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Building a 1997 MJ in only 89 days!


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Hey everyone, just wanted to contribute my build to the site.  A few talking points to accompany the pics;

 

Eeyore was found in Tampa, where she rested after the PO started the 97+ conversion and never finished.  She "is" a 1988 Spotruck, short bed.  The PO attempted to use a ZJ for the drivetrain, and could not mate the ZJ & MJ electronics... realizing he was in over his head, he pushed the MJ aside and eventually sold it.  We found the Jeep on Facebook marketplace for $700, in mid January 2018.  A week later, the perfect donor XJ showed up on Sarasota Craigslist; a 97 4.0 that a small repair shop took in because the owner couldn't pay the repair bill... body was shot, but the Jeep was totally unmolested mechanically and had a spotless interior.  I ended up buying the XJ for the original repair bill, $400 running and driving, SCORE!

 

I live in Fort Myers and the family shop is located in Spring Hill, so I could only work on the project during the weekends.  This gave me time during the week to sell parts and research how to properly do the swap without cutting corners.  At one point, I sold enough parts to completely cover the purchase of both Jeeps, making this a very cheap project... my bank account appreciated that.  Every year, my family attends Jeep Beach in Daytona, late April, so we wanted to test ourselves to see if we could pull off the impossible and get Eeyore ready for the big show on the beach.

 

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Form over function... we refused to work on the Comanche until the topper was off

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Pulling the ZJ engine, trans, and tc

 

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^January 27/28

 

Everything was stripped from the Comanche, leaving us a blank slate to start from:

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Steering wheel didn't want to cooperate ^ 

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Cutting the XJ and zeusing the patch panel back into the Comanche firewall to align the steering.

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Test fitting XJ dash, seat, and steering column.  Scored some JK wheels for cheap!  

Feb 2nd, 3rd, and 4th^

 

The next few weeks were spent dismantling the XJ.  It was originally purchased in Syracuse, NY and then lived its life up in Wyoming.  Every nut and bolt was rusted, meaning the heat wrench was used a ton.  Before dropping the XJ 4.0 into the Comanche, we painted the engine compartment, made all new brake lines, installed the dual-diaphragm brake booster, and ran the XJ wiring harness.  After the motor was in its new home, we plugged in all the sensors we could see and hooked up the battery... amazingly everything worked!  Granted we just removed parts off one Jeep and put them in another, but it was a great feeling to turn the key and have working gauges, lights, a/c, etc... we knew we were making progress!

 

Skip ahead to early March; body work... had to find different XJ doors and fenders.  The doors were originally power and we converted them back over to manual for simplicity.  Thanks to some members on this site, we were able to get the new doors mounted and fab the latches fairly easy.  If the Comanche wasn't ugly enough already, adding gray doors added to the rainbow colored body definitely put it over the top.

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Peep those hood louvers ;)

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... also that JCR rear bumper

March 3rd, 4th^

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I think these came out of a early model XJ.  They were dirty, but were a lot more comfortable than the 97 seats... direct bolt in for the Comanche... maybe something I'll change down the road.

 

Fuel delivery was our next issue.  Again, thanks to members on this forum, a Dakota 22gal tank and sending unit was sourced and installed, $110.  A torch made quick work of reshaping the tank to clear the driveshaft, and also sit forward enough so we could reuse the Dakota tank straps in the factory Comanche mounting location.  After we got fuel to the motor, we could start it for the first time.  The girl started right up and ran (almost) perfect, all gauges were working and the freshly rebuilt AX15 worked great.  I got a driveshaft made for $200ish in Tampa, Driveshaft Specialists.  

 

I did NOT want to build a stupid high lifted Comanche, rather a rig that would run fire trails and occasionally pull a small utility trailer.  For suspension, I ended up doing a 3" XJ lift coil, WJ LCAs, and JK Rubicon shocks.  Out back, we kept the lift shackles (as ugly as they are) and shocks off a Chevy 2500.  The combination of parts made the Comanche sit just perfect for what I wanted.  The JK wheels I bought, are roughly 32" tall, and with the help of a wheel spacer/adapter, I feel the stance is perfect for a "stock" look.

 

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After 6 weeks of waiting, my Notch Customs fender flares came in... well worth the wait!

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Yes, that is a D30 from a ZJ... not going to say anymore.

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April 14th, 15th^  

 

For paint, we went with a single stage.  I almost went with the 60th anniversary silver, but too many others have done that in the past.  The choice was either Anvil or Rhino... Rhino won!

 

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I love the antique plate.  I used a front licence plate bracket off the donor Jeep and it fit perfectly on the JCR bumper... add some Amazon led bolt lights and we are legal.  

April 24th, 25th^

 

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Yes, I flat towed the Comanche to Daytona, and yes I removed the driveshaft.  

Morning of April 26th, headed to the beach ^

 

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She made it!  First day of wrenching was January 27th and we finished it on April 25th... 89 days to complete. Of course there are a ton of small things I am continuously working on, but it was an amazing group effort for all that were involved.  I have always wanted a Comanche, and I am truly thankful that I can call this one mine.  Also want to give a huge thank you to all the members on ComancheClub for posting very detailed posts and tech info.  Please enjoy the pics and story, feel free to ask questions!

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For those who are wondering, I call her Eeyore for many reasons... when we picked her up, there was a large Eeyore decal on the rear window... there was also a huge penis spray painted on the roof.  After much deliberation, we felt Eeyore was a better name than the other suggestions I was getting.  Plus, Eeyore is a pack mule - slow, clumsy, and carries a lot of crap that I toss in the bed!  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Single stage, no clear coat...

 

Practice on your donor jeep before starting on the MJ.  The biggest issue we had was getting the airflow in the gun to the correct setting... it was either too thin or too thick, a few times the gun would spit paint, not spray.  Unfortunately the day we painted it was super windy, but we made a makeshift paint booth with tarps and an awning.  As long as you mix the paint properly, take your time, and prep the body before, it will come out okay.  The paint supply store said don't prime anything unless it is bare metal or rusty, so we just block sanded everything, wiped it down with mineral spirits, and went to town.  I would still like to cut and buff the paint, but it is acceptable as you see it.

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