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Old 08-21-2005, 12:25 PM
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Location: Fort Collins, CO
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Michael writes:

I have been driving my Cherokee for 9 years now. I bought it used in 1986 with 34,000 miles on the odometer. It has 95,000 today. I don't drive it much and it has been garaged since new. I was thinking of buying a new 4x4 a few years ago and after shopping, I decided I could make my Cherokee everything I ever dreamed of for a lot less money than a new one was going to cost me.

It currently has a stock AMC 360 V-8 with Doug Thorley Tri-Y headers, a TH-400 automatic transmission, and a part-time converted (Mile Marker w/o overdrive) Quadra-Trac transfer case. It also has factory air conditioning and cruise control. The axles are Dana 44s front and rear with 3.54 gears. Tires are 31"x10.5"x15"s on the factory 8" white spoke wheels. I'm planning on swapping the engine with an AMC 401 that I'm building-up in my garage. The 401 came out of a ''76 Wagoneer that I junked for parts. One goal for my new 401 will be 20 MPG solo on the highway (I've seen it done with a full-size Chevy Blazer with 33s and a 350...actually, the Blazer got 21 MPG).

I also have a '79 Wagoneer that has been in my family since new. It kind of became mine after no one wanted to drive it any more but, no one wants to get rid of "old reliable" either. Now, they're excited about it's restoration. I just finished replacing all the weather stripping on and around the tailgate. It has 155,000 miles and has never required anything but regular maintenance except for having to replace a front axle u-joint.

I have replaced most of the weather stripping on my Cherokee. I have completley taken the doors and the tailgate apart and lubricated and adjusted everything. I fixed several water leaks. After the water leaks were handled, I completely removed the interior, sanded out all the rust that resulted from the leaks and repainted the floor. The floor has a few pin holes but, it is mostly good metal. Etc, etc, etc.

I do all my own work except for machine work, body work, and major painting work. I do have the advantage of enjoying tinkering with cars for 17 years now and the associated well-equipped garage that comes along with all those years.

Plans for the Cherokee at this time are:

Engine: Carburetor is a Quadra-Jet 750 CFM 4bbl (good off-road carb.), a Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, mildly ported heads, stock size (2.02/1.68) stainless valves with chrome stems, bronze guides, Crower stainless roller rockers, cam is a custom grind (seat to seat timing is 266/270 degrees, .486/.486 with a 108 degree lobe separation angle and installed straight-up with a 108 degree intake center-line), pistons will be custom Keith Black Hypereutectics with approximately a 23cc dish for 10 to 1 compression, ignition is J&S; with a detonation sensor (capable of retarding only the cylinders detonating) and an air/fuel ratio indicator and finally my existing Doug Thorley Tri-Y headers. I'll probably have a thermal barrier coating applied to the top of the pistons, the combustion chambers and both valves before final assembly.

Transmission:3.00 / 1.57 first & second gear low ratio gear set (stock 1.00 third), B&M; heavy duty intermediate sprag and a TCI low-stall & slippage torque converter.

Axles:The axles will be the very last project which gives me plenty of time here. I would like to use a custom Dana 60 for the rear but, I probably would never break my Dana 44. I will use an ARB Air Locker in the front, but I don't know what to do for the rear. There are too many off-camber spots around here (Winter time) to use a locker in the rear. So, I either need a limited-slip such as a Detroit True Tracker or an ARB Air Locker back there. My 401 should put out in excess of 400 ft. lbs. of torque and I'm a little worried about keeping the rear tires hooked-up on the street with a unlocked ARB. I may need to use a full-time limited slip in the back. I'll probably end-up with a True Tracker in the back.

Suspension: 1/2" on my Cherokee due to higher factory ride-height), single Rancho RS-9000 shocks, a rear sway-bar (already have), front & rear sway bar disconnects and 16"x8" aluminum wheels with 255/85-16 Firestone all-terrains. All this as soon as my current tires wear-out.

Body: The interior in very good condition. It's original with the exception of the clock and the stereo. The clock is a digital from a '84 Grand Wagoneer at the junk yard. The Stereo consists/will consist of a 9 year old Kenwood deck, Blaupunkt 5 channel amp. mounted above the A/C evaporator on the right-side of the dash (30 watts RMS X 4 plus 80 watts RMS for the sub-woofer), Kenwood 10 disc CD changer under the right front seat, 8" Sub-woofer under the driver's seat and four 5 1/4" speakers in the stock speaker locations. Except for the old Kenwood deck, it looks stock from the outside. I have a pair of leather power seats from a Grand Wagoneer that I may have reupholstered and install someday but, my seats are in good shape for now. I just ordered new sound-proofing material and rubber under mat for the passenger compartment. I need to get busy and order new carpet soon. The original carpet looks good but, it is slowly disintegrating from the outside edges in.

About me: Michael Baxter, 34 years old, single (and staying that way), Business Mgr. / MIS Baxter Enterprises Inc. / Baxter Advertising Inc. (ex. Boeing 727 Pilot {maybe again someday after these two businesses can stand on their own two feet!}) Other hobbies are airplanes, fast VWs Bugs (I have one), Dual-Sport Motorcycles, 35mm Photography, Ham Radio (N7OVD), Computers and anything to do with the outdoors.

Mike is one of the charter members and most active participants of JEEP-FULLSIZE. He represents an invaluable resource to the list. Mike's contributions to the site include:
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