Winter Project: 1997 Jeep Cherokee (XJ) build

It all started last December, when I decided not to scrap what was my parts car after the one I was driving everyday died (last July), and was replaced by a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

I’ve decided to turn said parts car into an off-road-only vehicle during my spare time instead, on a budget, all by hand/myself. Some of my goals will be to not break my daily-driver Jeep off-roading while still paying for it, recycle the most parts from the dead one possible, all while learning metal fabrication/welding, etc.

I started with the following, in January (car lived outside and hadn’t moved/started in ~3 years):

The car resides in my mom’s garage, a 35-45 minutes drive away from where I live.
It does limit my work on it to weekends, but so far, I have:

  • installed a new radiator and coolant hoses
  • purged/replaced all coolant and transmission fluids
  • changed the alternator
  • replaced a full steering knuckle
  • replaced a wheel hub
  • installed a new NSS
  • rebuilt the driver-side headlight
  • removed the old exhaust line, muffler, etc
  • installed a custom fitted exhaust line and smaller Magnaflow muffler
  • got the engine to start and purr (including remote starter)
  • removed the front and back bumpers
  • removed the doors for easier access (for now)
  • removed all the carpets
  • removed the [broken] driver seat and rail
  • started cutting/cleaning the floor, to be rebuilt
  • installed 33″ tires on 15×8 wheels with 3.75″ of back space
  • installed my heavy-duty stubby front winch bumper (to be recut/modified)
  • trimmed a large portion of both the front and back fender, as well as the rockers (driver side only, for now)

Here’s a snapshot of its current state:

Starting to rebuild the floor next, then on to building tube fenders and rock sliders (boat sides).

This trusty XJ will be my long-term “buggy”, for the next 3-5 years, and will keep getting upgraded over time, as my budget allows. Phase one (this) will involve this rebuild, major body /armor/exocage work, 33″ tires (now on), existing 4.5″ short-arm/leaf lift, and a welded-locked rear stock axle (Dana 35, with the benefit of all parts in double). Phase 2 will see a complete lift upgrade to long arm, quad-linked Ford 8.8 rear axle with springs and disc brakes, complete truggy-style chop, lockers front and back, 35-36″ tires, etc.

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