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DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:24 a.m.

Apparently elderly pickups of questionable provenance get a pretty warm welcome around here.  That being the case, I may as well throw my tinfoil hat into the ring and offer my old Jeep J20 for your collective amusement.  I bought this thing in December of 2012, just over eight years ago as of this writing, and the easiest way to tell the story is to copy and paste from another forum.  I will try to tidy it up as I go and remove conversation that isn't native to GRM to avoid unnecessary confusion.  The fact that I own and love this rolling atrocity is confusing enough.

It'll take a day or three to get this patched over in between Christmas prep, toddler duty, and general middle-age malaise.  Each entry will be italicized and marked with the date it was originally posted to lend some semblance of continuity and segregate current chatter from rehashed leftovers.  So here goes.


09 Dec 2012:

Basic background: I've never had a pickup before.  I've always driven sports cars and the wife has had station wagons (I'm counting our '95 Grand Cherokee as a station wagon) for utility, but we really need something to haul typical homeowner junk around and I don't really need two MR2s.  I wanted four wheel drive, something with enough character to be interesting, and capable enough to keep around for at least a decade or maybe forever. I always like obscure and unique stuff and for that reason have been drawn to full size Jeep pickups.  I was also interested in Comanches, since they are newer, much more modern (though still very dated), easier to feed, drive, and park, potentially easier to maintain and modify than an FSJ.

I found a couple of J20s on our local craigslist.  One had rust in the body and needed a few repairs right away, and since it had Quadra-Trac (potentially more trouble than I wanted to deal with), I skipped it.  The other one was advertised as an '84.  The description indicated it ran, but would not idle, and  it sounded relatively promising.  The seller was asking cheap money.  Here are the photos from the CL ad.  They're tiny, but that's all the seller had.


Friday, I posted on garagejournal.com asking for guidance on FSJs and Comanches and got a tremendous response.  A few suspected or confirmed IFSJA members as well as some others were kind enough to chime in with tons of helpful hints and guidance.  Armed with that and plenty of warnings about the many places I was likely to find rust, I went out yesterday morning to meet the seller of the red '84.  Here is what I found.

Powertrain is as expected: 360/727/208 with Dana 44 front and 60 rear, both tags showing 3.73 41 11 (assuming this means 41 tooth ring and 11 tooth pinion, which is of course 3.73:1). Looks like a base model with vinyl bench seat and AM radio, though it does have cruise control and factory air conditioning. The engine compartment and undercarriage appeared totally unmolested. All the smog equipment is there. A/C compressor and lines are all intact. Even the air cleaner is stock.

The seller borrowed the battery out of his Dodge pickup and the Jeep fired right up. There was some blue smoke out of the tailpipe for the first few minutes, some noise from the smog pump, a few rattles from the exhaust system, but nothing gruesome. It did not want to idle until we played with the idle speed screw a little. Still sounds a little choppy, and I'm sure it is long overdue for a tune-up and carburetor rebuild. I heard an intermittent tap or rattle but it was very sporadic. I'm assuming that a flattened cam, loose valve, etc would be steadier. The big transmission cooler was present.

After it warmed up, we drove it around the neighborhood a little. The tires are heavily cracked and there are no license plates so we kept it to nearby streets. No real play in the steering, which is absurdly over-boosted. Brakes need freshening up and it probably wants some shocks, but it shifted well enough. Hubs (Warn on passenger side, something else on the left) engaged as they should and 4-Hi went in without difficulty. 4-Lo was a grind going in or out whether in gear or not. We tried both sitting still and driving slowly and it just didn't want to play. It did go in with the engine off, but still a bit of a hassle.

There are minor problems with the body. The seat has had some goofy repair involving a few inches of rebar. The driver's door cannot be opened from the outside unless the lock plunger is also held upward from inside the door. There was some water under the floormat, and I don't know if this is due to the door window having been left down or due to a leak somewhere else. The headliner is sagging. There are of course little battle scars around the doors and bed, but nothing catastrophic. The grille bars are broken and removed, so only the surround remains on the truck. Door mirrors had been removed.

Front and rear bumpers appear to be factory stock. There's a Class III hitch, an aftermarket intermittent wiper control pod, some ribbed aluminum running boards, and and two auxiliary fuel tanks in the bed (approximately 13 gal left and 15 gallons on the right) that are pretty rusty on the inside. Other than that, stock as a rock.

Speaking of rust, I went over and under this thing pretty carefully.

Checked the inner fenders. No rust.
Checked the cowl. No rust.
Checked the seam around the bed floor as well as I could from the outside. No rust.
Checked the bottom edge of the doors. No rust.
Checked the floor under the rubber mat. No rust.
Checked the tailgate. No rust.
Checked the floor from below. No rust.
Checked the fuel tank, skid plate, and frame area. No rust. Not even any debris.

So I bought it.  As the seller handed me the title, I noticed that it was an '85, not an '84 as advertised.


DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:26 a.m.

09 Dec 2012:

Here are the pics I took at the seller's house to show first impressions. There are a few cuts and bruises but apparently nothing terminal.  Try to remember that beauty is only skin deep. If you must make disparaging remarks, do so under your breath so as not to hurt the old battleaxe's feelings.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:27 a.m.

09 Dec 2012:

Time for some closer investigation. If there was rust, I wanted to find it. The floor on both sides looks perfectly solid. Front inner fenders show no signs of corrosion. Doesn't seem to be anything eating away at the tailgate or the bed floor, either. So far, so good!

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:28 a.m.

09 Dec 2012:

Here are the guts and feathers. As mentioned, all the mechanical bits appear to be completely stock. There's some grease and grime on the engine but nothing that can't be dealt with, and a bit of smoke on cold startup after sitting for who knows how long.

I've seen uglier vehicles, but I guess cheapskates like me can't afford to be choosy.

It needs tires quite badly. I may be able to pick up some lightly used Cooper S/T Maxx in LT285/75R16 and chuck them on some (Ford?) 16" steel wheels. Hopefully those would fit for the time being, and not look undersized if I manage to swing a 4"-ish lift later on.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:31 a.m.

09 Dec 2012:

It's not quite as pretty in real life as the photos suggest, but it's pretty much unmolested, which is exactly what I wanted.  I move pretty slowly and usually work on a shoestring budget so there may not be much to share for a while.  Just the same, here are my initial thoughts.

Plans are modest.  We need to address tires before it can be safely driven any distance.  It still has the 16.5" wheels, so I will probably look for a set of 16s (Ford steel wheels apparently work well, or period-appropriate aftermarket) and go to LT285/75R16.  Looking at something like the Cooper S/T Maxx.
I will probably perform a quick refresh of the hydraulics for peace of mind and find out why the parking brake is not working.  The fuel filter is new, but I'd like to strip the carb down to make sure it's clean inside and set up correctly (possibly jet a little richer since we are now on E10 and it was probably set extra-lean for emissions), tune it up, and change fluids as necessary.  At that point it should be solid and roadworthy, though still a little inconvenient to use.
Those awful running boards will come off, which seems a shame as they are clearly application-specific and fit very well, but I don't want them on there.  Need to repair the driver's door handle and lock linkage, probably clean and lube the regulators while I'm there, find a grille and floor mat, replace door window wipes, make sure there are no water leaks.

The cowl should be cleaned out and a screen added over the top to prevent debris building up and blocking the drains, which is apparently common.  That would be a good time to clean out the HVAC system as well.  If I get ambitious I could add some cabin insulation, a new hood blanket, and maybe try to tidy up the interior.  The seat looks good - mostly - but a good bump has me feeling the floor with my backside.  So that will probably require a rebuild of some kind.  Buckets are nice but I may try to keep the bench if I can correct PO's shoddy repair and replace whatever is failing to support me.  Or maybe that's the truck's way of telling me to step away from the buffet for a while.

The extra fuel tanks are hard to see into, but there's some pretty hairy stuff going on inside.  I will not mess with them until other issues are sorted out.  I think they'd be a prime candidate for electrolysis.

My brother wants to see it lifted right away.  I cannot deny that they look great with about 4" of lift and 33s (which is about what a LT285/75R16 measures), but that might be a down-the-road thing.  I'm not sure what the spring rates are on BJ's (or anyone else's) list.  Stock should be 260 lb/in front and 340 lb/in rear or thereabouts according to a 1982 brochure (assuming they are the same in the '85).  It's not clear whether the lift springs are specific to half-ton or 3/4 ton models.  Depending on what we are doing, softer springs might not be a bad thing anyway.
Pretty sure the factory A/C compressor is a York, popular for onboard air conversions.  No doubt my brother would like to see that implemented as well.
I would like to see I can get rid of those silver stripes, though I believe they are painted on.  If I get VERY ambitious, I might try to straighten the body damage and get some paint.  Might get rid of the many tie-downs sprinkled around the bed.  There's a local body shop we do business with and I have a feeling they'd spray it cheaply as a favor.  I do not look for red vehicles but they sure seem to look for me.  That said, this truck is original enough it might be worth retaining the color.  Anyway, a repaint is so far down the road it's just not worth worrying about.  By the time we get there it may have Megasquirt EFI and distributorless ignition...if I'm going to dream, might as well dream big.

If I do lift or modify this, I'll do my best to do so in a completely reversible fashion.  There's a reason I sought out an unmodified vehicle.  It's not that I think stock is always best so much as that I tend not to trust other people's engineering and quality control standards like I do my own.

Our ZJ has a Rubicon Express lift on it, but it's all bolt-on, and completely reversible in case one wanted to go back to stock.  Nothing has been cut or welded.

One of my MR2s has a stroker motor that is so far from stock it has to use a Porsche timing belt, but the car's structure has not been a modified.  A stock engine would still bolt right in.  Nothing that is hard to find or replicate gets chopped up around here.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:34 a.m.

12 Dec 2012:

I found a few service records in the (very stubborn) glovebox.  The mileage and dates recorded on them support the mileage on the odometer being correct at just under 65K.
The glovebox latch works a lot better with a little shot of aerosol white grease.  So at least there's a tiny bit of progress.  I can't really do much until I sell one of the MR2s and free up a parking spot at the house.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:34 a.m.

19 Dec 2012:

I lucked into a set of tall and skinny LT255/85R16 tires today.  They are used, but were very cheap, and will give me something safe to drive on for a little while until I get bothered enough to swap them for something I like better.  I'll get some pics once I find some wheels to stuff in them and get them mounted up on the truck.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:35 a.m.

22 Dec 2012:

I considered leaving the stickers on since they are part of the truck's history, but I've decided to take them off.

On Friday I collected a set of Ford 16x7 wheels from a local wrecking yard, and am in the final stages of paint right now.  If I'd have known they'd be this much work I might have looked for a cleaner set of wheels.  As mentioned, pics will follow once they are on the truck.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:36 a.m.

29 Dec 2012:

White wheels are (IMO) a great look on these trucks.  Speaking of which, I should have used a lot more paint than I did on these wheels, but they'll do for now.  And yes, I know, the hubs need to be painted too...that's on the list.  For today I just wanted to get the new (used) rubber on the truck.  Forgive the unretouched cellphone photos.

I had it on the lift at work for the swap, which gave me my first opportunity to really get a good look at the underside.  It's solid and there is no evidence of abuse, accident damage, or rust.  I see no real problems other than the basic effects of age.

The plan was to take the running boards off while the truck was up in the air, but some of the brackets were welded to the frame, so I'll need to take a different approach.  Should be easy enough with a cutoff wheel on an angle grinder.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:40 a.m.

16 Jan 2013:

Time marches on.  Yesterday I received the tailgate support bars that an IFSJA member was kind enough to send my way, so the tailgate can now be lowered to horizontal rather than bouncing off the rear bumper.  Progress.
I also went to the DMV and they were kind enough to lighten my wallet by a couple of hundred dollars, so Juliet now has fresh license plates and all the joy and responsibility that goes along with them.  After installing the plates it seemed fitting to go for a little drive.  As before, the exterior lights work, but dash lights do not, so I just set my speed by the traffic around me.  Some observations:
Either the idle circuit is clogged or the carburetor is grossly misadjusted, or possibly both.  The truck refuses to idle for more than a couple of seconds.  It runs very rough and wants to stall when it gets down near idle speed.  This means you have to tickle the gas while approaching a stop with your left foot on the brake, which gets genuinely interesting.  The poor old girl runs so rough at low speeds that keeping it alive while holding gently with the brakes results in a sort of cyclical go-stop-go-stop-go-stop hopping motion.  Funny, but hardly relaxing.  Fine.  Carburetor rebuild kits are cheap enough.
Speaking of brake, the left rear brake locked up rather suddenly while gently slowing with traffic.  OK, so maybe it wants wheel cylinders.  I have not seen any gear oil seeping out of the brake area, but would not be surprised to find brake shoes wet with oil contributing to some rather adventuresome braking behavior.
The ride - if that word can be used with a straight face - is a little wiggly.  I am used to a firm ride, but this seemed a little silly, like a huge red spring horse bobbing along through traffic.  Shock absorbers appear to be installed at all four corners but may be cosmetic only.  I'm sure the worn seat is responsible for a good portion of the uncontrolled motion.  I will take a closer look at tire pressures etc. and see what's what.
We got across town and pulled up in front of the house.  The power wire to the license plate light had been severed, so that got a fresh length of wire spliced in.  Of course, the bulb was burned out as well.  To be expected.
I was hoping to find a blown fuse responsible for the lack of instrument panel illumination.  All the fuses looked good and tested good, but there was no power at all to the instrument panel fuse.  Not sure yet whether this is a problem with the light switch (which feels like it was salvaged from the Titanic) or something else.
Also tried installing the inside door handle on the driver's door, but sure enough, it will not open from the inside.  That is frustrating at best.  The door will open from the outside, but only when the lock pin is held up (either by hand or by turning the key in the lock).  The latch and handle mechanism will get a good going-over, and both window regulators are a little stubborn, so they will be thoroughly cleaned and lubed as well.
Back in the truck, scoot over to the nearest Bi-Mart for a #89 bulb and an industrial size bag of Don Pancho tortilla chips.  Got the bulb installed in the parking lot.  There was just enough contact between the bumper and the license plate lamp to generate intermittent illumination.  Let's call it tentative, but optimistic.
Gas-key-crankcrankWHOOMPF and we're running, such as it is, once again.  Foot on brake, foot on gas, into gear, and there's just enough light from the parking lot's lamps to show that there is no oil pressure on the gauge.  Not "low" oil pressure - NO oil pressure.  The engine isn't making and hasn't made any unusual mechanical noises, so I am pretty confident this is an electrical issue and not a mechanical one.  Press on.
I have a package to trop at the UPS distribution center, a few miles away over 30-40 mph streets.  Easy enough.  There are a few opportunities to accelerate away from stoplights.  The old girl actually runs relatively (very relatively) smoothly under power.  Knowing that the rear brakes are touchy, I am careful to take it easy approaching intersections.  Well before I need to, I brake gently for the DC and the truck dives hard to the right.  OK!  So that decision's made for me: we're getting new calipers up front and new wheel cylinders out back as soon as possible.
Time to start drawing up a shopping list.
Also better look for some electrical help.  I have Oljeep's scans but they are a little fuzzy for me.  Better run out in the shop and see if one of the techs can find anything on Alldata for me.


19 Jan 2013:

Unfortunately, I am very suddenly finding myself unemployed, which puts further developments on hold for the time being.

To tell you the plain truth, I was tired of that job anyway...

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:42 a.m.

17 Feb 2013:

I have made a little progress.

The hood release cable and lever combo was replaced.  One of the POs had, for some reason, flipped the cable bracket on the front edge of the hood so the cable ran underneath the hood brace.  I flipped it over, routed the cable between the brace and the sheetmetal, and it works a lot better.

While I was in that area, the parking brake pedal came out for a few minutes.  The pedal would not stay down because the pawl was sticking in the 'up' position and not engaging with the teeth.  A little PB Blaster and gentle persuasion cured that...

The brakes have been freshened up with some rebuilt front calipers, new rear wheel cylinders, new master cylinder, and new rubber hoses.  The master and calipers were easy as pie, but accessing the wheel cylinder hardware was not fun.  Getting the rear circuit bled was also a royal pain but for some reason (possibly coincidence) got easier after I gave up and bled the fronts.

Now that I have brakes, the engine has decided to compensate by running worse and worse.  It's flatly refusing to idle.  The next step is a carb rebuild and replacement of the cap, rotor, plugs, and wires.  Should be easy enough...in theory...though I may have to learn more than I wanted to about the goofy add-ons (solenoid, etc) on and around the carburetor.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:44 a.m.

23 Feb 2013:

As I mentioned, I lost my job last month, so I've had time to play with the truck but no budget until we get unemployment sorted out and/or find a new job.  I've been addressing some of the cheaper things and trying to repair rather than replace wherever possible.

The ignition switch was a real fighter, so I replaced that with a new one, which works so much better.  For some reason I had to chase the threads in the steering wheel with a tap to get the puller bolts to thread in.

I went ahead and replaced the distributor cap and rotor.  They weren't actually in horrible shape, and the plugs looked OK, but they were Autolites (not my favorite) and most of them were hardly more than finger-tight.  The wires were awful.  Resistance checked out fine on the few that I looked at but the insulation was dry as a bone and the spark plug boots were coming apart rather than coming off the plugs.  I replaced a couple of plugs and wires while I had some daylight, but the goofy thing still refused to start easily or idle worth a darn.  In fact it still sounded pretty miserable.

Tried the old Sea Foam down the carburetor trick, let it sit for half an hour, but it refused to smoke at all.  While poking around under the hood with the engine running I noticed a hissing sound coming from the left side of the engine bay.  Some goober (not pointing fingers here) dislodged a vacuum line from the soup can on the driver's side inner fender.  Nice one.  Maybe the Sea Foam simply burned up rather than collecting in the combustion chambers...

With that line plugged back in, things got a lot better.  I replaced the rest of the plugs and wires, routed them fairly neatly for the time being (though I will probably redo them shortly), reset the ignition timing (it was retarded a couple of degrees), and started playing with the carburetor.  Since it is running so much better now I am not going to rebuild it yet.  For now I just poured a third of a can of Sea Foam into the fuel in hopes that it loosens up anything that doesn't belong in the carburetor.

The next thing to get attention was the hood.  One of the two latch posts on the core support was fine, and the other was stuck in the compressed position, so I removed it and opened up the hole in the spring cup enough that the cup could slide up the post as designed.  Easy enough.  The hood is a little easier to open now.  Also lubed the hood hinges while I was thinking about it.

The speedometer lens was laying loose and none of the instrument panel lights worked, so I pulled the gauge cluster to repair the lens and replace the bulbs.  Removing the cluster was a bit of a struggle.  Turns out the bulbs were fine, other than the four wheel drive indicator lamp, but I replaced them all anyway, polished the lenses, and reattached the speedo and oil pressure/ammeter lenses (the latter having fallen out during disassembly) with JB Kwik.

The heater and ventilation controls were also lodged in the defrost position.  The culprit there was the little vacuum selector, which had become stuck in one position, preventing the selector buttons from rotating it around to any other positions.  I broke that loose by very lightly holding one side in a bench vise and tapping the other half.  With those freed up I deburred and lubed the selector blades and once again had a smoothly working HVAC control panel.

Today was a pretty good day.  I got the instrument cluster back in, but the oil pressure gauge and fuel gauge were both maxing out as soon as the ignition was switched on.  I went through the TSM and lost some time chasing what I thought was a bad ground to the instrument cluster.  Turns out it was a bad ground within the instrument cluster.  As mentioned in an ammeter conversion thread: "On the schematic, the housing of this [temperature] gauge is grounded. However it does not have a dedicated ground point. There are two tabs that should touch the housing, but due to age, warpage, etc, it is easy to break this contact. If the ground is lost, all of the gauges will go full on..."

I took the cluster back to the shop and pulled it all apart again, brightened up the backing plate with a wire brush, bent the contact tabs on the temperature gauge so that they made firm contact with the backing plate, and reassembled the cluster.  I also soldered one of the pins for the oil pressure gauge to some ring terminals, basically replicating the trace on the circuit board, because the pin had become broken and detached itself from the circuit board.

All is well now.  I have a fully functional instrument panel again.  No voltmeter conversion for now, though I may do that later on.

Sorry for the lack of pics.  I was lazy, and figured you guys have probably seen most of this before anyway.  I can add some later if you like.

I totally forgot to mention that the cause of the instrument panel lights not working was a failed headlight switch. That got replaced while the cluster was out.

Sorry...I'm probably getting tired.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:46 a.m.

03 Mar 2013:

No significant progress here, but I took a couple of pics just for fun.  I still haven't bothered to properly clean the engine bay, or even wash the truck, but we'll get there.  Anyway, the engine bay looks a little better with new plug wires and a bit of carburetor cleaner sprayed over the carb.

I fiddled with it yesterday and introduced some Sea Foam through one of the vacuum lines.  That gave a tremendous smoke show right under the hood.  Apparently the check valve on the air injection system is bad, and the hose that feeds it is completely rotten, so exhaust is coming right in to the engine bay through that check valve.

The Sea Foam was followed with about a quart of water also pulled in through a vacuum line, which produced an absolutely massive cloud of steam at the tailpipe.  Unfortunately I managed to do that just as as group of high school kids were walking past on the sidewalk.  I felt bad, but at least it was only steam they were walking through.

Here are a couple of pics of the gauge cluster after renovation.  It was hard to get a decent shot in the fading daylight, and I couldn't find an angle that didn't show a bunch of reflections of the gauge lenses, but here you go.

Hard to believe I've put 120 miles on it already!


04 Mar 2013:

It's getting better, bit by bit. Got some great stuff from BJ's Offroad today - new wiper knob, window cranks, an inside door handle, and some springs for the door lock linkage. Unfortunately this means I now have to find two new screws for the handle on the driver's door (my truck uses a coarser thread than the screws that come with the new handles) and make time to tear into the doors for a thorough linkage and window regulator de-gunk and lube job.

Oh, well. Time is something I have lately, and I haven't yet had to buy anything especially expensive.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:49 a.m.

10 Apr 2013:

There has been only a little progress recently. Last month I wiped that graffiti off the rear bumper and removed three bumper stickers left by one of the previous owners. A small victory, but victory nonetheless.

I got the new door lock spring installed in the driver's door and cleaned/lubed the window regulator as well as I could, which helped a lot, but the new belt moulding on the outside of the door glass added a lot of new friction to the act of winding the window up and down. One step forward, two steps back, etc.

I also attempted to replace the air injection check valve on the passenger side, but the valve was absolutely not interested in coming off the injection rail. No problem, we can still replace the burned-out hose...which showed a very broken plastic tee when removed. Just lifting that tee to try installing the new (special ordered, non-returnable, $26 worth of silicone) hose, the check valve pulled the driver's side injection rail apart. It became apparent that this truck does not want an air injection system after all. So be it. We'll get some pics up when that work is finished.


13 Apr 2013:


Today was a pretty good day.  One of the local pick-and-pull wrecking yards had two late model Grand Wagoneers.  These are the only two FSJs I have seen in local yards.  I grabbed a good passenger door weatherstrip and a decent (not spectacular) grille from one of them.  There wasn't much else on it or the other GW that I could take advantage of.

The final type grille was not my first choice, but it's better than no grille at all.  It did not fit the muscle surround especially well.  I had to redrill all the mounting holes and accept the fact that the insert has more of a peak in it than the surround.

Anyway, here it is.  Sooner or later I may even wash this contraption, but the dirt and moss hide a lot of flaws...

Baby steps.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:51 a.m.

21 Apr 2013:

This weekend was a sweet-and-sour sort of blend.  I tried to remove the air injection manifolds and managed to break off two of the banjo bolts in the process.  I tried to remove one by welding a nut on the end of it, but could not get a good enough weld to do the job.  However, I was able to weld the broken banjo bolts shut, so no exhaust gets through.  The air injection system is now removed.  I have not taken any photos yet since the engine and most of the engine bay are still pretty nasty.

After fighting with the smog pump mess, I wanted an easy task that would give me some sense of satisfaction.  So out came the angle grinder, and the running boards went bye-bye.  Much better.

Today I had just enough drive left after doing a bunch of yard work to give the poor thing a decent wash.  I had not washed it since I brought it home, violating one of my own rules of not working on anything covered in anyone else's dirt, so it got some soap and water.  More water than I would like ended up on the inside.  There is a bad water leak somewhere around the passenger door.

I also disassembled and tightened up the driver's seat belt and repaired the half-baked seat hinge workaround (rebar is involved) so at least the seatback is not likely to collapse under my weight anymore.  While that was happening, a middle-aged neighbor walked by and told me she just loved my truck.  Said it was older, but really funky, and she could tell I was really trying to keep it up.  So of course I thanked her humbly and then immediately reported her to social services as mentally unfit and possibly under the influence.

After the bath, I wanted an excuse to drive it, so we went to the stop-and-rob for some ice cream.  Poor old Juliet is looking and working better, bit by bit.

Now I need to figure out why the rackinfratzin seat belt warning light is illuminated.  Don't remember seeing a switch attached to the belt assembly...but there must be something...?


04 May 2013:

I've been driving the truck a few days a week lately, and want to get some feedback and suggestions.

The idle is still a little rough, sort of uneven, as if some cylinders aren't firing properly.  The engine usually remains slightly rough through light throttle and cruise.  Really, it feels like a vacuum leak, but I cannot find any to save my life.  I've sprayed carb cleaner etc all over the intake manifold, vacuum hoses, etc, and nothing affects the way the engine runs.  Ignition timing is set at 10 degrees BTDC at idle, and manifold vacuum wavers between 15-17 inHg.  Idle mixture has been set to maximum vacuum and/or best lean idle speed (same result, really).

I also ran a bottle of engine oil flush through this afternoon, hoping it might free up any sticky lifters (admittedly a bit of a WAG), then changed the oil and filter.  There is no immediate change in the way the engine runs.  However, it seems to sound a little louder under the hood now.  I honestly don't know if it's my imagination or if the engine turned itself into a diesel while I wasn't looking.  There is an exhaust leak around the passenger side exhaust manifold, one at the cat, and one at the muffler, but those aren't all that audible in this video.


Right now I am reaching for an Adult Beverage and wondering three things:

1) Is this engine announcing its imminent demise, or is this more-or-less normal?
2) If the noise is not a death knell, given that there seem to be no vacuum leaks, what's the next step in curing that ragged idle?  Fatten up the carburetion, replace the charcoal canister, go to a different ignition system..?
3) Where did I leave my Adult Beverage?

This comes after getting a string of unexpected compliments in traffic.  That's how it goes - kindly strangers boost the ego, then some unseen force harpoons the pocketbook to bring you right back down to earth.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:54 a.m.

13 Jul 2013:


Time for a minor update.

I have been driving the truck several times a week while my other vehicle awaits some suspension work.  It's running pretty well other than that awful exhaust leak and a tendency to fall flat on its face after several seconds at more than 2/3 throttle or so.  I haven't determined yet whether it's running out of fuel or spark.

Also, apparently the EGR valve is plumbed incorrectly, so it is disconnected for now.  Sooner or later I'll need to replace some/all vacuum lines and correct the plumbing.

There's still a nasty surging effect under braking.  Feels like a drum or rotor is seriously warped or somehow has patches that grab the pad/shoe more aggressively.  The left front wheel has a lot more brake dust on it than the right, so I'll look there first.

Just for fun, here are a couple of pics next to a really nice '65 J3000 spotted at a local home supply store.

The '65 has apparently spent its whole life in this area.  It was featured in a nice writeup and photo shoot:

I'll try to update this as things develop.  Right now it's more of a driver than a project.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 2:55 a.m.

20 Jul 2013:

I picked this up a while back and just got it hung today.  It's mounted on the column (obviously) but not yet permanently wired, though I did test it and it does work.

There was a sticker on it with a part number starting with 'SJ' followed by six or seven numbers.  The sticker fell off at some point so that's a dead end.  I can't seem to find any other identifying marks.

Are my eyes playing tricks on me or could this be a factory Jeep accessory?

Can anyone identify this tach?


22 Jul 2013:

Dang, I was hoping someone would have something to say about that tach. There are no identifying marks, but the font of the letters, width and length of the lines, etc, all match up the the other gauges in the truck. And there is the silver/chrome edge around the bezel that matches up with the factory instrument panel trim.

No guesses? Really?


13 Aug 2013:

Well, since nobody recognizes the tach, I'll spill the beans in another thread. Should be a fun writeup for you guys who like things looking...well, I don't want to use the word "prissy"...but as close to stock as possible, at least for a part held on with a hose clamp.

I picked up some goodies last weekend - an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold and a pair of Edelbrock aluminum valve covers. They're a little grubby, but will clean up just fine.

Also grabbed a set of brake rotors to replace the wavy ones in the truck new, and some fuel lines and filters. There's one on the engine and two under the bed where my aux. tanks and main tank feeds come together.


16 Aug 2013:

So...that Performer manifold isn't going to do much good without a carburetor.  Good timing, apparently, since there suddenly seems to be some dirt in the existing carb's idle circuit.  It's acting just like it has a vacuum leak, but I can't find one anywhere.

I am just getting started researching these things.  Really, I was hoping to go directly to MegaSquirt (I've had it on another car I own for years) but may get cheap and stay carbureted.  The Holley 4010 (or Autolite 4100) looks to have a small but loyal following, but the Holley 4180 may be more adjustable and tuneable.  That's fine with me.  Complication for its own sake is no advantage, but being able to really tweak the fuel curve and dial everything in just right is appealing.

I should probably clean that Performer up and sell/trade it for an EGR version so I can keep that system functional.


23 Aug 2013:

I am definitely leaning toward MegaSquirt and TBI. Carbs are sounding less and less attractive. I know they can be very good if set up right, but it just makes sense to use EFI if it's feasible.

Anyway, speaking of fuel, I replaced the underhood fuel filter (along with some fuel hose and a few other things) a week or so back, and got under the truck after work today and replaced more fuel hose and another inline filter right off the gas tank. I'm guessing this filter was installed when the auxiliary tanks were put in. The filter was so clogged I couldn't blow through it. The new filter seems to have cured the fuel starvation. I gave it a WOT test on a freeway on-ramp with an uphill grade, and the truck pulled all the way up to and through the speed limit with no indication of trouble. I'm not saying it's fast, but at least it doesn't lay down and die after a few seconds of open throttle.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 3:01 a.m.

17 Nov 2013:

Not a lot to report lately.  The old beast has been slogging back and forth to work, knocking down almost 11 miles per gallon and pushing a lot of oil out through the rear main seal.  So it's parked for a bit while I negotiate the next round of repairs. 

I was supposed to have a new Warn hub inbound from down in Coos Bay, but the seller just cashed the check and then stopped answering his phone.  Cops say it's a civil matter if I want to open a case for the grand sum of $37.  Maybe his grandma took ill, maybe he got laid up in the hospital, but a little communication would be nice.  Just irritating as all hell...

Anyway, a buddy of mine finally collected the springs I bought from another forum member last summer (thanks Paul!) and should be bringing them to me next weekend.  So in lieu of actually accomplishing anything, I roughed out a very (!) crude pic of before and after the install.  Marvel at my astounding Photoshop skills!

Stock sits like so:

The new springs should put it right about here:

So...there we are.  Now to figure out what shocks I want and all that mess.

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 3:03 a.m.

21 Apr 2014:

It's been a while since my last update. Not much has changed other than a prodigious oil leak, apparently out of the rear main seal, and a few little details. The truck is still running strong and asking little.

Heat and defrost have never been great. I tried a new thermostat, a 195*F Stant Superstat, thinking that my existing piece might be a 180* unit. It was actually the original Robertshaw 195* thermostat complete with AMC part number. It actually worked a lot better than the Stant junk, so it will go back in after I find time to do a chemical flush of the cooling system. In the process, I cracked the t-stat housing, but had an extra cast iron part sitting around. Got lucky there.

Last weekend I visited one of the local pick-and-pull wrecking yards and found a total of one FSJ, a lonely and picked-over '83 Wagoneer. It gave me a few goodies: two door speaker grilles and one door speaker bracket, a digital clock, and factory intermittent wiper switch and module. I took them to work today (all my tools are there) and verified that the clock works. I didn't have time to wire that in, but I did get the wiper switch and module installed after work. It works as it should, so I can get rid of the very tacky aftermarket intermittent wiper controller that was hanging out of the ashtray hole. As a bonus, the windshield washers work now as well. Score!

Oh, and the driver's side windshield wiper has always chattered badly on the upstroke, so I twisted the wiper arm with two Crescent wrenches so that the wiper rubber is dragged along the glass rather than pushed across it. Now the wipers work smoothly in both directions. Of course, as soon as I fixed it, it stopped raining...

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/17/20 3:06 a.m.

04 Jan 2015:

Time for a little update.  Nothing exciting.  Truck started running fluffy on tip-in last week.  It idled fine, but as soon as the throttle was opened a little, it fell down.  Ran great if I gave it a boot full of dinosaurs or backed out completely.

OK, so that's an easy one to diagnose.  Debris in one of the idle circuits playing hell with transition.  Again.  Sure enough, here's what the float bowl looked like:

With that much aquarium gravel I almost expected to find a family of sea monkeys swimming around.  Luckily we have a vacuum-style brake bleeder at work, which worked well to slurp all that crap out of the float bowl.  Several alternating shots of elbow grease, carb cleaner, and compressed air got it to looking suchaways:

And now it runs like it did before.  Again.

Also, now wearing an argent muscle grille from a forum member.  Much better.  No pics of that yet.


30 Jan 2015:


On account of a hell of a lot of fog and a bit of bad luck, I now have one slightly abbreviated Grand Cherokee. Pre-squish, it was a very clean example w/ 147K miles. One family since new, always adult owned, never thrashed. Has 31s, a Rubicon Express 3.5" lift, brand new Bilsteins, IRO front track bar, Addco rear sway bar, and was halfway through a comprehensive maintenance exercise. And then, the fog, the luck, the surreal early-morning phone calls, the wife going to the chiropractor every so often, and the sad, muddy, earthy, Jeeply remains dumped unceremoniously behind my place of employment, a constant reminder than I am now married to 4500 pounds of not quite a car.

Getting the ZJ back on the road would require, at a minimum, a new front axle housing, hood, LF fender, front lights, radiator, A/C condenser, upper radius rod, etc., and probably a lot of nickel and dime crap along the way.

Under the influence of fog of the mental variety, I'm contemplating pulling the Magnum 5.2/46RH combo out of the ZJ and stabbing it into the J20. Which would naturally involve wiring, plumbing, mounts, and replacing the NV249 with something more suitable.

Feel free to leave comments and suggestions here while I go tank up on absinthe and let the visions fly me around for a while.


02 May 2015:

This afternoon, most of the old ZJ went away. It was sad watching it go. Still, I've seen others structure their lives around the ownership of undriveable vehicles, paying for storage year after year, dragging them around, and it's not something I want any part of. So it's gone now.

Since I was at the shop, I finally got the front pads and rotors replaced this afternoon. The front wheel bearing grease looked like it was old enough to vote. Washed that out, repacked the bearings, painted the front hubs, slid it all back together.

Halfway through the operation the water pump puked all over the floor.

Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/17/20 3:19 a.m.

She's pretty.  I'm digging it.

chandler UltimaDork
12/17/20 6:35 a.m.

Wow, haven't seen an original one that nice ever before

DarkMonohue GRM+ Memberand New Reader
12/19/20 12:13 a.m.

Thanks, guys.  These are usually thrashed, rotted to the ground, or both, so I consider myself damned lucky to have found a solid and relatively unmolested example.

I showed off a tachometer a few posts back.  Here's the story behind that.

27 Sep 2014:

Jeep never gave us a factory installed tachometer.  I wanted a tach, but I wanted it to look as much like an OEM part or dealer-installed accessory as possible.

This project started with an old Sunpro Mini Tach I brought home from work.  Nothing glamorous here.  I failed to take a photo of my tach before getting into it, but this is what it looked like.  Notice it has an 8000 RPM face.

The first step was to take it apart and see what was inside.  First I took the column mount off the tach by removing the nut on the back.

The bezel was just snapped in place, so I took a screwdriver and pried it off.  When the bezel comes off, the lens falls off with it.

Next, I flipped the tach over and removed the two screws visible on the back.  Also note the 4-6-8 cylinder switch - we will come back to that.

With those two screws removed, the mechanism falls out of the bucket.

Next, the face was removed by removing two screws that held it to the mechanism.  The face was scanned on a flatbed scanner and rotated to orient it correctly, with 4000 RPM at twelve o' clock and the screw holes located even with each other.

The image of the original face was then traced with a free CAD program called eMachineShop.  There are probably easier ways to do this, but I am familiar with eMachineShop, so that's what I used.  I spent a few hours creating a new face with the same sweep as the old face, but with a 6000 RPM scale, and markings that matched the gauges in my J20 as closely as possible.

The cool thing here is that a six-cylinder makes the same number of ignition events at 8000 RPM as a V8 makes at 6000 RPM.  Consequently, the new 6000 RPM face will be accurate with a V8 as long as you turn the selector to the six-cylinder setting.

Here are a couple of different attempts.  Once I was happy with the design, I printed it out on glossy photo paper (glossy paper gives better line quality).

I also refinished the bezel, flattening off the peak to give a flat edge similar to the gauge bezels in an FSJ.  I did this by using a flat file, then finished the rough edge by sanding the bezel across some wet emery paper on a flat surface.

Next I used some spray adhesive to glue the new face decal to the original aluminum face, and highlighted the flat edge of the bezel with bright silver paint to almost match the silver/chrome edges of my gauge cluster.  Then it was just a simple matter of reassembly and installation.

And here it is installed.  I clocked it on the column so that it is oriented and positioned correctly with the shifter in Drive.

jimbob_racing Dork
12/19/20 8:01 a.m.

I love this so far.

clunk New Reader
12/19/20 8:15 a.m.

This thing is niiiice.  There's a guy using an old J20 as a plow truck a ways away from me, kills me to see it parked for most of the year with a pile of twigs and leaves on the hood until it starts to snow and he gives it some salt in its diet :/

What part of oregon are you in if you don't mind me asking?

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