Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jeep Cherokee: 6-Month Review

Ok, so I've been driving my '96 Cherokee Country for 6 months, and I've been having some thoughts about it, overall. There are some small things that are kind of a nagging nuisance for everyday use, and there are some bigger issues that I don't like from a broader stance.

The smaller stuff isn't too bad, but could become more annoying during long-term use. The first thing you'll notice when using a Cherokee like this is that the door isn't long enough to not hit your back on the B-pillar (more noticeable when exiting), and the seat is too high. I've got the manual seats, so it's definitely a mounting height issue. The roof is pretty close to your head, and I frequently hit my head on the top of the door frame when I get out. Plus, my leg always hits the wheel if I leave it in a comfortable driving position, and I don't even have it down far! You shouldn't have to constantly move the steering wheel to get in or out of your car; it's not good for the wiring.

Other small issues would include things like no leg-room in the back seat, u-joints crawling over themselves if you turn too tight, and the fact that I bought this to haul drums and be fun to drive, but the back end is completely full when I put my drums in where I could fit everything just fine in the trunk of my Vic. And I never thought I'd ever say this, especially at this point in my vehicular life, but this Jeep has too much torque to be useful. In almost any wet situation, I'll lose traction off a red light and swing the back end out with minimal pedal. Granted, it is most likely that I have junky, cheap tires, but there's no excuse for that in non-standing water.

Those are the small issues, now on to the bigger ones. This thing rusts hardcore. Holy crap, does this thing rust! I honestly need an entire new floor, new rockers, sections of my roof, and half my exhaust just dropped off on the freeway! This thing is fun to drive on the highway, and I'm sure if I had the chance to go off-road, it'd be a blast, but I doubt it'll hold up to anything I would want to do with it. Somebody even kicked a hole in my floor on the passenger side! It seems like the drivetrain and suspension are durable, but all the bits holding them in place are going to rust in half and drop them all over everywhere. Not a fan.

I just can't get a handle on this thing. I got used to my Vic within the first month or two, but this thing has completely wrecked my parallel parking ability. I was talking to somebody online, and they made a very true statement, "The XJ [(Cherokee)] gets to be a bit of a handful over 60, and the Vic can do 85 without even noticing." I think this would be a ton of fun and seriously maneuverable off-road, but I'm not as happy driving it as a daily driver as I was in my Vic. I feel more comfortable, confident, and about 3-times as happy in my Vic. Granted, the mileage is better in my Jeep, it's more versatile, and it fits in smaller parking spots, but I'm semi-seriously considering selling it and using my Vic again (since no one seems to want to buy it).

You know, I think I like the idea of a little car with tons of power, and that goes with off-roaders too, just add good articulation and easy maneuverability, but as far as the application of that principle goes, I really like full-size, full-frame vehicles with big, brawny V8's with loud pipes. Take my Cherokee and give my an F-250 or a Raptor.

I know I said I was gonna do a build up on my Jeep, but I have no money, and this one is going to be way too much work. I think, if I can get a job for next semester that pays decently, I'm gonna sell the Jeep and fix my Vic. My sister-in-law has a '98 Cherokee, though, and we could do the same build on hers in the future. There are still options.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Here's a quick, little post for you. This video is pretty awesome. I enjoyed it. It made me think of all the reasons I enjoy the open road. I hope you like it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Revision Possibility

So I was on Youtube the other day watching partial episodes of the American Top Gear when I saw a review of the Ford SVT Raptor pickup. I think those trucks are pretty awesome, so I watched it. I was surprised to hear there is a new V8 that I didn't know about! So I researched it.
Apparently, they took the 5.4L modular engine platform and slid the cylinders apart a little further which accommodates a larger cylinder bore, 6.2L to be exact. The engine is said to retain many similarities to the previous modular engine including bell housing bolt pattern. That's right; you can bolt this into your Mustang, F-150, or Crown Vic! The engine is rated at 411 HP and 434 lb-ft of torque in the naturally aspirated Raptor, which is awesome for a baseline, but there is one big mistake that Ford made in upping the ante with this engine: it's only a single overhead cam engine. Now, I'm sure they will make a version that's DOHC and most likely bolt on a whipple twin screw and put it in the '14 GT500, but as it sits now on the lot, they deserve a good, old-fashioned Gibb's slap.
Before I go too far in calling them out on the SOHC-i-ness of this engine, I have a strong confidence two cams are on their way. That said, I think my previous concepts that involve a DOHC 5.4L, especially the Marauder clone, could and should be updated to be based on a 6.2L and then the requisite bore, stroke, and supercharging gamut. So now I need two people to go out and make an idiot of themselves for my benefit. One needs to blow the engine in a pristine Grand Marquis, and the other needs to obliterate a Raptor while leaving the motor in a useable condition. Ready, GO!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Idea for future Jeep Implementation

Hey, I know I haven't done anything to my Jeep to put on here yet, but I'm a little low on cha-ching.

To ward off the hungry mob of people wanting to see a Jeep build, I had an idea that I will post here lest I forget in the future. I should replace the bar that is under the back seat with a handyman jack so I could store it out of the way of daily use. Now I should go do measuring at Fleet Farm to see if it would fit.

Other updates on my Jeep: I found out that the floor consists of rust and holes (always a plus!). I have yet to do something with anything ("anything" includes the stereo, rust, suspension, interior, skid plating, lighting, dress-up, and more!). I have found that I can get a high (so far) of about 23 mpg highway with the windows down due to a non-working AC. I also drove another Cherokee with a 2-3 inch lift and deemed it workable for daily use, but I might try to lower the seat bracket because my head is close to the door frame when I get in and could make contact very easily. I had my Jeep on a lift today and a lift like that would still look good (in my opinion) with the stock-sized tires. This way it would look better, be better off-road, and still get gas mileage that would be acceptable to use daily.

These are my thoughts; I will work towards them as money allows. Patients appreciated.

Oh, and I went to Door County with my Jeep too!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jeep Cherokee: Part 1

Jeep Article: Part 1
If you read automotive magazines, you’re bound to read articles that start out promising budget builds. That’s cool. Everybody loves to save money and customize a car that has awesome power and killer looks. The only downside is that there will always be the extra agenda of selling new parts from different specialty places. There’s nothing wrong with pushing parts from places that are probably giving a kickback to the magazine; these types of things help keep the magazines going and keep our subscriptions low. I’ve gotten a few months’ worth of magazines that boast multiple budget builds from both the magazine’s people and car’s regular people have built and are being featured. The latter seem to fit the bill well, but it’s easy to pull them apart for reasons like they have too much money or found a deal on a car shell that is WAY too unrealistic for other people to replicate. The magazine funded cars have tendencies of pushing parts that would be just as good as a slightly modified junkyard-sourced parts that would be a fraction of the cost.
Recently, I bought a ’96 Jeep Cherokee Country 4-door with a high output 4.0L with an automatic trans and a 231 “SelecTrac” transfer case. I know a few people who have or have had Cherokees and a U-Pull-It junkyard somewhat near my house with an insanely huge amount of Cherokees from which I could find parts. I thought it would be fun to do a REAL blue-collar man’s budget build using legitimate budget parts from junkyards, friends, eBay, craigslist, and more. Although some parts will need to be bought new, I will try to find the cheapest place to get them. I can assure this point because I am a college student with a very low income, and everyone seems to want a part of it.
For starters, I’ll just say the overall aim for what I want to do. I’d like to build up a Jeep that is comfortable for passengers; can haul if need be; is agile and able off road; dependable; and fairly economical since it is my daily driver. I’m thinking, for starters, a 2” spacer/shackle lift kit with extended shocks, 30” tires with cool rims, ZJ leather seat upgrade and stereo inside, full skid plating, towing upgrades, off-road gear (steel bumpers, winch, lighting, etc.), and maybe a stroker kit, if I get a whole bunch of money. I am using this as a daily driver, so it will need to be drivable during the build, and I will need to be able to sustain the vehicle which needs to be economic for that to work; or at least until I get another car…
Granted, I am a student who has a fixed, limited income that everyone wants a piece of, so this may take a while to get done. I will try to put this up in installments, with pictures of progress, parts, and installs, but I will keep you all updated on how it’s coming and how much it cost to do and how I got the parts.
But first, the down low on the Jeep as I bought it. I got a ’96 Cherokee (XJ) Country, as stated before, with 139,xxx miles on it with rebuilt steering, ZJ shocks on the front, and an added leaf in the rear springs, and slightly oversized tires on aftermarket Enkei Baja-style rims. It’s a great running car that rides great and is stiff and solid in the suspension department. The only thing I’ve found on it that doesn’t work right now is the A/C compressor (soon to be fixed). I got the Jeep for $2,250, and it’ll only go up from there.
That’s all for now. We’ll be in touch…

Saturday, June 11, 2011

'76 Mercury Monarch

I frequently get plagued by another question: What car should I get that is supremely light, but can fit and handle a huge, throbbing V8? I keep thinking Mustang, Maverick, Falcon, Hemi Dart, and things like that, but then I am plagued with a counter thought: I love big, full-sized full-framed sedans, coupes, and personal luxury cars. We'll cover that issue later.

I was reading the current issue of Car Craft magazine the other day when it found its way to my door, and was automatically drawn to a heading on the cover. It said, "10-sec. Turbo Maverick $5000," and I was intrigued, especially since I own a Maverick. This guy took a cheap Maverick project car he bought and dropped an '83 F-150-sourced 300 straight six with some light modding, but no rebuilding, and added a machined turbo from an old semi and drag radials. This thing does wheel stands and burns down the 1/4 mile in around 10.5 seconds! I forget the power rating off the top of my head, but this is with a mostly factory (other than valve-train upgrades, intake porting, and some oiling upgrades) truck six cylinder with a junkyard turbo from a detroit diesel! I think the motor cost the guy under $2,000!

This got me thinkin'. Why not a Granada, no, a Mercury Monarch.
You know, I was gonna say burgundy with a cowl hood that would have a matte black single racing stripe that would be as wide as the cowl and extend from the grille to the edge of the trunk to match the F-150, but I kinda like the black. And that would match seeing as all my other ideas were mostly black too. I would diffinitely have a set of road tires and a set of drag radials for road or track use. But I digress...

Imagine, if you will, a '76 Monarch fresh from a grove in SW MN. Restore/modify the interior to be black awesome with kickin' gauges, killer stereo, and a roll bar. Add a beefy replacement frame for race cars installed front and back, and drop in an automatic overdrive transmission with manual shifting gears, stall converter, and a 4.11:1 rear gear ratio with a limited slip differential, and you're ready for a motor to lift the front end up.

From this point, the engine could go one of three ways, as I see it.
Option A: 351 Windsor-based 418 stroker V8 with optional twin-screw supercharger.
Option B: 4.6/5.4 Modular DOHC Ford V8 with optional twin-screw supercharger.
Option C: 300 straight six with turbo as stated above.

Option C really intrigues me. Not only is it cheap and effective, but it should get fairly decent mileage compared to a similarly powerful V8, AND many of the base vehicles for my ideas come with the 300 six already, so I would be a third of the way to big power by just buying the vehicle! This would be really intriguing and fun to try on something. I vote doing it on the van, personally, but it'd also be great on this car while I drive it daily and slowly build up the V8 to go in it later.

I wonder if I could put a straight six in my Crown Vic. Hmmm...


I have another "well aged" idea. Stubby Dodge (or in my slight reality, Ford) panel van, add cool interior like in the '70s and '80s and an awesome paint scheme, install fat tires with cool rims and fender flares, and drop in a kickin' V8.
If I could do this, I found a cheap, fairly decent bodied '88 Ford E-150 with a 300 straight six cylinder and a 3-speed automatic trans. I would put in a table, couch/bed with storage underneath, a mini fridge, and a dual zone kickin' stereo inside with a front and rear sunroof and a design on the roof around them made from hung rope lights. I would do the entire van in blue with black striping. The roof would be matte black while the sides of the body are a performance, metallic blue with porthole windows in the upper rear section of the sides. I'd have a matte black stripe come from a few inches behind the front door and arc up and circle around the porthole. The roof would have blue racing stripes that curve towards the sides in back to line up with the one on the side at the portholes too. Both stripes sets would start out as a strobe effect and gradually get solid towards the rear of the van. I'd also duplicate the stripes inside the interior, but they would tie into the front panels too inside. I'd add a spoiler on the back; nothing ricer, just a little stand-off kind along with a visor in front for more awesomeness enhancement.

I'd add some kind of cool rim and raised white letter tires (I've seen cool looks for this look with Coopers) and moderate fender flares and running boards for emphasis. I'd beef up the rear suspension too like the F-150 from the other day, so I could haul things with it too. I'd be fine maintaining the stock 4.9L EFI six cylinder, but I'd not be opposed to infusing performance with a stroked 351 Windsor based 418 V8 either. Beefed up overdrive automatic trans with a mild stall converter, and I could get into some serious trouble with this thing.
I could score the base vehicle for $200 if he still has it, but my mom won't let me park it in her driveway, so that spoils the idea quite a bit. Anybody want to loan my driveway space?

'71 LTD

I was thinking yesterday about how I had a sad love affair with a car when I was in high school.

On my way to driver's ed classes there was an amazing '72 Ford LTD hardtop (no B-pillar) sedan that had straight pipes that stopped at the axle, an aftermarket radio, a 400 c.i. V8, slotted aluminum slotted mag wheels, and a killer stance. $800. This I did not have, but that car was epic in my 16-year-old mind.

about 6 months later, I saw a really clean '71 LTD hardtop sedan in the town where I went to high school for sale for $400. It wasn't as epic as the other one, but it could be with a little money input. I, once again, didn't have the money for it. Sadness ensued.
November, after I graduated from high school, I was working (shortly) for a company selling aerial farm photography door-to-door, and traded a picture for a '72 Mercury Monterey that resided in the guy's grove. $80 that I still didn't have, but could find a way to make up for. When I got home, I told my dad about the trade. He kindly reminded me I was unwise to have done that, and after a lot of mental debate and anguish, I never retreived it. I couldn't afford to transport it.

I still want something along the lines of that first '72 with the aluminum slots, but I need the money... still. Someday I'll get out of school and get a job that will give me the one thing that always makes these projects so elusive to my garage. Someday...

Friday, June 10, 2011

MGM Vicrauder Cobra

Recently I've had a mental block as far as answering one question: If I could only get one car, what would I get that could satisfy my needs (being fun, fast, torquey, cool, drivable both near and far, and ballsy - I'd want to be able to use it as a daily driver and still drive it on a track) while still being practical (safe, drivable in all weather conditions, people friendly, comfortable, ability to haul my crap, good in the city, and dare I say, mileage?) and something I wouldn't have to sell if I get married and have kids? What could rocket down the strip, rock the curves in road racing, and still pick up kids from places (in the future) without making me look like an idiotic fool in any of those situations? ..... Nothing comes to mind. Enter the platform vehicle: '98-'03 Mercury Grand Marquis.
Yes, a Grand Marquis. And I picked the cloth-iest roof-ed "old man blue"-est picture I could find too. Let me finish.

This car may appeal to the old men of our society who drive it into things at a blistering 20 MPH frequently, especially when in reverse or while getting out of the car, but this is one of the last nods at how things should be, but will most likely not return to in a long time. This car has a full frame with rear wheel drive, a live axle, and coil springs for better handling. If you get an '03+ it even has the shock mounts farther out on the axle for less wheel hops on uneven bumps. And it gets better; the drive train is a modern 4.6L SOHC V8 that is found in most '94-ish to '09 V8 Mustangs as well as a whole host of police cars. taxis, pickups, vans, and SUVs. Add to that a wide band automatic overdrive and you have a decent starting point. Personally, I would get one with no cloth on the roof and a moon roof too, just for fun.

I say starting point because to fit the criteria, it needs a big overhaul. For starters, I would swap in a police frame because it is fully boxed and more sturdy for the driving I like to and want to do. from the outside in, I would remove the door trim, weld over any holes that uncovers (which it will), swap the back bumper for that of a Crown Vic, and if it fits with the older headlights, the front bumper with that of a Marauder because of the epic fog lights. I would black out the taillights and panel leaving it a little light on tint around the center of the taillights while also leaving the chrome strip untouched. The front lights I would try to fog and possibly black out the background pieces like they do for the Marauders. I would also tint the windows good and dark and paint the entire car black with the option of a flat black stripe on the hood or side and grille.

Moving inside, I would install the complete black interior from a Marauder, and I would paint the trim panels two-tone to match the paint scheme outside. I would have top beef up the stereo and add gauges, but that would be hard to describe where, and I don't quite know what yet.

Under the car, I would add stiffer lowering springs all around with fairly stiff shocks and a set of Marauder rims unless I find something cooler. The exhaust would be dualed out with the H-pipe like the police version, but it would have Flowmaster 40 or 44 series mufflers along with high-flow cats and headers. I'd try to find a way to smooth out the transition over the axle because stock it's really tight and has to have poor flow. I would have chrome turn-down exhaust tips in the factory location fairly in conspicuous, like a cop car, so It is more of a sleeper, but for the moments I want to show them my car means business, I'll install electronic cutouts right after the cats with turn-downs, for safety, so I can rev that thing like an unholy terror.

Mechanically, I'd use a 5.4 block from a truck and rebuild it into a GT500-type motor. I'm still looking for a stroker kit, but I may have to consult with someone about making my own one of those. I would add that to a set of DOHC, 4 valve (per cylinder) heads from cars such as a Continental, Marauder, Navigator, Aviator, Mark VIII, Mustang Mach 1, SVT, GT500, or Cobra Jet. Then I would get an aftermarket twin screw supercharger with intercooled intake manifold. Now I haven't done any research on which one is the most efficient and adds the most boost, but they're around 2-5 grand anyway, which I don't have, so why research now on what will be obsolete parts when I can afford to do this? Same goes for cams. I would follow this whole thing up with a rebuilt version of the police transmission with all the extra cooling gear and the J Mod shift kit. I'd also upgrade to the police brakes with vented, slotted, and drilled rotors, and an upgraded limited slip differential in back too.

If I don't break something within 6 months of rolling this out of my garage, I must be too old by the time I've built this car because I'm not driving it right.

'80s F-150

Once again, I've been a bit too lenient on my "Car of the WEEK" schedule. I need to catch up. I'm going to do a few ideas and then get back to the two I listed and never wrote on back in October.

OK, so I had this idea a while ago when I was trying to barter with a junkyard owner for an old '83-ish F-100 stepside that had a 300 straight six, a 4-speed manual, and 2 wheel drive. He also said he had, as I remember, an early '70s Lincoln 460 with 10:1 compression pistons. With this my mind raced. I thought I should rebuild the 460 with bored out cylinders (for some reason it never occurred to me that this would negate the fact it already had 10:1 pistons) and turn it into a twin turbo truck with a 6-speed stick and the rear suspension of an F-350 for hauling other awesome cars on trailers behind it. I figured it would be an amazing pull vehicle with the ability to haul down the drag strip too. The deal for the truck fell through, and I still haven't had a pickup that ran well enough for daily use, and that kind of bugs me. I figure that trucks are built with such a modular design that it shouldn't be that hard to restore one. That truck could look so cool too.

(Not the truck in question, but food for thought.)
If I had my way, I would build up one of these in a burgundy with a blacked out cowl hood (not a big one, but just enough to get noticed), a chrome two-upright roll bar in the box, a black interior, a turbo net tailgate (because the stock ones are too old looking), and a pair of drag radials under those massive rear fenders mounted on Centerline Warrior wheels.
That would be pretty awesome. Then I need an equally awesome race car to tow behind this...