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Unread 03-13-2015, 03:47 PM   #1
rmaytee
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2004 LJ Wrangler 
 
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LJ on a budget

After 3 seasons of great wheeling and mild building on my 99 XJ, I had the chance to score on a deal I could not refuse on a 2004 TJ Unlimited. I bought it with high miles, but it runs great now, and with he price I got it, I could replace the motor and still be WAY ahead. I loved the Cherokee's low center of gravity and great flex. Our family frequents Moab about 4 times a year. Now that my oldest son has an XJ of his own, it's finally practical for me to use a 4-seater rig for my wife, 2 other kids and me. A JK is just too far over my budget. The XJ was very practical and cheap to work on and fix-up, but I kept tweaking the unibody so bad it was starting to get pretty tough to open up the hatch or any of the doors. Plus I have always dreamed of a CJ 6, and ever since the LJ came out - that was my true wish for a reliable wheeler with a great wheelbase. I got a good offer for the XJ so I took it.





Here's the LJ when I bought it. I should take some interior photos. That's where she really shines.













My goal with this is to keep it affordable. I don't have much expendable income to spend on upgrades, but we love wheeling. It will be a slow, affordable build that I can hopefully gradually build up without my wife noticing the bank account. Overall goals will be 37's geared somewhere over 4.88, but I won;t go too crazy, because for now, it is my DD. I won't be running 37's for a couple years, because I have no funds to regear. I feel okay running up to 35's with the stock 3.73, although it is obviously pretty sluggish at certain speeds.

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Unread 03-13-2015, 04:30 PM   #2
rmaytee
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For the first 1-2 seasons of wheeling, I planned on running with 35's, but I found a crazy deal on some 33's for $450 that are almost brand new with these funny looking 10" wheels. The tires are almost brand new!







I instantly took it to the tire shop to get them swapped onto the stock rims. I sold the rocker rims to some dude who probably wanted them for his tranz am or something for $150. I also sold the spare that came with the 33's which was some random FPepBoys brand for another $75. So I'm only into these tires for $225 for all 4!







At least they aren't sticking out so far, but I had to do something because I was sitting so low, I would rub pulling in my driveway, so I added some pucks up front.





While I was under there, I added some bars and cotter pins I got at the hardware store for my quick disconnects. Ran me about $18 including washers.


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Unread 03-13-2015, 04:37 PM   #3
rmaytee
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Next set of budget modifications was to trim the front bumpers and the fender flares. And my son plastic-dipped my headlight bezels for me. I hate chrome. At this point I also added some 2" BDS coils int he front, and 2" pucks in the rear. I left the 2" pucks in the front, and plan on leaving it that way, for a while at least.

















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Unread 03-13-2015, 04:41 PM   #4
rmaytee
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I took it up the hills in my neighborhood to do some testing to see where I rub before our April trip to Moab, and it looks like I'll need about 1 more inch of bump stop to clear 35's. When I move to 37's, I will probably just do a 1" body lift. But I'm in no hurry, I'll just take the great deals as I find them.











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Unread 03-13-2015, 04:48 PM   #5
rmaytee
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Last week I pulled the rear pucks and added some Crown Vic springs in the rear. It was pretty straight forward. Cost me about $40 at the junk yard. They ride fine, but I need to get new shocks stat! I am topping out on most bumps down the road. Those will be next, hopefully before Moab, because these stock shocks are severely limiting my droop. Here is how it sits now, netting 3.5" in the front and 3" in the rear.





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Unread 03-13-2015, 05:00 PM   #6
reichard117
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Pretty sweet cherokee you had! Definitely following to see where you take this LJ. After owning a TJ, XJ, and JK.. I want an LJ more than any of them. Nice find on the KM2's btw!
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Unread 03-21-2015, 01:28 AM   #7
rmaytee
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I decided I couldn't afford the shocks I want right now, so I snagged some stock JK shocks from a local dude for $30 front & rear. They are about 3" longer than the stock TJ shocks, so I figured that would do. I also picked up some TeraFlex bar pin eliminators for the front, so that will give me another inch or so of extension in the front. One of the shocks was an absolute beast to get off. I got about 1 turn out of the nut before I got really frustrated and just pulled out the grinder.

Overall, I'm very happy with the feel of the JK shocks. Rides nice and smooth and it was an affordable option. We'll see how they do off road in the next week or 2.





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Unread 03-21-2015, 07:34 PM   #8
rmaytee
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I just scored these stock Rubicon rocker guards. I'd prefer actual sliders, but for $25 these will do just fine.
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Unread 03-27-2015, 08:43 PM   #9
rmaytee
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We have had such great weather, I couldn't resist pulling the top off for the first time. Now to figure out a good hoist system for the top in my garage.

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Unread 04-16-2015, 07:48 AM   #10
rmaytee
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I replaced the giant broken fog lights with LED spotlights.

We also had our first trip to Moab with the new LJ. I didn't do any thing really extreme but I was impressed with how well it handled. First day was pretty mild on elephant hill, then we spent the second day on steel bender.



























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Unread 04-16-2015, 08:22 AM   #11
jeep50
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Good Work. Sweet pics. Killer Jeep!
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Unread 04-16-2015, 08:26 AM   #12
j_bydesign
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Very nice... I am rolling an '05 TJ as a DD... I still have my '04TJ to do silly things with... looks like a very solid ride!
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Unread 04-18-2015, 04:31 PM   #13
rmaytee
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A guy offered me $850 for my tires and wheels, and there was a brand new set of 35" Maxxis Bighorns all 5 mounted on these random alloys that I picked up for $750. They stick out a little too much for my taste. If I find a good deal on some rims with more bs, I'll pick them up, but I'm in no hurry. The stance doesn't bug me that much.










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Unread 04-18-2015, 04:35 PM   #14
rmaytee
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I used the extra $100 from the tire swap and ran over to Teraflex and picked up a 1" body lift to give me the same clearance under my fenders. This should be the top end of my lifting. I'd like to keep it low.



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Unread 04-18-2015, 05:04 PM   #15
98TJcomeonuh
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LJ looks great, at first glance I thought those were trail grapplers. The stance doesn't look bad to me.
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