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Sketchy Northeast 'Manche

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I figured I'd start one of these threads to get my post count up while also keeping track of how carried away I get with this build.

This 1987 4.0 ended up parked in front of my house in February with a for sale sign. The price was right and I had already driven enough comanches to fall in love, it was an easy decision. The previous owner had assured me that it had been maintained well and only had a few minor quirks but the first lesson I learned from buying motorcycles is to never trust the previous owner. The more I open her up, the more hack-jobs and mistakes I find. Either way, it has never let me down yet and every small repair has improved drive-ability greatly. 

here's where she stands now:






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Having no prior car knowledge, I decided to start with the basics. The first thing I noticed was that the car was missing a lot of the low-end grunt that people are a fan of on these 4.0. It has always been very hard to get it up to speed and climbing a hill under 3,000rpm is impossible. Fuel injectors and spark plugs looked to be a decade old at least so they were swapped, immediately felt a difference in power. The previous owner had also installed some aesthetic modifications that weren't exactly my taste so they were the first to go. The front end had a halogen light swapped in but the right light never worked. The hood had a scoop added with plenty of bondo that had been cracking for sometime but the worst was the weight, it was very difficult to lift even with both hands. Thing must have weighed 50 pounds!


The front clip has been since replaced with a Renix era front end, heavy duty relay harness, and 100w H4s. The hood has been replaced with a stock model and hood struts replaced with gas struts (Suspa C16-08316 if anyone is interested). The idea is to replace parts with better/newer parts while still retaining the stock look. All exterior mods will be getting the flat-black spray paint treatment till the necessities have been addressed.

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It appears that my cooling system has been neglected for quite some time. My dash gauge always read 160 degrees but I knew that was far from the truth. Took a peek into my coolant tank and it looks like it hasnt been changed in over 10 years. In addition, the truck was sold to me without an E-fan or fan shroud which had me worried about the actual running temps of the truck. I wasn't planning on tearing it all out but several flushes later and the water was still coming out looking like mud. Luckily Long Island is a never ending source of used XJ parts and I managed to score a 97+ mopar radiator for very cheap. The rest was replaced with all Hesco parts, mopar thermo, and a heavy duty fan clutch to make up for the single fan setup. 



I need to do a proper engine bay cleaning still but this was a huge step forward! Heavy duty fan took a bit of power away but I had no idea how bad my water pump was, it had nearly an inch of play. New water pump got rid of a LOT of engine noises that I couldn't pin point and I could feel a noticeable improvement in acceleration. Now I just need to find a clean way to mount this overflow bottle....

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  • 6 months later...

Another very small step forward! The previous owner had swapped out the brake booster for one of the larger ones style ones and completely removed the wiper reservoir. Finally had enough time to swap in a 97+ unit but it was a very tight fit between the cold air intake and hood strut.



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  • 5 months later...

Sadly progress on the truck has been very slow. Its my daily ride so I'm knocking out problems as they arise but its been fairly reliable thus far. Long term fuel trim is still off the charts, the gap between my exhaust manifold is getting bigger due to a snapped exhaust stud, and I'm getting a pretty audible lifter tick (hopefully) that comes and goes with the weather. 


Scrap metal runs have the truck at some weird angles sometimes, here she is exceeding the payload limit. Still won't wheelie, I blame the 3.07s!


The general grabbers that I got the truck with have developed some pretty nasty holes in the sidewalls so I bit the bullet and got a set of Duratracs on black friday. Also picked up some JK takeoff rims for about $50. 17s might be an unpopular choice but I wanted to reduce some of the floatiness on the highway while retaining decent pumpkin clearance, I think I achieved just that. Grabbers were 30.5x10.5-15 and the Duratracs are 245/70-17 if anyones wondering. Tire width is whole inch narrower now, no more tire rub at full lock and I can finally move on to the WJ knuckle/brake/steering swap.


First three wheels came off fine but the fourth one had a very stripped lug nut. 4 hours of chiseling and it showed no sign of moving so I resorted to some unusual methods


Pretty happy with the final result, it drives like a whole new car now. Rear end never kicks out in the rain anymore and corners feel a lot more stable. I can also brake much faster without slipping, I think those grabbers were more worn than I'd like to admit.


It's getting too cold to wrench outside here in the northeast so I'll be focusing on prepping my new bed from @Pete M instead. I've recently gotten a job at a painting factory and hope to develop enough skill to paint the truck come spring. Bed will be getting por-15 on the underside, rhino lining in the bed, and midnight metallic black on all the visible exterior portions. If everything goes as planned I should be able to install the bed over a weekend and coat the frame rails in por-15 while the current one is off.



On 7/7/2022 at 9:47 PM, pizzaman09 said:

Why did you decide to go with the inner fender reservoir tank?

Your Comanche looks good.  I definitely agree, do trust anyone that says a vehicle has been taken care of.

Well it all started with the airbox. The previous owner did some weird stuff with the vacuum lines and the stock airbox was in pretty rough shape. A decent quality used one was upwards of $200 with a new filter so I sprung for the $150 Spectre cold air intake instead. Gained a tad bit of torque but lost any useable space for the washer tank, inner fender tank seemed like the cleanest and easiest solution


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  • 11 months later...

Unfortunately progress has been mostly going backwards since my last update. I spun out in the rain in July and wrecked the entire front end. The frame rail on the passenger side is now about an inch lower and theres a small buckle near the coil. I will try to fix this in the future but this is my daily driver so I continue to drive it. The radiator support completely imploded and I think my ironman4x4 brace is the only reason that the damage wasnt worse.


After replacing the radiator and getting everything working again, a drunk driver rear ended my car while it was parked. The frame survived but the bed is rough and my taillights have been destroyed once again. Luckily I hadn't installed the bed @Pete M sold me, procrastination has saved me this time around. I figured this would be a good time to utilize my job's paint booth. I went with a darker version of the car's original color, sterling silver, and some PPG clear coat. Splurged on the key parts taillights. Hope these last!






And the old bed all cut up inside of my new bed!


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