Budget Iceland Offroad ZJ build

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#1
While the XJ that my fiance 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. 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. :eek: 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:





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's been driving it like this since April.
 
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AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#2
I took it for it's first real trail run in May:




With the Scrambler out of the garage 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, so I started this last weekend:


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.

My fiance gets in tonight at 11:00. I'm hoping to finish this up and get the interior panels re-installed so I can pick her up in this as a surprise.

A friend in my 4x4 club is moving to the Lower 48 and decided to sell his VHF, so I picked that up from him to put in the ZJ somewhere. I haven't figured out where yet though.
 
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AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#3

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. I'll post pics of it when I get a chance. It's nothing that a little Bondo for fiberglass won't fix with a little paint.
 
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AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#4
Immediate future plans:
- install VHF
- get full-size spare mounted
- enjoy the summer!

We still need to decide whether to go with a roof-rack tire carrier or a rear bumper/carrier. But I think the Scrambler will be getting bumpers before the ZJ.
 

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#5
Not that I ever expected this build thread to be the talk of the century, but this summer will be the last wheeling this ZJ will see in its present form:



Because everything will be shortly moved over to a 5.9L:



I'm not defecting or anything, but the go-fast Jeep crowd intrigues me the same way that the AMC drag-crowd intrigues me. So today I registered on www.thespeedfreaks.net, and I'll probably do a 5.9L build thread there. 345 lb-ft of torque at 3600 RPM is hot. My dilemma for Sunday: traction bar for the 8, or start moving the lift to the 'niner?
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
City
Dexter
State
MI
#6
How did I miss this??? I love ZJ builds! There's a trail guide at the Oak Ridge VA event that John N is involved in that has a sick ZJ that was the first really built one I ever saw up close. Never forget his microwave in the back that he always used to make his family lunch on the trail. He just creeped over everything without so much as a pause.

A 5.9?!?! NICE! That's one of my dream cheap DDs :drool:

We need the build thread here too!! :fingerscrossed:
 

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#8
For the love of all that's holy... they called your Scrambler a WRANGLER over there!!! We deserve the build thread!! :rotfl:
I was similarly horrified, particularly after posting the pic of the 401, which I'd hoped to bring understanding between the two worlds. I did recoil, and tried to school them without being terribly insulting. Only time will tell if they are willing to embrace their history. Nonetheless, I appreciate and admire what they are, even if they never embrace what their make comes from.
 

spankrjs

Scrambler Junkie
LIFETIME
CJ-8.com Member
City
Biloxi
State
MS
#9
Our Jeep Club President has an older 5.9 Grand Cherokee like that:thumbsup:

His has the ARB front bumper, some kind of rear bumper tire carrier, and lots of dents:rotfl:

He wheels it/beats on it/generally abuses it, but it has been pretty good:crazy:

But, and it might not be an issue in AK, he has had multiple cooling system failures - water pumps, fans, radiators, etc. It just gets very hot down here, and that 5.9 really fills up that small engine bay:crazy::twocents:

Also, he has had problems with the heads cracking. Might be a common problem with the 5.9's, he went through 30 heads at the local junkyard trying to find a pair that were not cracked. He is looking into aftermarket heads now.

They sure sound cool, and can really throw some mud:thumbsup:

Are you going to swap the axles out of your other Cherokee under the 5.9??

EDIT - he is pretty hard on his 5.9, though:crazy:

http://i1326.photobucket.com/albums...2E602F7E-373-000000388DB3189C_zps51f1765a.jpg

http://i1326.photobucket.com/albums...A3B6D8E6-441-000000405A4A7A00_zps04bc90d2.jpg
 
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bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
City
Dexter
State
MI
#10
I was similarly horrified, particularly after posting the pic of the 401, which I'd hoped to bring understanding between the two worlds. I did recoil, and tried to school them without being terribly insulting. Only time will tell if they are willing to embrace their history. Nonetheless, I appreciate and admire what they are, even if they never embrace what their make comes from.
I'm just messing with you. I was very impressed with your history lesson though :cheers:
 

Roman

Legacy Registered User
City
Kennewick
State
wa
#11
Love the 5.9's. Hope you got a deal on that one.... Down here in Washington 5.9's are rare and super expensive (relative to a 5.2) From what I've read, the 5.9's are even worse on gas than the 5.2's. My '98 averages 13.7mpg in town! But, then again my Wife runs the gas pedal like a toggle switch!!! :banghead:
 

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#13
But, and it might not be an issue in AK, he has had multiple cooling system failures - water pumps, fans, radiators, etc. It just gets very hot down here, and that 5.9 really fills up that small engine bay:crazy::twocents:
. . . .
Are you going to swap the axles out of your other Cherokee under the 5.9??
I really doubt that heat will be a significant issue. This summer was really nice, but it rarely gets above 80 degrees in this part of the state. In Fairbanks and the rest of the Interior it'll get warm and stay warm, but not so much closer to the coast.

I'm going to swap the front axle, solely because it has the correct U-joint pinion yoke to match the driveshaft for the NP231, and I don't want to mess with the crush-sleeve (although that pinion seal needs to be replaced). I also prefer the U-joint axle shafts in the '95 axle over the CVs in the '98 (and all ZJs that came with the NP249).
 

spankrjs

Scrambler Junkie
LIFETIME
CJ-8.com Member
City
Biloxi
State
MS
#14
I really doubt that heat will be a significant issue. This summer was really nice, but it rarely gets above 80 degrees in this part of the state. In Fairbanks and the rest of the Interior it'll get warm and stay warm, but not so much closer to the coast.

I'm going to swap the front axle, solely because it has the correct U-joint pinion yoke to match the driveshaft for the NP231, and I don't want to mess with the crush-sleeve (although that pinion seal needs to be replaced). I also prefer the U-joint axle shafts in the '95 axle over the CVs in the '98 (and all ZJs that came with the NP249).
Yep, much nicer weather up there:thumbsup:

IIRC, my buddy swapped out the CV front axles on his to regular axles, too, but surprisingly, he never broke the stock ones. He did break the front drive shaft CV thingy, though, but his has close to 200k HARD miles. He also recently swapped out the transfer case, too:thumbsup:
 

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#15
Sorry guys, but I'm doing the main thread on thespeedfreaks.net. They are another great, friendly community, but ZJ oriented; very much a tight-knit go-fast ZJ version of our community here. GREAT tech (although there's a lot of good ZJ tech on JF too). I've been busy. Too busy to work on the Scrambler or the postal, and the Scrambler has even been temporarily banished from the garage. (Don't worry; it's not snowing yet.) But OMFG I've been doing nothing but turning wrenches for essentially the last two weeks. Here are the highlights:


Swapped spacers and Upcountry springs, front axles, pulled t-cases. Ended up having to disassemble the NP231 from the 4.0 to remove a bearing collar from inside the input shaft.




These were only on for like five minutes. They rubbed at all four corners. Since studs are now legal, I immediately pulled them (seriously, we didn't make it out of the driveway before my wife told me to put the other tires on) for the studded 235s.




She already hit a post. I'm not super-worried about it though since the lower portion of the bend is getting cut off, and the upper part will be covered by the flare.




All four door speakers were blown. Since I was at it, we picked up the Scoshe 6.5"s from WalMart for $33 to put in the sound bar. MAJOR difference! Also got the Pioneer installed that I just put in to the '95 four months ago.




'95 is getting close to being ready for sale.




Cleaned up the bumper, Bondo'd the gouges, etc., from her accident a year and a half ago, and added several coats of paint before installing.
 

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#16
Lots of little progress, but nothing pic worthy:
- Removed the VIC and resoldered the back of the front circuit board to get rid of the "bad coolant sensor" message
- Switched the red/black plugs behind the VIC for it to recognize the NP231
- Replaced the four struts for the liftgate and tailgate, and replaced the rubber bumper-stop thingys
- Replaced the driver door-ajar switch
- Replaced the headlight switch, and pulled the two wires from the Body Control Module harness to bypass it so the fog light switch operates independently of everything (the button now activates the relay irrespective of key position and irrespective of headlight switch position)
- Diagnosed a dead low-speed fan switch (the upper coolant hose), and currently have it jumpered so the low-speed fan is on whenever the key is on; I located a replacement from a junkyard in CA and it's in the mail
- Located and installed the OEM cup-holder insert and OEM tailgate net
- Ordered an agate front grab handle to install for the passenger (sun-roof ZJs didn't come equipped with the front grab handle, and only 5.9Ls came with agate trim panels above the dash, but apparently the '98 Orvis ZJ sold in the UK is a 5.9L for all color and trim purposes, including even the hood vents, except for the engine itself which was a 4.0L, so I found the correct color handle on eBay from an Orvis that's being parted out in the UK)
- Bought an OBDII scanner and confirmed that every couple of engine starts, the PCM, which has CA software on it, is looking for a a leak detection pump for the EVAP system that doesn't exist since this is a fed-spec ZJ. Until we decide if we want to pay $116 for the dealership to reflash the PCM or spend $350ish for an SCT 9550 scanner with custom tunes, I'm just reseting the CEL every time it comes on.
- Sold the '95 ZJ with the 4.0L. It was a good Jeep and we will miss it. It's going to a fellow wheeler though, so I know it will have a good home. He has a nice Rubicon TJ Unlimited, and a Pacer! Since he daily-drives the TJ, he's not sure if he wants to use the ZJ as his around-town ride, or give it to his girlfriend (her XJ is rusting out around the windshield frame), or maybe put a lift back on it for a beater wheelin' rig. Either way, he took it knowing that the tires are shot, the front driveshaft needs to be lengthened, and there's a slight coolant leak (which I think is just the lower radiator hose, a new on of which I included), and he has to paint the body cladding I located flat-black to match what's already on there.

So what's left:
- Fix the driver's side seat heater
- Replace the tailgate power lock actuator (have one from a junkyard already that a friend gave me a year ago since he was getting out of ZJs)
- Sand and repaint the flares
- Lightly sand and paint the powder-coated rock-rails
- Trim front fenders and install flares
- Install rock-rails
- Before next spring, trim and weld the rear fenders and install the rear flares


'Niner porn for no reason:

This is the 5.9L that I found for our friend earlier this summer, taken on the beach in my home town. This is the ZJ that convinced my wife and I that we needed a 5.9L.


My wife's ZJ on the same beach (a little further down and facing the other way) a few weeks ago:



Also I've already put the winch to work pulling a tree up a bank so I could be lazy and saw it up in the front yard of our vacation place rather than tossing each round up the hill. Since we're having unseasonably warm weather, I might take a few more trees down this weekend and do the same thing again.
 

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#17
Minor update:
- Fixed the tailgate lock actuator; for some reason, a DSPO removed it completely. I haven't got the slightest idea why.
- Fixed the driver's side seat heater, which only worked for about two weeks before the wires separated again.
- Found an aftermarket solution to the long-known issue of dead fan switches (this is a big-deal in the ZJ 5.9L community).
- Did some custom work to the Iceland Offroad fog light housings to use a modern bulb, and soldered in the OEM pigtails to connect directly to the factory wiring.

Since she likes driving the ZJ to our place on the Kenai rather than my Subaru, I thought that called for some aftermarket lighting to help with the long night-time drives. For Christmas, I ordered her a cheap made-in-China light bar. Yes, I like to buy American, but this is a DD that sees trails three or four times a year, not a dedicated off-road or racing vehicle. I got this guy off eBay for around $120 shipped IIRC:

Installed it tonight. I had to cut some flat-bar to make little brackets to space it correctly, but I'm happy with how it came out. It's also surprisingly bright, overwhelming the factory brights entirely. I'm not sure how far it really throws light, but we'll find out this weekend. I've got it triggered off a relay from the OEM brights.
 

AK-RWC

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City
south central
State
AK
#20
Could save your life.....
Meeting a moose at night is no fun. :banghead:

z
My dad hit one 11 years ago on this same stretch of road that we drive routinely. Somehow, he and his wife both walked away, but from looking at the car you wouldn't have guess it. I had a friend in high school who lost his father to a moose accident.
 
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