Dirty Frank: My First Jeep and My First Adventure in Non-Military Engineering.
Hi Guys! Welcome to my attempt at a build thread. I'll start you off with some histroy, which I'll try to keep brief, and then I'll jump straight into what I have going on as of right now. Here we go!
PART I: "Hello, Nice to Meet You"
So I've owned my '92 YJ for about a year and a half now (I can't remember the exact date of purchase, but it was sometime shortly before my join date here). The day I drove it off the lot of that shady used car dealer in my hometown in PA, I knew I had a lot of work to do. It had a bad valve cover gasket, the t-case yoke was shot, the oil pan plug leaked... the list goes on. But despite all that, driving it out to Long Island for just four hours was enough for me to fall completely in love with it.
Sittin pretty the day I took him home
PART II: "And I Christen Thee..."
Now, I'm a firm believer that as a guy, I'm obligated to give all my vehicle's girls names, because it's my job to cherish and nurture them, as I would a beautiful woman. This was not the case for my Jeep. He's a big brute who's not afraid to get thrown around and dinged up... or dirty. Not sure why Dirty Frank came to mind. I mean, I like Pearl Jam and all, and "Dirty Frank" is really just an "OK" song in my eyes, but the name just stuck.
Gotta live up to his name right?
PART III: "Getting to Know You"
I was driving old Frank around for quite a while. Despite having a perfectly functioning Mark3 VW GTI, somehow, Frank had become my DD. I took him everywhere. The longest trip probably being the 900 mile round trip from LI to Portsmouth VA. Things were going great... but not for too much longer. Driving home one day, I would start suddenly and intermittently slowing way down, and then a loud pop, and I'd speed up again. Me being the complete n00b that I was, took it to a shop. Turns out my CAD was ruined, and kept catching and then breaking free. Upon further inspection, it turned out my t-case's gear teeth were pretty much gone, my front driveshaft was bent, and my rear passenger shock mount (frame side) corroded off. One hefty bill later, I was back on the road... for a week. Then my rear driveshaft u-joint went on the freeway, taking the driveshaft with it. One more hefty bill later (again, I was a n00b and didn't think/have the means to get a junkyard one) I had made the decision that I'm never taking this thing to a shop again. It's been over a year since I made that call, and both my wallet and I have never been happier!
So... that's bad, right?
PART IV: "Goals and Such"
As you can see from the above images, this jeep fell into my hands with a little bit of work already done (the 33s, the way too comfortable Bestop drivers seat, the non wired/broken lights on the bumper). However, who buys a Jeep that they plan on wheeling and is fully 100% satisfied with what's already done to it? Not this guy, that's for sure. I've done some work (and I really only mean SOME) since between the story's end, and making this thread, so I'll try and dig up as much documentation as I can, and try to fill in the blanks before I start posting the current project(s).
I'm a simple man. I get confused easily and therefore HATE disorganization... unless I'm feeling lazy. As such, instead of just throwing part after part at my jeep and hoping to have a decent rig once the dust has settled, I try my best to break all the work down into smaller projects. I'm also a fan of giving things silly names that are at least vaguely descriptive of what they're for (you should see the playlist titles on my iPod). Here's a list of the projects I currently have planned, or have completed. I'll try and turn each title into a clickable link so you can jump straight to that post within the thread.
Since idle chatter is always more than welcome here, I'll also try and put links within the project posts so you can jump from update to update within the project, without having to read through other people's comments if you so desire.
Anyway, enough out of me! Let's get to this!
The first thing I noticed about the Jeep when I saw it, other than "It's a Jeep", was the color. I call it teal. You might call it something else (mostly because the camera makes it look blue). Jeep might call it something completely different. One sure thing though, is that you can't deny that it's a pretty rare color for a YJ... or a Jeep in general for that matter. One thing that you could argue (because, you know, opinions and such), is that it's a pretty cool freakin color.
I'm the kind of person who likes to both stand out in a crowd, and take things and make them my own (see also, unique). There are many ways to do this: Bigger tires, a winch, a light bar, etc. But nothing stands out quite like a custom paint job. Whether you spend the big $$$ and get it professionally done, or if you go cheapo and use some rattle cans while drinking a few cold ones, a fresh coat of paint done to your personal style is easily the best way to make anyone go "Oh hey, that's So-and-so's Jeep!"
So I knew right off the bat that I was gonna paint this beast. The real question was: how?
Now one thing that I should state about myself right now, is that I'm the kind of person who likes doing things my way whenever possible, but I'm also not afraid to outsource ideas when I'm torn between a few of them. I knew I wasn't going to completely cover up the teal. The cries of outrage and shock from pretty much everyone I told what i had planned sealed that one for me. So the next question was: what looks good on teal!? After asking some of my art savvy friends that very question, I was torn between two color schemes: Purple and Yellow, or Red and Gray. And when I say I was torn, I honestly mean I was losing sleep over this issue.
Eventually I settled on red and gray for the plain and simple fact that, if I were to do purple and yellow, I'd want to do some kind of 80's pattern. And honestly, I have ZERO idea on how to do that. Also I had spent a bit of time sketching up a logo to put on, and I realized red and gray would look best.
Anyway, I know I need to stop with these massive amounts of text, but since I was only able to dig up a few pictures of the process, I felt I needed to explain more. So without further ado, here's what you can do with about $30 of Rustoleum spray paint, some posterboard, an exacto knife, and a boatload of masking tape:
The logo I slaved over. It's a 4 piece stencil. One for the gray gear, one for the grey pistons, one for the white skull, and one for all of the black. The design is based off of the fact that I am actually a mechanic (a boat mechanic for the Coast Guard), and I wanted something that reflects that. I love this logo so much, I'll probably put it on all my future projects
I have these "bubbles" around each wheel well. They serve no other purpose than the fact that I like them. I used copious amounts of masking tape, drew the bubbles with a nautical compass, then cut with an exacto knife. The red splatter was actually inspired that digital splatter decal that Ford came up with for the Raptor. I just sprayed the paint onto my gloved hand and then flicked it around.
As you may or may not have noticed from the 1st picture in this thread, Frank came with those chrome grille inserts. But only 6 of them, which was just no good. So I decided to have some fun with them and this was the result. The headlight bezels were chrome too, so I made them match! I also touched up the fading black paint on both bumpers and the fender flares.
Alright, I'll be honest here. This isn't paint. It's a vinyl decal I got from... one of the thousands of people accross the country that make vinyl decals... If anyone's interested, the font is called deathrattle, and I got it from here.
The final product. Pictured here is the second of the two time's I've ever put soap on him. The first being right before I started painting! I'm a firm believer that Jeeps and soap do NOT mix!
So there you have it. A rattle can job that consisted of 23 hours of prepping and painting spread out over a three day weekend. Hopefully this will inspire somebody to give their own rig a makeover!
Totally forgot about this little addition I made while I was painting.
I consider myself to be a patriot. As such, I feel that it is necessary to fly a flag when conditions permit. Since I had recently recieved a free american flag from Pennzoil from when I did my most recent oil change, I thought it'd be fun to see if I could rig up a collapsable flag staff on the cheap as well. So off to the hardware store I went. A few dollars worth of all-thread, some nuts, a u-bolt clamp, and a threaded reciever later, I had exactly what I needed!
A little bit of black paint was all I needed to make it discreet, yet functional.
The cool thing about having an old wrangler is that with a thin metal tub, I really have no qualms about drilling into it.
Everybody knows that a CB is always a useful tool to have. Whether you're lost or in distress on a trail, or if you just wanna know what the traffic's like a few miles ahead of you on the freeway, I've always been under the belief that it's better to have and not need it, than it is to need it and not have it (see also: a winch).
They're exceedingly easy to install (well, for older rigs that you don't mind cutting into at least). That's why I hoped online and found a decent starter kit for a reasonable price. Although I AM aware that I could have just as easily gone to a local truck stop or electronics store and purchased everything there. I went with a Cobra 19DX, because it's cheap and simple. The kit I got contained everything I needed, including a 4' Firestick, 18' coax, and an antenna mount. I bought it here.
The most convenient place for me to mount it was underneath the dash. There's a strip of metal that runs all the way across it, so I just drilled right into it. Just a heads up for anyone wanting to mount stuff here: the screws provided by Cobra suck. So I just used some self tapping sheet metal screws.
Staying in line with keeping it simple, I ran the power straight through an existing wire run in my firewall. The radio even comes with a built-in inline fuse.
I tucked it over a useless bracket in the engine bay, so that it wasn't just resting on the engine itself. Ya know, fire hazards and such.
Because I HATE electrical noise over a radio, and since I already had an inline fuse installed, I just wired the radio straight up to the battery.
The next step was the antenna. This was a step that I struggled with, not because any of it was difficult, but because of my own internal conflict on where to mount it. There were a lot of factors involved, but the biggest two were ease of access, and functionality. I originally wanted to mount it on the opposite side of the flagpole mount, for both style, and for better transmitting. The problem with that though was that in order to keep the mounting bracket completely below or even flush with the top of the tub, it was too low to use a backing plate, due to the wheel well right behind it.
The back was the obvioius choice once the above reasons were considered. Now it's FAR less likely to be ripped off on the trail due to a tree or a rock or something. However, most CJ/YJ/TJ guys will tell you that space is a premium on the back end of our jeeps. I couldn't do a tire rack set up, because I (currently) have a plasic tire rack. I couldn't do a bumper set up, because I'll be putting on a better rear bumper sometime in the future. I couldn't put it on the swing gate, because at some point, I'm going to retrofit a CJ dropgate on there. In the end I just ended up mounting it right above my drivers side tail light.
I was actually really happy with how it came out. Perfectly flush with the top of the tub. I had to drill a bigger hole than I wanted because I needed to fit the coax head through it, but the grommet definately makes it presentable. My only real complaint is that you can still kinda see where I had to sand down to bare metal to get a good ground plane. EDIT: My buddy just asked me this weekend if that hole and grommet combo was factory, so I guess I did SOMETHING right!!!!
I managed to conceal pretty much the entire coax underneath the carpeting, which I think is pretty neat. When I start Project "Cargojeep" all the carpet is coming out, so I'll have to figure out something different then, but that's gonna be much later.
I ran from the mount, all the way around the perimeter of the Jeep going counterclockwise. Suprisingly enough, i managed to use all 18 feet without any slack.
Last but not least, I took Frank down to the local electronics shop to get the antenna tuned.
So far I've only taken the Jeep out twice, and both times I had the doors off. At slow speeds, the radio works great. On the freeway... I definately need an external speaker. I probably won't hook up a bullhorn or anything, so I'd say this job is pretty much done for now.
Here's some of the resources I used before purchasing or installing anything:
The factory wiring goes under the lip under the door sill on the drivers side and continues up under the lip of the tub toward the back. If you route the cable through the built-in cable holders there, it will keep it up out of water if the jeep gets rained in and prevent it from wearing under the carpet due to friction. A couple well-placed zip-ties can help secure it to the existing hard-top wires if the metal retaining tabs are broken or something.
Then you won't need to re-route when project Cargojeep happens.
I want to turn this jeep into a sort of jack of all trades, if you will. Capable of rock crawling, mud slinging, and running through sand. Not specializing in any of them... but I would like to be able to handle, to a certain extent, anything thrown in my way.
I figured the best way to do that is to gear down, size up, lift, lock, and gear down (some more). While I find it interesting that my D-35 has officially lasted longer then literally every other piece of my drivetrain save my 4.0, I definately don't want to push my luck. And I already know from experience how shoddy that front CAD can be. The solution? Dana 44s.
I've already had a few people tell me that I might as well just go up to 60's, and they're probably right, but I want to play around and get my own experience. Plus, from the research I've been doing, D44s seem to have a bit more aftermarket support that can make them darn near as tough as 60's (save the semi- vs. full-float factor) for about the same (if not slightly less) price, and retain stock width.
*I would like to state now that while advice if always welcome, I really don't like it when I feel like I'm being told how to build my jeep. I want to be able to say I did things my way, get my own hand on experience, and if it works? Great! If not? Then oh well, back to the drawing board.*
That being said, time to get back on topic! Here are my current goals:
Dana 44 front and rear, stock or close to stock wrangler width. (I have a TJ 44 I'll show you all in a bit, and I'm searching for a Waggy front)
-35 spline rear
-30 spline front
-RCV front shafts
-ARB lockers front and rear
-SOA lift w/stock springs (with any other mods needed for this conversion, ie. high steer)
-U bolt style pinion yokes.
37 or 38 M/Ts on 15" steelies
possibly bead lock wheels, but that's still up in the air and probably will be until the very end of the project.
The last and most important part of this whole build is that I want to do all the labor myself. That includes setting up the gears, and welding all the perches and brackets, neither of which I've done before (although I've done work with similarly tight tolerances/meticulousness/importance as the gearing). Basically what I'm saying guys, is that this is going to be an interesting journey!
I've actually been planning this one out for a few months, basically while I aquired funding. Last weekend, I found a 44 out of an 02 TJ (non-rubi) on one of the local junk yards websites. I called the guy up and he wanted a little more than I was willing to pay, but I managed to talk him down a bit. Not QUITE as much as I would have liked, but I figured I can sell the guts that I don't need in order to recoup some of that dinero. I went over on Friday to check it out. It was actually sitting IN the TJs tub, along with the front D30, so it was a little hard to make sure it was in perfect shape. But from just eyeballing it, I liked what I saw, and told the guy we had a deal, and that I'd be back the following day to pay/collect. Here's what went down next:
Just in case you were wondering, this is how you bedline a leased Subaru Impreza.
Also in case you were wondering, yes, a TJ 44 DOES fit in the back of a 5-door Subaru Impreza!
Despite the fact that it was upside down for the 45 minute car ride home, and gear oil was leaking out of the breather hole, and brake fluid out of one of the cyliners, the cardboard managed to keep ALL of the oil off my upholstery.
So as soon as I started tearing into the axle, I was struck with some slight dissapointment. Off came the diff cover, out came the oil, and with it: gear teeth. That means that there's at least one thing in here that I'm not going to be able to sell.
Fortunately, I pulled the axle shafts, and they're looking pretty much mint! I pulled the diff out, and noticed that the side gears won't turn. I think I found the culprit of those teeth! That's ok, an empty carrier is still worth a few pennies. Besides, the ring gear looked pretty darn good too!
At this point, I did the ole "gun sight test" to make sure the axle tubing (aka, the most important part) was in good shape. And fortunately, it is!!
Then last night, I pulled the pinion gear out. At first it looked like it was also in great shape. "Awesome," I thought to myself, "A 3.73 R&P should be worth some good money to the right buyer!!" But then tragedy struck again, in the form of a closer inspection!
One of these things is NOT like the others. (I'll give you a hint, it's in the red circle)
So yea... there's THAT
So yea, while I'm sure there are some people who wouldn't call that TOTALLY useless, I know for a fact that I couldn't in all good consiousness sell that to someone. :
Oh well, still have the shafts and the empty carrier (once I get those gears out).
Anywho, that's where I am at this time. Right now my main focus while I build my funding again (I had to wipe out the account to get the axle) it just aquiring some tools, and cleaning up the housing. That'll include pulling the bearing cups, cleaning out all grease and oil from the inside, and then cutting off all the mounts from, and shining up the outside.