Jump to content

Driveway Ornament To Daily Driver: 7 Years!

Recommended Posts

Driveway Ornament To Daily Driver

A really quite long build thread by Minuit




The Beginning: March-November 2012


 Why hello there, viewer! If you're reading this for the first time, I think I should probably explain some things first. This build is now entering its fifth sixth year. It started shortly before I turned 16 years old, and I had absolutely no prior mechanical experience, so keep this in mind when reading the first few pages. I can say with absolute certainty that some of the things you see early on in this build were not properly done and should not be used as an example of how to do things! However, I have not edited any of this after posting it other than to remove blatantly wrong information. In the early stages of this build, I am teaching myself how to work on automobiles, and I am doing many of the things you see in the thread for the very first time.


This truck was built on April 17, 1991, rolled off the line at Toledo at 12:55 PM, and was purchased new by my grandparents on November 22, 1991 at Underhill Motors in Dickson, TN. In late 2003, its fuel pump failed and the truck was not driven until I took ownership of the truck in 2012. It had not been moved from the spot it was sitting in since it was first parked there in 2003. If you want an exact date, I guess you could say that this build officially began on March 10, 2012 when the fuel pump was first purchased, or April 29, 2012 when the truck was first started and moved under its own power and fuel supply.


I take this build very seriously. Every decision I make is carefully thought out. There will be no cutting of fenders, bed bobbing, or 35" tires in this thread. In an attempt to keep at least a fraction of the truck's history intact, I have a few rules that I follow very strictly:


1. No permanent modifications are allowed. The truck must be able to be returned to its completely original form with bolt-on parts only. The only permanent modification (that isn't a repair) to the truck's structure that is allowed is drilling holes that are pre-punched at the factory. Factory options that are added must be done in a way that's indistinguishable from stock to an observer. The specifics might not be stock, but it damn well better look stock.


2. If at all possible, parts should be correct for a 1991 model year truck. Exceptions are allowed if a later model part is clearly superior (for example, 1997+ door limiting straps that prevent damage to the door hinges) If reasonable, the original parts from the truck should be kept.


3. At no time is this truck to be driven off-road without a very, very good reason. I have other vehicles to abuse.


4. Aftermarket customizations are not allowed. Wheels, radios, etc. are to be OEM parts only.


If there's a specific goal to this project, it's to create the best, most pure example of a street driven Jeep Comanche I possibly can. Even almost 5 years after starting, that goalpost is a very long way away.


Thanks very much for reading, and I hope you enjoy watching this truck's transformation from an algae covered, forgottten driveway ornament to being my dependable daily driver.


- Minuit








15 year old me didn't have very good photography skills.


This is where this whole adventure began.








April 29, 2012



It moved under its own power for the first time in 9 years an hour before this pic was taken.


After replacing the fuel pump, the truck started immediately without smoke or hesitation. At this point it had a deep knocking sound coming from the rear of the engine. Although a number of mechanics identified it as a rod knock, it was coming from loose torque converter bolts!


  • Tip: If you are experiencing a loud knocking sound and have an automatic transmission, check first for loose torque converter bolts and/or a cracked flexplate.
  • Tip: A common theme in this thread will be this: Always verify the source of the problem yourself. Eliminate easy solutions first before jumping to the worst possible situation.



Not much work happened for a few months, but I did start driving it regularly. I took quite a liking to how it drove and how it looked, even though it still was mangled from a front end collision several years back. I started learning as much about these trucks and how to work on them as possible.


Christmas: December 24, 2012


The front end of the truck was damaged by a deer hit sometime in the early 2000s. It looked pretty bad, so new front clip parts were in order.




The old front clip. We hammered out the front bumper to flatten it some. It was much worse.




The bare header panel. I will eventually need to replace this. It's pretty banged up. Everything unscrews nicely. You remove the grille first, then the side markers, then the headlight buckets.




Old and new grilles. You can tell how much color the plastic lost over the years.




The new front clip with the old bumper.




The new front clip, as it sits today.




The shallow wheel caps don't fit over the 2WD wheel bearings. These caps fit perfectly.




The valve cover gasket was leaking and the VC itself was losing most of its paint.




I copied an idea I'd seen on Jeepforum. I like the look of the stripes a lot better.




The old fan shroud had broken in several places and was held together with duct tape. After nearly getting sucked into the fan, I decided it needed to be replaced.


There's a big time skip between the first part of this post and the next. At this point I'm 17 years old, and still pretty inexperienced.


De-Rustification: May-June 2013




This is where the build thread originally started. The previous chapter was added on later. This chapter will be left unchanged so you can laugh at how naive I was a year and a half ago.


Since getting it out from under a tree a year ago, my MJ has been faithfully serving me with very few issues. Even though it's "old", it's kept up with the best in terms of reliability and functionality. Now that school is out now and it's summer, it's time to fix stuff. I figure I have about 11 weeks to get it up and running, better than before. This isn't going to be a complete tear-down and rebuild, but I do certainly plan on going through it meticulously. I'm also trying to keep cost down as money is very tight right now.


Here's how it looks today, the second day of teardown. Total cost of restoration: $140 (headliner + sunvisors)


The seat before I took it out. It has been covered since the truck was brand new. With some care, it'll be pristine.



The one thing all MJ owners dread but will have to eventually come to bear with: the floors.





Not bad! From what I can tell, the metal is still sound with no holes. I'm going to get the grinder after this and paint it once I'm done getting the interior apart. As you can see from the first picture, the cowl is covered up with plastic currently because it's leaking water, which is for sure the source of the passenger side rust. The driver's side floorboard is dry, however. I'd say the jute padding is probably ruined.


This will probably be a fast-paced build so check back frequently! This truck honestly does not need much to be considered 'restored' so as far as restorations go this is fairly minor. I am a 17 year old unemployed car guy, so that will probably be its own problem. I'm definitely not interested in half-@$$ing this. I'm going to do justice to this truck and fix everything correctly. It may cost more or take more work, but I can deal.


Tentative plans for the next month or so:

- Renew interior, including new headliner, refreshed seat and interior panels :thumbsup:

- Repair floorboard rust and plug any water leaks :thumbsup:

- Replace muffler (it's rattling quite badly)

- Repair minor exterior damage (scratches, small dents)

- Fix air conditioning (obviously a job for a shop)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Made some progress today! I didn't get as much done as I wanted to today, but that's alright. I typically quit fairly early in the day before it gets too hot to work comfortably (the high today is 90 degrees)


I did the first sanding pass on the floors today. This is how the passenger side looks after about half an hour of work with a grinder. Obviously, I'm not finished. I'll probably finish this side tomorrow.



And the driver's side. This is going to take a lot more work to get right, but none of the rust looks terminal so far.



After I got the rest of the interior apart, Dad pushed the big dents behind the doors out.




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Apologies for not updating this thread recently. I have long since finished the floorboard repair, so I'll update this post chronologically as I remember it.




Better pic of the passenger's side right after getting the floor liner out. Not bad for 22 years of rain and neglect.




At this point, I decided to pull the dash to get a better look at what caused the water to get in. Turned out to be the blower motor for the passenger's side and the wiring harness junction for the driver's.




The passenger floor pan almost ready for paint. I ground out the rust and filled a few tiny pinholes with JB weld. I've never tried the stuff before so hopefully it'll live up to its name.




Still a little more left to sand. The floor pan on this side didn't have any holes, surprisingly. I got off pretty well with the floors here.




Much better. If I would have done this now, I would have applied bed liner instead of regular paint. Please forgive my poor JB Weld spreading skills.




The pan is stamped '9-29-89'. Does anyone know what significance this has? It seems a little early to be a production date for the metal, but who knows with Jeep.




The dash, put back together after a good cleaning. Getting the defroster bezel on was a lovely experience that I'd rather not relive. I need to invest in skinnier screwdrivers. Side note: wire nuts aren't the greatest thing to use for car stereo.




The lower dash cleaned up fairly well.






The new headliner from a1500ram fit pretty well and looks like it belongs there. Ditto with the sunvisors. Yes, I cleaned the greasy fingerprints off :doh:



The seat, (mostly) cleaned up and uncovered for the first time since 1992. Looks good. That stain still bugs me. Any tips for getting a very stubborn stain out? Upholstery cleaner does nothing to it.




Everything except the radio and fake center console back in.




It moves!


That takes us back to early in June. For the rest of summer, I chilled out and just drove it. For the work of a penniless 17 year old honors student, I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fender Flares: August 2013


  • Tip: If the fenders aren't completely rusted, don't try to remove your fender flares. You will break studs and you won't be able to fit them back on correctly.


I was going to remove the fender flares and clean them up, but after breaking one of the studs I learned my lesson and decided to spray them still on the truck. For this, I used black satin Krylon Fusion but I've heard good things about several other brands.


The can says no prep is required, but I gently sanded the flares to remove some of the rough spots and rock chips. Some sanding will also take off the top layer of dirt and faded out plastic so the paint can bond better.




Front left after two coats. I would recommend around 3 coats for durability. You want to be fairly generous with the masking, since the Krylon can sprays in a fan pattern. It does come off with denatured alcohol so overspray isn't the end of the world. For 3 coats all around, one and a half cans should be plenty. Make sure you keep your coats even or some spots may be darker than others. After a while I got my technique down and the last two I did looked much better than the first.




Right after removing the masking, Fusion is very shiny. A few hours and it will dull considerably, but it still looks much better.




Quarter panel paint touch-up and the rear left fender flare after letting the paint dry for a bit.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The fender flares look great! As for the date stamp it is likely the production date of that panel and not the truck itself.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The fender flares look great! As for the date stamp it is likely the production date of that panel and not the truck itself.


Thanks! I know it's not the build date of the whole truck, I was wondering if it was a revision date or just the production date of the floor itself. Thanks for telling me though. :thumbsup:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the comments! I love doing work on this truck, so hopefully I'll never have to stop.


Dome Lights: October 2013


The dome lights on our trucks were held in by very flimsy plastic clips that break under the best of conditions. Mine of course were no exception.




These are the Euramtec lights I bought. The list price for them is $16 apiece, but they can be had much cheaper through a seller on this forum: http://comancheclub.com/topic/40318-jeep-comanche-courtesy-light-alternative-euramtec-7180-100-for-sale-ind/




These don't use a plug unlike the old ones, but that's not a problem since the factory wires are on quick disconnects already. They can be easily pushed out of the plastic plug with a pair of needle nose pliers. The only modification that's required other than that is to crimp on a larger quick disconnect for the positive wire. In order from the picture's point of view, the terminals are positive (red), door switch (yellow) and ground (black). My lights were supplied with a wiring diagram verifying this.




The old lights.


The new lights are slightly smaller than the old ones, but they come with a very solidly made plastic adapter. This, unfortunately, makes them slightly wider than the old lights but exactly as tall. The hole in the B-pillar trim will have to be widened by about 1/4 inch for them to fit. It took longer to get out the Dremel tool than to make the holes wider. Just make sure you remove plastic from the same side! (towards the rear windshield or towards the door) :thumbsup:




Installed. They are fastened inside the trim very well. These are a quality product, and I strongly recommend them. They're not extremely bright, but they make useful light even when it's pitch black outside.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The fender flares still look great two months after I did them. These pics were made a few days ago.







A Jeep automobile, in its natural habitat.




Clear coat really brought these tail lights back to life. I did this a few days after the fender flares.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Not much has happened with the MJ recently, so I'll just think to myself. I'd love some other suggestions, also!


Planned Upgrades: Sometime When I Have Money


- V8 ZJ tie rod assembly: For the sake of upgrading, mostly. This truck will see light wheeling at most. I'm going to replace all this stuff already, so why not upgrade?


- V8 ZJ sway bar assembly: For road manners. This truck already handles remarkably well for being a half mile off the ground, but why not make it better?


- New springs: Either from a 4wd XJ or just a replacement. It's either really sagged in the front on unusually high in the back. Not too much lift, though. Perfectly level trucks aren't used as trucks and a forward rake looks cool and I want an original looking truck. I'll have to measure the ride height to make up my mind.


- WJ brake master cylinder: My brakes as they are are merely sufficient. Merely sufficient is not good enough.


- Upgraded headlight wiring with H4 housings and bulbs: Once again, my headlights need replacing, so why not go just a little further?


- A better rear axle, preferably with limited slip: Preferably an 8.25 (easy find in the JY with some mods required) to keep things in the family but 4.10s are fairly common on Ford 8.8s (also easy find in the JY with the same mods required.) 0-60 in 8 seconds appeals to the little kid in me. This truck probably has quite a bit of highway driving in its future which is a good argument to keep the 3.55s. My stupid open diff makes wet roads annoying to drive on.


- Upgraded fuel injectors: Fuel injectors aren't at their best by 150k so if I'm going to pull them out, I might as well put better ones back in.


All of these are fairly simple upgrades except for yanking out the rear axle, which is a long term thing since my D35 (somehow) seems to have nothing wrong with it and the gears looked excellent when I changed the gear oil earlier this year. I'm welcome to any suggestions.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A Little Thing: October 2013


After quite a bit of searching, a full set of Comanche mud flaps finally turned up. I got really lucky and happened to be able to afford them, which is a rare propsition. This is probably the best cosmetic decision I've ever made on this truck:






I just have the fronts one right now. Next weekend I'll clean up the brackets and get some measurements of both the front and rears and put together a detailed post. . :MJ 1: .

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still a big fan of how awesome those factory stripes look on this truck!


Couldn't agree more. The body color and the stripes look amazing together especially in person! Thanks for following my stupid bumbling around! :thumbsup:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rear Mud Flaps: November 2013


My truck may be famous now but the work must continue. As an appetizer, I de-rustified the front mud flap brackets and made some measurements so it might be possible to make a duplicate of these.








Painted up.




Total length of just over 7.5'' with main mounting holes drilled 1/4'' inside.




The long side (the side that screws onto the mud flap) is just under 2'' wide.




90* crease. The shorter side attaches to the fender flare studs.




The bracket, screwed onto the mud flap.




Other side.




Attached, looking towards the rear of the wheel well. I sprayed the nuts down with penetrating oil every day for a week and I didn't break any of the studs. Be very careful.




Little bit better perspective. As a side note, I can say that the mud flaps are very effective at keeping dirt away from the body of the truck. After week's worth of driving the rockers are still clean.




These are the ultra-rare Jeep branded mud flaps that dealers could order for installation. Cherokee mud flaps are entirely different but may be cut down to fit. I actually have them the wrong way around in this picture. They go behind the actual wheel well and the cut-out in the mud flap itself hugs the lower part of the bed, right behind the fender flare like so:




I couldn't find any mounting holes on the back of the wheel well so I got some help to drill them. Make sure they're level before you drill the hole.




The end result looks pretty dang sweet and looks like it'll keep crap from being thrown onto the paint and other cars by the tires.


Edit: Measured the ride height yesterday and it's only down 1/4'' in the rear. Surprised that a stock truck has such a rake on it. I may or may not want to level it out a bit in the future.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

If anyone was wondering, here are some of the pics I made for MJOTM that didn't make the cut:













Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

It made it! . :MJ 1: .





After 22 and a half years, it finally got through the break-in period today, running like a champ and never giving up. Here's to another 150k. I have a week off over thanksgiving so it may see some love soon.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I celebrated my new year with a trip to the junkyard. It was really, really cold and windy today so I didn't get much of the stuff I was looking for. When it warms up, I'll be back. I haven't made any changes to the MJ but the next round of work will probably be mechanical with some minor upgrades mixed in.


However, the JY did have this 84 XJ (that I liked for some reason) :



... from which I impulsively pilfered this:




...which puts this XJ's approximate build date in January-February 1984.


30 years old and it's in better shape than mine! It still has the trim around it and doesn't have any scratches in it. It also has the AMC logo molded into it which instantly makes it superior. Just a little touch of not-black would look good I figured.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Since I've just been posting random crap for the past while, I figured I'd save up my "achievements" for one big post...

They Die So We May Live: January 2014


The junkyard is a fantastic place. Seas of unloved parts just waiting to be claimed. For me, that's a problem. I can't help but notice that 99% of the things I see at the junkyard would be a downgrade from what I have. It's disappointing in a way. However, sometimes you come upon things like this:


...which I had conveniently been passively looking for for a long time. The former property of a beautiful '88 XJ Limited with 193,000 miles. I couldn't refuse.


These looked good before I even cleaned them, but one of my rules for this build is that everything must be made as close to like-new as possible.


Righteous. It's just a piece of cardboard on a door but it makes a huge difference.


Chrome trim on both sides was dated July '83. There were some minor spots on the underside of the trim but otherwise you can't tell.


I didn't have spacers for my stock window cranks so I had to substitute chrome Help! window cranks from 2002, when they were still made with metal. I'm not changing them back. The XJ had power windows so I had to cut a hole in these but I'll get over it.


I do realize that my grenade-shaped air freshener cancels out any added classiness that the extra chrome brings. :brows:

Overall I'm very happy with the fancy door panels. Only bad thing is my doors don't have the upper mounting clips for the armrests. It's not a big deal but it could be supported better if I didn't forget them.


I was planning on painting and selling this tailgate handle but it's in so much better shape than mine I may keep it.


The more observant of you may notice that my passenger side windshield wiper is up higher in more recent pics of my truck. The bushings were shot and the wiper started slapping the windshield trim. Replacement bushings didn't help much so this '98 XJ wiper motor is going in soon. It's tighter than my current setup even with old bushings.


A '92 XJ donated these bumper guards that I may eventually get around to painting. I brought a couple friends with me when I went to the JY and we went to one's house afterwards. Paved driveways are so much better than gravel. :thumbsup:

On the way home from said friend's house, the upper radiator hose gave up on life and started dripping. I replaced it and used screw-type hose claps. Getting the snap rings off took longer than buying the new hose and putting it on put together. No pics of this, sadly.


After buying some stupid crap, I decided to actually fix something for once. My oil filter adapter had been leaking for a very, very long time if the 1/4'' thick coating of oil that was on my engine is to be believed. If you think your rear main seal is leaking, check this first. You'll hear horror stories on Jeepforum of a T-60 Torx bolt that's an absolute monster to get off but my '91 (and probably all MJs as well) have a 5/8'' (IIRC) hexhead instead. Use a ratcheting wrench and it's a cakewalk to get off. Mine had absolutely no torque under it and I couldn't get it very tight either.

Dorman, the company that makes the Help! line of products, isn't earning any favors here. Only one of the O-rings (adapter-block seal) that I needed was in the $5 kit. The other two (fastening bolt O-rings) I had to get piecemeal from O'Reilly. This created a whole 'nother problem, though: the O-rings aren't a 100% exact fit and the stealership was closed. I needed the truck running so we had to make do with the slightly oversized O'Reilly O'ring. Only by some strange black magic did the fastening bolt get through into the block.

The result? Bone dry after 60 miles of driving. I would have lost nearly 1/4 of a quart of oil by now with the leak. If your engine is coated in oil on the passenger side starting about halfway down the block, look at your oil filter adapter first.

Since I haven't updated my lists in a while, here we go:

Total Expenditures since May 2013: $1018
Early entries are estimates. I don't remember the exact amounts.
Headliner + sun visors: $140
Front clip: $300
Air conditioner: $130
Catalytic converter replacement: $220
Junkyard: $105 total

Parts purchased from CC members: $100
Oil filter adapter stuff: $8
Upper radiator hose: $15

Junkyard Parts:
Door panels: 1988 Jeep Cherokee Limited
Front bumper guards: 1992 Jeep Cherokee Sport
Windshield wiper motor: 1998 Jeep Cherokee Sport
Tailgate handle: 1989 Jeep Comanche

Mud flaps: 1987 Jeep Comanche


Parts Purchased from CC Members:

Mud Flaps: mjben

Maintenance Status:
Last oil change: 6qt generic 10W-30, 150,580, next change will be synthetic

Since 12/17/13, I'm running ethanol-free fuel only.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...