Part XI: Welcome To Donesville!
Lemme explain the method that is my madness. I originally purchased this '68 J2000 from a reader a few years ago after my F-250 tow rig died on La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles. I sent the Ford to take a dirt nap and planned to use the J2000 to haul engines, greasy parts, and other junk. And I did just that (for a couple days). But then I discovered the kingpin bearings were bad in the front axle. So rather than rebuild it, I started researching front axle swap options. Then, the bearing noise in the stock 232 engine started getting louder. Then, I started using a hand-held GPS to see how fast I was really able to travel on the road with the truck's 4.27 gears and 31-inch tires. I got tired of the brick-truck ride and spooky handling, so I added a lift, some 33s, a new engine, and an overdrive tranny to the wish list. And so on.
By the time I was done with the late-night bench racing and parts scrounging, I had turned a perfectly good, running factory Jeep into a magazine project. Crap. First, the scary and broken factory suspension was replaced with a Hell Creek Suspension 4-inch spring lift and the rolling stock got the heave-ho for some smooth and durable Pro Comp 33x12.50R15 A/T tires on 15x8 Eaton heavy-duty steel wheels with simulated beadlocks from National Tire & Wheel. Then I took an early '80s Dodge Dana 44 front axle and later-model J2000 rear Dana 44 to MIT in El Cajon, California, to have them fully rebuilt with 4.56 gears and Eaton Truetrac differentials from Randy's Ring & Pinion before slinging them under the springs. And along with a ton of other odds-and-ends, I put in an injected '92 XJ 4.0L from Scotty's Jeep, Truck & 4x4 in Fontana, California, between the framerails and wired and fired it with a killer harness from Hotwire Auto. An NV3550 and other drivetrain components from Advance Adapters gave me a modern overdrive and a nice place to hook up the Dodge NP208 T-case. Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts hooked the T-case to the Dana 44 axles and that just left the roached interior to take care of.
And that's where BJ's Off-Road comes into the story. If you're a fullsize Jeep guy, you owe it to yourself to check out the company's website and drool over the very complete selection of replacement and performance parts for Wagoneers, Cherokees, and J-trucks. BJ's offers everything from suspension, drivetrain, interior, braking, you name it. So I had little trouble finding some interior refurbishment parts to make the '68's interior comfy and quiet. And since the factory bench was completely broken and missing every spring under the driver's butt, I ordered up a pair of affordable Smittybilt reclining buckets in black vinyl along with a Smittybilt security stereo console. With the interior finished, I'm gonna call this project finished.