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  1. #1
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    Budget Iceland Offroad ZJ build: 5.9L edition

    The intro posts on this thread are edited versions of when I first started this project, ported from a Pirate build thread:

    While the XJ that my now-wife came with still had a strong drivetrain, it came from Juneau, where there aren't I/M requirements, and rust tends to be more severe due to the constant rain and humidity.

    So in 2009 we started searching craigslist and ultimately came up with a '95 ZJ 4.0 Laredo with the NP231, leather interior, fancier VIC, and no factory alarm (which I consider a good thing). Long story short, the sellers got ripped off since they didn't realize the rear axle shaft was busted. I looked at it and explained to them that it's probably a simple repair, but they didn't trust it, weren't mechanical, and just wanted to get rid of it. $500 later, we had a ZJ. REALLY high mileage with 250K on the clock, but the underside was SUPER clean, and all the bushings were tight, the tranny and t-case both felt good/shifted good, and the engine had good power. :crazy: It had a slight exhaust leak which I assumed was the infamous cracked 4.0 manifold (nope, just a loose nut at the header pipe). Even the A/C worked! 3.55 gears. The Jeep was obviously well maintained, but for the damage on the axle and left rear side.

    The story the sellers learned after they bought the ZJ was that a kid got it from his grandparents, who babied it, mostly doing long drives to see a kid in Fairbanks and keeping it in the garage. The kid rallied it exactly once, slamming the left rear corner and obviously breaking a rim since the left rear was from an XJ. The left rear door wouldn't open, and there was damage down by the rocker, just above the light, and the tailgate. I think a C-clip popped off the left rear shaft. Once I got the rim off, the only thing holding the shaft in was the caliper. The splines were toast, and I couldn't find the c-clip anywhere in the differential.

    So for another $500, we picked up an Up-Country Limited 5.2 '95 ZJ with a good 3.73 rear axle, skid-plate, tow-package, a slipping tranny, and a dieing engine with 130K. It also came with the gold honey-comb rims and an OK set of BFG All Terrains. The front tires had scuffing, but the back tires were 75%-80%. The front axle had a bad pinion bearing so we didn't use it, and I spent another $100 for a good front end with matching 3.73 gears. I swapped the u-joint shafts to eliminate the problematic CVs in the front axle. I changed all the fluids, put in a new rear main seal, and a new fuel filter, and took it for a drive to Palmer for a set of $80 studded tires. After a front end alignment, it absolutely drove like a dream! We also put on the gastank skidplate, hitch, and 1" lift from the Up-Country springs on the Limited before scrapping it.

    I picked up some front tow-hooks (forgot to pull them from the Limited), put on tire chains, and we went wheeling!


    So in the summer of 2010, we put the BFGs back on and it reminded me that with two bad tires we were only going to get another season out of them. We had a friend with some 32" BFG Mud-Terrains that she'd been itching to sell, and I thought we just might clear them with a budget-boost. I picked up a complete 3" kit (spacers, shocks, stabilizer, disconnects, trackbar relocation brackets) and 1.5" wheel spacers that fall:



    They rubbed on the back leading edge going over speedbumps. She only drove it for about two weeks like this until they came off for the 235/75R15 studs anyway.

    We'd been discussing bumper options since she liked the little bit of wheeling that we'd done, and I brought up the Iceland Offroad stuff for a couple reasons: we could ensure tire clearance, the fiberglass front bumper wouldn't weigh it down since it's a daily-driver, and with the basic rock-rails it would keep her Jeep looking pretty. Around that time, a local guy signed up to be a distributor for Iceland Offroad, so I jumped in on his first order. He was, in theory, giving me a steep discount since this was his first "promotional" order, but by the time everything finally arrived in the spring and I figured out what shipping would have cost had I ordered directly from Iceland, he only saved me $50 if that. But whatever, we got the stuff.

    For Christmas, I got her a used XD9000i for a great price that had been sitting in the garage next my Scrambler's 9.5ti. So when the Iceland products arrived I immediately put on the front winch bumper, installed the winch, and trimmed and installed the front flares, mostly because they were the "big" things which were in the way in the garage. The rock-rails I took to get powder-coated with some things for my Scrambler.



    The bumper took half a day, and the flares took another half day with help from a friend. We trimmed the leading edge of the rear rocker area so the tires would clear, knowing that I'd soon be installing the rockers and rear flares.
    She drove it like that for several months.

  2. #2
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    I took it for it's first real trail run (after the lift/tires) in May of 2011:



    With the TDK/Aqualu Scrambler out of the garage (build thread here: http://www.cj-8.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27328) and my fiance doing research in California for a couple months, I wanted to surprise her by painting everything and getting the rear flares installed:


    She wanted flat-black. I also hadn't previously wired up the lights, so that's done now too, with an extra switch that I stuck on the dash.


    These only sorta "bolt-on." I can see why welding is a good option, but since they were powder-coated I didn't want to do that. The pinch-seam that they bolt to on the bottom edge (look at the Iceland Offroad website for photo installation instructions) is somewhat sketchy. Maybe if you had a brand-new never-been-touched ZJ, everything would be straight and perfect and they'd bolt right on, but this isn't my case. The pinch seam doesn't drop down far enough all the way from front to back to get a good "grip" for the rock-rails, and I only had clearance to properly set three or four of the bolts. Maybe this is a construction difference between the '93-'95 and '95-'98 ZJs too, I just don't know. But I didn't trust just the bolts along the bottom, so I added #14 self-tapping stainless sheetmetal screws to secure it along the upper edge of the rocker. To keep gunk from getting down between the rocker and the body, I ran a bead of silicone along the upper edge.

    To match the body cladding, I pulled it all off to paint it flat-black, along with the rear bumper (not installed yet).


    Trimmed and welding in-progress. I won that little flux-core at the Alaska 4x4 Meet & Greet. While I may suck at arc-welding, I forgot how much I love to MIG! I already want to sell it so I can upgrade to something with gas.


    Ready for bondo.


    Since the flare covers this, I didn't need to make it even as pretty as I did, but for some reason I at least wanted to knock-off the big Bondo ridges and make it look kinda nice.


    Test fitting the flare.


    Welded and initial trim. I would have done more but it was late and didn't want to fire up the cutoff wheel.


    Test-fitting the flare.

  3. #3
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    Finished and in the driveway. I didn't get the rear bumper on before I had to pick her up from the airport, so she had input at the end and told me she didn't want the leading edge of the bumper cut; she prefers the factory edge even though it doesn't match up to the flare. It's her ZJ, so she's the boss. We can always trim it later.



    Overall clearance and look is satisfactory.



    First real trail run on Boulder Creek with Alaska Extreme Fourwheelers.



    Mud to the left.




    This was a bad line. Even a locker and 37" Iroks didn't get him out of that hole.




    ZJ did great though. On the way back she slammed it hard down on a rock without damaging the rocker. I haven't looked at it closely to see if the powdercoating came off though.



    On this trail the hard-bottom tends to be toward the right, but it's still deep enough even in the dry weather we've had to give the door-seals a test. The only place we had a little water seep in was at the left rear door where the area is damaged so the seal doesn't seat properly. She proceeded without me while I was taking pictures and started to get hung up, so I had her back up and pull up on this little spot so let water drain for a few minutes while we got the two Toyotas winched out.


    Overall impression: very nice! This was her first real trail run while driving, and she slammed the left front fender hard against a bank cut in a muddy spot when she slid into a rut. I heard a cracking sounds from that general area but there's not apparent damage. And the rock-rail she slammed on reshaped the rock but didn't damage the ZJ at all. The right front flare, right at the tip, and the edge of the bumper had some rock-rash that I didn't notice until we were airing back up. It was easy to patch up with a little Bondo and paint.


    One last pic:

  4. #4
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    The '95 was a surprising beast offroad. This was a late fall trip (stock winter studded tires on, so I ran chains for traction).


    Earlier this summer, her friend was in need of another vehicle. She'd had a '95 5.2L ZJ that she liked, but it puked a rod. My wife found her a NICE '82 Wagoneer with 80K miles:

    ...that got hit in the spring and totalled. She got a nice insurance settlement, and the hunt was on for another vehicle. After considering her requirements (she wanted an AWD/4WD for winter, not a station wagon, something she could sleep in, preferably SUV style, but not a mini-van or van), it was back to a Jeep. She liked her ZJ, but I was pushing her toward a RAV4 or an XJ for mileage. We looked at a couple ZJs, including a 5.9L that had been ridden hard and put away wet. It was cheap, but the condition was ugly. Then another 5.9L came up on Craiglist. She snagged it: bone-stock slate with 83K miles. She and I both fell in love immediately. Then I had my wife drive it, and my wife suddenly liked the idea of us having a 5.9L of our own. So I started searching Craigslist again.


    I fought through my hangover and went wheeling on a gorgeous July day, not realizing this was its last trip.


    Then fate happened: I picked up this platinum for her with just shy of 120K miles. Completely stock, very clean, relatively well maintained.
    [/QUOTE]

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    Since the 4.0 will now be for sale, I wanted to immediately get it stripped and ready to go. So I had friends over for a build party on Sunday. Plan of attack:
    - strip all Iceland Offroad accessories from 4.0
    - move the front Dana 30 from the 4.0 to the 5.9L (I prefer the U-joint shafts and the U-joint pinion yoke)
    - move the NP231 from the 4.0 to the 5.9L
    - move the Upcountry springs, 3" pucks, shocks, stabilizer, and disconnects from the 4.0 to the 5.9L
    - replace broken ignition switch in the 4.0 ("key-in ignition" had failed, preventing you from locking the doors while the door was open)
    - put a spare '98 NP249 into the 4.0
    - put the 5.9L's Dana 30 into the 4.0
    - remove 5.9L's rear swaybar
    - reinstall OEM 4.0's rear swaybar, and front links
    - move rear wheel spacers from Dana 35 to Dana 44a









    What didn't get finished:
    - tightening all the control arm bolts on the Dana 30 now under the 4.0
    - pulling the NP249 from the 5.9L
    - pulling the linkage and shift gates from both

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    After work yesterday, a buddy came over and we pulled the NP249. As we were putting the NP231 up, we quickly discovered what the bearing collar was inside the NP231 input shaft. We cleared the operating room table, anethetized the surgeons with beer, and broke open the patient NP231. Surgery was a complete success. Here is the patient recovering after:


    Tonight, hopefully, my wife will have a working Jeep back to drive to work!

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    I also need to put some decrative button-head bolts in all the holes left from the flares, pull the 5.9L bumper to paint it black and install on the 4.0, and possibly replace the rear door cladding if I can find some for free/cheap.

  8. #8
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    such a badass build. I love the look of the white with the flat black accessories. My gf is now driving my 5.9 and we essentially have the same plans for it once my XJ is done. You guys seem to work pretty damn fast! Your condo association must love seeing all those jeeps! haha.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryan13 View Post
    such a badass build. I love the look of the white with the flat black accessories. My gf is now driving my 5.9 and we essentially have the same plans for it once my XJ is done. You guys seem to work pretty damn fast! Your condo association must love seeing all those jeeps! haha.
    Thanks! The flat-black idea was all my wife. I wanted to do gloss white to match the body. She made the right decision though.

    I'm on the board for the association; thankfully, there are two other car-guys on the board with me, and one of my immediate neighbors has two flatties (a restored CJ-2A, and a built CJ3A). I try not to have anything that doesn't run parked out front. I know I've been pushing my luck with my postal project since it looks derelict and hasn't been registered in years, but I start it up and drive it around the block every now and again just to prove to people that it moves.

  10. #10
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    Looking good.

  11. #11
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    Daylight photo from when I got started last night.

    With the bearing collar removed, the NP231 slid up like a glove to the 46RE. (I'd also put on a new tranny output shaft seal. For some reason, NAPA told me that they don't carry one for any '98 ZJ. That didn't make sense. They said all other ZJs, and at least early WJs, all use the same seal irrespective of the transmission. That they excluded '98 didn't make sense to me. I looked up a part number on my own, and they crossed it saying it's the same one for every other ZJ except '98. I bought it anyway. It was perfect.)

    I moved the shift gate, shifter spring (it's on the opposite side), and bezel over from the '95. One thing of note: apparently Chrysler assembled the shift gate and bucket as a unit, set the bolts in their holes, and slid a tiny sheetmetal retainer to hold the two pieces together as a unit to mate up with the riv-nuts in the uni-body. I swore at those retainers for an hour trying to get the little bolts out and back in, all in rapidly fading daylight.

    Everything else assembled like it was meant to be, including the four-wheel-drive indicator switch from the '95; it plugged directly into the '98 harness. One other minor note: there was a fuel line bracket on the '98 that attaches via a nut to one of the longer upper case bolts from the NP249. This simply required moving one of the 12-point head bolts from the NP249 case to the NP231 case, giving the NP231 two longer upper bolts to attach brackets to (the other being the wiring harness clamp).

    I kept the shift-tab on the NP231 from the '95. All other under-body linkage worked perfectly from the '98.

    Much to my dismay, the driveshafts were/are still an issue. The '95 front shaft is too long, and I can't use the '98 front shaft now because I swapped axles to retain the u-joint yoke. The '98 rear shaft, which I have to use since it has the larger u-joint, is about 1" longer than the '95. It fit up and doesn't seem like it's going to bottom-out on the t-case, but I'm slightly worried about what it'll do under full-stuff. We will be ginger with it until we can get it into a drivetrain shop next week.

    As we went for a test drive at 11:30 pm, even backing out of the driveway cause major rubbing, so we pulled it back forward and did a quick tire change to the 235/75R15 studded winter tires. I'll trim the fenders this spring when I do the Iceland Offroad flares, and it'll be good-to-go. The official NP231 test drive took place just shy of midnight. The NP231 is grinding slightly moreso when shifting gears than when it was behind the 42RE, but I'm attributing that to the hydraulic differences between the 42RE and 46RE, causing the t-case input shaft to spin slightly even when the transmission is in neutral. Every other 5.9L I've test-driven ALWAYS ground a little when going from 4-high to 4-low.

    Either way, she drove it to work this morning and dropped me off along the way:


    Then she promptly went over to get an alignment done.

    Next up: get the NP249 up behind the 4.0, and see where things are at drive-shaft wise there.

    I'm tired of being up until midnight turning wrenches after working all day. I need a break.

  12. #12
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    For no particular reason, here's the 5.9L that I found for my wife's friend, parked at the beach in my home town:
    Last edited by AK-RWC; 09-18-2013 at 11:21 PM.

  13. #13
    Forum CONDUCTOR Man Z88Z's Avatar
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    Nice work - you guys make some awesome progress!

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    NP249 installed in the 4.0, suspension torqued down, shift gate and bezel in, rear driveshaft installed, linkage adjusted, and drove the 4.0 around the block! (In low range so as not to hurt the VC.)

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    Took the 5.9 on a 500 mile round trip this weekend with no problems!

    Then today, an immovable post jumped out at my wife while she was backing out of a parking space.

    I don't understand how this happened. She's had the '95 for 4 years, and knows the dimensions. Thankfully I'll be cutting the bottom portion off when I put the flare on, and the upper portion will be covered. Can't f'n believe it though. Nicest, newest, rarest car she's ever had, and in less than a week she hits a post.

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    ouch....I know that feeling all too well... stationary objects jump out at my girlfriend too. Poor jeeps

  17. #17
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    I feel your pain. After After grazing the support post on our carport gate my wife won't drive our Niner anymore. She felt so bad. Fortunately the black gate paint polished off the fender leaving no damage. Hell I don't think I was that sensitive about the Mercedes I used to own. Thank goodness that I understand a little bit of filler and paint can work wonders and repair just about anything.

  18. #18
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    My wife hit my niner a couple weeks ago when she was parking her ZJ next to me. It's amazing how inanimate objects jump out like that. Luckily both Jeeps buffed out nicely.

  19. #19
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    i need a lifted zj
    Ross
    1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited
    MPP Headers - Thunderbolt Metallic Cat - 3" Mag catback - EBC Brakes w/ drilled Rotors - 4bbl M1 - Vortech 12psi - Built trans & 2900 stall - Ford 8.8 - Addco & Hellwig Sways - Poly Bushings - H&R Springs - Grabber UHP Tires - Alpine/Infinity Stereo - FX-R BiXenon Retrofit

  20. #20
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    After spending the early afternoon running errands with the wife, she let me get to work on her Jeep. I pulled the 5.9 bumper (it was jacked up anyway) and painted it flat black to go with the flat-black cladding on the '95. Then did some sanding, Bondo, and sanding on the Iceland bumper.




    Bumper set on the 4.0 just to make it look less derelict. I haven't trimmed it or attached it to the unibody in any way.




    Pulled the tow hooks (yes, we got one with the skidplate and towing package), opened up the holes for the winch plate, and got that installed.




    Temporarily set the primered bumper on. I'm going to do a light sanding tomorrow, and two or three coats of flat black.




    One of the errands today was picking out some speakers to replace the doors. We found the Scosche or whatever they are on sale at WalMart. Figured they'd still be an upgrade over what's in the soundbar!




    Because I didn't want to f-up anything related to the factory harness, I soldered the old connectors over to the new speakers. They also required tweaking some of the mounting tabs to sit flush in the soundbar.





    They fit up nicely.




    Moving the connector over for the Kickers.



    We know these aren't the best speakers in the world, but we aren't planning on upgrading the OEM amp, and we aren't hard-core audiophiles. We just want something that isn't blown!

    Got the soundbar installed, and the left rear door. The speaker is in the left front, but while I've got the panel off, I want to plug-in and rotate the junnkyard mirror assembly I got from eBay to pop off the glass (the auto-dim fluid is leaking from the 5.9), and get it swapped on. It's after 1:00 am, and I'm running out of energy for the night.

    Oh, also got the front driveshaft cut down this week from the 4.0 (u-joint style). I painted it a couple nights ago and installed it tonight too. It's nice to have a 4x4 again!

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    I just trimmed it to clear the header supports, and ran three self-tapping screws down into the unibody.




    Giggidy.



    I also ripped the dash apart to fix the VIC "coolant temp sensor bad" message, swap the red/black plugs for the NP231, and I re-soldered the circuit board on the light switch to get rid of the auto-lights flicker. Oh, and I put in my wife's Pioneer head unit. All went well except the light switch. Not only did I not repair the auto/flicker, but I also killed the instruments lights for the switch. Whoops. I guess I'll be ordering a new switch from rockauto.

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    Progress tonight: finally gave up on making the '98 NP249 switch work with the '95 VIC in the 4.0, so I just put it back together with the red wire connected: neutral has all four tires lit, and both high and low have them off. Oh well.

    I did confirm (actually my wife confirmed) I did the VIC-fix correctly for the coolant temp sensor in the 5.9L. And she likes the stereo system now with her Pioneer HU through the OEM amp. So tonight I plugged in a resistor from RadioShack trying to kill the 1494 EVAP canister CEL. After reseting the ECU by removing a battery terminal (I need a scanner still), the CEL didn't come back on during my test drive. I also got the VHF installed and wired to the battery. Thankfully I had a grommet that worked perfectly for the firewall. I put the hole next to the throttle cable, and snaked the wire down from on top of the dash to the left of the defroster vent. It's dumb, but the VHF is just mounted to the dash with 3M tape. I hate drilling holes when they can be avoided.

    I'm also starting to think about some simple go-fast mods, but aside from my built 401 with Pro-Jection 4Di, this whole tuning thing is new to me.

  23. #23
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    Oh, and our friend with the Slate 'Niner accidentally found herself going 110 on the highway on her way back from a quick roadtrip to Beaver Creek, YT. Yes, she is oblivious enough to actually do that. She said she gradually started feeling a shakey-rattley thing, and was about to call me for tech advice when she looked down at her speedo.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK-RWC View Post
    Progress tonight: finally gave up on making the '98 NP249 switch work with the '95 VIC in the 4.0, so I just put it back together with the red wire connected: neutral has all four tires lit, and both high and low have them off. Oh well.

    I did confirm (actually my wife confirmed) I did the VIC-fix correctly for the coolant temp sensor in the 5.9L. And she likes the stereo system now with her Pioneer HU through the OEM amp. So tonight I plugged in a resistor from RadioShack trying to kill the 1494 EVAP canister CEL. After reseting the ECU by removing a battery terminal (I need a scanner still), the CEL didn't come back on during my test drive. I also got the VHF installed and wired to the battery. Thankfully I had a grommet that worked perfectly for the firewall. I put the hole next to the throttle cable, and snaked the wire down from on top of the dash to the left of the defroster vent. It's dumb, but the VHF is just mounted to the dash with 3M tape. I hate drilling holes when they can be avoided.

    I'm also starting to think about some simple go-fast mods, but aside from my built 401 with Pro-Jection 4Di, this whole tuning thing is new to me.
    I been wanting to delete my evap but I didn't know you could do it without having a cel

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by CLEAN AND SLAMMED View Post
    I been wanting to delete my evap but I didn't know you could do it without having a cel
    Found the tech right here!:
    http://thespeedfreaks.net/showthread...63-EVAP-Delete

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