I wanted to document my slow buildup on my 98 TJ, before I get started on the details though I need to document how I got here.
Prior to 2006 I bled Ford blue, at that time I had a 96 F150 that I had purchased when it was fairly new. It had just been demoted to third vehicle status and was being preserved for my fifteen year old son who would get his drivers license later that year. He pretty much hated the truck, plus it was a manual and trying to learn both wasn't going well.
While driving past a local GM dealership I saw a used TJ and thought it would be a safe first vehicle. When I asked him the grin on his face told me he liked the idea. We didn't purchase that TJ but found a 99 TJ Sport 4.0 Auto that my F150 was traded in on. Before you say that he should have bought his own I need to let you know I was following family tradition. My Dad bought my first car just as his Dad did, after that you are on your own.
So how does this get to my 98 TJ? The 99 was bought before my son had his Drivers License so it was used by my wife and I for that summer. When it was bought we told our son "The hardtop will rarely come off, the doors will not come off, it will not go off road......" Well, when the weather got warm the hardtop came off and the doors soon followed. We enjoyed driving it so much that when he got his license we suffered withdrawal the next summer as he wanted to drive it!
I should put another short aside in here and let everyone know how much grief I got from my family and friends (except my Dad
), friends, coworkers and strangers asking why I would put a new driver in a Jeep! Before the Jeep was purchased I had found JF and saw pictures of Jeeps that had been in accidents and reports from the owners of how they faired. I can still say that the Jeep has been a very safe first vehicle and has held up remarkably well.
Back to the topic, after he got his license I saw a link for Jeep Jamboree USA
and that an event was being held at Land Between the Lakes near us.
Long story short we made a family trip out of it and loved it. All of us took turns driving, here is a pic of my wife in the 99 during that first trip.
At the end of the trail on the last day the trail guide said "Mom drives up this last hill, Trail Guide orders". He knew it was a farily simple climb but hadn't taken the rain that had been falling into account. His plan was to send her up the bypass but it was to slick so she had to take the hard line. She made it up the hill and if there would have been a Jeep dealership at the top of the hill our second Jeep would have been purchased a lot sooner.
The search was on, the idea for "her Jeep", as I like to tell her when it needs something, was to find an inexpensive TJ that we didn't mind taking out on the trails. At that point TJ's were hard to find but shortly after returning from our second Jambore at French Lick IN in October of 2007 I found the 98 on Craigslist. I had been looking for a 4.0 Auto but none were in the price range I was looking for. This one that had been posted for a while and was about 100 miles away from me. The owner was anxious to sell and started slashing the price for a worn top, broken stereo, bald tires, etc. After seeing the Jeep and realizing those items were easily fixed we officially purchased the "Cheap Jeep".
I call it the "Cheap Jeep" for two reasons, first it is a 1998 TJ SE, which means it has the 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 5 Speed Manual, no air conditioning, half doors, basically it was a cheap Jeep. Second, I have always been one to always buy new high dollar parts, the original goal and something I still try to follow was to buy most of the parts from Craigslist or other reselling sites.
So much for the intro, I will try and be as chronologically correct in my upgrades as I can. I haven't done a lot but it has been used well both on and off road.