I've been a Mopar guy since I was old enough to drive, and I've built a few Dusters in my day, from mild smallblocks to blown big inch Hemi's. After selling my last Duster a few years ago, I got the itch to build something again, but I wanted to venture out and build some different this time. I've always wanted an off-road capable vehicle, but never owned one. I've always wanted a convertible, but never owned one. The Jeep Wrangler covered both wants, so I started looking for an inexpensive Wrangler that I could tear it down and rebuild it to suit my taste. One year ago, I found this 1989 with a 2.5L and 5 speed on ebay just 150 miles away from me, and the guy even offered to deliver it for me. So, I bought it, and here she is. Not very impressive, but when its done, you won't recognize it as the same Jeep.
The name of my Jeep, Magnum Force, was inspired by the engine, which has magnum heads. I like Clint Eastwood movies, so that may have played some role in choosing the name as well.
I began this build exactly one year ago, so let me get you caught up with pictures and words, starting at the beginning.
My YJ/CJ V8 Magnum Build: http://jeepforum.com/forum/f22/magnum-force-mopar-mans-build-1412306/
The basic game plan for this street/trail rig is to tear it down to the bare frame, and go from there. The drivetrain changes will go like this:
Engine: The 2.5L will be replaced by a Dodge 318 engine that will be bored and stroked to 390 cubic inches. I'm not stroking it to gain more peak horsepower, but to build more useable torque below 4,000 rpm.
Transmission: The 5 speed will be replaced with a rebuilt, full manual 727 Torqueflite.
Transfer case: I'll keep the recently rebuilt NP231, but beef it up with a wide chain kit, 6 pinion planetary, and JB Conversions SS SYE.
Axles: The stock axles will be replaced with Dana 44 Wagoneer axles. The axles will be completely rebuilt with aftermarket axles, gears, and lockers.
Suspension & Steering: SOA with RE 1.5" springs and Bilstein shocks. High steer knuckles with 1 ton TRE's
I put about 5 miles on her, and backed her into the garage to begin the tear down. This Jeep spent all of its life in Long Island, NY, and it has the rust and rot to prove it, especially on the back end of the frame.
Most of the bolts have been a fight for me. Despite this, I'm making progress.
The Jeep was originally black, but somewhere in its life someone did a poor job repainting orange.
Meanwhile, I went searching for axles. I found an ad on craigslist for a 1986 Grand Wagoneer that was getting parted out. I called to see if they still had the axles, and they did. Axles were in great shape. I got both axles for $250, which I thought was a good deal.
Here is a pic of the old girl. After we pulled the axles, she was headed straight to the scrap heap. Kinda sad.
On the same day, I drove to another location to look at a 727 Torqueflite 4X4 trans that I found on craigslist. The seller wouldn't budge at all on the $250 price. They are very hard to find in Florida, so I had to fork over the $250.
Nine of the 11 body bolts broke loose with a little help from PB Blaster. The other two wouldn't budge, and eventually snapped off.
After two weeks of work during the evenings, the tub is finally off, along with the rear axle.
Now, I can really survey the rot damage.
Torn down to the bare frame. Found lots of rot areas in the rear section of the frame. The front two-thirds is solid, though.
My plan is to cut off the entire rear section, from just behind the leaf spring frame mounts back.
Made some money selling off the engine, trans,axles, gas tank, and other bits that I wasn't going to reuse.
With more holes than I care to patch, and too much heavy rust in general, I made the decision to cut off the back part of the frame, and rebuild a new section out of 4" x 2-1/2" x 1/8" wall rectangular steel.
The rest of the frame was sent to a sandblasting shop to get completely blasted clean, and completely blast clean they did! There wasn't a speck of rust or paint or anything. Just clean metal. They even blasted as far into the frame rails as they could see. When I brought it home, I sprayed it down with Ospho, which is a phoshoric acid solution that etches the metal and provides corrosion protection. Made the frame look ugly, but the corrosion protection was what i was looking for, because I knew I wouldn't be painting it for a long time.
Have you considered doing a wheelbase stretch? Would be easy to do using some XJ cherokee leaf springs in the rear, especially since you are rebuilding the back half of the frame.
Stretching the wheelbase wasn't part of the plan. I thought about it, but for what I was going to do with the Jeep, I didn't feel it was necessary. But, you're right, that would have been a great time to stretch it.