An intro, and looking for input

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate
links, including eBay, Amazon, Skimlinks, and others.

Nov 20, 2013
I am a long time Jeep guy. Still am at heart I guess. I've owned a variety over the years. My first care was a'52 M38A-1 (think military CJ5), then a couple CJ5s, a Jeepster Commando, then over the last decade or so I moved into the full size Jeep realm and owned three Wagoneers, and two Cherokees.

My Cherokee was the best of all the trucks I have owned. It came to me bone stock and mostly rust free from Texas. By the time I was done, it had a chevy 5.3l, NV3500 5 speed, a 42g fuel tank, 35" tires and a spring over axle lift. I should have left well enough alone, but decided to repower it with a diesel, then lost the drive and interest and parted it out.

So now I was out of a 4x4, did not have the time or desire to build another truck. Ran a Dodge Durango for a bit, but that quickly proved to be out of its element offroad. It was sent to the junkyard when the trans crapped out.

Before I ended up with my 80, I seriously considered a Land Rover Disco. Went and looked a quite a few, and every single one had something major wrong with it. I tried to deny it, but I knew I was headed right back into a project rig. Hell, even the Rover crew recommended staying away from them. I had read on one of the forums that if you want a project, a Rover is for you. If you want something that just works, buy a Toyota. That sent me researching yet again.

So I was looking for an offroad capable SUV, solid axles, dependable and relatively cheap. It didn't take long to figure out the 80 platform fit that bill to a tee. I picked up my 80 a little over a year ago with 246k miles, bone stock with front and rear factory lockers.

My 80 now has 258k miles. Runs great. I've done little work to it. Replace the front and rear calipers. Replaced the front exhaust pipe, cats and O2 sensor. Added a snorkel. Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

I've had it offroad a few times. I've discovered lockers don't help a whole lot with street tires. She also drags the back end on seemingly everything.

So this is where I am looking for input. With a little good fortune, I should be picking up a set of 365/75R16 BFGs this weekend. That is going to start the ball rolling on modifications to make them fit. Money is an obstacle in this build. ie I do not have a lot of it. So here is my plan to make this work, and the logic behind my thinking.

1) 3" Body lift. I know this is not a popular option on this forum. Regardless, it does achieve additional body to tire clearance. Sitting in a box in the barn.
2) 2" max suspension lift. I am thinking TJM progressive springs, or spacers using stock springs. I am happy with the factory handling and ride, and I fully expect the bump stops will need to be lowered to keep the tires out of the body. So what advantage is a longer spring going to provide when the up travel is limited anyway? The reason for limiting the lift to 2" is avoiding dealing with suspension geometry issues.
3) Hydro assisted steering. It seems the steering system is suspect when running a 37"+ tire.
4) Lift the drivetrain relative to the frame. My thinking here is two fold. One, it gets the more delicate components further out of harms way. Second, it will move the cats up and out of the way enough that a simple set of sliders can be fabricated, avoided the birds cage protection that just seems hack to me.
5) Hydroboost brakes. Had this on my Cherokee, really like being able to lock up 35's with ease. Got one sitting in the barn.

Beat me up, poke holes in the plan. I am curious what you think.
If you're going to go with the 365s you are most likely going to have to regear ($2000), you don't have to but with 315s you can keep stock gears put a 1" body lift and a 2" OME heavy suspension lift with a small spacer up front maybe a 30mm and not have to regear it will still kind of be a slug. There are a couple people here on Mud with a 2.5" suspension lift 1" body lift with 37s and with stock gears and it works. If you are set on 37s and the 3" body lift I've heard its a real pain to extend all the wiring and linkage with a 1" body lift you won't have to, I hope I've helped.
Already sounding like a project. Slee 6 5:29s 37s marlin gears and some armor. Done.
Yeah, that budget thing definitely affects the kinds of solutions available.:(

I'll put in a word for definitely replacing the coils whatever else you do. Sounds like they're original. With 100k fewer miles, I was literally amazed at the significant improvement in ride and handling when I replaced my tired factory coils with new Old Man Emu stock height coils. They say you might gain a 1" after all is settled in, so there's not much lift and won't help with those tall BFGs you're about. But the same can be said about any of the other new coils that add lift. You'll be much happier with the end result and consider it money well spent once you've tried it.

I agree you're flirting with lots more funding to accommodate those tall tires, as attractive as whatever deal you're getting on them may sound. Shorter tires will help keep completing this project in the affordable range.
I'm running the same tires, OME J's and a 30MM spacer up front, 1" wheel spacer, Rancho shocks (modified to fit as they are both stud/eye), 5.29's, castor plates, and extended brake lines...

I also moved my drivetrain up, but cut my floor out and raised it and did a flat belly instead of the body lift...

The only real problem I see with your plan in the drivetrain lift, it will cause the same issues that the larger lift will cause IE driveline problems...

I had to reengineer mine because I only raised the trans, not the motor, so had to rotate the rear axle 12 degrees and use a DC shaft in the rear...

The handling is actually not bad with J's, even with no swaybars...

Good luck man, this place is a great resource!!! Welcome to the addiction, and you'll soon realize how much superior these are to anything on the trail that can be driven there...
OK, time for an update. I did get lucky and picked up a set of 5 365/75R16 BFG KM2s cheap. I had mounted one to the spare rim as the spare tire didn't hole air anyway:






Shockingly, they don't fit :hillbilly:

So fast forward to this weekend. I finally got a good chunk of time to get the body lift on. By and large it went pretty smoothly, with only one bolt giving me a hard time. As a 3" is taller than any I could find written up on this forum, I had to do a few additional mods to make it work. Here is a list:

- Heater hose from engine to firewall valve had to be replaced with a longer hose.
- AC line from firewall to condenser had to be unbolted from its bracket at the spring tower.
- ABS wire harness on passenger side had to be unclipped and relocated
- Engine wiring harness had to be detached from the firewall and slid in front of the heater hoses.
- Hose from the bottom of the charcoal canister to the tube at the frame had to be replaced with a longer hose.
- Transmission shifter linkage had to be adjusted.
- Had to make a steering shaft spacer to place between the rag joint and the ujoint under the dash.
- Relocate the radiator.

I still have to address the transfer case shifter, and the steering shaft spacer needs some rework as the steering is stiff.

Here is a before and after picture:



I have not tried the mounted tire in place of the stock tires yet. I hope to get to that tomorrow.
I've been searching and watching this forum looking for a solution to the front seats in my truck. I have a bad back, and no Toyota I have every sat in has been comfortable for me, certainly including the 80. Of course it doesn't hurt than the foam is a hard as a rock, and the leather is too, along with being cracked and split. This truck is a hobby and the budget is limited, so $1k for new leather and replacement foam just wasn't in the cards.

Last week I noticed a set of BMW E46 seats in the classifieds modified to fit an FJ60. A set of sport seats happened to turn up locally for a good price, so I bought them to give this swap a shot in an FJ80.

Before I go any further, this swap requires a modification to the truck. It is minor IMO, but may not be in yours. Take it for what it is.

Let's get started. Here are the seats:


E46 sports seats, fully manual adjustments. They are supposed to be heated, but I am not going to worry about hooking that up until the fall, if I get around to it at all. The only thing missing is lumbar adjustments, but they feel perfect as is so I doubt I will miss that much.

The rails are on a wider footprint than the stock seats, 18" vs 13.5". They just so happen to be 2" wider on each side. This is where our first vehicle modification comes in.


The stamping that the seat mount to up front is basically a top hat shaped piece of steel. It goes over the transmission hump. The wider rails of the BMW seats interfere with this. If you try to mount them without this modification, the outside seat rail will interfere with the door pocket.

I cut the carpet around the stamping. Using a cold chisel, I split the steel down the center, then hammered it in to flatten the stamping. This all took maybe 5 minutes. Once I was done, the flap of carpet covers the floor as before.


Once this was done, it was on to making adapters to mount the seats. The front is easy, it is just a piece of 1 1/2" X 1/8" angle iron cut 19.25" long, with holes drilled on both flanges.


The rear two adapters were more involved. The mounting points in the floor are at different elevations. For the left mount, I stacked two pieces of angle iron, resulting in a height of 1.625". They were welded along all seams, and the corners cut to avoid any pointy edges.


The right side ended up being 2.75" in height. That would only leave .25" for a lap joint, which I did not feel comfortable with. I ended up piecing that out of four pieces and welding all of the joints.


Finally, a picture of the seat in the truck. The color is not a match at all, but frankly I prefer this color of the factory color.


Finally, the seat belt latch is integrated into the seat on the BMW seat just like the stock seat. It just so happens the Toyota buckle from the second or third row seat belts fits perfectly. The front row does not. Why exactly Toyota would use two different size belt buckles is beyond me, but they did.

Since I do not use the third row seats, I decided to see what it would take to use it up front. I ended up swapping the belt front the third row retractor to the front retractor. The belts themselves are within 6" of each other, with the third row being shorter. It is plenty long enough for me.

Driving impressions, the seat is a big improvement over the stock seat. The height of the seat is exactly the same as the stock seat. I did not have to adjust the rear view mirror when all was said and done :) I am 5'9", am long in the torso, and have a 30" inseam. There is plenty of fore and aft adjustment for me, but you long legged folks may need to mount the seat further back.
Are you planning on some ultra hardcore rock crawling? 80's are surprisingly capable with 3" lift, 35's and locking riffs. And of course a winch. I have wheeled different rigs with tires from 31 to 40 over the last 25 years and the difference in performance between 35 and 37 is not worth the hastle, especially on a very limited budget. If I were in your position I would do a 2 or three inch suspension (can find used parts cheaper) and get out the sawzall to finish fitting 37's. Don't take me wrong when I say this but I think you are building an 80 with the old jeep mentality/approach.
Yes, I have made some progress. But nothing picture worthy. I have fitted the mounted tire at all four corners and driven each respective corner up the boulder in my back yard. Some sheet metal was removed inside the front wheel wells, and the flares were trimmed up where necessary. Nothing one would notice if they weren't looking for it.

The tires are going to rub in the rear wheel well under full articulation. This doesn't bother me, might bother others. The tires are also going to rub the front control arms under full lock. I will simply not steer to full lock.

The last thing I need to take care of before swapping the tires on is the exhaust. The right rear tire and the exhaust pipe want to share the same space. As I plan to lift the drivetrain, and flip the pipe from the cat to the muffler over the frame, all need to be done first. Just haven't had the time to do so yet.

One note on the body lift. I made a one inch spacer for the steering shaft. This did not take care of the binding that presented itself. Turns out the shaft was rubbing on the firewall. I had to slot the firewall a decent amount with a dremel sanding drum to relieve the rubbing. All is well now.
Spent the weekend getting the drive train lifted. Of course this was the hottest most humid weekend of the summer, and I do not like the heat. I have a wheeling trip next weekend, so this had to get done.

All in all things went straight forward, other than the fact I could not use my metal cutting bandsaw due to a nest of yellow jackets that decided that would make a great home. I got lucky in that I only got stung once...

The drive train lift consisted of three blocks made of 2x4 steel tubing. One each for each motor mount, and one for the trans mount. My intention was to do a 2" lift, hence the tube size. What I forgot to take into account is the motor mounts are at a 45* angle. This makes the 2" tube actually lift the motor 2.8", or nearly back to stock in the engine bay. Since the trans was only lifted 2", the angle of the drive train has changed, and I am worried about drive shaft vibrations now. I've had it up to 50 mph with no vibes, so maybe I will get lucky.

One nice side benefit of this oversight was the exhaust actually bolted back together. I will re-route the exhaust over the frame, but not in time for this trip. I plan on lifting the entire exhaust 3" to get it tucked up in the frame. One downside is the transfer case shifter will not stay in low range, but I could not shift it at all beforehand.

As far as mods necessary to do this, the body lift is obviously a prerequisite. The power steering return hose has to be replaced as it is now too short. The body mount bushing at the cat is awful close, and is something I still have to deal with.

But now that I got this part of the project done, I could mount the tires. Got the shop to do that today:


I'm diggin it :)
That's a robust stance. I like it. Lots of details to get sorted, but sounds like you understand what's needed.

I would address the full lock rubbing issue one way or the other, rather than trust in just not doing it. Can adjusting the stops limit turn enough to prevent rubbing? Better would be to preserve full lock to lock as is. You wouldn't want to go anywhere near Black Bear Pass otherwise, for instance.

More pics of the mods would be nice...;)
I'll get there with the pics, just want to make sure they actually work before taking the time to document them.

I was playing on the boulder in the back yard tonight. When the rear axle is twisted up, ie axle on the bump stop, and a tire is stuffed, the tire rubs the inner wheel well. The fronts clear everywhere other than the control arms near full lock. I will adjust the steering stops to prevent this.

I have the exhaust wired to pull it close to the frame at the back of the truck. I need to reshape the pipe as the tire wants to rip it off. As it is wired, there is 1/2" clearance between the tire and exhaust pip.
Makes me wonder if a set of spacers might solve some of these problems? I know you don't have much room to work with.
In the back, probably. Up front I would be trading the rub I have with rubbing of the inner fender and probably the flares. I have to keep the flares thanks to Pennsylvania's laws.
That's a nice stance, no doubt.
I have to ask, and forgive me if you don't care to answer, but regarding the Cherokee with the 5.3 and NV4500: Did it by chance come out of a shop in the DFW area, and if so was it by chance "Custom Jeep"? Or did it come to you unmolested?
No, it came to me mostly unmolested, maybe a dozen years ago now.
Okay, cool. The timing is right, but the one I remember went up that way full-boat.
BTW, I'd think about doing some trimming on the 80 rather than more lift. IMO, they're already top-heavy enough.
BTW, I'd think about doing some trimming on the 80 rather than more lift. IMO, they're already top-heavy enough.

Count me in with keeping in low -- just to get in our garage.

On the other hand, Pete's truck is almost a lowrider in comparison to many here. :smokin:

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom