Suddendeath's 1990 G-Wag Build -
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post #1 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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1989 FSJ Wagoneer 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: mays landing
Posts: 67
Suddendeath's 1990 G-Wag Build

EDIT:A bunch of my pics went derpy. I'll restore them as I can. Sorry guys!

Well I've been on Jeepforum for a while, posting in random threads and generally lurking all over the place. I finally decided to post up my junk, but I'll give everyone a little backstory first....

So let's take a little time-travel trip back to December of 2010, shall we? Before I owned my current jeep I drove a 1994 Ford Explorer, which was my first vehicle. She was a pain in the rear to work on, but I loved her and we went far. I built her up with a solid front axle swap, superflex coils, 5 speed manual swap, etc, etc.

Well one day driving home the small metal locking mechanism that locks the steering wheel straight broke loose and jammed my steering wheel straight ahead. I downshifted and braked, of course, and would've stopped in time.

Then the guy in the Honda CRV in the other lane swerved into me and my Explorer was no more. Ramped over the CRV and went airborn, landed on the roof in a ditch pinned next to a tree. I was fine, truck wasn't too bad, but at that time it was the sign for a fresh start. She had become so crazy that I couldn't reliably drive her, so the choice was made to part her out and start new.

Start new I did. I saved up some cash and shopped around for a cheap vehicle under $1000. I found this old Grand Wagoneer (Haha. Woody. Haha) on Autotrader for $950 at some old used car lot. I talked the guy down because the Jeep had some problems (Oh god, that was an understatement) and I nabbed it for a cool $600.

Here is a picture the day I brought it home. You can see my old Explorer in the background in the process of being parted out.

I'm only a 20 year old college student, and at the time I bought the Wagoneer I was unemployed and barely getting $80 a week off of unemployment ( I had been employed, thanks Circuit City going under). But it seemed like once I bought the old Wagon, a lot of stuff turned around real quick. Here's another picture of Betty, the name we've given her.

When I bought her I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. I had never worked on carburetors before, I had never even heard the term "Fusable link" before, and I sure as heck had never worked with anything vintage AMC before. But it was a starting point.

Now the story goes on from here.

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post #2 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 11:25 AM Thread Starter
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I'm a fan of lists, and the first thing I did when I bought the truck was start a list. There were things that needed doing, even with me having virtually no money to speak of.

1.Get a front driveshaft. It was winter, with lots of snow, and I wanted 4x4.
2.New Brakes/Tune Up/Oil Change.
3.Pull down the headliner to fix the roof rack.
4.Fix the roof rack.
5.Fix the Electrical System.
6.Fix the rust forming on the rear passenger quarter and the rear passenger rocker.
7.Fix the rusted out exhaust.

So I started working on the things that didn't cost any money

I headed over to a buddies house so we could start working on the Wagon and outlined two tasks that needed doing. One, was to rip down the headliner so I could fix the roof rack seals later on. Two was to clean up my rusty beat up tailgate, which was missing the interior carpet panel. I knew I didn't want to spend the money to buy a new carpet piece, so instead I grabbed some bedliner from when I bedlinered the floor of my Explorer (Free. I like free!) and we went to town.

Cleaning up the gate:

My buddy working on pulling the front trim pieces. There were pieces of mold dust and crap falling down, we put on dust masks too after this pic was taken. It was nasty.

Here's the finished product:

And here are a few interior shots (Note, these were taken way after this was done, but show what it looks like inside)

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post #3 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 11:39 AM Thread Starter
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1989 FSJ Wagoneer 
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I also added a radio to the truck, the same unit out of my Explorer. Thing has done nothing but good for me. I love the ipod controls and such too. I had to sort through a RATS NEST of wiring to install this radio. The DSPO had done a complete number on the electrical system, and around this time I also started sorting that all out.

I took the Wagoneer offroading for the first time and she did well, but I realized I was in terrible need of a carburetor rebuild. After about two hours on the trail she started idling horrible and kept trying to die. Here is a picture of my wagon next to a wagon of smiliar year and options during this offroad trip:

Throughout these weeks I had been saving up my pennies to buy an HEI distributor for the Wagoneer and a carburetor rebuild kit. I also grabbed a new set of door locks and keys (I didn't get the keys when I bought the truck, just the ignition key) and the new rubber seals/grommets to fix the roof rack.

Here is my HEI installed, its the Skipwhite unit off of Ebay. I have heard nothing but good things about him and this unit, and so far it has done me no wrong.

After installing the HEI and rebuilding the carburetor I refrained from doing any more modifications for a while, going through what I call the "break in phase." After a few weeks of driving to put the new parts through their paces, I decided to tackle a few more problems. One, was my wonky electrical. Two was the fact that ever since I installed the HEI, my idle was real high and the truck would sometimes ping during acceleration.

I re-clocked my distrbutor to create more room for adjusting the timing and also cleaned up my engine bay wiring. Here is a picture midway through, you can still see some hacker wiring all over the place. Note how the engine bay light is working in this pic and was dead in the last one, thanks DSPO wiring job

I took her offroading again the day after this, only to end up with more problems. My wiring finally gave up the smoke,

Leaving me dead in the middle of the trail with four guys helping me crash rewire my truck. We got her going again, thanks to two gentlemen who knew WAY too much about AMC electrical systems. Thanks Greenfire (IFSJA) and your buddy!

I spent a good two days after this trip re-doing my electrical, again, finding even more hacked up wiring thanks to the previous owner. All of my fusible links had been hacked out and bypassed by straight wire, creating a potentially dangerous un-fused system. I installed some blade style fuses in place of the fusible links, and its an ongoing project to fix all of the electrical hackery. So far, everything electrical works except the heater blower motor, and I'm fine with that until fall comes.
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post #4 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 11:53 AM Thread Starter
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1989 FSJ Wagoneer 
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Location: mays landing
Posts: 67
So this brings us up to about March of 2011, when I finally managed to nab a job! SCORE! Things turned great real quick, with some awesome craigslist and IFSJA classified finds too.

I nabbed a pair of flat top knuckles for an eventual crossover steering build for $50. Here is a picture while I was sandblasting the passenger side knuckle for painting:

I also grabbed this edelbrock 1406 4 barrel carb off craigslist for a whopping $40:

AND I grabbed this awesome 63 grill and headlights off of the IFSJA classified section for $100:

The carburetor and the steering knuckles were put aside for later builds, since they both needed other items to go on the Wagon. I took some time and put the Gladiator front end on my truck. It's not exactly a bolt on, but its not difficult, and damn does it look better than the cheap plastic grill I had.

Before: (Same picture as above)


It was around now that I also decided it was time to ditch the old woodgrain vinyl stickers on my truck. They were torn and were collecting moisture in some sections, trapping water between the stickers and trim and the paint, causing rust. I pulled them off the hard way:

And this is how she looked after the woodgrain was finally all off. There is some residual double-sided tape still on in this picture, I'm STILL trying to get all of it off.

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post #5 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 12:00 PM
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2007 WK 
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very nice... I dream of owning an FSJ and this ones a beauty.
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post #6 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 12:01 PM
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Looks Good But I would have left the waggy grill on, as well as the wood grain.
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post #7 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
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I went online to and placed an order for their Spring over axle/shackle flip kit and 8" extended brake lines and put it on layaway, since even though I had a job I was still relatively poor and didn't have $500 to just drop.

While I was paying off the SOA/SF and brakelines, I grabbed an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold from summit racing and all of the necessary install stuff. I was tired of my MC2150 and wanted to do a legit upgrade. My valve covers were also leaking oil, which caused a rather unpleasant oil burning smell. I arranged to have a nice 4 day weekend from work and set up a canopy in the event of rain (It was nice all 4 days) and I went to it. If you recognize the other guy in the picture, that's because hes the same dude with the goggles from my first post.

Picture, provided by the girlfriend:

Here is a picture the day we finished:

And here's a picture of afterwards, many months afterwards. Gotta love that bright orange paint:

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post #8 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 12:21 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the complements guys, more is on the way. I would've kept the woodgrain, but it was rusting out along the rivet holes that held the trim on. Plus, I have plans to repaint the truck and style her after an old B29 bomber. More on that in the coming posts.

A few months passed with the truck not getting any more modifications, once again, going through a good break in period. Last thing I want to do is rush from stock to built and then have something go wrong and not know which modification caused it.

I took her out on a few little trails just to have some fun, here she is on a local trail:

My BJ's offroad layaway order finally got paid off and it was time to serious plan lifting the Wagoneer. I sent my flat top knuckle out to get machined and purchased a high steer arm, spacer, and extended stud kit. Here she is waiting to get put on:

I scheduled a good weekend to head over to my buddy's house, who has the welder, and I grabbed my Air Force fabricator father to help me out. Like I said, I'm only a 20 year old college kid. I have some knowledge, but I sure dont have 30 years of aircraft maintenance experience. He's built stuff to do some of the craziest things. If I were to weld something critical like a spring perch, I'd worry about it. If pops welds it, I can be damn sure it's not comming off.

We took the weekend and put on my high steer knuckle and welded on my front SOA perches. The goal was to get the truck ready for the lift without actually taking her off of the road, as she's my DD.


I drove her like this for a few more weeks, once again not wanting to do 10 modifications and then wonder which one screwed the whole thing. I also grabbed $250 worth of brake parts from Autozone. I knew I needed new rotors, and I wasn't going to take chances trying to stop big mud tires with old brakes. All new bearings, seals, calipers, rotors, pads, lines, etc. At least I know I can stop, right?

I went on vacation to Virgina for a week, and then the day I came back I started working on the lift. First day was very productive, got the front end up SOA'd and called it for the day.

I had work the next day, so I took my families 1995 G20 Conversion van. It was a few days before I could wrench on the Wagoneer again, but when I did I hit it with a vegeance. Called in my friend and we went to town, finally getting her on her own suspension again. We threw some 35" rollers under her just for temporary. Yes I know in this picture I only have 3 rear lug nuts. Yes I know my driveshaft isn't in. "It's not done yet!" :

Here's some pics of the rear shackle flip bracketry. TT's Fabworks does some awesome stuff for these Wagoneers!

Due to my crossover steering, my drag link was now too short to work. I needed a longer drag link, or a longer adjusting collar, to get the truck going again. I called up WFO Fab after getting some crazy prices from local shops and $60 later a welded adjusting collar was shipped out. This way I can use any Wagoneer parts store drag link, which was part of the objective of my build. I dont want to keep a notebook of all the trucks I grabbed parts from in order to do normal maintenance.

I ended up using my stock front spring plates, but in order to make them work in the new SOA configuration they had to obviously be flipped over. This put the sway bar mounting stud towards the back of the truck, which was no good. As you can see in the picture we welded up new front studs for the swaybar to mount to and used the rearward stud as the lower shock mount. This setup has worked GREAT so far. My shocks are normal old Napa Response shocks, part numbers below. The ride is great, and I'd much rather pay $100 for all four shocks than have to spend high $$ on some offroad brand shocks.

rear shocks 94265

front shocks 94080

I grabbed some nice 33x12.50x15's off of Craigslist for $100 for all 5, 4 have 40-50% tread and one is around 10-20% but it's the spare so I dont worry too much. Here is a picture of what my jeep looks like now, with the new tires fresh after getting a bath:

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post #9 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 12:31 PM
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The Gladiator grill is a nice touch, Goo Gone beats tape:
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post #10 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 12:33 PM Thread Starter
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So, this is where we are now:

Things already done...

GM-Style HEI Ignition/Distributor, Accell Wires, New Spark Plugs gapped to .55
Carburetor Rebuilt
Engine Electrical fixed...sorta
New Air Cleaner, cause it's cool looking.
Rhino/Gladiator Grill Swap, cause nobody likes the pignose
Removed the wood
Fixed Inside Electrical
Front Windshield Washer Pump
Edelbrock 2131 Intake Manifold
Edelbrock 1406 600CFM 4 Barrell Carburetor
New Valve Cover gaskets/Painted valve covers. Because I could.
Spring Over Axle/Shackle Flip Kit (7" Lift)
Crossover Steering
Extended Brake Lines (for lift)
Longer Shocks (for lift)
Mastercraft Courser M/Ts 33x12.50's.
CB Mount
CB Antenna Mount
Front Swaybar Mount
Longer Driveshafts

Things that still need doing...

Regear to 4.10
Rear locker
Tire Carrier/Bumper
Front winch bumper
Tow Points
Prep for paint
Even more I can't think of yet
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post #11 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 12:35 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by NEastUnlmtd View Post
The Gladiator grill is a nice touch, Goo Gone beats tape:
I tried Goo Gone, I even let it soak into the tape. It helped a little, as you can see in my more recent pictures. But some of the residue is still there and honestly I'm betting that the only way I'm getting it off is to sand the damn paint off. I'm planning on stripping her to bare metal for rust repair/body work and eventual paint, but she has to last through the winter with her current blue paint.

Thanks though, maybe I should give it another whirl now that it's warm out? Hmm...
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post #12 of 28 Old 08-08-2011, 01:04 PM
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Simply AWESOME! Keep this going. We'll be watching!

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post #13 of 28 Old 08-11-2011, 08:41 PM Thread Starter
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Well didn't have money or time to do anything increadibly amazing to the Wagoneer this week. Did some maintenance, replacing sway bar bushings which were shot. No pictures of that, but man does it ride a bunch better. Have a tight swaybar setup really helps on-road handling with my soft, saggy waggy springs.

Also managed to install my new steering stabilizer. When I did my front SOA, the stock bracketry just wouldn't work. The steering stabilizer bracket on the axle actually is a plate that gets bolted under the spring pack, and the spring pack yeah.

After some creative thinking I managed to make it work in the new SOA configuration, pics or it didn't happen:

Yes I know my track bar is disconnected. I need to finish taking that thing off, but haven't had the time or energy to play with the bolt on the frame. I'll get that sucker sooner or later though, tired of it whacking into the axle side bracket

Still waiting on my front driveshaft from the driveshaft shop. Should be done anyday now, and after next weekend I'll finally have some action shots courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Full Size Jeep Club's 2011 Jeep-In!

1990 Grand Wagoneer.

SOA/SF. 33 MTs, D44 4.10 F/R Locked Rear, Eddie Intake, Holley TA 670, HEI, OBA, 12k Winch, Beefy Bumpers F/R.
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post #14 of 28 Old 08-12-2011, 05:57 PM
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Looks good, I've been following over on IFSJA as well.


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post #15 of 28 Old 09-24-2011, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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(This is many updates from IFSJA copied together)

Update Time!

I survived the MAFSJ Jeep In! It was a wonderful time, serious thanks goes out to Pineymike and Bill Houston who worked very hard organizing that event. It was AWESOME guys!

The Wag did well. She didn't give me one issue running/drivetrain wise over the course of the whole weekend. Always idled smooth, had good power, etc.

I realized that the PO of my truck scrapped the differential vent hoses only after getting my diffs filled with water, so Saturday night at the campsite I had to drain and refill my diffs. Not fun. Carmen from sent me a brand new set of diff vents and hoses, for free! Great guy!

I nabbed some cool prizes from the raffle, scored an awesome center console courtesy of, along with window vents, new window wipes, a sweet 8 ball shifter knob (coolest part ) and some totally over-complicated armored floormats. Not to mention the 3 cases of liquid wrench!

Managed to talk with pineymike some about a possible regear on my truck, so that will probably be the next big thing happening on my Wagon. Other plans are dual battery setup with an isolator to help run a future winch/accessories, a complete accessory fuse system, and some custom fabbed bumpers. After the Jeep-In and the complete lack of solid tow points on my truck, the bumper project will be stepped up in priority.

After the jeep-in I was driving down the street when my front driveshaft's CV decided to lock up. How did I notice this? Well, the U joints catastrophically failed and the shaft went up and dented my floor, then ejected itself from the bottom of my truck.

Fun, right? Ultimate anti-tailgating device.

So I picked up a CV rebuild kit, complete with a new centering yoke and three U joints for just about $60. This way I know that my front shaft will be all nice and new. Pics and a possible walkthrough will follow.

I also nabbed the 12,000LB Harbor Freight winch and a winch plate. Pics will follow of the winch, for now heres one of the winch plate courtesy of FORTECH in Florida. It is a nice unit and was $50 shipped to my door. My plan is to use 1/4" plate to extend the frame rails just enough to mount this winch plate on top. I will then cut the front bumper to properly conform to the winch mount and re-mount the front bumper on the 1/4" plate brackets. This way I have a well mounted winch without a high-dollar winch bumper. Pics of the mount and my drawings are below.

Oh, and another thing.

I managed to nab a 670CFM Holley Truck Avenger for a cool $125. One year old, gauranteed to be in 100% working condition. I already have it on the truck and tuned, man, she runs well now. And I have a working choke and a not broken carburetor stud hole! Woo!

More on my front winch mount...

At work I'm going to nab as many of the huge cardboard boxes as I can. That way I can mock up the whole thing in cardboard before I ever cut the first piece of metal.

Winch mount and steel pics:

Blueprints: (At least I can understand them, right?)

The idea is to use the pieces of 1/4"x6"x4" angle steel to 'extend' the front frame rails about 6". These angle steel brackets will bolt to the stock frame to front bumper holes use grade 8 fasteners. The 1/4"x3'x6" steel plate will run between the two brackets, and the winch mount will bolt to the plate. The stock bumper will then bolt to the angle steel brackets, having been moved forward about 4-5" from stock. I'll have to cut a chunk out of the stock bumper to get it to sit as far back as possible, but it should look relatively stock and provide a good winch mount.

Also thinking about cutting holes in the stock front bumper to mount tow hooks on my angle steel brackets, to provide front tow points.

We'll see how things start to come together in the next few days!

Keep truckin' people.

1990 Grand Wagoneer.

SOA/SF. 33 MTs, D44 4.10 F/R Locked Rear, Eddie Intake, Holley TA 670, HEI, OBA, 12k Winch, Beefy Bumpers F/R.
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