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Wildman's TJ from Then til Now

86602 Views 978 Replies 41 Participants Last post by  wildman4x4nut
I bought this TJ in Sept 2002 and it is a 97 TJ SE model. It had 33x14.5x15 TSL Boggers & a Pro Comp 4" suspension lift. I found it on a lot in Yakima, WA with no top and had never been taken off-road. After I bought the Jeep the first thing I found out about it was that a blond woman with a VERY large chest had owned it previous to me. She like cruising around town in it and had installed the Boggers just because she liked the way they looked.
The first thing I did was install new tires because I was going to be driving it on the highway every week.

My first wheeling trip with it I also put my first dent in it. Joked about it too because I said I got the first dent even before I made the first payment on it.
Still have that dent in the door too.

One of the first mods I did was to install my Tuffy overhead console to hold my CB.

Also took the stock seats out and installed some Scat ProComp seats.

Changed my stock mirror for one with lights on it to help brighten up the interior.

Next was a new bumper and Warn 8274 8,000lb winch.

Picked up some used Poison Spyder Rocker Knockers

Also got this junk rear bumper. I was driving down the road one day and the swing out just fell off. Glad it was given to me.

This my first attempt at building a bumper.

I also got a Warn full floater kit, Detroit locker & 4.88 gears used. The FF kit came with Warn small hubs too. Then picked up a LocRite locker for the front axle. Now I was cooking in overdrive. I could even use 5th gear again sometimes with my 33" tires.

The last mods I did to my TJ before being deployed to Iraq in 2004 was to install onboard air & a Warn small hub kit on the front axle.

My last wheeling trip before leaving to Iraq.

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So I left off on my way to Iraq. I had parked the Jeep at home and told the wife to drive it once in a while.
I arrived in Kuwait in Feb 04 and then turned 43 In March still in Kuwait. We rolled into Iraq on 1 April 04 on our way to a base that was about 1 hour north of Bagdad. I was on LSA Anaconda which was the largest air base in Iraq. I was the 1SGT of the security company that guarded the main gate.
Then in Sept I had to come home on emergency leave because my wife had moved and not told me where she had gone. I got home to find out she was living with another guy. Plus she had been letting the new boy friend drive my Jeep and he had broke it. So I got the Jeep back, got the key to the storage unit she had put all my belongings into and got to see my daughter 2 times in the 20 days I was home. My daughter was 1 1/2 years old at the time.
I got back to Iraq on 8 Oct 04 and had been moved from the main gate to the east gate. I had a smaller group of people to manage but I really wasn't happy about it. The **** went from bad to worse in a hurry. On 19 Oct 04 while clearing the road coming into the gate I was shot by a soldier trying to load a machine gun she was not trained on. The bullet went into the back of my right leg and came out 1" above my right knee.

The bullet hit my femur and shattered the bone while blowing bone out the front of my leg too. It also severed my femoral artery so they had to take the saphenous vein from my left leg to repair the vein.

I came home and spent the next 6 months learning to walk again on a leg with nerve damage from my knee down. But I told myself I wasn't going to let this stop me from doing what I like to do. So I decided I would build my Jeep as therapy for me. While I was in Iraq I had bought a Tera Flex CRD 60 rear axle with a ARB & 5.13 gears. So now I just needed to find a front axle. I decided to use a Ford HP44 front axle that I would narrow to Waggy width to keep the Jeep narrow for the trails I run here in the PNW.

Got the inner "C" removed then cut the tubes to the length needed to use Waggy axle shafts.

Once we got the tubes cut it was time to reinstall the "C". Check twice, three times and hopefully only weld once.

Once the "C" were back on and welded up it was time to install all the brackets. I used Rubicon Express bracket kit. T&T did have their truss out at the time or I would have used one of them.

Looks pretty good to me. It was actually easier than I expected.
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The whole time I was in Iraq I was going over in my head what I wanted to do to my Jeep when I got home. I had decided I wanted that HP44 front axle and had been unsure about the rear axle until I bought that CRD 60.

I made I don't know how many lists sitting over there. I could kick myself because one night I was I was surfing around on Ebay and found a Avenger Supercharger for my 4 cyl. And being the dumb a$$ that I am I didn't buy it right then. I had sent a email to their customer service to ask if I could get any missing parts. And of course when I went back online to look at it someone else had used the buy it now option. I was trying to find ways to get more power out of that little 2.5ltr engine. Off-Road it was fine but on road it SUCKED even with the 4.88 gears.
When I had got back home and been released from the hospital I went to live with my sister since I didn't have a wife anymore. I was pretty much stuck in my bed and couldn't do anything else so I spent tons of time on the net. I bought a Tera Low 4:1 crawler off Ebay for cheap and once I could drive and be up and about I went over to a buddies shop and installed it. Now I am on crutches and have a brace on my leg that keeps me from bending it past a selected point. So I had figured out how to get into and out of the Jeep. But being the true Jeeper that I am as soon as I could drive I took my Jeep down to Schwabby's and got 5 Toyo M/T tires installed on my Jeep. I was running 33" tires and went up to 35" tires. I guess I must of really put on a good show getting in and out.
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I picked up some used tube fenders w/ 3" flares. I had a buddy down in Vancouver, WA who had a fab shop so I drove down in the Jeep and we installed the Poison Spyder cage I had bought, the tube fenders and one of his custom built rear bumpers.

He also bent up a radiator hoop and tied it into the small hoop on the front bumper. I really liked how it turned out.

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I have also used my old CJ as therapy. I did 6 tours from 2001 to 2008. Happy wrenching on your build!
Sorry been busy for the past couple of days and haven't had a chance to post. I should be able to continue the story tomorrow. :tea:
Awesome build man, and thank you for your service! Looking forward to see what's to come in this build.
Real nice! Sorry about your rough patch. It seems you are coming out way ahead tho! Thank you for your service!
So I left off with just installing my tube fenders & getting the radiator hoop done. I also got a rear bumper made by my buddy along with a tire carrier.

The bumper part was done but I had to wait for him to build the carrier portion. While I was waiting on the carrier I had decided to do a V-8 swap on the Jeep and was going to take it to Backwoods OffRoad in Eugene, OR. This was March 06 and I had been walking again now for 8 months but didn't feel that I could handle a V-8 engine swap at this time. Now I had to think about doing this for a while before I said yes. I had planned on running 5.13 gears and adding a doubler box behind the stock 4 cyl. I was also looking at adding a AX-15 tranny & a supercharger. But got convinced that the V-8 would give me more power.

Old engine pulled waiting for the new engine to go in.

Working on the wiring

Finishing up the wiring

Going back together

On the trailer

Going home for phase II of the build.
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You're Rick - right? Sorry if I got the name wrong, it's been a while.

Didn't we meet-up in Moab and do some wheeling ~2004 - 2005? Or was it in '07? Stayed at Canyonlands Campground, right? You had a Dodge truck pulling a BIG trailer with a camper attached to it & your piece of junk Jeep, right? :D Didn't you have a party at the campsite for one of your kids?
Yes you got the name correct. It was in 07 I think because that was my first year going to Moab and then I went again in 08. I know it wasn't 04 as I was in Iraq and in 05 I wasn't walking yet. Jeep broke down in 10 and has been parked since then.
While the Jeep was in OR getting 4 more cyl added to it I was busy at home spending money and ordering parts. I have had a few people talk crap about my TJ and the amount of money I spent on it. Well the money I was spending was Combat Pay so I felt it was a great thing to spend it on as my Jeep was going to help me get thru things.
So a few months before I shipped out to Iraq I was reading in one of the off-road mags and saw an article about this new system being made for TJ's from a company called Off Road Only. They replaced all the coil springs with air bags. Now I thought this looked cool and told myself someday I sure would love to rock one on my rig. As a matter of fact I was walking one night BSing with a fellow soldier and told them about this this.
So here is the air bags, the adapter brackets, the wiring, and all the other odds and ends.

Also came with Walker Evans shocks

My TJ with the OFO suspension doing it's thing.

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When I got the Jeep home I backed the trailer up to a garage door and we pushed it off the trailer. Well as it was rolling into the garage it was realized that there weren't any brakes. So we were grabbing for Jeep to try and stop it. Within 3 hours of off loading it we had it up on jack stands and the front axle was pulled.

Now I wouldn't say all the hard work is done already. The only thing that has been done was to blend the truck and Jeep wiring harness plus get the engine/tranny/transfer case put into place. I had a ton of things to do now before it would be drivable let alone able to go on a trail. I had two Jeep buddies who were going to Central Washington University that would come over some days and help work on the Jeep. I'd cook for them and make them a nice meal.

Some of the stuff was a Onboard Air bracket set from Kilby Air. And no they didn't ever mass produce the 5.2/5.9 bracket set. I just knew that they had made a set for Brad's TJ so I took a chance and called to see if they had any. Next was a 160 amp alt for the Premier Power Onboard Welder :cheers2: Between that and the Portable Mig welder I have help save a few rigs on the trail so far. Plus done some repairs on my Jeep too. It was money well spent.

On top of all the other stuff I had picked up for this build was a STaK's 3 speed transfer case.

1:1 High Range
3.05:1 Low Range #1
5.44:1 Low Range #2
And 5.13 gears w/ARB lockers in both axles
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So all the lower control arm brackets had to be removed so I attacked them with my angle grinder. Wish like heck that I had a plasma cutter for this kind of stuff. Someday I'll have a plasma cutter when I win the lottery.

Then I started working on rear axle. I was using a Nth Degree Long Arm kit with their Tummy Tuck . I like their arms because of the way they bend near the wheels. This helps protect the arms from rock rash.

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I had to make some hard choices when deciding on which transfer case to go with. When I had first read about the STaK's transfer case I wasn't sure about it. Well I did some more research and finally decided that I would run the STaK's case instead of waiting for a the new 4 speed Atlas to come out. Well I have had a Love & Hate relationship with STaK's since I installed it. The box that is in my Jeep now is the 3rd one.

This was the first one.

Nth Degree had a universal bracket kit for the HP 60 axles. So I had to make this fit the best I could.

I finally got to stop borrowing a welder from my buddy and bought one myself. Lincoln 170

Working on the HP44 installing new brakes, spindles, ball joints, and the Chevy knuckles I had bought that are drilled and tapped for high steer arms.

This was the tranny mount that I put together.

Nth Degree brackets installed. You had a choice of welding the brackets on of drilling tons of holes in the frame. I chose to weld............................

Nth Degree flat skid mounted for the first time. Test fitting the transfer case and transmission.

I guess I should explain I already have a 1 1/4" body lift already installed too.
And here was how much clearance I had at this point.

Going to have to rework some brackets.

More work on the rear axle. Trying to get that bracket to fit right was tons of fun. I know it seems like I am bouncing around here but I'm posting the pictures as I come to them. If it was when I had been doing build it would seem smoother.

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This day was some real excitement because I got the front axle installed. I was just one of those milestones.

Then came the next major milestone!! The rear axle!!

Had to measure and mock up where I wanted the trackbar bracket.

And of course this was while clearing the brake line on the axle tube.

Now I know a lot of this may be normal for some but I had never had a shop/garage to work in like this where I had the room and tools available to do a lot of this type of work. So all this was a learning experience for me. I had to figure out how to do it and then learn myself at the same time. I'm hoping some day real soon I will have a plasma cutter and tube bender so that I am able to make more of my own design.

So at this point I got told that I was going to be honored with being the first person to get the new rear shock mount. The kit was from Poly Performance so you knew it was going to be great. The catch was that I had to CUT the frame on my Jeep. Now again this might seem like nothing to some here but it was a huge deal to me.

So I got faxed the template.

Laid on the frame.

Frame is now cut

The shock brackets need to be trimmed also to fit.

Set into the frame and ready to be welded.

1st shock mounted

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I hope this build thread isn't so screwy that no one wants to look at it anymore. Trying to post up pictures from 7 years ago is hard. And I know I am jumping around here. I'm just trying to get from point A to B and explain what all I did along the way.

So I had to drill holes in the Nth Degree tummy tucker so that I could reach the grease zerk for the gyro joints.

Another BIG step at that time was I got the front air bags mounted up. I was dancing around the garage I was so excited.

So now I started working on my air distribution block mounting. You can also see the hydro-boost in this picture.

Now because the STaK's box is so big I had to move my air tank back about 4" from where it had been mounted. You can see the arms I added to move it back.

While I worked on other things on the Jeep I was also painting parts too. My steering arm (Drag link & Tie Rod) that I built.

This is the ECU for the Off-Road Only AiRock system and the regulator that takes the 150 psi down to 100 psi for the ORO system.

The tank mounted up in place. Not a ton of room but it fits.

This is a rheostat sensor that tells the computer how much each arm is moving and at what position the arm is currently in. There is one on each of the four lower arms.

The rear lower arms, air tank and stinger.

Original STaKs TJ shifters. I liked the way the levers were situated but trying to get them adjusted just right was a total pain. STaK's came out with a new TJ shifter. You'll all see it in the future.

My first attempt at getting the whole front geometry right. As you can see the track bar is just fitted for now.

I had originally planned on using a ARB compressor to run my lockers but after mounting the compressor in one of the last spots I had for it I decided to use the OBA to run the lockers too.

As I said I was out of room so had to figure out a spot to mount the welder control box. I finally came up with this great idea.

Lost that little bit of storage space but I really didn't miss it.
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So I had gotten my welder mounted up and felt pretty good about how I had mounted it.
Next on the list was the Mean Green dual battery tray. I liked the idea but also wasn't 100% sure of the posts on the batteries and if they would short out on the fender. So I took some rubber mud flaps and cut them up to lay on the fenderwell. Next was hooking up the dual battery rely and a Painless wiring 3 circuit aux fuse block.

Needed a spot to mount the relay.

Time to mount my tires onto the beadlock wheels I had bought.

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