground.

Then it was time to seam seal everything up and let it dry overnight.

Tuesday I could only work till noon so we put some fiberglass resin jelly in some of the bigger dents, primarily around the rear of the bedrails. Once sanded down we hit everything with a coat of putty and sanded it down/faired everything in. Sprayed on some black etch primer and put the tail lights in again. On the roof, rather than spend hours and hours of sanding and grinding to get it to look good with paint on it. We faired all of the edges down with some putty and rolled on some herculiner. I only bought a quart and that BARELY covered the roof. I figure no one will every be looking at the roof so I this was a good option and I will never have to touch it again.

Here are some pics of where it sits now.

Finished bed rail

Driver side

Passenger side


I ordered a rear bumper Tuesday. It should be delivered Friday. Hopefully I can get it installed on Saturday morning. Then all we need to do is get a frame built for the tail gate. Once the tail gate is in, I can take it to the guy so we can get my "rear cage" in.

Last edited by kleinjesse; 01-02-2014 at 07:58 AM. Reason: typo's
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post #13 of 58 Old 01-02-2014, 10:06 AM
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Awesome work on fixing the hack job .

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post #14 of 58 Old 01-02-2014, 11:30 AM
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Looks good. Fold down tail gate would be nice. Even add a spare in there with some steel tubing.
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post #15 of 58 Old 01-02-2014, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
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My intentions are to build a tire carrier into the rear cage
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