COVID-19 Home-School Auto Shop: 1998 Sport

Sea Cot

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Two years ago, my son met his obligations for me to purchase a TJ project to work on. After two years of hawking forums, side roads, back roads, Craigslist, and joining FB for Marketplace recently, we finally found "the one" on Marketplace. A neglected 1998 Sport project popped up on Marketplace for $1500 and within a few miles from home. School is closed for the remainder of the year and he misses auto shop class. Now, shop class will be held in the garage.

Main features & specs are it's a well-optioned Sport hardtop model, AX-15, and rear Dana 44 w/ 3.73 trac-loc. The Jeep hasn't revealed any tell-tale signs of rot in the usual areas. Nothing afoul in the windshield frame, rockers, torque boxes, or rear panel. There won't be a need for Saf-T-Caps or other significant frame repairs. It sat in a garage for ~10-15 years.

The TJ was rode hard and put away wet- the interior still wears mud from the un-fateful day the engine ate some bearings. As you can see, the TJ is mostly dismantled. Some of the parts have been lost in time or promised to others, but we're not worried as I have practically most everything to put it back together. The TJ has a 2" coil spacer and 3" body lift that were installed to clear 35s. The body lift will go away, but the spacers will stay on to clear JK-R wheels on 32s that a coworker gave me.

As far as a plan, the goal is a safe and reliable daily driver. This project is about the journey more so than the destination. Stay tuned, enjoy. This one will take a while. 🍻

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Chris

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Oh yeah... that's what I call a project right there.

Still, I think something like this ends up being more about the journey than the end result itself, so I know just what you mean.

The good news is that you managed to find one with a clean frame, so while it will no doubt be a project, at least it won't be as bad as dealing with rust. I've dealt with bad rust once, and I promised myself never, ever again.
 
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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Oh yeah... that's what I call a project right there.

Still, I think something like this ends up being more about the journey than the end result itself, so I know just what you mean.

The good news is that you managed to find one with a clean frame, so while it will no doubt be a project, at least it won't be as bad as dealing with rust. I've dealt with bad rust once, and I promised myself never, ever again.

We have some rust to deal with- but no obvious need for cutting/patching yet. We'll probably find something along that'll need attention. It's "heavily rusted" by the desert standard and "surface rust" by the Michgan standard.

Today was clean it out and flush out all the mud and previous owner's DNA. Overall, I'm satisfied with the bones of the project. Thhe floorpans do have surface rust, and they passed the stab with screwdriver test. The frame rust looks worse in pics than in person. It passed the ball peen hammer tapping test after I flushed out the dirt and whatever scale rust had knocked loose.

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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Slow progress is still progress.

Things removed:
  • 3" body lift pucks
  • old wheels
  • fender flares and flare extensions- no rust! woo!!!
  • brake and fuel lines
  • front swaybar
Things added:
  • wheel adapters
  • JK-R wheels graciously donated by a colleague. Tires are 255/75-17
New parts received:
  • Mopar fuel lines
  • Inline Tube brake line set
  • unit bearings
  • axle and driveshaft u-joings
Other: stripped the engine block and didn't find any obvious cracks, damage etc. The machine shop has a backlog of work, so hopefully they'll accept my block next month to clean, inspect, and ID the parts needed for a rebuild kit. The engine reassembly will be a good project for my son and his grandpa to work on together.

The plan for this week and weekend is to drag home some fixtures that'll serve as body stands so Wire Wheel 101 (aka sorry, not sorry, neighbors) can begin on the chassis- weather permitting.



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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Today I got creative and used the 4-post lift to lift the body off the chassis.
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Might as well have a look at the underside while it's accessible. Now thinking how to deal with the crust below. . . .

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We pulled the chassis outside, bathed it in a degreaser cleaner, washed 'er down again, applied heat to every bolt and fastener that will get removed, sprayed all fasteners with PB Blaster, and finally removed the shocks. Here's a before pic. I didn't capture an after pic

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After thinking things through a bit, I'm going to hold back on wire wheel 101 for the chassis. Instead, I'll send it out for media blasting. I have respirators and whatnot, but I'm concerned about the amount of rust dust that will be generated, my sons auto-immune sensitivities and respiratory history, and the COVID of things. We'll play it safe and pick the frame to the bone. Also gotta take a peek at the rear diff to find out why it sounds like gravel being crunched when it rolls.

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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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We knew at the time of sale that the rear differential wasn't right. Today we pulled the cover and discovered damage inside the cover and some sparkly metal. The ring gear has some chopped teeth and the spider gears teeth have very noticeable contact patterns. I don't know what that grey bit is that is riding on the right bearing cap, but it doesn't seem like it should be there.
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This discovery altered the direction of the project, slightly. Instead of rebuilding this axle, we'll install the HP30 & Dana 44 w/ 4.88 set I have in the parts bin. Once that decision was made, then we stripped everything possible from the frame in preparation for an upcoming date with the media blaster.

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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Today was so productive that I am celebrating with ibuprofen. Among the accomplishments is that I can still deadlift a fully assembled Dana 30.

Met up with the sandblaster today. The deal was to show up with cash and meet in the back of a trucking yard. Seems legit, right? Overall was very pleased with the result. The frame doesn't need any patch work, so I'm relieved that no new holes or thin spots were created anywhere on the frame. Blaster guy was surprised, too.

Previous post showed the before shot. Here's the after.

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Then decided to lop these off.

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Made the neighbors happy and doin' our part to keep it real. Brush painting a frame on jack stands over the grass. Frame coating is Eastwood's Rust Encapsulator. The frame took exactly one coat. We almost had to cut the can open and rub the inside on a couple spots. The skid plate and perches sitting on the trailer were rattle-canned with a different rust encapsulator product.

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Then we ran the frame over to bro-in-law's house (using his trailer I borrowed) to re-attach the spring perches.

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Tomorrow is supposed to be another gorgeous day, so we'll get the top coat of Eastwood's Chassis Black Satin. After that, all the chassis bolts will get cleaned and painted. After that, then parts can go on the frame.
 
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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Started the day early and met up with a seller who was offing a 8pc set of Moog control arms at a discounted price.

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Then I met up with a buyer for the last SBC items that came with the Jeep- yay, no more Chebby parts lingering around. Fun math for this project: Jeep purchase - sum of SBC parts sold = $340.

Actual progress made today: drilled 3/8" drain holes in the frame, ran the control arm fasteners through the blast cabinet, painted the frame & skid plate with Eastwood's Chassis Black, moved the Dana 30 & Dana 44 3.73 set over to storage, and brought home the HP Dana 30, Dana 44 4.88, fuel tank & Warn skid, springs, and shocks. We'll give the paint a few days to dry. Later in the week, we'll turn our attention to getting the chassis rolling again and installing the plumbing.

Now I patiently wait for the machine shop to re-open. . .


More pics!


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Here's another episode of "Keepin' it Klassy"

We used the lawn clipping bags as a painting stand. My son liberally sprayed the skid plate with a rust encapsulator product. The overspray somewhat conceals the bald spots and crabgrass. Then he brush painted the chassis black because we had enough leftover.

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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Thanks for the praise :) One thing he learned so far is that rust is the enemy.

The project currently has good momentum. We're not bogged in disassembly and the tasks we complete are significant and rewarding. After the chassis is rolling and plumbed, momentum will be tested.

We didn't start with a complete Jeep that we stripped down and cataloged the items. Many items will come from the parts horde which was somebody else's inventory of 3 or 4 TJs they stripped out and kept parts for their own build. Other items came with the project itself but many parts were lost through time. Many new parts are necessary due to not having them or they're not suitable for use. We'll have several hours of piecing everything together.

The current tedious task is cleaning fasteners. Several pounds of unorganized fasteners will bathe in Kano Labs' Exrust. I had a gallon laying around that I never used, so now is a good of time as ever. . The first batch of body bolts is currently at hour 16 of a ~24hr soak. Hoping for good results.
 
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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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In process shot of cabinet blasting the rear driveshaft. The rust band along the shaft has been dealt with. The rust on the end of the yoke will be dealt with using wire wheel, bristle discs, or scotch brite pads. It looked like the end was machined, so I didn't mess with blasting it. This will create an opportunity for my son to experience cleaning internal splines, changing u-joints, and spray bomb technique development.


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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Yesterday I delivered the engine and two sets of heads to the machine shop who is finally taking in work. The plan for the block is to clean, inspect, and quote prepping it for reassembly- at least grind the crank and possibly bore the cylinders. My son and I measured the bores (T-bore gauge & micrometer) and all were right on spec at 3.875" measuring fore-aft and side-side. Hopefully it passes inspection without additional repair work needed. If the block is economically salvageable, I'll have them install camshaft bearings. I asked them to quote them providing the rebuild parts, too. My FIL will join the project team as the engine builder SME. That'll be pretty cool because my son will be able to say that he, his dad (me), uncle (welded rear coil brackets on. . . more to come possibly), and papa built his TJ.

The plan with the heads is to cleanup the better of the two- both #0630. The disassembled head was mounted to the block. The other head was part of my parts horde purchase earlier this year.

The PO wasn't joking when he said they roached the #3 rod bearing.
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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Tonight's lesson. . . fastener refresh. Picked a bunch of body and chassis bolts from the parts pile, ran 'em through the blast cabinet, then honed spray bomb techniques in high wind conditions. Here's a before

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and after. . .
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Tomorrow's task will be chasing threads with a die. Otherwise, we're waiting for an order of small parts to arrive to begin chassis reassembly.
 
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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Rolling again with the gas tank and Warn fuel tank skid installed, too. Need to blast & paint the bump stop cups. Might pull out the springs and clean 'em up. My son is displeased with how the springs look crappy against the fresh black everything else.

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Sea Cot

Sea Cot

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Not a lot of progress during the past couple weeks due to work schedules and shitty weather. It's mostly been parts organization, cleaning fasteners, and waiting for delivery trucks. Hopefully we'll be able to finish the chassis assembly and transition to other tasks.


Meanwhile, today I bought a hard top with a 2000 Sahara attached to it. The fenders tell the tale of this beauty. Eagle-eyed readers might spot a pile of rust in front of the rear tire. The rust fell off when I kicked the step down then wrangled the skateboard away from the remnants of the one tube holding it on.


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