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Project Ground Up: 1956 Jeep CJ-5

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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Building a retro-modern early Jeep is a fun, yet sometimes annoying undertaking. Seeing what you’ve created with your own two hands is very rewarding when things go well. The problem is the designers of both our ’56 CJ-5 and ’98 XJ that we are merging into one never intended for anything of the sort, so sometimes things don’t exactly jibe. Oh well, this ain’t our first Jeep-building rodeo and no one who ever built a Jeep allowed a couple issues to stop them in their tracks.

Last time we finished mounting and connecting our XJ’s steering box with an early CJ steering column using some well-established parts and methods. We also tied the suspension together, mounted the engine to the frame, and now have something that looks like a Jeep rather than a pile of parts.

So it should come as no surprise that the original electrical system of our ’56 CJ-5 is simple when compared to the wiring and computers of the ’98 XJ donor. We spent time with an original factory service manual for the Cherokee pairing down the factory harness. We removed items like the wiring and computer for the air bag system, power mirrors, power windows, third brake light, and a ton of other early Jeep non-essentials. Here is the pile of wires we are hoping we don’t need! Only time will tell when the power is applied to see if we chopped out too much.

In this installment we mess with modifying the original ’98 XJ wiring harness and start installing it, begin building a simple, yet effective rollcage, modify a TJ radiator and build a mount to fit it to the 2.5L four-cylinder, add mounting for some new, yet retro Bestop low-back vinyl seats, add a JB Conversions NP231J HD Super Short Slip-Yoke Eliminator to our T-case for maximum rear driveshaft length and amazing strength, and finally, bolt on some retro wheels and modern tires with a twist! Follow along as we cover these mods to our Ground-Up retro-tastic early CJ-5.

We made a hole in the CJ-5’s firewall that roughly matched this large grommet from the XJ. This allows us to weasel the Cherokee wiring plug through the firewall like on the old, wrecked XJ. We then roughly laid out what’s left of the XJ’s harness in the engine compartment, under the dash, and towards the rear taillights, getting it close to where we think its final place will be. Don’t worry, after adding in switches and ignition, we are gonna pull it back off, wrap it in electrical tape, and add some conduit to protect the wiring from the heat, road grime, mud, dust, and errant engine-egg rolls.
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Broomfield, CO 80038
Summit Racing
Akron, OH
JB Conversions
Sulphur, LA 70664


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