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Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
About time to start a build thread, but since it's 2012, and we're talking about a 1996 grand, we'll start with:


In june of 1996 my father purchased a green 1996 V8 Grand, first sold 10/95 (according to the book o' scribbles) we got it off a executive lease or something along those lines, low mileage, completely stock.

Purchased as a daily driver to replace a honda crx, after he saw another honda crx on the highway that an suv had used as a ramp killing the occupants of the crx.

Being a family of hams (hence the license plates and usernames) the first real mod that went into it was the radios (and the radar detector).

The original radios were a Yaesu FT-8100 (dual receive dual band) and an icom 706.

Two magmounts up front for the 2m/440 antennas, magmount on the back driver side for a 6m whip, and an outbacker spring with a hamstick mounted to the side of the trailer ball.

Eventually we replaced the mag mounts up front with nmo mounts drilled through the roof.

The control heads are mounted on the overhead console, custom speaker bracket puts one speaker between the post of the driver head rest and the other speaker sits at the top of the pillar between the front and rear door.

The 2m/440 radio is easy to hide, it sits under the driver side back seat right on top of the infinity amp. The HF rig was a bit harder, especially since we wanted to mount an SGC smartuner for the whip on the back. We ended up mounting both the radio and the tuner in the driver side window that is covered by the spare anyway. We cut a duplicate of the window and bolted to that, works pretty well.

Eventually the 8100 was swapped for an Icom 2720, and the 706 for an Icom 7000. Both great radios.

Those were the only intentional mods until I acquired it in 2008.

Of course there were a few unintentional things.

According to the book o' scribbles:

Got rear ended twice early on, one of the times the body shop didn't put the rear hatch lock back together properly.

Putting the tow hitch through the radiator of a honda did wonders for the alignment, ah well, unibody vehicle.

Transmission blew at 97k (late '03) something about the transmission cooler for the tow packade taking the transmission with it when it died, ah well.

Few other little things, water pump, power steering (a theme), ac, but nothing major.

Mostly it was a daily driver, occasional road trips or camping, or using it to pull out small palm trees.

(pics later tonight)

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Pictures of things mentioned above.

Outbacker rear spring with a 9ft steel whip antenna:

Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Automotive tail & brake light

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Driver speaker mounts:

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Radio control heads:

Audio equipment Musical instrument accessory Electronic device Personal luxury car Cable

Icom 2720 under seat "mount":

Electrical wiring Electricity Cable Gas Wood

Icom 7000 and Tuner mounts in rear side window (sadly unoccupied):

Tire Automotive tire Wheel Motor vehicle Automotive design

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
In 2008 my father downsized to a mini cooper s, with a roof rack so he could still do some things:

Car Wheel Vehicle Tire Automotive lighting

The jeep was passed on to me, and being teenagers we started doing stupid things with it

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Well not all of them were stupid,

Cloud Sky Vehicle Tire Balloon

Ok some of it was pretty stupid.

Tire Car Wheel Land vehicle Vehicle

Early on I kept it pretty much stock. I became an official reckless teenage driver rear ending a honda that had stopped at a green light, oops. Bashed in the front cross member enough to punch a hole in the radiator. Probably wouldn't have been as bad if I hadn't hit the brakes and made the nose dive. Got it fixed up, did a water pump around then too. Didn't know it at the time but the body shop that did the work didn't mount the radiator correctly because the cross member was bent too far in and they couldn't be bothered to bend it back out.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I didn't have the jeep long before I started lusting over new toys, well I firstly annoyed at the little broken things. The radio had long since decided that working buttons were overrated. Sure I could pull the head unit, take it apart, clean the contacts and switches, put it back together, pray, wait until the buttons stopped working in a few months. I could, but it would still be the 96' radio, with that weird speaker control joystick thing, and who uses cd's?

A better solution was needed, and was begged for.

And after a few threats to do it the wrong way myself...

For my birthday my father got me a new alpine iDA-X100 radio, installed too.

Wonderful little thing, as long as you don't want cd's. Best iPod interface I've ever met, and the installers made it work with the funny infinity amp under the back seats too.

Car Personal luxury car Vehicle audio Automotive design Vehicle

I also got my hands on a garmin nuvi gps. Not a bad little thing, but the suction cup mount doesn't cut it. Took me a while to figure out where I wanted it, but after driving my fathers cooper and seeing where he mounted his nuvi, I knew where to put it.

Right here:

Vehicle Personal luxury car Automotive design Car Audio equipment

And how exactly do I do that?

My fathers suggestion of drywall screws went ignored, I wanted something that I could remove and have it leave no visible trace that it existed, maybe a few scratches at most.

What I ended up with was this (dashboard plastic removed for picture):

Hood Vehicle Automotive design Motor vehicle Automotive exterior

1" wide 1/6" or so thick aluminum bar bent into the right shape to slip between the dashboard plastic and the upper dashboard surround. Holed drilled so the screw holding the dashboard plastic in hold it in as well.

Have to cut the dashboard surround thing a little but it isn't visible with the plastic piece in:

Automotive tire Automotive exterior Gas Bumper Auto part

I also have another mount for a touchscreen display I use sometimes with my radios for tracking weather balloons (see previous)

Fixture Gas Auto part Automotive tire Machine

Goes in easy holds secure, heres a last shot of the dashboard reassembled:

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Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Black rock adventures

In june of 2012 I got an offer from a friend to come out to the black rock desert in nevada and help with a rocket launch. Sounded like a good time, and a good chance to test some of my newer radio gear. The jeep had never been off road like this before and so I was excited.

Set up in camp:

Cloud Sky Tire Wheel Vehicle

I'm using the spare in that picture to weight the base of the collapsable antenna mast. The wind at night can get pretty wild so I just tied some of the bigger stuff to the hitch and slept in the back with the seats down.

Wheel Automotive parking light Tire Car Vehicle

At this point in its life the front bumper was coming loose on the passenger side. It wasn't repaired correctly by the shop after the accident back in '09, but it took a while for that to show. At this point I just had to push it back into place every few days of normal driving.

The rocket launch went great! We had all systems working and were able to track it all the way to the ground. Hopped into the jeep and my buddies subaru and went out to get it. Perfect landing.

The recovery team:

Car Cloud Tire Vehicle Vehicle registration plate

Recovery jeep:

Wheel Tire Automotive parking light Car Sky

Tossed the rocket in the back and climbed in to head back to camp. Started the jeep up, spun the steering wheel and *WHUMP* *WHUMP* *CLANG*

Tire Road surface Automotive tire Tread Asphalt

The discerning viewer may recognize that as the power steering pump pulley. Ooops.

My buddy was already back at camp, but thats what the radios are for!

Took a while to get somebody to tow me back, finally got somebody in a toyota pickup to haul out and get me. Oh, where are the tow points in a 96 grand?

There aren't any unless you have the upcountry package.

Guess who doesn't have the upcountry package.

So we wrapped the tow strap around the front axle and towed it 20 miles to the nearest town.

20 miles.

Of course the nearest town doesn't have a parts store, all they have is a junkyard with a couple of xj's, and the guy at the gas station and only service station doesn't think he has the proper pulley puller even if we had the part.

So call AAA, get somebody from the nearest town with a parts store to tow my *** back to civilization. 80 miles, thank god AAA towing is free up to 100 miles.

So I wait an hour for the tow truck to get in to town, get the jeep on the flatbed, and we drive to fernley nevada.

We get in late on saturday, not a mechanic to be found, walk in to the O'reilly and tell them my story so far.

The following conversation (that I will never forget) ensues between the employees,

"Well we don't have one, none of the shops in town do"

"He could try the junk yard in reno"

"How's he gonna get to reno dude?"

"Right, shop in the next county has one"

"Call them, now, have them drive it over here tomorrow"

And they did, the other shop agreed to have it there the next day. The tow truck driver who was waiting outside took me to two different motels (there was a rodeo in town) and I got the last room in fernley.

In the morning the tow truck driver came back and picked me and the jeep up and took us back to o'reilly. I waited there for the parts to arrive and searched on this forum for a way to hedge my bets in case it spat out the new pulley as well.

Found the proper size belt to use if bypassing the power steering pump. Learned from another thread how to change the belt (thank the lord I have a 5.2). Bought myself the smaller belt and a breaking bar to change belts with.

Around 3pm the pulley arrived, I borrowed the tool for it and set to work replacing the pulley, in the parking lot.

I didn't remove the power steering pump to replace the pulley, it's not easy to do it that way, but it can be done, and I didn't want to risk breaking the pump.

Looks like this:

Automotive tire Vehicle brake Gas Rim Engineering

I was using improvised tools:

Bicycle tire Bicycle fork Bicycle handlebar Bicycle frame Sports equipment

But it worked.

It worked.

Automotive tire Automotive lighting Vehicle brake Automotive design Motor vehicle

Thats the last picture I have, as soon as the pulley was on I tossed the belt on, asked one of the employees at o'reilly to give me a jump start and I was gone, back to california.

It survived the trip, kept running, got me home. Good jeep.

I would get to experience the joy of running with my bypass belt a few months later when the power steering pump bracket blew out. And again last week when it spit out the pulley again.

I can't say how much I am thankful for the tow truck driver, who drove me 80 miles and then all around town to make sure the jeep and I were safe. And the guys at O'reilly, I won't shop anywhere else now, the employees at that store were amazing.

I learned a few things,

I need to have a better backup plan than "tow it home"
I need to have tow points for when I can't get a real tow
I can fix the jeep! This was the first real repair I'd ever done, trial by fire.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Little things

A few little things I've done to make life nicer.

I've always had an extinguisher in the back, just in case. But for years it just sorta bounced around in the back. Which was fine until I noticed that the pin had bounced out and it was one wrong bounce from a cargo bay full of extinguisher.

I thought about bolting it in in back, but it's a bit hard to get to the back from the driver seat. If an extinguisher is going to be useful it might want to be accessible.

So the passenger seat was selected.

Shoe Hood Product Motor vehicle Textile

The mount is just a piece of 1/16 steel that bridges the gap between the seat rails. The extinguisher mount is then bolted to that.

Gesture Eyewear Gadget Cable Audio equipment

Hasn't come loose, and most passengers don't even notice it. Haven't had to use the extinguisher yet, but I know exactly where it is if I do.

I like music, and the alpine head is nice, but still wasn't sounding great.

Figured it was time for new speakers, and with the mazda and the cooper both having subwoofers, I gave in to woofer-lust and bought a sub too.

The speakers I got were polk audio DB651's, we already put a pair in the cooper, and they sounded good there. Really lucked out and they came with mounting brackets to fit 6.75 that the jeep wants.

Gee, maybe the old speakers were a little worn out.

Audio equipment Rim Wood Automotive wheel system Gas

I didn't want to muck with power amps, I don't need huge thump, just a little bit more bottom end. So I went with the boss Bass-900 powered sub.

Fits under the rear seat just fine (once the jack is relocated)

Hood Automotive design Automotive tire Trunk Automotive exterior

Little bit of foam from the packaging at the front keeps it from moving/rattling

Hood Automotive tire Motor vehicle Automotive design Grey

Power is from the line I already had running from the switched cigarette outlet to the back seats for the radio. Doesn't draw a lot of power even when cranked.

The alpine head has subwoofer outputs so it's just an rca cable running back to the sub to get audio, and I can control balance/volume from the head unit.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
New bumper and radiator mount

This one will be a long one, with lots of pictures.

As shown in the black rock photos earlier the front bumper had been falling off for a while. It finally gave up completely coming home from work. Driving along and I hear something dragging. Went to put the bumper back on and the whole thing fell off.

Time for something new.

Looked around on the forums for ideas, lots of pretty, but expensive bumpers for sale, lots of good ideas for welding up a custom one.

But my welder is in LA, and I ain't.

A bunch of suggestions to just ignore the bumper cover completely, the cross member is technically the bumper anyway right? Sure I could explain that to the cop, but I'd rather have something that at least looks like a bumper. After the crash back in '09 my cross member is a little beat up anyway,

Tire Wheel Automotive parking light Vehicle Grille

Actually a lot beat up,

Wood Gas Composite material Tints and shades Darkness

Hood Automotive tire Automotive lighting Tread Automotive exterior

Kinda wanted it done that night, this is my dd, have to drive to work in the morning. So off to home depot (yick) we go!

Really wish there was a good metal place around here, but I haven't found one. Home depots selection is unsurprisingly dismal, but in wandering around we came upon the roof flashing section.


4"x6"x10ft roof flashing is like $10 at home depot. Certainly worth a shot.

Got it home and started to test fit

Automotive parking light Vehicle registration plate Land vehicle Car Tire

Not bad, it actually extends down to the stock radiator mount we were able to rest it on the mount. Covers the horn and the charcoal canister.

Bending the corners

Tire Automotive parking light Wheel Automotive side marker light Vehicle

Notched the sides to slip over the posts for the stock bumper. If I was being fancy I could drill the side pieces so they actually hang on those posts.

Marking the sides

Tire Wheel Tread Automotive tire Vehicle

Trimmed the wheel well just a bit. Should give plenty of clearance.

The whole thing is attached with four sheet metal screws that are predrilled to the crossmember. Two in front and on on each side. The front screw on the passenger side also holds on side of the license plate. Bolt through the other mounting hole in the plate. Spray painted it flat black.

Finished (before paint):

Automotive parking light Tire Automotive side marker light Wheel Vehicle

I did this before I had jack stands, I would throw those wood blocks in front of the front wheels, pop it in 4lo and drive up onto them to give some room to work.

The wood blocks are actually from a previous adventure, we put them on top of 4 $20 home depot furniture dollies. We'd show up in the middle of the night with the dollies and floor jacks put my buddies pt cruiser on the dollies and move it across the street. It's scary how easy that stunt was.

But I digress.

In looking at the thing with the new bumper I decided to pull the trigger on getting one of kevins zj radiator mounts. This

I needed tow points anyway.

Got it in the mail. Took the bumper off, touched up the paint. Pulled the factory radiator support.

Um, that didn't seem mounted correctly.

Tried putting on kevins mount. No dice. Maybe I misread something on the website? Ordered the wrong thing? Nope. The radiator was too far back to work with the mount. Checked kevin's mount against the factory, looks right.

But if I try to push the radiator forward it hits the crossmember.

Oh, [sound of $0.01 hitting the floor] [expletive]

The body shop we took the jeep to after the crash in 09 hadn't mounted the new radiator correctly. The cross member was too bent and they didn't want to bend it back into shape I guess.

Of course kevin's mount should be just a bolt on upgrade so we were doing this on a weeknight, work in the morning, and there is no way in hell I'm going to drive with the radiator mounted wrong.

Can't hurt it now. Grabbed a 2x6 out of the shed and the biggest c clamp I have. Put the 2x6 across the cross member and started turning the clamp to try and bend the crossmember back into place. The 2x6 bent a little, the clamp didn't *want* to turn, but it did, and the crossmember was slowly brought back to straight.

Note, if you try this be careful you aren't clamping on the wire bundle that runs inside the crossmember.

Once the crossmember was back to straight and my loyalty to our local body shop completely gone the new radiator mount bolted right on. Looks great, and a few months later I get a thank you card from kevin for buying from him. His customer service is amazing, I'm looking to see how I can give him more of my money.

In the end it looks like this:

Wheel Automotive parking light Tire Car Land vehicle

I haven't noticed any real rattling with the new bumper. The horn when I lock the car with the remote sounds different, but thats about it.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
HF mobile is great in the jeep, going down the coast to LA we make sure to pull over and see what we can hit with the hamstick. Japan is usually pretty easy, Australia/NZ once or twice depending on the bands.

Black rock was great, all things considered. Can't wait to go back and have just a little less fun.

73 de KG6MOV

24,159 Posts
Nice work! You are very lucky with the power steering pulley. When I changed mine out the puller ripped the lip off of the metal sleeve and I had to break the pulley off then cut the metal sleeve off with a dremmel. On my 95 the pulley was made of metal.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yep, the pre 96's had metal pulleys. I've thought about digging for one at the jy, but if there's something wrong with the steering (two pulleys and a bracket in 6 months, there is something wrong) I'd rather the pulley go than the box or pump.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Somebody around here said they fit but idk. I'm off to the JY on saturday, need to replace the pathetic excuse for a plate that is the factory plastic front skid plate with a metal one. Maybe I'll have a look around and pull a metal pulley if I see one, the plastic ones are cheap but ain't nobody that stocks em! Also thinking of doing a durango or waggy box swap, see if that helps.

All this writing about my jeep and I'm itchin' to build some more, probably time to lift the thing and do some real tires.

How does your 2" lift ride? Are you running stock control arms? I could do a 2" lift and new 30's for about the same as the XJ I've been eyeing, and that would probably be a better move politically if I don't want to sleep on the couch.

24,159 Posts
It's been just fine. I was out in Vegas when I put all the stuff on it and it did really well on the rocks and trails out there. Just enough clearance to not drag it much. You can fit 31's with a 2"BB. My tires measure 30.9 x 9.8" wide or 245x75 - 16. They are Guard Dogs. The height is fine with 31's it's just that if you get a 10.5" wide tire they rub on the control arms when turning so most people get wheel spacers or new rims with less back spacing. Mine rub a tiny bit at full lock but it's never bothered me.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Lift time!

I'm looking to finally lift the jeep. I know I don't want to go with a bb, my springs have probably sagged enough that it wouldn't really be worth it. I'm not ready to go to 4 -6 with long arms, I'll get there eventually but not while the jeep is my dd.

Planning to run either 30's or 31's, but not until the current tires die.

The two things I'm looking at:

2" kit from fat bob:

3" kit from fat bob:

Will I be able to run the 3" with the stock control arms? I'd rather put money into beefing up the steering than control arms.

Does anybody have experience with fat bob?

2,273 Posts
You can run 3 but you'll have to take care of a few things first. (such as the spring post and possibly replacing some ca bushings) the arms themselves should be fine, i believe.

And yeah i use a fat bobs 2 inch bb got it off amazon for $170 :thumbsup:

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Skid plate

Stopped raining on sunday long enough to go to the junkyard. Wanted to look for the skidplate and see what they had.

Of course the freeway was still 6-9 inches of water in some places (my buddy says 1') glad to be in a jeep.

Wandering through, grabbed the foglight control piece so I can put some fogs on at some point. $12 not bad at all.

Automotive tire Vehicle Plant Motor vehicle Car

Was thinking about this,

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Maybe some other time.

Took a while to find a ZJ with the metal plate, most of them had the plastic thing like mine does. Luckily the local yard has 7 ZJ's on the lot. Eventually found this poor soul.

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And pulled the plate, $15.

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Brought it all home and cleaned things off a bit.

The jeep before.

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Comparison of the plastic thing and the real one.

Hand tool Tool Auto part Gas Metalworking hand tool

Should just be a quick bolt on job right?

[insert raucous laughter here]

I don't know what murphy's problem with my radiator is, but he needs to gtfo. Tossed the plate up and tried bolting it on, NO DICE, the back of kevin's radiator mount was preventing the plate from bolting in at the front points. BUGGER. I don't know if it was the plat I got, pre 96 plate on a 96 zj, shouldn't matter. Or the front end damage from the crash in '09, hope not. I don't think kevin would build a bracket that doesn't work with the stock skids, so write that off as a reason.

Whatever, tiny gremlins.

Pulled the plate back down and hit it with the grinder. Hit it with the grinder hard.

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Finally got it to mount up. Much better.

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Of course when I was grinding a metal piece popped up behind my safety glasses and into my eye. Ended up going to the bloody hospital on monday to get it removed. Full face shields from now on, bugger again.

Still thinking about that 3" fat bob kit for xmas break redo bushings and replace the steering stabilizer while I'm at it. My grandfather and uncle are both welders by trade so if I can get down to LA I can get help relearning to weld and build a proper bumper. Then think about where I'm gonna be installing fogs. Trying to get it ready to go wheelin in the spring. Once I get different tries. Oh and the HF radio needs to get mounted in the back again so I can use it as a CB, once I figure out how to program the stupid thing. Probably summat else I'm forgetting.

Hears the voices
16,785 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Was looking at fat bobs 3" lift kit, but after some suggestions I decided to try the "do it right the first time" theory of saving money. So I talked to kolak and ordered up OME springs and bilsteins for a 2.5" lift. New trackbar and steering stabilizer at kolak's suggestion. Going to be fun, going to regret it in my bank account for a few weeks, but I'll live. New gps should get here tomorrow, and maybe someday I'll have time for writing software for the jeep computer thats sitting in the closet.

xmas is looking to be expensive already.
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