Home » My Last-Ditch Effort To Get My $350 ‘Holy Grail’ Jeep Grand Cherokee Fixed By The Easter Jeep Safari Begins Now

My Last-Ditch Effort To Get My $350 ‘Holy Grail’ Jeep Grand Cherokee Fixed By The Easter Jeep Safari Begins Now

David Easter Jeep Cherokee Ts
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I’ve done really tough Moab builds in years past. I’ve taught myself to weld so I could stitch up a rotted out $500 Postal Jeep frame, I’ve torn into the engine and transmission of a 1948 Willys CJ-2A farm Jeep, and I’ve cobbled together a junkyard lift kit for a rotted-out $600 Jeep Cherokee XJ. Relative to those, my $350 Jeep Grand Cherokee seems like a feasible project, and yet it really isn’t. Still, here goes a last-ditch effort to try to make it happen.

I once owned a borderline mint condition 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee “Holy Grail” (that means it was a rare five-speed manual model), but I sold it before I moved from Detroit to LA (see Instagram link below). It was a beautiful machine, but I really had no choice; you see, two people had reached out to me at exactly the same time a couple of years ago — one had a rust-free manual Jeep Grand Cherokee missing its transmission, and the other had a rotted-out manual Jeep Grand Cherokee that was complete. Both Jeeps were headed to the junkyard.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I had no choice but to intercept the Jeeps and save them. Each had what the other lacked, meaning I could at least save one rare, five-speed ZJ from oblivion. For the good of car culture (and because I’m an illogical automotive romantic), I did exactly that. This meant the clean 1993 had to go, and I towed the rust-free ZJ, filled with parts from the rotted-out ZJ, all across the country to the Galpin Media parking lot, where the vehicle has sat for a year, being used solely for cat-birthing.

 

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A post shared by David Tracy (@davidntracy)

My goal was to get this cobbled-together ZJ ready for the Easter Jeep Safari this year, which sadly is quite early: in late March. That’s in six-ish weeks. There’s no chance in hell I’ll have the Jeep ready. Still, the seller of the rotted-out ZJ, a man named Dustin from Wisconsin (his was the first Holy Grail I ever wrote about after I visited him during my pilgrimage to the former home of American Motors, Kenosha), is flying in in March to spin a few wrenches in a last-ditch effort to try to make something happen. He’ll be here from the 6th to the 11th. Will we get the Jeep ready in time for Moab? Probably not, but we’re gonna put in a last-ditch effort.

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A post shared by The Autopian (@theautopian)

As a refresher, here’s everything the Jeep needs:

  • New coil springs
  • New shocks
  • New axles with 3.73 gears
  • New control arms
  • A new front track bar
  • A new rear track bar
  • Sway bar links (quick disconnects)
  • A new grille
  • New front and rear bumpers
  • A new header panel
  • Mudflaps
  • New seats
  • New door trim
  • A new exhaust manifold
  • New exhaust pipe
  • A new water pump
  • A new serpentine belt
  • A new rear hatch
  • A hyper-rare rear spare tire carrier
  • A fuel tank skidplate
  • A transfer case skidplate
  • New headlights
  • A front winch (I need to buy a skidplate)
  • New tires
  • New driveshafts (will need to be custom-made/modified)
  • A new radiator
  • A new fan clutch
  • A new brake pedal
  • A used shifter
  • A new center console
  • A bunch of new interior trim
  • New wheel center caps
  • A headliner
  • New engine mounts

OK, maybe not “needs,” as not all of these have to be done to get the Jeep to Moab; it really just needs to run and drive. The current axles under the Jeep are just fine, I don’t need to install sway bar disconnects or a winch, and on and on. We really just need to get this motor fired up and the vehicle moving — of course, we have no idea if the engine actually runs.

It’s a huge undertaking, largely because of what has precluded me from actually getting this thing started in the first place: time constraints.

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All my previous builds have basically involved me, working with my friends in a garage in Michigan, fixing a vehicle as I writing about it in addition to whatever other blogs I was working on. Now I’m no longer just a blogger, but an editor/business owner, and frankly, the time commitment there — and the time I want to put into my relationship — mean wrenching becomes really hard unless I fly to another continent and hide away in a spider-infested garage. I finish each workday exhausted, so working on this junker has been tough.

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Still, whether this thing gets done by Moab or not, this wrenchfest that Dustin and I will soon embark on should act as a catalyst to at least get this project moving, and that’s important to me. This Jeep is sort of my dream build. I’ve amassed the best Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ parts ever offered: Euro-spec turn signals, a hyper-rare spare tire carrier, 3.73 axles with a limited slip rear diff, factory mud flaps, factory skid plates, rare ZJ steel wheels, and the list goes on. I am convinced that the manual ZJ is the greatest budget overlanding Jeep in the world; it blends the reliability and low price of a Jeep Cherokee with the five-link suspension and interior volume (and overall driving comfort) of a modern four-door Wrangler.

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It won’t look like much, but it’s going to be an amazing machine when I’m done with it. How long that will take, I have no clue. But I’ve got reinforcements flying in from the midwest, so things are about to get moving!

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DEcarTrouble
DEcarTrouble
11 days ago

“it really just needs to run and drive” of course stopping is completely optional on any good vehicle that runs and drives, especially with a manual transmission.

Andrew J Becker
Andrew J Becker
11 days ago

I’d say it’s an excellent candidate for a Smyth Ute kit but I wouldn’t want the kittens homeless.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
12 days ago

I can’t wait to see this!! Whether it’s done in time or not, at least you’ll have a good start (and content to share!).

Sorry to hear about the kitty. (._. )

Ricardo
Ricardo
13 days ago

You do you best work under pressure DT…..either that or your standards fall incredibly low under pressure.

Either way we get more Jeep tragic content so its winning all round.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
14 days ago

Awesome! Yeah, there’s hardly reason to keep rushing these projects and stressing yourself…you’ll get it done, it just takes time and work. I look forward to reading about it.
(Any update on the eventual plan for the Metropolitan? I enjoyed the history behind that of the previous owner)

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
14 days ago

It is sad that the auto industry has conned buyers that “newer automatics are as good as a manual”. These buyers are learning that CVT and 6 or more speed automatics are very expensive to own long term…

Saul Springmind
Saul Springmind
14 days ago

I’ve got a Ford with one of the 10 speed autos. Almost 50k miles in and the transmission is already regretting its purpose in life.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
15 days ago

David is in an abusive relationship with himself

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
14 days ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

He must have gone to Catholic school to feel so much guilt he needs to punish himself constantly.

R53forfun
R53forfun
15 days ago

Give yourself some grace, DT: either it’ll get done or it won’t, but you’ll have content for days. And we’ll all still love you whatever happens.

Plus, you have an RX350 as a backup, right? You can’t lose! Sometimes adulting is awesome.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
14 days ago
Reply to  R53forfun

The Lexus RX300 & RX350 are horrible cars that get junked for needing a power steering hose because they are almost impossible to service…

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
13 days ago

This is shockingly untrue

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
15 days ago

I can’t wait to see pics of it done!

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