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Project JR 2.0 - 1999 Jeep Cherokee

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 1, 2010
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Most readers are all hot and bothered over the fact that we finally broke our '99 XJ out of mothballs and are giving it a much-needed refurbishment. Last month we showed you the installation of the new Poly Performance three-link front suspension and promised to wrap it all up in this issue with some new front coils and upgraded rear spring perches. Well, we got a little sidetracked and instead decided to bring you the buildup of our new front axle. We'll put the wraps on the suspension next issue-we promise!

Our stock front axle has been bent since the first time we took Project JR out prerunning. It took only a couple good mogul hits to put a smile in our Jeep's Dana 30. Since that day years ago, we've been hoping to install a heavy-duty front axle that can take some punishment. However, we naturally had to toss in a few curveballs. Anybody with a credit card can order up a custom front axle built to their specs, but since we have a broader duty to showcase as many options as possible to our readers, we took a rather circuitous route to a better front axle.

To start things off, we got our hands on a pair of Reid Racing's stellar new Dana 30/Rubicon Dana 44 conversion knuckles that allow the use of six-bolt Dana 44 spindles, backing plates, hubs, and rotors on your YJ/TJ/XJ/WJ/ZJ/MJ's Dana 30 or Dana 44. This means that you can rummage the junkyard for most of the parts to cheaply and easily run 5x5.5, 6x5.5, or even 8x6.5 bolt patterns. So there's curveball number one: finding a way to run junkyard Dana 44 outers and their bigger and better brakes on your D30/D44.

We ordered Currie Enterprises' new F9 fabricated housing with TJ/XJ/YJ inner knuckles. The F9 housing features 3-inch-diameter, 0.3125-wall DOM axletubes and 3/16-inch-thick formed and welded centersection with a heavy 3/8-inch-thick third member mounting surface. We asked Currie to install its heavy-duty brackets and leave off the upper control arm mounts since our new Poly Performance three-link uses a special upper mount. The 31-spline alloy inner shafts run Dana 44-sized Spicer 760X U-joints, so they'll hook up to '95-up Jeep Dana 30 or Dana 44 stub shafts, if you go that route.

Curveball number two was finding a way of retaining the stock Dana 30/Dana 44 outers but upgrading your housing and inner shafts. After all, there are lots of guys who dropped a lot of money on 5x4.5 beadlock wheels and alloy stub shafts for their factory axles, but want more housing, ring and pinion, and inner axleshaft strength. To that end, we tapped Currie Enterprises and ordered a custom F9 fabricated 9-inch housing and inner shafts complete with a Currie High Pinion 9-inch centersection and Currie's heavy-duty brackets. Had we been running our stock outers, it would have been a short matter of installing our knuckles and stub shafts to the new Currie parts and bolting the new axle under the Jeep.

Curveball number three was finding a way to build this axle without hitting the junkyard-'cause it's always a crap shoot as to whether or not you'll stumble onto the parts you really need. To save a lot of coin over our local auto parts stores, we logged onto RockAuto's website and ordered as much of the stuff as we could. Naturally, we ordered a bit too much of certain items and not enough of some others, so we'll list every nut and bolt we actually used and where we got it from in the sidebar "Build Sheet." RockAuto is a slam-dunk for common replacement parts like bearings, hubs, rotors, and calipers, but the company doesn't carry the less common stuff like the backing plates, stub shafts, and spindles. Not to worry, because Parts Mike manufactures some extremely well-built, heavy-duty backing plates that accept the stock Chevy caliper. And Superior Axle & Gear is always our go-to for the best U-jointed alloy shafts on the planet and a good supply of genuine Dana Spicer product.

The Reid Racing Dana 30/Dana 44 conversion knuckles are super-burly parts that not only allow the use of earlier 5x5.5, 6x5.5, or 8x6.5 Dana 44 stub shafts, brakes, and spindles, but offer real strength improvement over the factory Dana 30 knuckles. And unlike any factory TJ, XJ, or YJ knuckle, the tops are machined flat, drilled, and tapped to run aftermarket three- or four-bolt high-steer arms. Reid also had the high-strength spindle studs, which we pressed in before installing the knuckles.

So follow along as we assemble our new front axle at home-and be sure to check back in the next issue for the suspension finish and to see the axle get slung under our Jeep's Unitbody.

Build Sheet Because the Reid knuckles have no caliper mount provision, using Dodge brake components to get a 5x5.5 bolt pattern wasn't an option. Dodge calipers mount on cast-in ears on the Dodge knuckles. Instead, we used the parts listed to the right. Had we been willing to swap to 6x5.5 or 8x6.5 bolt pattern, we could have nabbed some backing plates, spindles, hubs, rotors, and stub shafts off nearly any solid axle GM in the wrecking yard- but used small-bearing spindles and related components for the 5x5.5 swap are becoming a bit scarce. Here are the parts we used and prices as of the time this was written.

PhotosView Slideshow
PhotosView Slideshow
Source Part No. Description Price
Car Quest PN 4250 Ford inner grease seal $6.88/ea ($13.76)
PN B7000 7/16-inch banjo bolt $4.71/ea ($9.42)
Currie Enterprises PN 3M-CHP486R31- TTCXI CHP centersection, 4.86 reverse-rotation gears, 31-spline Truetrac diff, 1310 flange $1,515.70
PN CE-0118 Assembly labor $99.95
PN CE-7110A TJ/XJ brackets w/ mounting $499
PN CE-0130N Inner axle shafts $179.95
PN CE-4303D Currie F9 fabricated housing with TJ/XJ/YJ inner C $899.95
Parts Mike PN CB66075-R Heavy-duty Dana 44 backing plates $74.95/ea ($149.90)
Reid Racing PN D30001JL Dana 30/Dana 44 conversion knuckle, left $259
PN D30001JR Dana 30/Dana 44 conversion knuckle, right $259
D44101K Dana 44 spindle stud kit $16.00/ea ($32.00)
RockAuto PN 618-040 Axle spindle nut retainer $1.85/ea ($3.70)
PN 615-120 Axle spindle nut inner $6.72/ea ($13.64)
PN 615-121 Axle spindle nut outer $5.52/ea ($11.04)
PN LM501349 Outer hub bearing $8.46/ea ($16.92)
PN LM603049 Inner hub bearing $8.70/ea ($17.40)
PN 66297R Ford hub/rotor assembly with races and studs, assembled $106.79/ea ($213.58)
PN RC4072 Loaded caliper (plus core) $65.79
PN RC4071 Loaded caliper (plus core) $65.79

Six States Distributors PN 36364 Axle stub shaft grease slingers $5.40/pair
PN 706527X Spicer spindle bearing and seal kit $12.82/pair
Superior Axle & Gear PN 706528X Spicer '74-'76 Jeep/'73-'76 Chevy small-bearing spindle $119.00/ea ($238.00)
PN PA6122 Superior 9.94-inch Evolution Series stub shaft $196.39/ea ($392.78)
PN 5-760-X Spicer U-joint $24.50/ea ($49.00)
Warn PN WAR 20990 Premium manual locking hubs $110.99
Total $5134.48


Clackamas, OR 97015
Currie Enterprises
Corona, CA 92880
Cleveland, OH 44114
Rock Auto
Madison, WI 53719
Parts Mike
Six States Distributors

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