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Unread 07-07-2014, 11:32 AM   #1
TheCatman
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Portland, OR
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Jeeves: '01 TJ Light Expedition Vehicle

This thread will be a chronicle of my first real Jeep build. Here's a bit of background:

I've been a JF member for over a year (never posted until now), and this is the third Jeep that I have owned. My first Jeep was a 1992 XJ Limited. It was completely stock with an automatic transmission, but ran like a dream for almost 5 years until I traded it in for the second Jeep. This one was a 1998 XJ Sport with a 5-speed manual. A PO had installed a lift and 31-inch BFG KO's. I never actually measured the lift, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 inches. This Jeep was not very well maintained, and there were many half-assed "mods" and unfinished projects. When I took it home, it was missing the air cleaner assembly and quite a few interior bits. A few trips to the salvage yard took care of this. I'm guessing the PO was in the process of making some modifications, when he/she got into an accident. The driver-side front corner had significant damage to the fender, quarter panel, grill, header panel, and bumper (the driver-side of the bumper was literally tied on with a rope). It had a tow package, and the PO had run the wiring harness out to the rear by bending the bottom corner of the rear hatch. I don't believe all four speakers worked at the same time during the entire period that I owned this Jeep; most of the time I only had one, if any. After a few months of ownership, it developed some nasty death wobble, so I had the front stabilizer, track bar, sway bar end links (the driver-side one was missing all together) replaced, and got new tires. The tires (General Grabber AT2's in 265/70/R15) were the best fix, as the Jeep was rock-solid after they were installed. I ended up selling the Jeep after only 14 months to make a cross-country relocation easier. And after 3 more months of not owning a vehicle, we are here...

A few days ago, I purchased a stock 2001 TJ Sahara. Here are some specs:
4.0L I-6
5-speed manual
99k miles
Sienna Pearl color with tan hard top
Tan/green interior
235/75/R15 Wildcat Radial A/T tires
Dana 44 rear axle
Bedlined grill
19-gallon fuel tank



Overall, it's in great shape. No rust (other than the driver door handle), and the only modifications that I've found so far are the bedlined grill and an aftermarket stereo head unit. I didn't even own the Jeep for 48 hours before my fiancee and I took it camping. It wasn't anything too extreme: about an hour away with well-maintained dirt roads, but it performed like a champ.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no mechanic, but I would really love to learn to work on the Jeep myself this time around. I do have an engineering degree, so I'm mechanically inclined, but I definitely lack the hands-on experience. The biggest obstacle will be the current living situation: studio apartment with street parking. This will heavily limit the work that I can do and the tools that I can purchase. I won't be able to undertake many multi-day projects, as I would be very hesitant to leave the Jeep in pieces out on the street. My overall vision for this Jeep is very practical. It must remain highway friendly, be able to handle moderate difficulty trails (no boulders or serious mud), and carry full camping gear for up to four people for several nights. Keeping these constraints and goals in mind, here is the initial build-up plan:

Phase 1:
Paint faded mirrors
Paint over chrome headlight bezels
Paint fender trim
Replace/upgrade battery
Upgrade speakers, wires, and head unit
Upgrade headlights and wiring harness
Acquire soft top and half doors (depending on storage situation for hard top and full doors)
Rear cargo netting
Interior bedliner
Used 29-31" AT or MT tires (Grabber AT2 if I can't find a good used set)
Small accessories (fire extinguishers w/mounts, basic storage solutions)

Phase 2:
Overhead cargo rack
Rear-mounted cargo rack, with fuel and water canisters
Upgrade front bumper (possibly Rokmen Mercenary)
Winch
ZJ tie rod
Upgrade front stabilizer
Recovery tools (Hi-lift jack, shovel, axe, etc.)
Off-road and work lighting
Two-battery configuration

Phase 3:
2.5-3 inch suspension lift
1.25 inch BL
1 inch MML
31-33 inch tires (probably 33x10.50R15)
Larger fuel tank
Under armor
Tummy tuck
Front and rear lockers
Body armor (rockers, rear corner armor, potentially front fenders)
Rear bumper and tire carrier upgrade

Everything listed above is subject to change or move depending on budget, time, facilities, and knowledge. Progress will likely start out slowly while I take care of a few small maintenance things and do more research. As this is my first serious Jeep build, I would greatly appreciate any feedback and advice!


Last edited by TheCatman; 07-11-2014 at 03:49 PM..
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Unread 07-08-2014, 10:08 AM   #2
TheCatman
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Location: Portland, OR
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The Jeep is currently back at the dealer. They had dislodged the O2 sensor while cleaning the engine, and they are replacing the broken fan control module. I should get it back tonight, at which point I need to find a good local mechanic to take a professional look at it and make sure everything is mechanically sound before I start working on it myself.

In the meantime, I am trying to decide what kind of setup I want to run for the top. I would love to swap the hard top for a soft top, but there's the storage issue for the hard top if I'm unable to sell or trade it. I would also consider keeping it to put on during the winter. There might be a possibility to store the top at my fiancee's coworker's house, but that's a long shot at best. Everything would be much easier if we had our own garage, but that isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future.

Any suggestions for the top situation? Keep in mind that I'm in Portland without covered parking, so unfortunately running topless all summer isn't an option

Last edited by TheCatman; 07-08-2014 at 10:20 AM..
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Unread 07-08-2014, 10:13 AM   #3
Mulvihill64
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Nice jeep! Looks like a real clean base for future mods
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Unread 07-08-2014, 11:31 AM   #4
TheCatman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mulvihill64 View Post
Nice jeep! Looks like a real clean base for future mods
Thanks! It's definitely clean and has been well maintained, at least as far as my untrained eyes can tell

I'll post some pictures of the engine and underside once I get it back from the dealer.

Last edited by TheCatman; 07-08-2014 at 04:31 PM..
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Unread 07-09-2014, 03:08 PM   #5
TheCatman
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Here are a few more pics of the Jeep (sorry for cell phone pics):

Very clean engine bay


Dana 30 up front


Dana 44 in the rear


Shot of the back end (the tire cover is my fiancee's, from the JK Rubi that she traded in)
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Unread 07-10-2014, 02:54 PM   #6
TheCatman
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Today's Jeep activities are extra exciting: taking care of the urine odor coming from the backseat and ordering a new washer fluid pump!

Otherwise, I got the Jeep back from the dealer, and they had replaced the fan control module as promised. Everything works great, the AC blows cold, and they even washed it for me!

I've been doing extensive research on anything and everything I can find. I think I've decided on the soft top I want (Softopper) and potentially the rear rack. I'll be updating the first post with links to selected hardware as I make such decisions.
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:00 PM   #7
Adam013085
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If I was in your situation I'd probably try to trade someone your hardtop for a softtop and cash. Sounds like you won't be going topless with a hardtop very often otherwise. Good lookin jeep too btw
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:04 PM   #8
TheCatman
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Originally Posted by Adam013085 View Post
If I was in your situation I'd probably try to trade someone your hardtop for a softtop and cash. Sounds like you won't be going topless with a hardtop very often otherwise. Good lookin jeep too btw
Thanks! That would definitely be the ideal scenario. Since I don't have a place to store the hardtop until it is sold, I will probably have to sell it right off the back of the Jeep. I'm thinking I'll list it as soon as I have the soft top in-hand and ready to install.
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:10 PM   #9
Prestrong
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCatman View Post
Here are a few more pics of the Jeep (sorry for cell phone pics):

Very clean engine bay


Dana 30 up front


Dana 44 in the rear


Shot of the back end (the tire cover is my fiancee's, from the JK Rubi that she traded in)
Is that your VW golf in the back?
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:15 PM   #10
TheCatman
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Originally Posted by Prestrong View Post
Is that your VW golf in the back?
Nah, that's just a random neighbor's. Coincidentally, a GTI would've been my second choice for a vehicle, and if the finances work out in the future, I would almost certainly get one as my DD. My fiancee traded her JK Rubi a few months ago for a '13 Beetle Turbo, which is an absolute blast to drive.
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:20 PM   #11
Sundowner
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I like the build plan you have; easy repairs first, basic upgrades next, and then a simple/solid build. If you stay with a 33x10.5 tire - that tire size is one of the secret weapons of the camping/expedition world, incidentally - and lock the front and rear differentials, you'll have a fantastic rig on your hands; don't forget to consider a brake upgrade, and remember that prep work is everything when you go to painting. Nice rig, so far.
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:27 PM   #12
TheCatman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sundowner View Post
I like the build plan you have; easy repairs first, basic upgrades next, and then a simple/solid build. If you stay with a 33x10.5 tire - that tire size is one of the secret weapons of the camping/expedition world, incidentally - and lock the front and rear differentials, you'll have a fantastic rig on your hands; don't forget to consider a brake upgrade, and remember that prep work is everything when you go to painting. Nice rig, so far.
Thanks, I really appreciate the feedback! I actually spent several hours yesterday scrolling through photos of TJs with 3-4" of total lift and 33's...I absolutely love the stance! It's fair to say that I'm leaning towards that kind of setup, but that's wayyy in the future so I have plenty of time to decide for sure.
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:37 PM   #13
Sundowner
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Originally Posted by TheCatman View Post
Thanks, I really appreciate the feedback! I actually spent several hours yesterday scrolling through photos of TJs with 3-4" of total lift and 33's...I absolutely love the stance! It's fair to say that I'm leaning towards that kind of setup, but that's wayyy in the future so I have plenty of time to decide for sure.
For reference, I just put a set of 33's on the LJ by way of a 3"/1.25" split, and they've got all the ground clearance they need for light expedition work. Massive uptravel is only useful - and this is my opinion - for technical trails and high speeds...and if you're staying away from those, your build can more easily stay simple and solid. Also, if you're swapping fenders, you'll likely get a touch more clearance with whatever you choose; most of the aftermarket options give you a bit more than the stock stuff offers.
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Unread 07-10-2014, 03:44 PM   #14
TheCatman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sundowner View Post
For reference, I just put a set of 33's on the LJ by way of a 3"/1.25" split, and they've got all the ground clearance they need for light expedition work. Massive uptravel is only useful - and this is my opinion - for technical trails and high speeds...and if you're staying away from those, your build can more easily stay simple and solid. Also, if you're swapping fenders, you'll likely get a touch more clearance with whatever you choose; most of the aftermarket options give you a bit more than the stock stuff offers.
You're pretty much reading my mind!
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Unread 07-11-2014, 10:51 AM   #15
TheCatman
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The thread title has been changed (thanks NaeKid!) to be a bit more interesting and descriptive of the overall build goal.

Nothing major in terms of Jeep activities is planned for today: continuing research on various parts and accessories. I decided last night to start searching for a decent set of used 29-31" AT or MT tires. The current Wildcats have quite a bit of life left in them, and they are labeled as "AT" tires, but I would hesitate to take them anywhere beyond a rough dirt road. I'd like to avoid buying a brand new set (for budgetary reasons), but if I'm unable to find anything good on the used market, I would consider getting a set of General Grabber AT2s in 265/70R15. They are the same tires I put on my XJ last December, and I was extremely happy with the way they performed.
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