There's a 1989 YJ in my shop behind the house. Working on it’s been a walk down memory lane. The 258 carbureted six still runs just like it did when new–lots of low-end torque and no performance at higher rpm. It leaks where almost all of them did. Oil is coming from the rear of the valve cover, the selector shaft seal in the tranny, and another phantom transmission/transfer case leak that’s proving elusive to find. The front pinion seal is bad, probably because the YJ has so much driveline vibration it can’t be driven faster than 55 mph. Aftermarket leaf packs raise the Jeep too high and the spring’s center pins are inexplicably 1.5 inches too far back up front and 1.5 inches too far forward in back, decreasing the wheelbase to 90 inches. Turn the leaf packs around you say? No, because the military wraps need to be attached at the frame hangers, not the shackles. Some of the U-bolt nuts were held on with two threads, which pulled out as soon as a socket was placed on them. The tach, speedo, water temperature, and clock are functional, but the oil pressure gauge is pegged on 80 and the fuel gauge swings lazily from “F” to “E” all the time. This Jeep even has cruise control. When activated, it accelerates, decelerates, and then deactivates. The seats didn’t match the rest of the interior and were a dirty brown.
With all this, you might be thinking this YJ is a rolling turd. It’s not. It has 62,000 original miles and spent all of its life in California, away from salt or other corrosion issues. The body is one of the cleanest I’ve seen. It has Ford 9-inch front- and rearends with Lincoln disc brakes in back and 4.10 gears and Detroit Lockers front and back. A still-functioning Warn M8000 winch sits up front. The front spring hangers that broke off every YJ have been reinforced and welded on the frame. This is one clean YJ.
Yesterday, I walked out to the shop at 6:30 a.m., planning to install a few parts before the shop reached 110 degrees inside. Fourteen hours later, I limped back to the house, leaving a 1989 YJ that now had a much nicer interior and was a bit safer.
The front leaf springs had to be addressed, as they were the ones with the offending U-bolts that were too short. I enlisted the help of a friend and removed the leaf packs and disassembled them, drilling new center pin holes 1.5 inches further forward in the top two leafs of each pack. The reassembled packs were then installed with new U-bolts. Currie tow bar shackles were also installed. Remember those? They’re a simple solution for tow bar attachment on CJs and YJs.
OR Fab’s Wrangler Sport Cage is a simple, clean bolt-in front cage kit that affords more protection to front passengers. Phil Toney had the OR Fab cage kit in his YJ when he flipped over backwards on Golden Spike. It protected him well. 4WD Hardware supplied a cage kit, so in it went. I remembered removing the top safety torx bolts from the windshield stringers by taking a punch and breaking out the center pin. Now 20 years later, that didn’t work anymore, so I took pliers and ruined the bolts getting them out. No matter, OR Fab supplies all new hardware. The cage went in easily and looks great.
Bestop Trailmax Pro II seats are quality, comfortable seats that look good in Wranglers. The ugly brown generic seats were eighty-six’d and I proceeded to install the new Bestop seats. Before the new seats and bracketry went in, the carpet came up and I saw remnants from some of the places the Jeep had been over the years. There was dead cactus, pine needles, sand, dirt, and small pebbles everywhere. After vacuuming out this collection, the seats were installed and a matching black denim Bestop rear seat cover covered the light gray rear seat. The Bestop Sport Bar Cover was the hardest interior piece to install. It comes out of the box with the foam pieces unattached. What a pain to get everything lined up and zipped over the cage!
The day’s work was done and the YJ looked almost new inside. See “YJ” in this issue for photos. As I worked, old memories came back reminding me of the YJ projects we had built in the days of yore. What fun to work on an older Jeep, making it capable of creating new memories once again.