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Picked up this ’97 XJ 2wd several months back and it has moved in front of the MJ builds for now. Super clean, low mileage…bought from a 90 year old retired air force mechanic. Spent more than I wanted to but couldn’t pass it up.


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4.0L AW4 LSD 8.25 axle. I’ve currently pulled out the ‘97/’98 year only saddle color interior that I found hideous. I’ve been collecting as many NOS agate (charcoal) interior parts and panels as I can find and I’ve just about got them all. Will be installing ’01 XJ new power heated seats, fog lights, extended idle control, overhead console, etc. All the bells and whistles on the inside.


Stripped interior.JPG






For the exterior, I’ve already torn apart/ modified the front and rear suspension with 1” lowered heavy duty custom coils, add-a-leaf, beefy Addcco bars, KYB shocks, and new brakes/ cross-drilled rotors up front. I’m running powder coated black TJ Ravine rims wrapped in big and little BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires (255/60 front; 275/60 rear).


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Painted suspension.JPG


New Mopar/ Jeep bumpers and body trim have arrived and all the old stuff removed. Will be updating the body badgeing to the brushed chrome of the ‘00/’01 XJ Limited era. And the 4.0L engine is getting the later style U-shaped intake manifiold, Borla header and cat-back exhaust. Should be fun once I’m done as a semi-daily driver.




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9 minutes ago, Gjeep said:

I bought the sway bars at SD Springs about 3 months ago. 

Yeah that’s where I ordered mine too. I tried ordering them about 5 months ago and waited 12 weeks before they refunded my money and told me they were back ordered. Interesting... I wonder if they thought the MJ is different or have different part numbers... oh well good for you!! 

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3 minutes ago, Gjeep said:

As you know, fronts are the same. Rear are different. 

They are definitely the same in the front. I’m not positive but I’m not sure the Comanche came with a rear sway stock. Maybe it was an option? I know the 3 I’ve had haven’t had one. 

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No MJ's came with a rear sway bar from the factory. PST (Performance Suspension Technologies) originally made the MJ aftermarket rear sway bar for the short bed only. Addcco purchased this design and now sell it as their own. The bar is nice and beefy but the linkage set up is ridiculous. Has 15" endlinks stacked with 8-10 small bushings on each side that secures to the upper shock mount. I'm sure other endlinks can be used, I just didn't want to deal with it at the time.

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  • 1 month later...

Tinkering back and forth between the MJ and this XJ... Had a couple hours today so I unbolted the factory exhaust, intake manifold, header and downpipe. Going in it's place will be the newer U-shape manifold and Borla header through exhaust system with a MagnaFlow cat. Taking my time on this as I'm replacing a few other items (pully, belt, sensors, and radiator) and need to drop the tank because theirs something I can hear floating/ bumping up against the tank when its full. I have a good hunch that when the TSB replacement fuel pump went in something broke off and the tech didn't bother to fish out. Driving me nuts...


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Here's the removed parts if anyone is interested in them. I'll post in the for sale. The benefit to this log style intake is the newer 96+ XJ belt adjuster. A hell of a lot more user friendly than the older style. 



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  • 2 weeks later...

Even though it's a low milage Jeep, I decided I might as well upgrade/ replace things while I have it apart changing the manifold and exhaust...so I installed new Hesco high flow water pump and t-stat housing, bored TB, K&N intake kit, new harmonic balancer, alternator, HD Mopar radiator, all hoses, gaskets, pulleys, and serpentine belt. Also wired in through the factory engine bay connector an extended idle switch I found on ebay. Since the 97-01 XJ's already have the necessary wire coming from the PCM, I went to the wrecking yard and clipped that same factory connector and carefully pulled several wire female pigtails out and then removed the terminal end to use on the new wire I ran. I then installed the wire into the factory connector located at the back passenger side of the engine and ran it to the dash in a UK sourced 4 switch panel. 




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Next step is POR15-ing the interior floor to prevent possible future water leaks between gaps in panels. Then on to installing the new agate ‘01 XJ interior...then the exterior trim/ emblem refresh.

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Had half a day so finished up some things interior side... I wired in a factory fog light switch (and fog lights) and an 'extended idle' switch using factory connectors and terminals. It took a while scavenging the original terminals off the factory wiring, but the results look great. I re-arranged the order of the switches left to right to what makes sense to me -- fog lights, extended idle, wiper, defroster. Wrapped it all in OEM style fabric tape.




These rocker switches will be housed in a factory 4-switch panel. Below is a pic of my original 3-panel versus the 4-panel (still with the UK switches installed). 




I also learned that 97 XJ and 97 TJ gauge clusters electronically are identical -- only difference is is the design overlay. I prefer the look of the TJ gauges. (Unfortunately this isn't always the rule for other year XJ's to TJ's... Back when my '01 XJ was new I was looking to do the same but the warning illuminations were in different locations. The main difference I see warning light-wise between my '97 and '01 XJ currently is that the '97 does NOT have the 'trunk open' warning). Some pics -- '97 TJ top and '01 XJ cluster below.





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Engine done and new beefier crossmember installed! (Oddly enough the factory crossmember was used as a jacking point to lift the vehicle. You would think after bending the $#!& out of it a few times one would stop and see that's not the way to go.)




Now on to wrapping up the exhaust setup and fuel tank. Fuel tank proved to be a fun one... Someone had damaged the 'fill stopper' of the tank so had to get creative there fixing it. Since the tank is dropped I'm putting a new Bosch pump in it. Exhaust too had a couple surprises-- the later XJ's used different exhaust mounts at the transmission crossmember and tailpipe 2WD versus 4WD. No idea why they did that. The Borla system had the 4WD style hangers. Other than the crossmember bushing, no NOS could be found for that, so off to the wrecking yard I traveled to take one apart and refresh it.




Next up-- polishing the paint and installing NOS fresh body side moldings and '00/ '01 XJ emblems. Agate interior install will finish things off for this build.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Moving at a snails pace getting the ‘97 XJ together, but had some time this weekend to get the MagnaFlow cat and the Borla muffler/ exhaust system up. I’ve always run Borla on my Jeeps, never any issues and it sounds great. ('97 XJ's with California emissions have two oxygen sensors...one pre-cat on the header and another just after the cat.) Managed to find 2 NOS oxygen sensors for the set up and got them plugged in.








I then turned my attention to the 8.25 differential -- emptying it out, and installing a new cover plate, LubeLocker gasket, and bolts. Then filled it up with Lucas synthethic. (I learned this Jeep came with the factory trac-lok, so I look forward to rebuilding it around 150K.) Also got to finishing up the fuel tank -- a new Bosch fuel pump/ sender assembly was dropped in before mounting the tank back up.


Next time I tinker on the Jeep I'll mount the factory fuel tank skid plate and trailer hitch. I know a 2wd doesn’t need a skid, but I’m just not a fan of not protecting the fuel tank with a little something more. After that, I’ll turn my attention to the sound system and interior reassembly. 


97-Fuel Tank.JPG




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The XJ factory sound system even with upgraded aftermarket Infinity speakers and the OEM Infinity amp just doesn’t sound that good, so I’ll be wiring in the best compact amplifier I have ever found (1.5”x4.25”x6.75”) – the Rockford Fosgate Punch PBR400x4D. I'm wiring it up using standard color speaker wires with Molex connectors that plug right into the amp, nice and clean. Power comes to it via the under hood PDC where I ran new/ extra power lines into the interior for just this purpose. I may or may not run a sub in the Jeep… I have the Mopar spare tire sub which I may gut and run an 8” Rockford shallow sub. The Mopar subwoofer really is a piece of crap. I had one in my ’01 XJ when it was new for a while. The little amp they have in it dies very prematurely and the speaker falls apart soon after – but it’s an ingenious way to tuck away a sub and it fits in even the compact XJ spare tire. The other option is a beautifully crafted aftermarket XJ set up that resides in the passenger side cargo area cubby made by SubThump. It fits a 10” shallow sub and it looks decently OEM, but I’ll have to cut up a spare interior quarter panel. Power for either sub will come from a Punch PBR300x1.


XJ sub.jpg





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Getting small things done…Took apart all the new rocker switches and swapped casing. Each rocker case has a guide specific to the opening it is supposed to reside in from the factory. Since I’m re-organizing the switch line up left to right, I needed to swap the casing. The only one that was minimally different I learned was the rear wiper switch case – the ‘wash’ feature of this 2 stage switch engagement doesn’t work unless the case is filled where others have an opening. I used JB Black Plastic Weld to fill. Life is good and they all easily slide into the UK switch bezel.




But of course, when I got in to the XJ to plug it all in I found the connectors to the cigarette lighter and power outlet were different ’99 XJ (which the 4-switch panel came off of) and ’97 (which my Jeep is). I thought I could simply swap the cigarette/ power assemblies, but they have insert ‘teeth’ that were keyed differently than the ’99 switch panel. Finding connectors to make the conversion...'99+ XJ connector at left; '97/'98 XJ at right.




Also plugged in a JET Stage 1 chip. I know it’s not going to tune any sort of crazy additional power but it’s good for something (according to Jp magazine they saw +10hp/ 12 lb ft on the ’97 TJ they dyno’d without any exhaust upgrades). And I ran their Stage 2 for years on my ’01 XJ without issue, so why not…




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Freshly back from powder-coating came the fuel tank skid plate and factory hitch…and thanks to an assortment of jacks, stands, and pry bars they’re up. This XJ didn’t come from either when new. Thanks to Eagle for checking out the order of assembly from the factory – skid plate first, then hitch. Torqued to 55 ft lbs. Still need to add the electrical connector and button a couple other things up.








Slight modification had to be made to the 4wd variant of the factory exhaust hanger. ¼” tall aluminum spacers were added so there was just a little more space between the exhaust and the leaf springs.








Back to interior electrical add-in’s and on’s…


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