Westtown Willy's 2004 Jeep Wrangler X

May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#1
I bought my first Jeep ever in December of 2016. I wasn't looking for a wheeler, just a summertime convertible to take out of the garage on sunny days & warm summer nights so my search was pretty much appearance as opposed to performance based. My short list included a 4.0 liter 5 speed manual that was one solid color on all black with a 3 inch lift & 33x12.5 tires; to my eye that is the quintessential Jeep.

My search encompassed southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Delaware. Being in the rust belt I figured many would be ruled out due to frame rot issues so I took my time & crawled under quite a few & ultimately found one in New Jersey that had every single thing on my list, a perfect frame, plus a couple extras that I really liked including the front bumper, rock sliders & a Banks Power exhaust which gives it a beautiful purr. It also had a winch but as I was bargaining with the owner we were around $500 apart so to sweeten the deal I told him he could take his winch off if that’d make him feel better about my offer, he did & the deal was done.

$1,150 & one Warn Zeon S later the winch is back but that’s another story :pesas:

The ‘convertible only street machine’ idea lasted only a few months before I made the mistake of wheeling it once, got bit, knew immediately I'd be wheeling the crap out of it which has held true; at that point the performance modifications began in earnest* :borra2:

* My build is fairly modest among the hardcore crowd and I've kicked around the idea of going bigger but a couple factors have stopped me each time. Where I wheel there are plenty of trails and obstacles that are out of my reach based upon the limitations of my rig, my less than advanced skill level, or a combination of both. However as I've gone forward I've chipped away around the edges of those areas & the list is slowly shrinking. If I showed up next week with 40s on tons those trails wouldn't be nearly as challenging if at all, in fact most of the trails I do would become boring essentially shrinking the size of the park to a precious few challenges. Point being it's all relative, I guess I'm happier being a smaller fish in a big pond, for now anyway. Second factor is more practical, I'm fortunate enough that rust isn't an issue with my TJ & I plan to keep it indefinitely so it does not leave the garage in any kind of inclement weather, the only time it gets wet is when I wheel it and at the end of each outing it gets 3 or 4 cycles at the self-clean car wash including a complete flushing of the frame rails. As it stands I have less than one inch of clearance to get it into the garage so any more increase in lift or tire size would doom it to a life outdoors & that just ain't gonna happen.

Anyway enough of that nonsense, here's how she looked the day I brought her home:

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OP
OP
Westtown Willy
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#2
at 5 foot 7 I quickly realized it was a bit of an ass-ache getting in & out so within a week or two I made my first purchase, a set of Bartact paracord grab handles

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Also realized there's no good place to lock anything up so next thing to go in was the Tuffy:

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As spring of 2017 hit so did the need to ride cooler, so another box arrived

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and out came the Spiderwebshade, denim half doors & quick release mirrors

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OP
OP
Westtown Willy
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#3
With stock 3.07 gearing & 33 inch tires I obviously had to re-gear so you know what happened, in went proper 4.56s along with air lockers & 30 spline shafts:

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Needed a new battery, went with an AGM due to the jiggle factor:

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Prior owner had a tc drop to address the lift related vibrations, but I tweaked it up properly with the SYE/CV and Savvy double adjustable upper rear control arms:

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Next I slapped in an Anti-Rock because, well

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Armored it up a bit with ARB diff covers (no, they don't hit the track bar, suspension was cycled to be sure), plus a UCF aluminum engine/tranny skid, steering box, control arm & radiator guard:

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by the way that's all Rausch Creek clay & mud under there, not rust

Following a case of angry sparrows I traced to the shot front shaft, in went an Adams heavy duty:

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And, one of my favorite add-ons, the Warn Zeon 8S, this is a thing of beauty, one of the smoothest operating machines I've ever owned:

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There are a few other odds & ends but that's essentially the build, most of which was done in the spring of 2017. Since then it's been all about maintenance & replacing whatever I break. Here's how she sits today, not much different looking than the day I brought her home:

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Rob5589

Certified video trained differential rebuilder
Supporting Member
Aug 29, 2016
5,687
5,227
W Sacramento, Kalifornia
#6
Nice Jeep. Should consider a ZJ tie rod conversion or something else before you taco the factory straw. In some of the pics it looks a bit bowed already.
 
OP
OP
Westtown Willy
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#8
Much appreciated!

Nice Jeep. Should consider a ZJ tie rod conversion or something else before you taco the factory straw. In some of the pics it looks a bit bowed already.
thanks for pointing that out, it's on the list now.

Damn list :mad:

Forgot to mention, I briefly ran a set of 6 inch Rugged Ridge Bushwacker knockoffs (due to tire coverage issues in PA), they lasted maybe 9 or 10 outings before I understood why people call them Bushcrackers. They weren't bad looking though I do like the stock flares better, glad I kept the stock to slap back on. This is what it looked like briefly:

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Much better below, getting ready to dirty her up a couple weeks ago:

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Likes: Chris
OP
OP
Westtown Willy

Westtown Willy

TJ Enthusiast
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#9
The stock steering has served me well but at 14 years old, 126,000 miles, shot boots that didn’t hold grease anymore & a bend in the tie rod (thanks @Rob5589 for pointing that out to me) it had to go before it started causing problems.

Currie Currectlync is in & toe-in will be adjusted tomorrow, thanks to @Chris, @Jerry Bransford, and @mike d & his Longacre Toe-In Plates – I don’t know if this level of upgrade was necessary but I’m glad it’s in there. Right out of the box with no adjustment it drives really nice, will do a full off road test in two weeks.

Maybe the best part was doing it myself, something I wasn't sure about until reading the threads here. All in for the Currie parts, toe-In plates, pickle fork & a tube of anti-seize I came in just under $500. Man when you do this stuff yourself it really takes a lot of the sting out of modifications. The tally:

Currie steering: $413.46
Longacre toe-in plates/tape measures: $63.16
Pickle Fork: $12.71
Anti-seize: $5.00
Total: $494.33

Here's some before & after pictures & side by side shots of the parts, I cannot believe how much bigger this thing is:

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Last edited:
OP
OP
Westtown Willy

Westtown Willy

TJ Enthusiast
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#10
took me a week but I managed to get a set of Rancho 5000X shocks on the pile, huge pain in the ass getting those welded on nuts off but I did it. Took it out for a couple test drives, they feel good so far though I am getting an intermittent clicking sound & I'm not sure where it's coming from but I'm assuming it has something to do with the shocks, most likely installer error :rolleyes:.

Also, I took the advice of many & painted them to prevent rust. I had dark grey primer & black paint already, so, I went with dark grey primer & black :D

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and of course the gratuitous front end shot:

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Likes: Chris
OP
OP
Westtown Willy
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#12
Got my first new set of tires, went from Falken ATs to BFG KM3s, these tires are far more substantial. So far I've only driven them home from the install but I'll be heading out to give them a proper test drive on Saturday up in the mountains. Plug for a buddy Greg who operates United Tire & Service, I met him wheeling a few months back & kept his information, they're all great guys & have over 10 locations in southeastern Pennsylvania. They took good care of me & let me in the shop to stare over their shoulders the whole time :D

Here she is coming off the lift plus a couple other shots:

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OP
OP
Westtown Willy
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#13
Replaced my stock control arms with new Moog OEM, did all the lowers & the front uppers as the rear uppers are adjustable. The old bushings were hammered. Also developed a front passenger side droop & it turns out the spring on that side was nearly an inch & a half shorter than the driver's side, so I popped in a new set of Teraflex 3 inch lift coils, she sits level & beautiful again:

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OP
OP
Westtown Willy
May 10, 2018
443
622
Saltopia, PA, USA
#14
Last winter while I had the tc skid off to install a new front driveshaft I took the opportunity to paint the underside of the rails with Por-15 given that area’s high probability of rusting, figured I’d do the rest of the frame another time. The opportunity came about last week when I was putting in the new front springs, noticed a shiny spot on the frame where the spring rubbed (2nd photo). I ordered a 6-pack of the 4oz cans so I could open one at a time as needed. Over the course of a few days I cleaned, de-greased, grinded a few spots then soaked with Por-Metal Prep & rinsed, then painted on a couple coats.

Here are the before pictures during the cleaning process, not too bad for a Rust-Belt frame ehh?

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Here are the after pictures, not really much different to look at but I’m glad it’s on there.

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Side note, during the spring job I removed the jounce cups to give them a wire brushing/painting too & discovered the bump stops were packed with dirt so tight I could barely chip it out with a screw driver, ended up breaking it up & pushing it out by connecting the shopvac to the bottom & turning it on in reverse. Pro-Tip, wear goggles when you turn this on if you’re gonna stick your big fat stupid head up in the wheel well to ‘see what happens’ :rolleyes:. Having shot myself directly in the eyeball with Eastwood frame paint before I’ll say this wasn’t as bad, but it still sucked. Finally figured it would be smart to add a smaller vacuum cleaner hose up top to suck up all the crap the shopvac was pushing out, see illustrative photo below.

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Oh, & if anyone doubts the strength of Por-15, I had a little bit left in this cup & when I was done for the night I rested the brush on top, not sure why I didn’t toss it in the trash. Came out the next morning & it had tipped over. I cannot move the cup or the brush, it’s like it’s welded on there, gonna have to get the chisel out :pesas:


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