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'97 XJ, Kentucky Expedition Build

Old 04-01-2013, 09:57 AM
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Default '97 XJ, Kentucky Expedition Build

After some less than ideal experiences camping out of a 2WD Ford Escape, I set out to find a 4WD XJ for use as our expedition vehicle. Yeah, I'm taking quite a bit of liberty with the "Expedition" moniker, but that's the best term I could come up with for the vehicle's intended purpose. We're open to camping all four seasons and the going can get a little rough at times, so there you go.

I haunted Craigslist and various used car websites for quite a few weeks before running across this '97 model with 200k miles right down the road from my house. It was about 500 yards as the crow flies. This one spent the first part of its life as a fleet vehicle and was then purchased by the current owner seven years ago. It's got the Up Country package, so all the skid plates are already in place. Crawling underneath it with a flashlight, I found all the original undercoating to be in place and the floorpan looks great! Doesn't appear to have ever been used off road.

We're meeting at the DMV this afternoon to do the transfer, so I can finally get started! I'm planning to just drive it for a week or two and see if anything major crops up that needs immediate fixing:

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I know of a few minor electrical issues that need sorting right off the bat. Not really issues, but at least two improvised connections that could stand a bit of professionalizing. Aside from that, here are some things I plan to take care of over the next few weeks while I'm getting to know the truck:
  • Check brake pad wear
  • Install a fire extinguisher
  • Change fluids
  • Get a spare tire mounted
  • Install smart gauges
  • General cleaning
  • CB radio

Longer-term plans include adding:
  • Roof rack
  • Awning
  • 3.5" lift
  • Winch bumper
  • Interior storage boxes
  • Hood vents
  • Various mechanical upgrades and repairs

Last edited by ghostdncr; 04-01-2013 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:49 PM
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Here are a few more pics I took on the way home:

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From the DMV, I went to the parts store for a new set of wiper blades and some rear-view mirror adhesive. Then I went to the car wash. Then I went through half a roll of paper towels and a partial bottle of Windex. This wasn't anywhere near being the cleanest vehicle I've ever brought home.

Up around 65 mph I'm detecting just a little wobble in the front end. I'll get it jacked up this weekend and try to determine how far along the wear is on the front end components. It's clearly not too severe if I'm tooling along at 65 with one hand resting on the wheel, but it is noticeable. Along about here is where I start bleeding cash, right?

Last edited by ghostdncr; 04-01-2013 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:54 PM
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That's a great find! Ive always wanted a Stone White.
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Old 04-01-2013, 08:24 PM
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Nice find. What part of ky you in?
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Old 04-02-2013, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Passt View Post
That's a great find! Ive always wanted a Stone White.
I was holding out for a white one simply because it gets so hot around here in the summer. We don't have any shade to park under at work and you can do some fairly adequate baking in a dark vehicle during the hottest days.

Originally Posted by cactus_jack View Post
Nice find. What part of ky you in?
I'm about 130 miles west of you in Louisville, KY. I'll bet a dollar you've got better wheeling around Morehead than we do.

Couldn't help but laugh on the commute to work this morning. The other times I've driven the Jeep have been relatively warm and the heater seemed to work okay. At this morning's 34 degrees, I didn't have much of anything in the way of warmth and my first thought is the heater core. As it was explained to me, all my sins will be absolved after swapping out the heater core in an XJ. I haven't researched the complexity of this operation but it must really be some kind of special PITA. Gonna try to get some flush action going on this weekend and hope that takes care of it.

Last edited by ghostdncr; 04-02-2013 at 07:38 AM.
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Old 04-02-2013, 11:21 AM
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I'm also in louisville and have a project under way right now if you need any help or want some ideals give me a shout on here and we can hook up!
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Old 04-02-2013, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Happysjeep View Post
I'm also in louisville and have a project under way right now if you need any help or want some ideals give me a shout on here and we can hook up!
Sounds good! I had to go find out the story behind your avatar and I was not disappointed. Sounds EXACTLY like something I'd do! Making any progress getting things sorted out?
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Old 04-03-2013, 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by ghostdncr View Post
I'm about 130 miles west of you in Louisville, KY. I'll bet a dollar you've got better wheeling around Morehead than we do.
Ah man, I was in Louisville yesterday for a job interview.

You'd probably be somewhat surprised about the wheeling around here...it sucks. Daniel Boone National Forest has ZERO ORV trails here. I usually drive to Maysville to Big Rock Offroad. It's about an hour drive north from me. At least you have Dirty Turtle in Bedford, lol.
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Old 04-03-2013, 06:40 AM
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You are right about bleeding cash lol. But totally worth it in the end.
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Old 04-03-2013, 07:34 AM
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Taking into consideration what I've outlined about my Jeep's intended uses, I'd like to get some input from the forum. There are three rather spendy mods on my list and I'm wondering which one you would spring for first, and why. I'd like to start throwing money all around and wrap the whole project over the next month, but that ain't happening. Here they are in no particular order:

One of B_Lee's roof racks:

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The winch kit:

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A 3.5" lift kit:

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These items all fall within the same approximate price range ($500-1000) and I'm leaning toward the roof rack as it's an item that will see regular usage almost from the moment it gets bolted on. The winch and the lift kit seem like items I can work around for the time being, but I'd still like to hear your thoughts.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:05 AM
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If u foresee yourself being stuck often then the winch would be your first choice, if not then roof rack
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:21 AM
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It all depends on how the roads are to the camp spot, tires are another option to look into again depends on the drive your going to take, i would go w/ lift or winch first, if you plan on no one around to help winch is first or you could get a come a long or hi lift, for temparay use untill you get money for the winch, and go w/ the lift, you have many different ways you could go
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Old 04-03-2013, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by ghostdncr View Post
Sounds good! I had to go find out the story behind your avatar and I was not disappointed. Sounds EXACTLY like something I'd do! Making any progress getting things sorted out?
Finally got everything dried out and back working and hopefully will be finishing up my lift and stereo by the weekend . Whenever your ready to go wheeling let me know I'm new to it but I got a winch incase it gets deep this time around .
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Old 04-04-2013, 08:32 AM
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I swapped out the hatch struts last night and have a headache bigger than I am from holding the hatch up with, you probably guessed it, my head. There was no one around to help so I did the swap on my own. Should've waited for help. I got both struts from RockAuto.com for less than the local parts house wanted for one and somehow, they were delivered overnight! I'll be using Rock Auto again.

Looks like a fishing trip is taking shape for early June. We'll be hitting the mountains of eastern Tennessee for trout, so it may make sense to roll on down to Chattanooga to pick up that roof rack while I'm down there.
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Old 04-06-2013, 11:43 AM
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I scored a cheap set of OEM alloys from a Wrangler last night and installed them this morning. It rides much better with the newer tires and doesn't look nearly so much like a meter reader's or game warden's truck. I replaced all the oddballs with OEM lug nuts, too. Seems like the PO kinda half-assed everything he touched but fortunately, he didn't seem inclined to do much.

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I checked out the roof racks on several Cherokees at the local salvage yard this morning. Been toying with the idea of retrofitting an OEM rack and then going with one of the roof baskets designed to work with them. I didn't rip out a headliner to confirm it, but it appears the stock racks are attached using some type of nutsert very similar to an AVK style as shown here:



Having neither a garage to work in nor access to the very expensive installation tools to properly install these nutserts, I think going with the OEM rack will prove more of a pain than I'm willing to tie into. Rain gutter mounting looks to be far easier on trucks like mine that weren't equipped with racks from the factory.

Last edited by ghostdncr; 04-06-2013 at 01:55 PM.
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