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New (to me) XJ

Old 01-13-2019, 04:55 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: SoCal
Posts: 2,361
Year: 1989
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 4.0
Default New (to me) XJ

About eight years ago a friend of a friend offered me her '89 XJ. She was old, I was carless and suffering from circumstantial depression. She was tired of fighting with it and I needed a project... a match made in heaven. She said that if I could get it out of her driveway I could have it. After a few tries, it started and I made it the 45 miles back to my house before it finally died for good. It was around that time that I found y'all and voila! One CPS later and it ran perfectly. Fast forward eight years and 94,000 miles of adventure to the day before Thanksgiving. The cars in front of me were swerving to avoid something. Sure enough, it was a large, unfortunate opossum. While surveying the road kill, the vehicle two cars ahead realized she was about to miss her left turn and stopped abruptly. The guy behind her slammed on his brakes and went into a tank-slapper. When I managed to pry my attention from the flat-napping possum it was too late. I slammed on the brakes but hit the Corolla pretty stoutly. Through sheer luck he was out-of-control at that very moment in a direction that avoided hitting the car in front of him. Thankfully, no one was injured (at the time, he has since tapped into my medical coverage). Both cars were driveable, although his was pretty crunched. I cracked the header panel, bent my bumper and mounts, punched a small hole in my brand new 3-core aluminum radiator, ruined the round lights I had mounted on the bumper and later discovered that I had also badly bent the lower control arm mounts on the axle and the sway bar.

I first sought out a new axle but they aren't as common as one might think here in SoCal. So after a few weeks of searching I decided to look for a whole Jeep from which I could harvest a front axle. This also proved to be very frustrating. There were a few promising leads but every one of them evaporated before anything happened. I had seen this '88 Laredo on FB marketplace for a few weeks but it looked pretty rough in the photos. Desperate, I finally reached out to the guy and it was still available (usually a bad sign). I went to see it yesterday and it was in much better shape than the photos suggested. The paint was understandably faded and there was some surface rust but the interior is in excellent condition (bucket seats look like new) and while the entire engine and undercarriage are coated in oil and it leaks like a sieve, it runs perfectly and has no extraordinary cooling issues which is to say it has the typical XJ cooling issues. It's a 5-speed (which I love) but it's the BA-10/5 5-speed (which scares me). The story of this Jeep is remarkably similar to mine. An Oregon farmer purchased it in 1988 and drove it for about 13 years before purchasing a pick-up truck. His Cherokee was mostly unused for the next two years and, with 120,000 miles on the clock, was eventually forgotten in a barn where it sat for another 13 years. About four years ago, his nephew and brother came to visit. His nephew was a naturally curious kind of kid who discovered the Jeep while exploring the property. It was pretty bad with rodents living inside and all four tires completely flat. He sneaked into his uncle's garage and got some tools and a compressor. Five hours later, he was driving his uncle's XJ up the dirt road towards the house. His uncle sold it to him for $500. He changed the oil, bought new tires and filled it up with fresh gas and has been driving it all over the U.S. for the last four years, putting on another nearly 100,000 miles. I bought it from him for $1,700. It's completely stock and does not have a single door ding. Not one dent. Also, everything works.

Moving forward

I plan on picking up a rebuilt AX-15 and ancillaries and swapping out the BA-10 for something a bit less failure-prone. In the mean time, I'm going to swap out the front axle with my '89 so that I get my old Jeep back in proper driving shape. I've already replaced or fixed all of the other damage but while I've managed to bend the control arm mounts back to a sort of normal-ish location, they are still pretty bent up and I suspect the trackbar mount is also a little bent. The '88 will become a project car that may eventually get swapped with the AW4 from my '89.

Last edited by F1Addict; 01-13-2019 at 05:55 PM.
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Old Yesterday, 06:56 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: North Riding of Yorkshire, UK
Posts: 1,110
Year: 1997
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 4.0

Condolences and Congratulations. It's sad to lose an XJ but she died saving you...
The new one sounds ideal and if the guy has been driving it for 100k that's a perfect recommendation.
Best of luck!
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Old Today, 07:55 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Prescott, Az
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Year: 1990
Model: Comanche
Engine: 4.0

Is your 88 a manual or auto trans? If auto, the axle ratios are different from a manual trans equipped model.
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