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86 LWB build-SoCal

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Picked up this sh!tbox earlier this year after I sold my XJ . Been working on her here and there. Goal is to be my daily driver and desert camping rig. I want her to be capable off road but I'm not rock crawling with this one- that's what my TJ is for.


I had been searching for an MJ for a while with no luck. Literally months with nothing for sale close to me. This one finally popped up nearby. Not everything I wanted but I wanted to get my hands on a truck badly!


Wrecked paint, a seriously dented tailgate but bone stock, just a touch of rust near the windshield and only 73k miles.  Seller said it had sat a few years and had bad gas.  Truck ran badly but enough to get her on the trailer so I brought it home...





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After pumping the old gas and filling the tank back up and adding some octane booster in the hopes it would clean out the fuel system, she still ran badly. A little investigation found the problem. A pushrod was missing!  I discovered it was actually down in the cylinder head. After trying for a few hours to get the pushrod out, I made the decision to pull the head completely.


Now, I'm working on this rig in the street. My neighbors weren't to happy but thats the way it goes sometimes. After pulling the head, I easily pulled the pushrod out and replaced it. 


 I was a little curious about how the pushrod fell out but I figured weirder things have happened and the cylinders and head looks fine so I buttoned her back up and she ran great!



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Next step was all new fluids, plug wires, plugs, etc.. nothing major until I pulled the rear diff cover.. I found 4 of the carrier bolts just laying in the bottom of the diff! I examined everything and very surprisingly did not find any damage to the ring and pinion. Not sure how that's possible but it's a Jeep- weird happens sometimes.IMG_3642.jpg.860abfdf2e43918ad0eee31296666371.jpg

Both diffs, TC and trans all got new fluid.  I'm pretty sure all the fluids were original! PS fluid, oil, and coolant were also changed. At this point I replaced the brakes all around. Pads, rotors, shoes, drums were replaced and the ancient fluid was flushed and replaced.

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As the stimulus checks came in, it was time to do some suspension work. Dirk at DPG Offroad has always been good to me. He got the call for a 3.5" Old Man Emu hybrid kit. OME springs and shocks, JKS Sway bar disconnects, Core 4x4 adjustable track bar and control arms.


Hellscreek offroad got the call for the rear leaf springs. I stayed Spring Under Axle ( I know, the horror!) and went with a 3" lift and the rough country shocks. I've heard nothing but bad things about the Rough Country stuff but I figured I'll drive them until they fail since they came with the springs.


Parts started piling up in the kitchen so I figured it was time to start installing stuff.



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I had picked up a set of wheels that came with brand new 31" Falken Wildpeaks. I plan on going 33's but the deal couldn't be passed up. I'll drive these tired until they wear out. Even just the wheels and tires made a huge difference over the tiny stock wheels and tires




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Again, working in my street I tackled the front suspension. My neighbors loved me for a few days but they got over it. I had a bit of problem getting the axle lined up after I replaced everything but got it all back together and working. Full alignment was done after everything was installed









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Next was the rear suspension. This is where the only major incident happened. With the jack under the rear axle, I was moving it back into place to put the bolts on the leaf perches. I moved it a bit too much and she came of the jackstands with me half underneath it!  This earned the truck the name "chucky" since she tried to kill me!


After catching my breath for a few minutes I figured how to get the jack under the truck enough to get the brakes off the asphalt and back onto the stands. This earned the truck the name "chucky" since she tried to kill me!






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I ordered a new rear bumper from Dirtbound offroad earlier this year. They let me know it would be a few months lead time due to sheer volume of orders and a shortage of supplies. It came in last week. After a quick coat of primer and some hammer finish paint she was ready install. I picked up a couple surface mount LED lights from Quadratec since the bumper came with the cut outs. Haven't decided if I'm hooking them up to the reverse lights or on a separate switch. 


Bumper also did not come with cutouts for license plate lights. A quick search on amazon found a cheap led light that mounts to the license plate bolts. 


I also installed some rocker panel armor- also from Dirtbound. There was already some body damage on the passenger rear  panel behind the wheel well so this covered it some. I'm not worried about the dents and dings. This is a 35 year old truck and made to camp in the desert.






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To my surprise, a camper shell popped up for sale. I figured I'd never find one, let alone for a long bed.  It was just up the freeway so I grabbed it.


Changed the look of the truck alot! I plan on insulating the shell one of these days.





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Next came the Napier Precision fender flares. Instructions for the front were great. I ran into a little issue with the rears. The instructions were for an XJ. The rear fenders are different in our MJ's as we all know. Following the instructions wasn't possible on the rear flares. After cutting and hammering the metal, there is no way to attach the rubber pieces that act as nuts and hold the fasteners onto the sheet metal. This is because there is no way to access behind the rear sheet metal without cutting though the bed somewhere. In fact, I now have one of the self tapping screws provided with the flares living inside the space between the inner and outer bed sheet metal:laugh:.


After some pondering, I simply drilled a small pilot hole and attached the flares directly to the sheet metal without the rubber nuts. Only time will tell how this holds up!


I also put the body armor on at the same time. It bolts to the bumper, so I needed that to be on the truck.  The flares overlap the armor pieces just slightly but not a big concern for me personally.







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That's it so far.


Next is to get the bed set up for camping while still allowing for cargo. I'm considering a few different configurations for the back, will keep you updated as I decide.


I'm also getting the drive shaft u-joints replaced and have adjustable rear shacked on order from Core 4x4. The rear of the truck sits down slightly so the shackles will take care of that.


Overall, I'm pretty happy with how the build is going. Knowing exactly what I wanted to use the rig for makes it alot easier to build it right the first time.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I picked up some indoor/outdoor carpet and installed over the foam. I also found some thin plywood underlayment for the bed sides and front. I used spray adhesive on both the foam and plywood. I first used velcro to hold the carpet panels to the sides but ended up using a couple self tapping screws. Since I'm going into the plastic bedliner beneath, more holes didn't bother me.

Last was a Bedrug universal truck mat. I've used the Bedrug on previous trucks and liked it alot. The cut-to-size mat went in very easily and attached with plastic "Christmas tree" fasteners to the bedliner ribs below. 

I also ran a power port to the back. it has an on/off switch with two usb and one cigarette lighter size port as well as a voltmeter. I ran straight to the battery with a fuse.




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On 12/13/2021 at 8:28 AM, Cali Steve said:

Next up is this "minor" issue!

I guess I wasn't as lucky as I thought with the rear differential!

Oh well, upgrade time! 4.54 gears for my future 33" tires and a limited slip in the rear are coming soon!




That damage actually doesn’t look too bad to me since it’s on the “back” side of the ring gear and not really even in the contact area. I might just lightly file off anything that ay come loose, clean it up and run it. 4.56 and 33’s in a Dana 35 will almost require some chrome shafts. Fortunately, you have a non c-clip version so you can go with full 4140 chromo shafts vs the 1541 we have to use on the 90 and later 35’s

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Airborne Janitor- That sticker is never coming off! :laugh:



ghetdjc320 I'm already getting a groaning sound from the diff, so it's gotta go. Figured I'd regear from 4:10 to 4:54 at this time. Since I won't be doing any hardcore wheeling with this rig, not putting a locker in, and have always been easy on the skinny pedal, I'm hoping to be able to stay away from any more upgrades. But I appreciate the advice :L:

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  • 4 weeks later...

So you’re running 31’s with a 3 inch lift? Do you mind showing a side profile of yours? I’m looking to do something similar and I want to fully see what it looks like. And I also saw you’re running core 4x4 control arms. How do those work with the 31’s? Any rubbing?

PS: Greetings from another Cali brother :)

1988 Jeep Comanche Pioneer
4.0 Liter w/ AW4 2WD

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