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Old Blue 1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ) Build

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This is the Old Blue 1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ) build thread.  Old Blue is special because he's got square headlights.  That makes him different from every other type of Wrangler.  He's also got windshield wipers that won't lay flat because the windshield is too small.  Or the wipers are too long.  Jeep couldn't figure it out, so we shouldn't try. 


A direct decendent of the CJ, the YJ was the only leaf-sprung Wrangler that Jeep made.  There are some who consider the YJ the last "True Jeep".  This is Old Blue's story.


Meet Old Blue


Vehicle: 1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ)

VIN: 1J4FY29S6SP203191




Engine: 4.0L HO (Chrysler Electronics)

Transmission: AX-15

Transfer Case: NP231


Front Axel: Dana 30 3.07 Gears

Rear Axel: Dana 35 3.07 Gears


Build Date: May 1995


Purchase Date: December 21, 2013

Purchase Date Mileage: 27,901


Factory Options: Aqua Pearl Coat Paint; AM/FM Cassette Radio; 4 Speakers; Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel; Tilt Steering Column; Cloth High-Back Bucket Seats; SE Decor Group; Floor Carpet; Cargo Compartment Carpet; Full Length Floor Console; Cigar Lighter; Courtesy Lamps; Underhood Lamp; 15" Aluminum Wheels




Old Blue was purchased in 1995 for use at a horse farm in Sykesville, Maryland, which is located in southern Frederick County.  From 1995-2013 he served the horse farm by carrying riders and equipment all over the property.  He was likely parked on grass when not in use.


In December of 2013, Old Blue was traded in for a newer Jeep at Tate Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Glen Burnie, Maryland, in Anne Arundel County.  When traded in, Old Blue had 27,901 original miles on him.  A former Maryland State Trooper quickly bought Old Blue from the dealership after receiving a tip from a buddy in the service department on what had just come through the door.


Then he listed it on the local Baltimore Craigslist for $5,300, and I happened to be the first person (of 28) to call him in the first twelve hours after the listing going live.  I met him in Glen Burnie, Maryland at Wells Automotive the next day.  My uncle owns and operates the place, and made time to inspect Old Blue for me.  He went over everything pretty well, and he noted the frame was going to need attention in the rear due to rust, and said things like brake lines and belts should be gone over due to age.  He said Old Blue looked like a solid Jeep, and had low miles, and ran very well, so I bought him.


Chrysler Build Sheet


T5 Cloth High-Back Bucket Seats
ADCP Convenience Group
ALAP SE Decor Group
APAS Monotone Paint
BAPS 75 Amp Alternator
BCCS 430 Amp Maintenance Free Battery
BGAS Power Front Disc/Rear Drum Brakes
CADP High Back Bucket Seats
CDBP Reclining Front Seats
CFMP Rear Folding Seat
CKCP Floor Carpet
CKNP Cargo Compartment Carpet
CUFP Full Length Floor Console
DBBC All Manual Transmissions
DDQ 5-Speed Manual Transmission
DHNS Command-Trac Part Time 4WD System
DJJS Dana 30/186MM Front Axle
DMMS 3.07 Rear Axle Ratio
DRJS 175MM Rear Axle
EAAC All Engines
ERH 4.0L I6 Power Tech Engine
GBBS Tinted Windshield Glass
GCCS Plastic Front Door Window
GCHS Half Metal Doors with Locks
GRVP Left Manual Mirror
GSVP Right Manual Mirror
GTVP Swing-Away Mirrors
GVAC All Vehicles W/O Power Mirrors
HCDS Heater w/Instrument Pnl Ventilation
JCDS 100 MPH Primary Speedometer
JHAP Var Intermittent Windshield Wipers
JJAS Cigar Lighter
JJHS Single High Note Horn
JKAP Locking Glove Box
LAPS Shift Indicator Warning Lamp
LBBP Courtesy Lamps
LDAP Underhood Lamp
LMAS Halogen Headlamps
MBAS Painted Front Bumper
MCFP Dark Chrome Exterior Accents
MFBS Body Color Headlamp Bezels
MFRS Black Front Frame Overlay
MFTS Body Color Grille
MWBS Sport Bar w/Side Padding
NAAS Federal Emissions
NBKS EVAP Control System
NFAP 20 Gallon Fuel Tank
NMCS Heavy Duty Engine Cooling
PQEA Aqua Pearl Coat
QQES Aqua Pearl Coat
RAAC All Radio Equipped Vehicles
RAF AM/FM Cassette Radio
RCD 4 Speakers
RDDP Fixed Long Mast Antenna
SBAP Power Rack and Pinion Steering
SCG Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel
SDAS Normal Duty Suspension
SHAS Front Stabilizer Bar
SUAP Tilt Steering Column
TBBP Full Size Spare Tire
TBRS Outside Tire Carrier
TMSP P215/75R15 RBL Wrangler AT Tires
TZAS Goodyear Brand Tires
VJXS Black Easy Folding Soft Top
WJN 15" Aluminum Wheels
WLZC All Aluminum Wheels
XEES Fuel Tank Skid Plate Shield
YAAS Build To U.S. Mkt. Specifications


Day 1 Pics








Initial Issues


Rear brake lines needed to be replaced immediately; The radio didn't function; Lost the key cylinder for the center console pulling away after the purchase (never to be found again); Frame rust at passenger rear shock tower (apparent, moderate); Frame rust at driver rear shackle (not apparent, bad)


December 2013 - July 2015


Initially Old Blue was intended to be a daily driver for my daughter, who at the time was 14.  The plan was to work on Old Blue together as a father-daugher project, and then give the Jeep to her when she turned 16.


I drove Old Blue around quite a bit in order to ensure he was in good working order.  I'm a big fan of the Chrysler High Output platform, and was very excited to have my hands on a 4.0L HO with an AX-15 with all the bells and whistles added to the YJ over the years coming into one package.  The 1995 YJ is unique in that it got stuff like beefier u-joints in the front axles, the external slave on the AX-15, and for 4.0L engines - a double break booster from the factory.


In 2014, we entered Old Blue in the 1st Annual Stetler Jeep Dodge Jeep Show, and took second place.  We lost to a supercharged Comanche that was done up inside and out by a guy that must have done hot rods or muscle cars at some point in his life.  The paint was dripping wet on the thing.  Anyway, second place for a bone stock YJ in a field of around 100 Jeeps wasn't bad.  Did almost as well in 2015.


At some point my daughter decided she didn't want a Wrangler.  Who am I to question a woman, especially one that's 14?  Not into Jeeps.  A shame, but not the end of the world.


So I took Old Blue as my own, did a little updating here and there.  I added a 1" add-a-leaf lift, and 30x9.5x15 BFG KOs wrapped around 15x7 Cragar Soft 8s.  I redid all the brake lines and tuned him up pretty good.  I also replaced the top, changed the decal package to black and added an overlay on the grill (chrome factory overlay painted black).


The last time Old Blue was on the road was July of 2015.  I took him round trip to Rodanthe, North Carolina (Outer Banks) on vacation, without issues.  I parked him with 36,076 miles on him in my driveway looking like this:






In July 2015 when I parked him, everything was running great, but the frame rust at the rear driver side shackle had gotten so bad, that I knew he wouldn't pass the upcoming annual Pennsylvania safety inspection.  So I was going to have to do frame work to keep him alive. The wet grass he had sat in all his life finally got the better of him.  On the bright side, though, he had a drivetrain with very few miles on it, and the tub had no rust except a small bit on the driver floorpan.


At some point in the fall of 2015 before pulling Old Blue into the garage to work on him, I decided to do a frame-off restoration, with a full frame replacement, engine refresh and upgrades, axle and suspension upgrades, and more.  The works.  I felt like Old Blue deserved it.  Square headlights and all.


I have been documenting the build from 2015 through to the present, and will be posting it here in segments as time allows.  I will likely catch up this thread before Old Blue is finished.  He's still being worked on, and is split in half at the moment.  More on that to come later...


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Fall 2015 - Fall 2016: The Donor


The plan was going to be a full frame-off restoration for Old Blue, so that meant finding a viable donor for the frame.  Old Blue came with a D30 front and D35 rear geared in 3.07, and since build plans included a mild 2-3" lift and bigger 31" tires, I would want 3.73 or lower gearing on the donor.  With 3.73 gearing being optimal, I decided to look for an automatic as the 4.0L automatics came with 3.73 gearing from 1987-1995, and the 2.5L autos also came with that gearing, but were only offered 1994-1995.  Looking for the beefier u-joints on the front axle, I narrowed my search to 1995 only.


I didn't have to wait long and a 1995 2.5L automatic showed up on Craiglist in Harrisburg, PA.  The YJ was being sold by a younger college guy, and it was priced cheap.  Everything was running, although rough, and it was originally from California and had only spent the previous year outside of California.  So the frame and all the lower components were virtually rust free.  Due to the rough running condition of the engine, I sealed the deal at $1900 and drove it home.  Here is the donor right before I bought it:




I know, it looks like Old Blue, but it's not.  A couple of dings and dents.  The rear tub was repaired at some point.  Fuel delivery issues, bad distributor, rough idle, etc.  Rear frame crossmember had minor damage.  All in all, not bad.  The idea was to part the YJ out and keep the frame and axles for Old Blue.  So I started breaking it down and took my time with it, saving parts I'd need and selling everything else.  I got the engine running great and sold it.  Sold the transmission and steering column along with everything to convert a manual to an auto as a package deal.   I sold the tub to a guy in Southern Maryland doing a frame-off resto of his own.  Various bits like doors, fenders, the hood, etc. sold over time. 




Lifting the tub off to reveal that sweet California frame:




Old Blue looking on to see what's coming:




Finally down to what I needed, a frame and axles:




All in all, it took around a full year to get the donor down to the pieces I needed and to sell the rest of it to make enough space to start real work. 


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Fall 2016: The California Frame


It took a year to fully break down and sell the donor, but it was all finished by fall 2016.  After it was all said and done, I took the frame and axles and made $2700 in profit by parting the rest.  All the profits were earmarked for the Old Blue fund. I love it when a plan comes together.  This is where I start having more pics for the build.  I wasn't really documenting the tear-down process for the donor, as I didn't see much point in it at the time.


The donor was originally from California, and spent most of it's life there.  That's the reason I bought it - to get at the rust-free frame.  It was in incredible shape for a vehicle of it's age.  After getting the suspension off, and the axles out of the way, I had a very nice YJ frame configured for a 2.5L engine:




There was a little damage from an accident to the passenger side rear crossmember, and the frame mounts for the engine needed to be configured for a 4.0L.  The latter would require moving the driver side mount forward, and replacing the passenger side mount with one from a 4.0L YJ frame, and moving it forward. 


I had another 1995 YJ in the same configuration as Old Blue (4.0L, AX-15).  It was a pile of rust that I drove for year, then I parted it out and broke even on it.  A few parts on Old Blue came from that YJ like a couple pieces of soft top hardware, the fuel pump and the starter (both of which were new).  I cut the mount I needed off of it's frame, which I had previously cut into pieces and saved for this build.


Here are a couple of pics showing the sourced passenger side mount, and close to where it needed to be located for the 4.0L. 






I cut the engine mounts off the frame very carefully, and ground everything clean, then media blasted the frame.  I used a 40lb blaster hooked up to an 80 gallon air compressor, and blasted with fine grade coal slag from Tractor Supply. 






That was just the first blast run - enough to get it clean, identify any issues and get it ready for welding the mounts.  I removed the front and rear track bar mounts from the frame at this point and went over the whole thing, and cleaned up a bunch of sloppy factory welds.  Four 1" drain holes were added to the bottom of each frame rail, and the shock towers and gas tank crossmember received 0.5" drain holes.  Every area the factory should have put them.




I used Old Blue for the measurements to place the engine mounts.  I measured from both front shackle mounting points, as well as referenced the shock towers for proper placement.




I welded them on with an Eastwood 135 MIG Welder nearly maxed out using gas.  The welds came out beautiful with very good penetration, and I didn't really need to grind much to smooth anything out.  I have no post-weld pics of the mounts. 


I then moved onto the rear crossmember.  I don't have a good picture of the damage to the passenger side, but it was minimal - just the outer edge was bent slightly.  I couldn't just let it roll like that with everything else I had planned for Old Blue.  Besides, I wanted to see what the rear frame rails looked like inside because that's where Old Blue had trouble.  Minimal surface rust only, thank goodness:




I needed a rear crossmember, and the one on Old Blue was in perfect shape.  So I backed him up to the garage and cut it off.  The point of no return.




I cut right behind the shackles so he could still be rolled around.  There were piles of rust in the frame on both sides.  The driver side is gone on the bottom frame rail, although you can't see it in the pic because there was so much rust in there it clogged the hole:




I carefully cut the crossmember off the donor frame so as not to disturb the frame.  Then I cut the remnants of Old Blue's frame off the crossmember being swapped, and it got blasted.  I also blasted the inside frame rails while it was open.




Then I welded it onto the frame with the MIG.  I missed post-weld pics again, but they looked great, and the frame went back outside for full media blasting.  Here's when it came back in completely clean:




At this point I took a short break to install a 30 amp heater in the garage, which required wiring in a new 100 amp sub panel.  I moved everything for the garage to that sub panel, so it runs the lights, outlets, welder, plasma cutter, heater and air compressor.  I knew I needed heat in the winter to paint anything, so it had to be done.  The rest of the winter would be spent on prepping and cleaning the axles, and getting the first phase ready for paint.  More on that later.


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