MJ Comanche Tech. Stock & Modified. MJ (86-92)
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1986 MJ project

Old 02-20-2014, 12:49 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Big Lake, Alaska
Posts: 181
Year: 1996
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 2.5
Default 1986 MJ project

So I am about to start working on this MJ after purchasing it about a year ago, haven't really had time to get on it yet. I had planned on finding a 4.0 short bed to make a truggy out of and found this one on Craigslist with not much detail. It is a long bed but I planned on a tube frame rear anyways so no big deal.

So I show up to look at the Jeep and a woman opens the garage to let me take a look at it. I start the tire kicking routine and checking the rig out, over all it looks pretty good and has a fresh coat of paint on it, under 85k on the clock and a Rancho 3" lift. I noticed the drive shafts in the bed, crossmember, exhaust parts, pan of nuts and bolts. I crawl under the MJ and see that the spare parts all came from this rig. Pop the hood and there is a little 2.5L sitting in there, backed by a manual trans. Checking out the interior everything looked great but I noticed that the shifter will not move at all. So I tell the lady that the motor isn't what I'm looking for, the floorboards are rusted through, I'm gonna have to do all this work to get it just moving under it's own power again.

The asking price was $1,200 and I was ok with the purchase if I could cut the price close to half. It was at this point I noticed that the lady had been crying quietly the whole time I looked over this truck. I ask her if everything is ok and she replied yes and so I continue my negotiation. I ask her if she knows anything about the truck and the locked up trans or any other info she has. That is when the bomb was dropped.

She tells me that her husband had a huge Jeep obsession and that he wanted to restore this MJ for his daily driver. He had been working on it for months and had just got it together so it could be driven. Also that he had plans to eventually give it to his 10 year old daughter when she was of age. Well after getting it to run they took the maiden voyage and the transmission locked up and it had to be hauled back by tow truck. He husband tore the drivetrain apart to the point as it currently sat at this moment and came to bed. When she woke up the next morning he was lying next to her dead.

On she went with many people had come to look at the truck and wanted to "chop it up" or use it for parts or as an offroading vehicle and she wouldn't sell it to them, This explains why it was on Craigslist so long. She explained that she wanted it to go to someone that would finish the truck like her husband had intended. So I explained to her that I drove here in a Jeep, and had two more sitting at home. I had owned 4 other Jeep before the ones I had now and loved Jeeps.

At this point she seemed to become a little bit happy and told me I could have the Jeep for $400 if I promised to not use it for parts and that it would be at least street legal no matter what I did with it. Sold! I told her I'd be back in two days with a flatbed trailer to haul it away.

Two days later I come back and the bed of the truck is filled with tools and spare parts that her husband had purchased for the Jeep and the cab had two boxes of Jeep memorabilia. She explained that she had faith I would do the right thing with the Jeep and that she was glad that I was getting it. I also met the daughter at this time and she explained how her and her father worked on the Jeep after school and it was gonna be hers one day.

Out comes the title and bill of sale, time to load it up and pay for the MJ. I had the daughter steer the MJ as I pushed it down the driveway and winched it on the trailer (she asked if she could). After I chained it all down to transport, we did the paperwork. She had made the bill of sale for $400 but I gave her the full $1,200 (just seemed right with the circumstance) and got the title and keys. As I left both the wife and daughter cried and I decided at that point the only right thing to do was to finish this mans project.

So on to the project, QuadraTrac has replacement floorpans I can use to fix the rust, and I have an '89 XJ for parts that has great sheet metal and I think I can cut them out of there. The locked up trans is what bothers me for a few reasons. The motor looks great but I am curious if this lock up could have damaged the motor in some way. Also here in Alaska no Pick 'n' Pull option and the junkyards want an arm and leg for parts. I went to the local junkyard and they said they had no transmissions for an '86 MJ. I asked if they had any manual transmissions for an XJ to which they told me that they were incompatable. I'm gonna call BS on that all day. My question is with the 1986 2.5L what year XJ transmissions can I use as a direct swap? I am comfortable with doing a swap having done a few clutch jobs on XJ's but don't know if there is a shaft length difference in years, I belive there is a spline count change too. I searched the threads and couldn't find the info I need. Any input on this would be great.

I'll post pics as the build progresses and any ideas or knowledge to aide in the build of this MJ would be great. I plan to keep the truck as is, just get it on the road and finish what the guy had started (and find a 4.0 MJ without a daytime drama history).
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Last edited by Jeepnfm; 02-20-2014 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:05 PM
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2WDUnderachiever's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Atlanta
Posts: 362
Year: 1995
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 4.0

Cool story... You did the right thing.

Can't wait to see its return to the street.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:53 PM
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That Jeep Guy XJMJ's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 1,338
Year: 1987 MJ, 1998 XJ, 1973 J2000, C2500
Model: Comanche
Engine: 4.0L H.O, 2.5L

well your in for an adventure if you plan to do the 4.0 swap. there are a number of fab related quarrels to deal with.

1: 4.0 motor will not fit properly without firewall modification.
2: you'll need to make a lower radiator support for the 4.0 radiator to fit properly.
3: crossmember mounting is pushed back roughly 5"... new holes/mounting
4: IF you decide to do automatic you'll need to cut a hole in the firewall for the trans computer harness to pass through.

Some of these are much easier to do than others.

as far as the trans goes your looking for an ax4/t4 or an ax5/t5 (depending on 4spd or 5spd). XJ 4.0 trans from what i know won't work... bellhousings are different mounting setups.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:22 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Big Lake, Alaska
Posts: 181
Year: 1996
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 2.5

No plans to swap out motor, hope it runs! I got a good feeling on it being a runner. I think it would be just fine as a little grocery getter with the 2.5L. I just was not clear of the trans with the 4spd and the junk yard saying nothing swaps over.
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Old 02-23-2014, 10:32 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Eastern TN
Posts: 77
Year: 1998
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 4.0L

Yeah,you definitely did good/the right thing,my friend
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