As some of you may know, the storage space and passenger room in a Jeep Comanche pickup (MJ) leaves *much* to be desired. I'm attempting to alleviate some of the problems by adding on a 2" receiver rack that will hold a watertight 5'x2'x2' bag. It should help out a lot, but that's not the project I'm going to babble-on about. I'm looking into the future, and there will most certainly come a time when I'm bringing more than 1 person with me or even just wanting to bring *both* my dogs. I'm certainly not going to give up my beloved Comanche, so I'm thinking a tow-rig would fit the bill.
My best friend has an 86 Bronco that we've used to haul my MJ around (most recently when the alternator crapped out on me). It does an okay job of hauling, but it still got a bit hairy in sharp turns. Also, the brakes (all newish parts) seemed to struggle to halt my 3000lb baby.
Seeing one of my fellow Comanche owner's new Grand Waggy has inspired me. The big Jeeps are a tad longer than the Bronco and have a big ol' interior (unlike the J-trucks, which would be my other choice). But the brakes aren't any better than the Broncos and my past experiences with carburetors in the wintertime concerns me. Fuel-injection kicks major butt in the cold!
So then, I've chosen a platform to build on, but I need FI and better brakes. Oh, and we can't forget the fact that I'm basically poor now and don't see any major changes in that status coming in the near future. Thus, we enter the world of parts-trucks. I literally paid for my MJ project by selling off the leftovers of the 78 Bronco that I acquired for the axles. Could I do that again? Buying parts is a purely out-of-pocket expense, while buying a whole rig means that there will be stuff leftover to sell. Plus then I could buy a dirt-cheap SJ because I don't need the drivetrain at all (which may mean even more parts to sell).
Since the cost of an add-on FI kit rules it out and any SJ I can afford will most likely have drivetrain "issues" anyway, a newer FI engine would probably be best. But engine adapters cost mega bucks too and the rig I buy for the engine will already have a tranny attached to it, so finding a 4x4 and swapping out the entire drivetrain in one fell swoop makes more sense then trying to rebuild/reuse/adapt the parts on the SJ.
Now on to which parts to hunt down. After much deliberation, I'm leaning toward Ford 3/4 or 1 ton solid axles (rumor has it that the big Ford axles won't be too hard to install)
and mate that with a 5.9L Magnum Dodge truck drivetrain (I read somewhere that 93-95 are pre OBD-II and the best choice). The Ford front axles are high pinion and most come with 4.10 gears. The Dodge t-case will be drivers drop to match the Ford axle and the 5.9L in my Dakota R/T certainly moves it around with authority. I'm thinking going with an automatic tranny. (gasp!) Yes, I know this is a monumental change in thinking for me and I'm still not entirely comfortable with "wanting" an auto, I just think a wrecked auto would be easier to find (there's more of them) and then I'd have an auto 4x4 for playing in the dunes. There's always time to change my mind if I happen across a NV4500 equipped truck.
There are lots of options out there and this plan might very well change depending on what I find, but buying a rusty old Ford and a totaled 1/2 ton Dodge seem reasonably cheap and easy. Another option is a Dodge 4x4 with a solid front axle (I know the 1 tons are, but what about the 3/4s over the years?), or an 87 Chevy (I believe that’s the first year for FI, last year for the 1-ton solid axles), or a newer Chevy and swapping in J-20 axles if I can find them. All of these sound harder to find (or more expensive), but I'll keep my options open and we'll see what comes up once I start looking. Who knows, maybe I can find a rolled or burned Cummins powered Dodge?
That would be sweet.
Then I'll add a 4" lift and 35" tires and I'm ready to go! Heck, if my MJ is ever having another one of her moods, I'll just wheel the big Jeep!
My hope is that this Jeep could work as a daily driver too. My Dakota gets roughly 11 mpg, so it's not like I'm used to getting 25. Then I could be free of the monthly payments and high insurance that come with such a new truck.
Obviously, if someone wants to sell me a reeeally cheap 2-door wide-track SJ that still functions fine, I'll take it and drive it as is for the time being. I just don't think anyone is going to do that for me.
Any thoughts? Am I on the right track or are there other options out there I should look into? Or if anyone knows of a thread that I haven't been able to find? I've done many, many searches through the archives here, but I have only found bits and pieces of my plans, definitely not the whole package swap. Hence the novel I just wrote. (if you thought it was a long read, you should have been here while I typed it!
Finding a cheap enough Dodge will certainly be the hardest thing here (I'm working on that right now), but once I've got my hands on it the snowball will start rolling with a quickness. I know my way around an MJ pretty well, but the big Jeeps are a whole new world that I'm diving into. Michigan doesn't have any swap/smog laws, so it's pretty much a free-for-all as far as that goes. Oh, and I have no problem with building motor/tranny mounts, routing an exhaust, etc. Rewiring might be a challenge without shop manuals though. Are the late 70s shop manuals worth anything schematic-wise?