The Second Coming: Eric's New ZJ Build

Its time to get a build thread going for my new rig. I’m starting to get nervous that it will not be ready in time for Swanzey so hopefully this will create some extra motiviation.

All I am basically doing is swapping everything from my '96 ZJ which has a rusted unibody and 260k on the engine to a '98 ZJ with only 130k and a near mint condition unibody. Along the way I need to replace a few parts and tweak a few aspects from the previous build. Sounds easy, right?

Here’s a picture from the last time my old rig was on the trail at the “snow” run and a picture of the final resting place :frowning: :

Here’s a couple pictures of my new rig:

Let the misery begin!

I’ll be swapping over the entire suspension including axles, control arms, springs, shocks, track bar, and limit straps. Cutting the old suspension brackets off and reusing them would be too much of a PITA so I cruised down to Clayton’s shop and picked up some new brackets:

I got 2+ seasons from the Moog ball joints before the uppers started to get sloppy. This year I will be giving the new Synergy Suspension ball joints a shot. I also need to rotate the rear spring perches about 10 degrees and will replace the front axle u-joints as a preventive measure:

Raw materials for my new rocker sliders and front bumper winch guard:

Stripping down the old rig starting with the bumpers and front suspension:

The radius arms do a number on the passenger side upper control arm bushing. I’m running a Johnny joint on the driver side upper but keep the rubber bushing on the passenger side in order to prevent too much binding:

Oops. What’s wrong with this picture? I will have to adjust the front control arms a bit shorter in order to keep the Johnny joints from bending again. This kind of sucks because because the arms are already as short as I wanted. I wish the tubes were an inch longer.

Cleaned up front suspension parts and gave them a fresh coat of paint. Installed the new ball joints. U-joints are still work in progress:

The original axle-side steering stabilizer bracket design interfered with the tie rod. Especially when the tie rod is bent which is all time. The first picture shows the where the tie rod was interfering with the bracket and the second picture shows the new design. I want to add a small gusset to the new design but need to wait until the axle is installed in order to make sure it clears the track bar.

I’m adding a winch guard to my front bumper mainly as a place to mount some Hella lights. The lights will be used on camping expeditions up North and removed for normal trail rides. Fit is everything when it comes to fabrication so I made a special jig for the compound tube cut.

I’ve started building the new rocker sliders. The previous design used 4"x4" tubing. This time I am using 3" x 5" tubing and slightly bigger steps so that they stick out an extra 1 1/2". Elias 4x4 did a perfect job bending the tubing to my specification.

Looking great. Let me know if you ever need an extra set of hands.

I was hoping to install the front bumper last weekend. Part of the job is relocating the evap cannister which hangs too low. Accessing the evap cannister requires removal of the lights, grille, and header panel which went fine.

The bumper bolts on where the factory tow hooks are bolted on and this is where the job went bad. In principle, removing the tow hooks is a 2 minute job with an impact wrench. Of course all 8 of the bolts were frozen and the impact wrench was only able snap 2 of them. I had to torch off the heads of the other 6 which sucked because they were hard to access. And of course its not good enough to cut the heads because the ends of the bolts stick out and won’t allow the backing plate to fit through the frame as shown in the picture below. Now I need to use the Sawall to trim the bolts. And this is where I called it a day.

Lookin Good Eric!!!

Interesting choice with the HSS for rock sliders. Gene and I were just talking about doing something similar…but I was thinking it might be easier to just go with some thick angles instead. 3/8" or 1/2"…

Cant wait to see it when its done…

nice work, cant wait to see the new rig in action :sunglasses:

You already saw a little action of it at GTD in the rock garden! :laughing:

Rock sliders made from tube is the norm for Grand Cherokees and Cherokees. Angle seems to be preferred on Wranglers. For example, like Dericks.

Two steps forward, one step back.

First the forward. Both the front and rear bumpers from my old rig have been sandblasted, painted, and bolted on to my new rig. Of course this “bolt-on” job also included cutting, grinding, drilling, and welding. The evap canister also had to be raised out of the way as part of the front bumper install:

Thanks to some motivation from Derick the rear axle is almost out of my old rig. The coil buckets are way off and need to be rotated about 15 degrees:

And now the backward. As I was finishing up the bumper job I noticed that the interior lights on my new rig were staying on all the time. :open_mouth:

Pulling the fuse was the only way to kill the dome lights but the courtesy lights on the front doors stayed on no matter what . . . . even with ALL of the fuses pulled. :open_mouth:

The only way to kill those was disconnect the battery. WTF! I just love electrical gremlins!! Same thing happened on my old rig and I never did figure out the problem. Ended up just pulling the fuse and living without interior lights.

Seeing the work you are doing is inspirational!
I really want to get some rock sliders for my xj.
Nice job.

Eric I may have some time next week after work if you need a hand. I know your pushing to finish before the camp and wheel. Just let me know if ou need a hand and what nights

I pulled the trigger on the install earlier today:

Here is why its good to tear the suspension down for inspection every now and then. Crack was starting to form in the track bar bracket. A big reason why is because it was only welded together from the outside:


Relocating the rear spring buckets:

Barring disaster things should move fast now. My goal is to get the rear axle mounted tomorrow and then the front axle Sunday.

Nice looking ZJ. Good luck on getting it ready.

Sounds like when I stop buy today that was the goal for today

Looking good Eric, can’t wait to see it complete. I’m absolutly dying to get mine going. The bumper should be here in a week or two. :smiley:

Progress. Rear suspension is IN. Somehow I seem to have ended up with a couple extra inches of lift which renders my shocks, bump stops, and limit straps useless. I figured rotating the spring perches would have made a little difference but not that much. Hmmm.

that is really coming together nicely :slight_smile: