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The 75 dollar Comanche, and an introduction....


NotMatt
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Allow me to introduce myself! My name is Matt and I am addicted to Jeeps. I own a '91 wrangler, and have owned and/or worked on various Cherokees, Comanches and Wranglers through the years. I've collected a large XJ/YJ/MJ spare parts pile, and I figured what better way to put some pieces to use than on this...

 

 

She's an '89 Pioneer model, long bed 2wd with a 4.0L, AW4 automatic. Pretty bare bones, base model with bench seat. I bought this from a co-worker of mine. It has been sitting for quite a while with what he said was a bad fuel pump. It turned out the only issue was that the hose from the pump to the pump bracket/housing inside the tank had disintegrated. After some TLC, she fired up and ran like crap due to the bad gas. After trailering it home, I found all sorts of little issues that needed fixing, including missing vacuum lines, "twist and electrical tape" spliced wiring, electrical issues with the multi-function turn signal switch.

 

 

The first thing on the list to fix/replace... the steering column. At some point, someone attempted to fix the multi-function switch issue and tore the steering column all apart. Unfortunately, they just threw all the parts in a bin and lost a few along the way. The stock steering column was also a "column shift" unit for the AW4, which I could leave or take. However, since I had a whole spare steering column in gray from an '89 XJ, I went ahead and swapped it in to avoid the painstaking process of having to tear down one good steering column to provide donor parts for another. Also from the same '89 XJ, I went ahead and swapped in the floor shift unit for the AW4. This is a really easy swap. You need the shift cable from a floor shifted XJ or MJ, and the shifter assembly from your donor rig. The cable attaches to the tranny the same way as the column shift one does, and pushes through the firewall through the same grommet. Just has to be routed above the steering column and over to the center floor shift instead of to the bottom of the column. When you pull the carpet up, you will find that there is simply a plate that needs to be unscrewed and removed for both the 4wd shift assembly and the floor assembly. I went ahead and disabled the lockout on the steering column that I swapped in by blocking it with a screw so I would not need to unlock the steering column to take the rig out of park, so I avoided swapping in an extra cable to the shifter for that.

 

Stay tuned for more pictures and tech as I proceed to do a 4wd conversion. The plans are for a spring over in the rear, and a Ford 8.8 with discs to replace the D35. A non-disconnect high pinion D30 will be going in the front, and I will be building a long arm setup similar to the Clayton Offroad kit with RE joints.

 

In the mean time, here's another pair of Jeeps parked at my house. The YJ on the left is my wheeler... 4.0HO, AX-15, Atlas 5:1, welded 14 bolt in the rear and welded Ford HP D60 in the front with full hydraulic steering. The one on the right is my buddy Dan's XJ "wagoneer", Renix 4.0, AW4, 231 with a welded D60 w/5.38 gears in the rear, spooled HP44 up front w/5.38 gears, front leaf spring conversion, and hydro-assist steering.

 

 

Cheers!

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An interesting fact... I ran the VIN on this Jeep through the decoder listed in the DIY/Writeup section... It came out telling me that my MJ was a 4.0, 4wd, selec-trac, with floor shift. So either someone in its past converted it from 4wd to 2wd and floor to column shift, or the VIN decoder is not accurate. The VIN is the same everywhere on the rig, and as far as I can tell it has always been 2wd unless someone was VERY meticulous in converting it to 2wd. I'm betting on the latter, that the VIN decoder is not so accurate... OR, since this Jeep is an '89 model year and was manufactured in early '89, it was built in with odds and ends that Jeep had leftover from production year '88 and still titled as an '89, and the records are just not that accurate.

 

comanche.gif

 

PS I love the smiley selection on this forum, lol.

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VIN decoder must be buggy, I don't think selec-trac was ever available on the Comanche, although I see no reason why it couldn't have been.

 

Oh yeah, that's right. I forgot the nomenclature for 231 vs. 242. Command-Trac would be 231.

 

In any case, it doesn't matter cause it's all getting converted anyway. :D I have an unheated uninsulated garage to work in right now in Eastern WA (it just snowed 4" last night)... is it strange that I'm still excited to get home from work and get straight to working on the MJ? Lol. I have door locks to swap cause I don't have a door key for the MJ, and a leaking tranny line to replace, as well as a new serp. belt.

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Mnkyboy: I'm in Wenatchee

 

87warrior: I already have them, so that's what I'll run. I plan on building a similar setup to the Clayton raddius arm kit including the crossmember with removeable center section. I had the Clayton kit on my old xj and was very happy with it.

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So I spent some time last night replacing the serpentine belt that shredded into strips on me a few days ago while I was driving home from work. Found out it was only marginally tight from the previous owner, and half of the bolts holding the power steering pump were missing or loose. So I threw on the new belt, but I'm not convinced I solved the problem. With the belt tightened and tensioned properly, I now have a very loud "squeak" under acceleration, and a pronounced grinding noise at anything above idle. I replaced the tensioner pulley last night thinking that would solve it, but no go.

 

So now I get to chase down whatever is squeaking and causing a ruckus in the belt train. Easy enough I guess. I have a 3-row radiator to swap in place of the beat up stock rad in there now, and some new motor mounts to go in... so I'll do all of that this weekend.

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Well tonight was eventful. Tore the front end down. Replacing the old 2 row radiator with a spare 3-row unit, still closed system since I think they work fine if properly maintained. Removed the a/c condensor too. Tore apart the driver side of the motor. Going to put in new motor mounts, fix cracked exhaust manifold, replace injector o-rings, delete the egr and some other cleanup while I'm there. Tomorrow I'll finish this up and start in on the rear spring over. Have to wait for coils and a trackbar to do lift the front though.

 

Also going to swap in an XJ brake balance valve so I can get rid of all the extra funny business variable rear brake valve stuff and just have one line to the rear brakes.

 

My squeek in the belt train turned out to be the alternator, so I'll be tearing in to that to put some new brushes in and freshen it up.

 

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I have only ever tried to replace the brushes on one MJ alternator. They are not like the Chevy ones where the brushes are easily accessible from the back. They are not meant to be replaceable and the entire alternator needs to be disassembled. Then I had a hard time finding the brushes. After I had it back together it had taken me longer to fix it that it took my daughter to break it again (one good romp through a deep mud hole). For the time invested I just get $20 junk yard ones now.

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Just ordered some 5.5" Rubicon Express coils and the 1660 RE Extreme Duty trackbar and bracket, and a drop pitman arm from my friend Jeff at Rock Ridge 4WD. Parts should get here on Tuesday or Wednesday, then the fabrication begins to build some longarms and crossmember. Don't know what the status is on linking to pages here, but Google search it and you'll find it. Jeff is "one of us", this is his Comanche he built from an '89 2wd 4.0. The flatbed is all custom built and he did a leaf spring swap up front with 2" YJ leafs, Ford HP 44 and Dodge D60 rear.

 

 

I have only ever tried to replace the brushes on one MJ alternator. They are not like the Chevy ones where the brushes are easily accessible from the back. They are not meant to be replaceable and the entire alternator needs to be disassembled. Then I had a hard time finding the brushes. After I had it back together it had taken me longer to fix it that it took my daughter to break it again (one good romp through a deep mud hole). For the time invested I just get $20 junk yard ones now.

 

Junkyards around these parts think their stuff is gold plated, lol. We have a local automotive electrical shop that will sell me the parts cheap and I've done a couple rebuilds before with good results.

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Took yesterday off work to get some stuff done on the Comanche. Started out with the spring over on the rear. I was going to put a Ford 8.8 in, but that deal fell through so I decided to go ahead and do the spring over with the D35 for now. I'm into it 30 bucks for a pair of spring pads since I ruined the old ones cutting them off. I used the stock u-bolts and spring plates, just cut the factory shock mounts off and flipped them over onto the top.

 

 

 

 

The best thing about working on a Comanche... a place to put all the pieces!

 

 

Today I got the rig all leveled up on the jackstands and got the 2wd axle out. As it sits right now, the bed is level. I took some measurements as the truck sat on the ground, then added 5.5" for the coils, so I know exactly where to place the D30 under there. The plan is to place the front axle on jackstands exactly where it will be at ride height with the caster set at 7 degrees so I can mock up the long arms.

 

 

 

I dug out the one factory tow hook bracket that I have out of my parts pile. It came off an '87 XJ with tow package and skid plate package. This goes in place of the bumper bracket as you can see in the pic. Pretty easy way to have a recovery point on the front, if you can find the brackets. You have to drill a couple of holes through the uni-frame up front and run some bolts through and trim the stock rubber pieces behind the bumper/fender. Unfortunately I only have one, I lost track of the other one (maybe I gave it away lol) but I figure that's all that's really needed anyway. I think I will end up re-working this to also make it into a steering box mount re-inforcement plate similar to some of the aftermarket ones. Combine that with a steering box brace and I should have no issues with the frame cracking.

 

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Some more updates... Figured out my belt shredding problem, lol.

 

Bad harmonic balancer:

 

 

Good harmonic balancer:

 

 

The old one had come apart apart 1/8" and the rubber was starting to come out.

 

Also finished up fixing cracked exhaust manifold. I had to swap a spare intake manifold on too, because one of the power steering pump mount bosses was broken off the front of the one that came in the truck. Made myself a nice custom EGR blockoff plate, and welded up the EGR tube hole in the manifold. Put new motor mounts in, new fuel injector O-rings, new valve cover gasket, new oil filter adapter O-rings. I have a rear main seal and pan gasket ready to go in as well.

 

Thursday night my new RE 5.5" coils, drop pitman arm, Extreme Duty trackbar and bracket came in from Jeff @ RockRidge4wd. Delivered right to his shop and I went and picked them up... nice for me, no extra shipping. :D

 

 

AAAANDDD... here is some tech. Creaky, noisy trackbar because of loose trackbar bolts drives me NUTS! Every XJ or MJ I've ever owned has had this problem, whether it was the stock trackbar bracket or aftermarket... so, easy solution, weld the trackbar bracket right to the frame. This SOAB ain't coming loose now. I guess if I ever wanted to swap parts, I'd have to order a new bracket... but so what, small price to pay for something I don't plan on doing cause the RE trackbar is the bees knees.

 

 

And my spare door key I had made... Kinda cool, I didn't expect it to have the AMC logo right on it when the guy handed it to me. :D

 

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Here's a little video of starting her up after I got the motor all buttoned back up...

 

 

Worked on the long arms tonight. I got these for free from a friend who took them off his XJ. They're RE superflex shortarms that the previous owner cut and sleeved to make a ghetto long-arm kit. It was not a very good setup, he sleeved them with 1.75" .120 wall HREW, which wasn't a tight fit over the stock tube material. I went ahead and tore them all apart, and disassembled the RE superflex joints so I don't ruin the poly when I weld the new sleeve material on.

 

 

Here is after cutting off the old sleeve material and cleaning up all the old paint and rust. I will use 2" diameter 1/4" wall DOM for the links. The ends of the RE arms fit perfectly inside it. I cleaned all the paint off the ends, the link material will be notched so it can slide all the way down to the superflex housing and then be plug welded as well. These should be pretty stout.

 

 

I also layed out the stock crossmember and took some measurements and brainstormed. I think I have a pretty good plan for that, but it will have to wait until I have some more time to work on it.

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Nice looking mj, I wish mine was a AW4 already. I know alot of people love a 5 spd but in the woods the aw4 is awsome. Might wanna check the vin for tampering, xj/mj vins are mounted in the plastic dash and real easy to pop the rivets out and back in. I think there's a build date by the pass side front brake line bracket.

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Nice looking mj, I wish mine was a AW4 already. I know alot of people love a 5 spd but in the woods the aw4 is awsome. Might wanna check the vin for tampering, xj/mj vins are mounted in the plastic dash and real easy to pop the rivets out and back in. I think there's a build date by the pass side front brake line bracket.

 

Yep, I normally drive manual transmission rigs... my Wrangler has an AX-15, my Powerstroke has a ZF-5, my old dodge had an NV4500, etc etc. But I love the AW4, one of the best light duty automatics out there... I love the way they shift and "feel" in general.

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Here's my start to the crossmember.... 3/16" wall 2" by 4". I just tacked the control arm mounts on for now because I'm not sure if I put too much angle on them. Will have to see once I get the links built. Picked up my material for that... 2" DOM, 1/4" wall. Should be pretty bulletproof. :D

 

I still have to cut the crossmember into three pieces and make the center section removeable. I'm going to built it Clayton style so the sides will get welded to the frame and the center section can dropout if the tranny has to come out for any reason. The control arm mounts will be boxed in further, and the end of the crossmember is going to get plated in and tied into the plate some more.

 

 

 

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I was a little hungover from St. Patty's day yesterday, but I managed to get some work done. Got the crossmember mocked up in it's final location, got one factory control arm mount cut off the frame, and one lower link done. Man, I hate cutting those factory control arm mounts off. All I have to do it with is a grinder and a cutoff wheel. At least one is done, I'll do the other one tonight and start on the other link. The angle is definitely too much on the control arm mount on my crossmember, so I'll break the tacks and cut down the one side some more.

 

Pieces for the links...

 

 

One link finished...

 

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More progress on the crossmember tonight. Unfortunately, my garage isn't insulated and I have neighbors close so I can cut and grind all night. Coupled with the fact that I just work slow in general (a few beers'll do that, lol) and I haven't made as much progress as I'd like... but I'm not on any kind of schedule, so oh well.

 

Here's the control arm mounts finished....

 

 

And here's after I sliced it in three so I can make the center piece removeable a'la Clayton style. You can see the 3/8" thick by 2" wide material in the background that I will use for the plates on each end. I managed the light my sweatshirt on fire with the sparks while i was doing the cutting too... so focused on cutting each section straight and true, didn't notice all the sparks were burning a hole right through until I smelled the burning material lol. :roll:

 

 

Still need to box in the ends of the crossmember, that will happen tomorrow after work. I should have the front end all done and sitting on it's own weight this weekend, hopefully. The square exhaust flange is going to be right in the way of the passenger side plates for the removeable center section, but my plan is to cut and extend the B-pipe by a few inches and move it back. There's enough straight material before the cat (smaller aftermarket one) that I should be able to do that. If not, we don't have emissions tests here so I will just remove the cat and replace with a piece of 2.25"

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Final product... the crossmember is done! That was a lot of work! Just need to get four more 7/16 bolts and metal lock nuts tonight after work for the removeable center section, and then I can get it painted and mounted up and welded onto the frame.

 

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