My LJ Thread - A MrBlaine Spec'ed LJ Build for Daily Driving and Weekend Adventure - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 69 Old 09-24-2017, 06:48 PM Thread Starter
ObiWanWebWheelr
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My LJ Thread - A MrBlaine Spec'ed LJ Build for Daily Driving and Weekend Adventure

Hello JeepForum,

I'm new here and wanted to share my LJ build. This thread is going to end up as a long term log of the LJ's lifetime as a daily driver/weekend warrior but in the meantime I'll share a little about how I ended up here. As with most people on JeepForum I've been around the block a few times with Jeep projects and have personally experienced the good, bad, and ugly that comes with them. I've had great times and wheeled the Rubicon, Moab, and Hammers along with easier exploration stuff in between over the years. I've also seen a lot of hard work and dollars go down the drain when parts and builds didn't work out as planned. Over a nearly 4 year period I worked as a designer and responsible engineer in the Jeep aftermarket having created axle assemblies, pumpkin castings, diff covers, end forgings, brackets and ball joints. It was a dream job for a period of time and I got to meet a lot of people in the industry while attending events like SEMA and EJS. One of the people I was lucky enough to meet is MrBlaine who is a stand up guy and regular here at JeepForum.

I learned a lot working in the industry. Once you are on the inside of any industry it is a little easier to see how much of it is marketing and which products actually make the rubber meet the road. The same is true of the aerospace industry where I currently work, everything has a hype cycle and it is ultimately up to the customer to figure out which products and partners actually have legs to stand on. While I was working in the industry I built up my 2000 TJ with 60s, Atlas, a long arm kit, 37s, and some King coilovers. It got me around in the rocks and it drove well enough on the street for what I imagined a Jeep could do.

After I left the jeep industry about 7 years ago I also started to fall behind on the maintenance of the TJ. It's hard to keep up living here in SoCal when you don't have access to a fully stocked axle production shop and you are living in a small apartment. In the following years the TJ's health started going downhill. The long arm kit was really taking a beating, it ended up being a weak link... suspensions are a hard thing to get right. I know the person who designed the kit and he is a talented and well respected engineer having created other products in the market which have legendary status. As I mentioned suspensions are a hard thing to get right, small factors upset a difficult balance of arm placement and interlinked relationships. It isn't obvious and you wouldn't "guess" it right on your first custom long arm build. Believe me, I've created one myself from scratch having done everything from CAD design to welding and cutting under the jeep to get in on. I wouldn't do it again to be honest.

The final death knell for the TJ was a trip to Ocotillo Wells in the Anza Borrego desert here in SoCal. It took me a while to get it but I can say for a fact I love the desert. It is a beautiful and punishing place all in one go. There is an offroad park at Ocotillo Wells with a bunch of competition style man made challenges. I managed to break the rear driveshaft, bend a couple control arms, and destroyed the driver hard door when I laid it on its side in a notch. I drove it out there so I ended up putting the Atlas in front wheel drive and drove it out a ways. I found a comfortable spot away from the off road park off of the highway and called AAA for a tow. I've got the double throwdown AAA membership and they will tow you for a very long distance! Good thing as it took most of a day to get home waiting for a flat bed from El Centro to show up. When I got it home I fixed it up just enough to take it out on a couple easy hunting trips at the Tajon Ranch here in SoCal, even shot a pig and used the jeep to drag it out. After that the Jeep needed more maintenance than I could handle and I was distracted with other sports. I ended up letting her sit for long enough to get a little rotten.

At some point while I was living in a hotel room in Chicago for work I decided the TJ needed to be restored and operational again. Who knows, the snow makes people crazy. Anyway, I started emailing around and doing some research to see what interesting products had emerged in the last number of years. Despite being limited by my own human state of existence and a preoccupation with shiny metal parts I've managed to learn a few things. I knew I was going to do it different this time and focus on off the shelf solutions which could create a strong combination. I'll invent a new term here and call it the "total performance envelope". The goal of any builder who values efficient use of time and money should be to maximize the total performance envelope, TPE, while minimizing dollars and frustration spent getting to your goal. Another interesting twist is you get to define the purpose of the Jeep and thus how to measure the TPE. If you want to build a 1/4 mile drag race jeep you probably don't need a Dana 60 front axle and 40" tires because your TPE is very narrow and specific. However, for most of us the TPE is much larger, we want excellent street handling, a long service life, and the ability to hit the rocks and trails. When you take a broad measure of TPE you've got to start being picky about the build plan and parts combination. I want to chase a sports sedan down mountain roads and run the Rubicon when I get to the end of the pavement... then drive home.

I had been saving money for the Green TJ for a little while before I got really serious about fixing it. With my current living situation I'm not able to take on a real big project, even doing a break job or oil change is a bit uncomfortable. Real estate in SoCal is spendy and I'm still a renter trying to save a few bucks. So when I did get serious there was really only one choice with respect to who I wanted to work on it. You see there are lots of shops and guys who are able to wrench on a Jeep but only a few people who really deal in engineering facts and extensive personal testing. Even fewer of those guys are persistent and driven enough to trust with your rig. Naturally I ended up making contact with MrBlaine and was lucky enough to learn about the evolution of his mid-arm geometry from KOH winning race LJ to a consumer kit from Savvy offroad which would be coming online for the mass market. Next thing I knew AAA was towing my TJ out to MrBlaine's.

Since my days in the industry I've shifted towards doing more back country exploration and I've become a veteran of many a crazy backpacking and bike-packing trips like the full John Muir Trail start to finish and several Stagecoach 400 mountain bike rides. 400 as in nearly 400 miles long and self supported living off your mountain bike crossing mountains and desert. I really wanted the Green TJ to be a sweet driver I could use to explore remote parts of California where they don't publish guidebooks and route maps. I wanted to blast down freeways and dirt roads then push through the gnar to find remote mines, cabins, historical sites, and old Indian villages. You know the type of stuff you hear about being out there in the desert but nobody will really say they know where it is or have been there. Have a trip down to Google looking for the Beveridge Mine, it won't be easy to get your own two feet down to the stamp mill site, I promise you.

The problem was the TJ had already become one of those compromise machines you see running around on 37" tires. That tire size really demands a Dana 60 axle for reliability but it suffers from being the smallest size tire you would want to run with those 60s. The green TJ had also become a highline fender rig with no type of flare to block sand and mud from flying around. It is a fair weather California rock crawler and wouldn't handle some of the climate areas I've been planning to explore. There is a funny joke in the movie Tropic Thunder about going "full retard", you never go full retard. I decided forcing the green TJ to become a sweet expedition rig with 35s didn't make much sense while running Dana 60s and an Atlas 4-speed.

However, I did choose to have MrBlaine rebuild the suspension with his mid-arm kit. I will never forget the day I took it for a test ride with the new kit and some fresh Fox 2.0 coilovers. The smile was hard to wipe off, I can't really tell you how well it handles... you'll have to just trust me. The green TJ, with crap tires and bent up unbalanced steel wheels drove circles around any Jeep I had personally driven. I've spent a fair amount of time in a Mustang on road racing tracks like Willow Springs and I'll tell you the Green TJ F**KING RIPS. It has MrBlaine's brake kit up front and stops great too! Overall I was pretty amazed and the rig doesn't have enough power to out drive the chassis and brakes on the street. I was going into turns super hot and breaking last minute, pushing through the apex and right back on the gas. Seriously, my own money here and those are the best dollars I've ever spent on a rig since I started in about 2001. I even drove it back to back on hot laps comparing it against my Dad's brand new JK Rubicon. The TJ on 60s and 37s could hold it's own against the JK, if only the TJ had more power!

That leads into the LJ build which will be documented here. After realizing I was at a cross roads with the green TJ I elected to have it live with my Dad in NorCal. It is getting fixed up but won't be the daily driver and overland exploration rig of my dreams. Instead it will be a fun fair weather rock crawler and I can run Fordyce and the Rubicon with my Dad using it. He has a truck and trailer so it will be a good situation. That left me wondering what to do for a daily driver and exploration rig. Naturally I sold my F350 dually and decided to double down on a daily driver LJ build with MrBlaine.

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post #2 of 69 Old 09-24-2017, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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This is how the LJ project starts... I spent a couple few weeks looking around for a LJ Rubicon which is a fairly rare vehicle. I extended my search nationwide looking for an inexpensive starting point. I needed to have a reasonable number of miles, hardtop, and an automatic transmission. I was hoping for a color I could love or black, because black is kinda easier to paint considering the firewall and interior can be left black while changing the outside.

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post #3 of 69 Old 09-24-2017, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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She looks pretty good in the pictures, but for $14,995 I wasn't getting a pristine factory LJ rubi. I expected some issues and my primary hope was finding one without rust. I hate rust and fortunately this one from Mississippi showed up full of mud underneath but not a spot of rust in sight. It also came with dented up hood, cowl, and tailgate. The paint is pretty much hammered and the suspension kit installed was totally junk. I spent a few hours driving it as one day and the handling wasn't great. It has fixed length arms with stock uppers and a t-case skid drop. It was a real mixed bag of poop!

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post #4 of 69 Old 09-26-2017, 08:10 AM
casper36092
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man I was looking for some inspiration and you just got started. get busy and good luck
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post #5 of 69 Old 09-26-2017, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by casper36092 View Post
man I was looking for some inspiration and you just got started. get busy and good luck
Maybe this will help.

Before



After



We have the pressure washer staged near the rig and every time we find any mud, we wash it off and out. Then we scuff and paint the frame after we are done welding. We are leaving the exhaust, Under Armor, and cross member off until all of the inside of the frame is cleaned, scuffed, and painted.

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post #6 of 69 Old 09-26-2017, 09:19 PM
Kalten
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Mr Blaine,
Since you appear to be directly involved this build perhaps you could note the differences in the pictures for those of us that may not see all of the minor changes. I noticed the spring perch relocation and what I am guessing is the mid-length mounts installed. Is there more that I have missed? I wish to learn and perhaps down the road I'll do the mid-length suspension set-up or at least learn where I can make improvements to what I currently have.

06 LJ Auto, 4" SL, Synergy Adj CA & Trackbar, 33x10.5 AT KO,
231 w/(WC,2lo,6pinion & JB-C SSYE)
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post #7 of 69 Old 09-26-2017, 09:33 PM
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been 5-6 yrs..im back,and subscribed, cant wait

JACK OF ALL TRADES,,,MASTER OF NONE

fla cracker head born and bred
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post #8 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 03:03 AM
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Following the build
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post #9 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 06:41 AM
mrblaine
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Originally Posted by Kalten View Post
Mr Blaine,
Since you appear to be directly involved this build perhaps you could note the differences in the pictures for those of us that may not see all of the minor changes. I noticed the spring perch relocation and what I am guessing is the mid-length mounts installed. Is there more that I have missed? I wish to learn and perhaps down the road I'll do the mid-length suspension set-up or at least learn where I can make improvements to what I currently have.
Normally we would just paint the areas where the work was done. This rig is going to the PNW where there is more wet and mud so we are cleaning all the mud off as we find it, pressure washing in and outside of all open bits we can get the nozzle into and then scuffing the frame to get the light dirt film off that remains. After that, we are putting several coats of Krylon Semi-flat black on everything.

We have left the exhaust off so we can access the inside of the frame on the passenger side so it can be cleaned and painted.

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post #10 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 07:43 AM
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Looking forward to this one! Subscribed.
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post #11 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 10:23 AM Thread Starter
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As Blaine mentioned the mud packed in under the rig was pretty healthy as it was previously owned in Mississippi. The good news is we have yet to find rust anywhere on the Jeep despite the mud. Based on the condition of the vehicle I think somebody owned it on a ranch or used it as a hunting vehicle. I've got a friend from a previous job who moved out west from the Florida panhandle Alabama area. Hunting is a right of passage for men in the deep south so I'm wondering if this LJ was used for the same. It kinda looks like Dad bought it used it to get around during hunting season which generally falls into the time of year where you would have mud and muck to contend with. We didn't see a single sign of rock rash under the bottom or on the axles so it looks to have been purely used in the mud. Perhaps it was handed down to somebody's 18 year old man-child who decided he didn't care about the body panels... it looks like somebody stood on the hood and cowl a few times hooking up a winch line to get it out of the mud to me. Either way it was available and a reasonable starting point to get this project going.

I sold my F350 ahead of a relocation to the Pacific Northwest so this LJ is going to be a true daily driver. I've been in SoCal for 10+ years now and have been getting tired of the traffic and cost of housing. An opportunity I couldn't turn down came up and sure enough we are going to see if the sunny weather is worth the pound of flesh paid in traffic and urban sprawl. In addition to this mysterious thing I hear about called weather and seasons the PNW also has a different flavor to the way they build roads. Here in SoCal you can drive around a big old truck because we have so many large roads which are 2 lanes in each direction and everything is nice and flat. I've been visiting the PNW pretty often and decided the F350 DRW would be too big to get around easily up there.

With respect to the build things are going full tilt at the moment. The beginning of the project started with some miscellaneous work to sort a few things out with the computer. The stock computer must have been causing some issues, which I've heard is a problem with the late model TJs, so the owner looks to have swapped it out for a re-manufactured computer. When they did the swap they put in a regular TJ 4.0 auto computer and not one configured for the Rubicon package. That means the locker switch doesn't work like the factory which is hopefully something we can fix. Blaine was also able to get a miserable problem with a factory recall and the wiring sorted out it could be smogged. There was some noise coming from one of the circuits in the wiring which would trip up the computer and keep the monitor on and it couldn't be smogged. As always Blaine sorted it out and was able to get the smog done which was a big win.

At the moment the Jeep is in full hover craft mode up on jack stands with the suspension having been removed.









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post #12 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 10:35 AM Thread Starter
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Blaine is currently working on installing the Mid Arm kit with the factory D44 Rubi axles as you can see from the pictures above. The shocks are getting the outboard job in the rear along with the spring perch relocation. Up front the idea is pretty much the same. You can see the factory front shock tower being plasma torched off of the frame in the pictures above. I've got Fox 2.0 remote res shocks for this build. The front will run an 11" shock and the rear a 12" shock. The spring of choice is the Currie 4" as it is really the best one to work with.
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post #13 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 12:37 PM
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I'm in PNW also, north of SEA. I would love to take a ride in your LJ when you get it rolling as I'm looking at improving my suspension to handle logging road exploration better. Stoked to see your build!
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post #14 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by b00mb00m View Post
I'm in PNW also, north of SEA. I would love to take a ride in your LJ when you get it rolling as I'm looking at improving my suspension to handle logging road exploration better. Stoked to see your build!
OP, where in the PNW are you moving to. I live in Corvallis, Oregon, just south of Salem. Always looking for more Jeep people up around here.

And b00mb00m, if you're ever down south and want a ride, send me a PM

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post #15 of 69 Old 09-27-2017, 09:13 PM
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Brake line solution for rear. We move the line bundle to the top of the frame, strap it in place and then the rear hard line gets bent so the bend is under the brace on top of the frame and then we wrap a 360 circle in it to shorten it without cutting and re-flaring. We can cut and flare but the black plastic coating has to be peeled back which exposes the hard line to rusting. We do cut and flare the older model non coated lines.



Line bundle strapped in place.



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