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Jeep Wrangler - Restoration & Custom Outfitting
All photos, diagrams, and text on this page Copyright 2013 - David Todeschini - all rights reserved - see Copyright Terms

 

 

1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ Sport - Photo taken after new paint job, custom decals, reflective striping, and new Smittybilt Soft Top were installed.A day before Superstorm Sandy, I bought a 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ (2.5L, 4cyl. 5 speed manual) from a guy who advertised it on South Jersey Craigslist. He had purchased it several months earlier with the intention of restoring it. He had rebuilt the engine (in place), and shortly thereafter suffered a (left) knee injury requiring surgery, that prevented him from driving a manual transmission (because of the clutch). He listed the vehicle for sale, and after pulling the Carfax report, talking with the owner on the phone, and ultimately inspecting and test-driving it for myself, I bought it. The interior of the Jeep was immaculate, and there was only a few dents on the body (with lots of minor scratches), and the factory paint had faded in spots. The weather was still cold, and so I laid out my plans to work on the Jeep to fit the expected weather.

 

When I first got the Jeep, every insurance company I called refused to insure it because of fraudulent claims coming in from insurance scammers claiming damage from Superstorm Sandy. Two weeks later the proverbial "dust" had settled, and I was able to insure the vehicle, get plates, and drive it on the road.

 

While I was waiting to get insured, I ordered a G-Force Performance Chip which promised a 10% fuel economy improvement, and 30 Horsepower gain. A few months later when the weather warmed up, I was able to install the chip in less than 5 minutes the hardest part was finding the Intake Air Temperature Sensor, which is buried on the intake manifold at the very rear of the engine under the air manifold. It took me an hour to figure out how to get everything out of the way, and hooking into the two sensor wires was easy. The manufacturer's claims for this "chip" are NOT exaggerated; I noticed the power improvement immediately, and I can tell you with a certainty that my gas mileage has also improved, because I use my GPS and a written log to keep track of maintenance issues, modifications and work done, and fuel consumption.

 

The photos in the articles (see Navigation bar on left) illustrate the metamorphosis of a plain black Jeep Wrangler TJ into the eye-catching classic and unique vehicle I now own. The changes I made were not "radical"; I didn't turn the Jeep into a Lamborghini or a Monster Truck, but I made it something unique and functional.

 

How many 18 year-old cars are still on the road? Jeeps are famous for their reliability, simple functionality, and high resale value. Of course, there will be maintenance issues from time-to-time, such as having to replace a starter motor unexpectedly, but this is true for any mechanical thing. The more technology manufacturers put into a vehicle, the more useless crap there is to go wrong, the less reliable the vehicles are likely to be and the more likely it is that you'll rear-end your car into that tractor-trailer while you're distracted navigating through the touch screen trying to turn on the air conditioner or some-such thing.

 

Some of what I did to my Jeep was easy and took only a few minutes, such as putting a foam cushion on the horizontal window bar to make resting your arm on the open window more comfortable, treating the windshield with Rain-X, and treating the dashboard with Wipe-New. Other things took a bit more time such as installing dashboard cameras, installing a suicide knob, and wind foiler magnets to keep the wind from taking the passenger-side Vinyl window outside the Jeep. Still other tasks took a lot more time, such as installing custom fog and spot lamps, body work, and a new paint job, decal work, custom cargo net, tailgate net, performance chip, new air Cleaner, Turn Signal Beeper, heater core cutoff valve, Rhino Lining, Custom Carpeting, locking center console, Overhead Gear Console, Radio crossbar, replacing the factory seats with Racing-style Bucket Seats, 4-Point Restraint seat belts, and installing new shock absorbers, a Mesh Bikini Top and a new Soft Top.

 

In addition, I share my experience in Tactical Defensive Driving, and share my views in a short essay on what should be done with those ubiquitous sociopaths who insist on Driving While Inoxicated.

 

In the text accompanying each topic page, I have provided links to the actual parts and products I used to do the restoration / customization. Many of these projects can be done on other SUVs, and some will work on regular cars as well. Feel free to indulge yourself.


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