The Ugly Duck

1984 Jeep CJ7
Front Axle: Dana 44 out of an 89 Jeep Waggoneer 4.56:1 Gears with an Eaton E-locker
Rear Axle: Dana 44 out of a 99 Honda Passport 4.56:1 Gears with an Eaton E-locker
Custom full roll cage, with additional sub frame in the body.
Custom 13 gallon fuel tank, made out of 3/16" reinforced steel plate with 2 fuel pickups at opposite corners with a fuel pump for each pickup. A third mechanical pump makes sure the engine has enough pressure even with it standing on its tail.
Brake booster/master cylinder is a dual diaphragm out of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. (it leaks much less than the OEM system)
Smitty built XRC8 8000lb winch with dash controls.
Tires: Rather warn out and beat up 31" BFG KM2 mud terrain.

Engine: mostly stock 4.2L I6 168K hard miles. (it smokes a lot)
Distributor ignition module replaced with an HEI unit.
Progressive 2 barrel Webber carburator

Current mod in progress
If you look at the top picture you can see the power steering box hanging way low, shortly after the picture was taken a rock found it and damaged it.

So a new box out of a Jeep Cherokee

Future mods:
LC9 or L33 5.3L V8 or equivalent.
NV 4500 Transmission
Re clock the transfer case so its flat.
Flat center skid plate
3.5:1 or a 4:1 gearset for the transfer case.
Move the spring mounts to the side of the frame so they don’t catch on everything
4" suspension lift
37" tall tires.


This thing is freaking awesome! Looks like a shitton of fun! :slight_smile:

So the steering mod worked out great, now its time for more upgrades…

As usual my plans changed to meet what the real world had to offer…

I found a Vortec 4.3L V6 out of a 2002ish Chevy Silverado 1500 with transmission, wiring, ECU, transmission, everything for $400, just a 10 hour round trip. After we got it home we found that a recent rain storm had flooded #1 while it was sitting waiting to be sold. (I could still see crossthatching in the other 5 cylenders)

So we bored the engine 0.030" new pistons, rings, bearings seals…
The transmission is now out for rebuild and upgrades and should be back next week. The adapter includes bolt holes to re-clock the transfer case.

In the meantime while I have the body off I am redoing the suspension.
Rear springs out of Dodge Dakota, 200lbs higher rating at ride height than my stock springs. ($125 u-pull and pay)
Spring over axle conversion, tucking the springs up as high as practical so the brackets don’t catch as much.
A ramp shape to the brackets so the rocks slide over better. ($8 for scrap steel from the local supplier)


The front mount is 8" forward of the original due to longer springs (32"/24") vs the original (23 3/4"/23 3/4").

The longer length should help reduce the axle wrap, as will the slightly stiffer than stock spring. The shackle is set to 12degrees with no load, I am trying to get to between 30 and 45 degrees with weight for a better ride and more flex.


I liked the whitewall tires in that first picture. You might want to mind the curb when parking .

I don’t mind curbs, they are great for parking on and driving over :imp:

An update, after 8 hours solid on Saturday the rear springs are mounted, used a couple of ratchet straps to collapse the spring to where it was straight and a bottle jack to extend it until the shackle was inline with the spring to make sure the shackle swings properly.

Then Sunday to make room to work on the front I tore down the original engine to part out what was of value and scrap the rest. After pulling the timing chain, distributor and oil pump I was able to rotate the crank by hand with the spark plugs still in. We could easily hear all of the air blowing by the piston rings when doing so.

Here is a picture of one of the cam lobes.

Its amazing this thing still ran.

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The ride height is looking like it will be around 24 inches (584mm)

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Been time for an update,

The new engine, transmission and transfer case are in. I had to build custom headders since I couldn’t find any that would fit. Most of the exhaust is in, most of the wiring is done, and the fuel lines are done.


I mounted the fenders and hood to check for clearance issues. For a size reference I am 6’4", or 1.93m

And just like some of my designs in game the air box wants to stick through the hood. Guess its time for a hood fixture to hide it.


Just had a set back… at ride height the rear driveshaft binds at 28 degrees. Now I have to pull the rear axle out remove the mounts and get a double cardan driveshaft.


Leave the rear driveshaft out and you’ll have use as a FWD vehicle in the meantime.

Newish driveshaft is now in and the angles look great.


The new tire size, going from 31x10.5 (stock for a Rubicon) to 35x12.5

Got the body back on, and did a little flex test.


More pictures and video link coming soon.

Update: Started and ran the engine off of the original ignition switch and a starter button.
Brakes are complete, minus parking/cutting brakes
Fenders are now all the way on
ECU, and under hood fuse block mounted
Steering is almost complete, however like much of the project things aren’t fitting and I am having to make custom or radically modify things… The latest, making my own custom pitman arm. Lengthened to about 7.25 inches and dropped to 3 inches lower.

Sorry for the lack of new pictures,

Things left to do:
wire in obdII port
trim transmission mount (its touching the transmission oil pan)
wire cooling fan
fix brake fluid lead in the rear, (might need to re-flare the fitting)
fix oil leak at crank sensor.
Engine tuning

Even without the fan the engine stabilizes at 197F idle stationary (thermostat is 195) though I haven’t tried pushing it.


Took Ugly out for a shake down, about 30 miles of dirt (sometimes muddy) roads, being our monsoon season and all with another 10 of paved roads.

Added fix tailpipe more securely, and front end alignment.

Even with the front end shaking due to the alignment my wife commented that it ran smoother than it ever has at 60mph.

Other than those two items it ran great.


It was a good day even with a few problems.


A few more problems found, of course we were now taking it on hard level trails which will find any weakness and show you the pieces.

I had apparently forgotten to finish weld the mounts on the rear axle, which broke and spun taking one of the u-joints out with it. The motor mounts turned out to be junk and had to jury rig it with some big thick washers. After fixing those two things got fixed at camp it did real well even taking an extreme level trail without too much difficulty… in the dark.

After the axle broke, needed help up the last of the trail.

Some pictures of the others.

Parking was tight