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Kyle's TJ - A Crawler Built in Stages

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Kyle_Craig

Kyle_Craig

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Jun 1, 2021
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28
Location
Minnesota
I added an update to one of the posts I reserved on page 1 if people want to see what I am working on currently.
Nice jeep. I love the simplicity of the leaf spring stretch which seems to work well!
Thank you! The leaf springs have served me really well and they were a simple conversion. My favorite trait is the stability they provide. They are very predictable. My only complaint about them is that the front spring hangers are rock magnets. I hope to design a solution to that problem in the not-too-distant future though!

Good to see another Minnesotan that actually wheels
Oh you betcha! Hi neighbor!

I love this build
Thank you! It's been great fun building it through the years as needs and budget have allowed.

I am full of ideas for the future so stay tuned!
 
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Fouledplugs

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Thank you! The leaf springs have served me really well and they were a simple conversion. My favorite trait is the stability they provide. They are very predictable. My only complaint about them is that the front spring hangers are rock magnets. I hope to design a solution to that problem in the not-too-distant future though!
Are you planning on frenching the spring hangers?

Are you running XJ springs?
 
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Kyle_Craig

Kyle_Craig

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Jun 1, 2021
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Location
Minnesota
Are you planning on frenching the spring hangers?

Are you running XJ springs?
Yes and yes. They are XJ springs with one added leaf.

I am actually contemplating two different designs to "French" the springs.

Option 1: I may simply french the front spring hanger and keep the springs under the axle. This would lower the ride height a bit (which I want to do anyway) and provide a flat surface to slide forward across rocks rather than a traditional hanger that comes down at a 45 degree angle. To do this I would cut a large notch out of the frame and plate it on both sides. This design would include the option to drill multiple holes on a vertical plane for ride height adjustment and maybe even uhmw along the frame rail as a sliding surface. This is a simple option with a very predictable result. The downside is that the rear shackles would still hang out quite a bit. The shackles have proven problematic on a couple of very steep ledges where I had to winch up rather than being able to reverse down due to the shackles digging into the ground in reverse.

Option 2: This option would include moving the spring over the axle, frenching a rear eyelet into the frame, and creating a frenched front slider box. I would likely need to add a traction bar due to the axle wrap associated with a spring over axle setup. This would be a significantly more involved swap both on the design side of things and from a fabrication standpoint. Also, ride height would be a bit of an educated guess. The benefit is that slider boxes ride smoothly, have less lateral play than shackles, I would be significantly increasing clearance at the front AND the rear of the leaf, and it has a unique/cool factor.

Option 1:
IMG_8394.jpg


Option 2:
sears1.png

sears2.png

For those wondering why I would keep the leaf springs and do all of this work...it's because they just plain work, they're simple, and they're practically free. Plus, it's fun to be different.


You married above your paygrade. :cool:
I'm a lucky dude! She even supports me buying Jeep parts (within reason, of course).

Awesome build. And that Atlas 😍
It sure is shiny. The ironic part is that an Atlas and a pair of custom driveshafts equals what I paid for the Jeep 12+ years ago...but I guess I could say the same about the front Dana 44 build.
 
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Kyle_Craig

Kyle_Craig

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I had the past two days off and was able to make some more progress on the Atlas install with plenty of help from my buddy Tommy and my dad. I determined that in order to achieve a completely flat skid with a little wiggle room in all directions for the drivetrain, everything needed to come up a little higher. Rather than ending up with a quilt-work of floor patch I just cut a larger hole in the floor. It fits great now!

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With the transmission and case at the final height, we got to work on the crossmember. I repurposed the transmission mount and used 1.75" tubing with Ranger leaf spring bushings to create the crossmember. The exhaust also had to come out to make room for the crossmember.

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With the crossmember in place, we got to work on designing a 1/4" steel skid. We designed it to be several inches longer than the Undercover Fab skid it would replace for more protection and a larger sliding surface.

66.jpg

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There is obviously plenty more to do but I hope to make more progress in the weeks to come. The short term checklist includes:
  • Install compact high flow cat ahead of the skid, a section of straight exhaust pipe at the skid, and the muffler behind it
  • Weld angle iron bracing to inside of flat skid
  • Paint crossmember and skid plate
  • Install 1350 front axle yoke and measure for driveshafts
  • Order and install driveshafts
  • Check clearances for front driveshaft, trimming out more of the floor if needed
  • Design and install a floor patch
  • Modify driver seat mount to fit over floor patch
  • Heat and bend manual shift lever. It now hits the dash in 1st,3rd, and 5th gear
  • Fill the Atlas with fluids and test drive!
As for extracurriculars:

  • I plan on adding a second park brake lever (that I already have) right next to the factory one. The left lever will engage the left rear brake, the right lever will engage the right. I haven't had a functioning parking brake in years. When I swapped in the rear Dana 44, I didn't have cables. I need a functioning parking brake and I figure having a left and right park brake will make for super-mega-dope front dig capabilities!
  • I'm pricing out UHMW and considering skinning the skid in that.
  • I plan to french the leaf hangers into the frame (hopefully before wheeling season). I think the leaf spring slider idea might just be a little too complicated.

Thanks for tuning in, folks!
 
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NashvilleTJ

I miss the snow...
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Great build. I really enjoyed reading the history. Who were you over at Jeepforum?

I’ve done what I call the Red-Neck cutting brake as well. Can’t wait to see how you do it.

Welcome to the forum.

Jeff
 
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Kyle_Craig

Kyle_Craig

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Minnesota
Great build. I really enjoyed reading the history. Who were you over at Jeepforum?

I’ve done what I call the Red-Neck cutting brake as well. Can’t wait to see how you do it.

Welcome to the forum.

Jeff
Thanks Jeff! I had the same username over on Jeepforum. I'd imagine we crossed paths over there at some point.

As far as the double parking brake goes, it's good to know it's been done. I think it could be pretty simple with a universal park brake kit...but I guess we'll see!

Really enjoying the build!
Thanks! It's fun documenting it again.

Are you still running the AX5?
Yup. It shifts great too! If it does go out, they're typically dirt cheap on FB marketplace (if you can find one).
 

NashvilleTJ

I miss the snow...
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...

As far as the double parking brake goes, it's good to know it's been done. I think it could be pretty simple with a universal park brake kit...but I guess we'll see!

...
I merged two stock levers, modified the bracket to accept two input cables, and built a couple of cable connectors / adjusters. It was actually a fun little project.

Jeep - Cutting Brakes - 3-27-2010 187.JPG
Jeep - Cutting Brakes - 3-27-2010 198.JPG
 

Noslo65

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Thanks Jeff! I had the same username over on Jeepforum. I'd imagine we crossed paths over there at some point.

As far as the double parking brake goes, it's good to know it's been done. I think it could be pretty simple with a universal park brake kit...but I guess we'll see!


Thanks! It's fun documenting it again.


Yup. It shifts great too! If it does go out, they're typically dirt cheap on FB marketplace (if you can find one).
My hero, run it until it proves you wrong 👍🏻
 
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Kyle_Craig

Kyle_Craig

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Minnesota
I made some more progress this past weekend! The exhaust is in and complete. I added a section of exhaust tube (dimpled to fit over the crossmember), installed a small high flow catalytic converter, and reinstalled my muffler and turn down.

68.jpg

69.jpg


We also reinforced the skid plate using a mixture of 3/16"x1" and 1/4"x11/2" angle iron to add strength anywhere there was room to do so. Keep in mind that I am planning on skinning the skid in UHMW as well.

70.jpg


I installed a 1350 front pinion yoke to match my rear 1350 yoke and measured for driveshafts. I'm currently planning on double cardan shafts with 1350 u-joints all around. I'm hoping to get those ordered in the next week. Here is a picture of the 1310 yoke next to the 1350 for those interested.
71.jpg


I did not have parking brake cables so I ordered a Wilwood park brake cable kit and used that. We made a standoff bracket to get the levers at a comfortable height and mocked it all up.

72.jpg


I routed the cables and housing directly through the floor to the barrel adjusters on the lever bracket and cut the included brass block in two (one for each cable/lever). Here is a view of how it all hooks up with the bracket flipped over.
73.jpg


Then I painted the levers, inner frame rails, skid plate, and crossmember.
75.jpg


74.jpg



I merged two stock levers, modified the bracket to accept two input cables, and built a couple of cable connectors / adjusters. It was actually a fun little project.

View attachment 299950
Merging the two levers together like that is a very slick way to do it! How close together are they? I also designed my bracket with a few inches between my levers for ergonomic purposes and with the lever handles sitting a few inches higher than stock so they're always within reach. The Wilwood kit made the cable side of the equation very straight forward.



Next up: Floor patch!
 

JMT

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This was a very enjoyable read! Cool stuff! You’re really dedicated to fit the Atlas with a flat skid! The TeraLow story was interesting too. I run one.
 

pc1p

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You made a SWB XJ - I dig it!

I think I saw this on FB too, but may be thinking of the other forums as Nashville pointed out...
 

NashvilleTJ

I miss the snow...
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Merging the two levers together like that is a very slick way to do it! How close together are they? I also designed my bracket with a few inches between my levers for ergonomic purposes and with the lever handles sitting a few inches higher than stock so they're always within reach. The Wilwood kit made the cable side of the equation very straight forward.

...
Jeep - Cutting Brakes - 3-27-2010 205.JPG


I kept my levers close together for two reasons. One, to run it in the stock console and two, to more easily be able to engage both levers simultaneously with one hand when using it as a regular parking brake. When engaging one at a time, I do have to first pull that lever up far enough to get my hand around it, so it's a trade off.

I like how you did yours - looks pretty easy to operate.
 
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Kyle_Craig

Kyle_Craig

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Alright dudes, I owe ya'll an update.

I got the Atlas project basically done.

I bent up some 1/2" rod and tapped threads onto it for knobs. I did this to replace the short little Atlas shifter levers with ones that sit right up next to my transmission shifter. I bent the trans shifter a little toward the passenger side to allow room for the twin sticks to clear my right knee.
75.5.jpg


All of my shifters are right there next to each other and well within reach even when the seatbelt is cinched.
75.6.jpg


Here is how I tackled the floor patch:
I added material to attach a floor panel to and added mounting holes and nutserts.
76.jpg



We cut out a floor panel on my buddy's plasma table and I added careful bends to it with a hammer and a piece of pipe.
77.jpg



Cut out the seat bracket to fit around the larger tunnel and attached a new front mount.
78.jpg


79.jpg


Then I painted the floor patch and bolted it up with some stainless M6 hardware I had at work. I added a custom cut to the floor mat and installed a new fire extinguisher.

I am really happy with how the floor turned out. The transfer case takes up a lot more space but the seat basically sits 1/4" above it and there is still a nice little pocket for my heel to sit in while I mash that skinny pedal.
79.5.jpg


I also got to work on finishing my flat skid. I used some woodworking tools to cut, drill, countersink, and rout the edges of my 3/8" sheet of UHMW and tapped 3/8" fine thread holes. I'm quite happy with how this turned out as well. I am a little concerned about how close to the edge I had to bore holes to counter sink the carriage bolts for mounting it. They will probably blow out eventually but it's all a learning process. In hindsight i would have ground the heads of the mounting bolts smaller to allow the holes to be smaller.

80.jpg


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Here is the shiny new skid bolted up along with the spiffy new 1350 driveshafts.
84.jpg


I installed a new air intake and an electric fan kit. Then my radiator blew on the first drive so I installed a nice new Griffin aluminum radiator not pictured.
85.jpg



For memorial weekend, my wife, puppy, and I went wheeling at two different local trails (Dresser, WI and Frontenac Farms in Lake City MN) with some dang good friends (one with a stretched TJ and another with the Ranger) and we had a ball. The Jeep performed really well and nothing broke! The difference crawling with the Atlas 5:1 is unreal. First gear low range makes for effortless crawling, 2nd gear has great wheel speed, and 3rd gear is great for heading from one obstacle to the next on the trail. I have never been more happy with the little 4 cylinder now that it has good gear reduction. Below are some pictures and video from the weekend.

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Oh yeah, and somewhere in there I installed some new Motobilt mirror brackets and 6" round trucker mirrors.
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The UHMW held up well and slipped over everything. My favorite thing about it is as you slide over rocks it is very quiet and much less harsh.
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I was between a rock and a hard place and dented my rear corner a bit. [email protected]#
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<iframe width="560" height="315" src="
" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
 
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Kyle_Craig

Kyle_Craig

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Did somebody say cutting brakes

View attachment 301925

As far as the right and left parking brakes go, they are pretty much useless. I have spent hours trying to get them adjusted with enough power to pivot off of them in front dig. I will either have to replace the (probably 20 year old) drums and shoes to get them to work...or I might get a wild hare, and do actually cutting brakes and a disc brake upgrade (to round out the extreme polishing of this Dana 44 rear turd).

If anyone (@NashvilleTJ ) has any advice on making this concept more useful for locking up the rear for front digs I am all ears!
 

jjvw

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Is this at Trollhagen? I have very clear memories is parking and camping in a clearing just like this with my dad when I was a kid.

1654395090530.png
 
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