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Randyzzz 04-23-2017 08:59 PM

My 1987 J20 Build- with working pictures...
I figured I better start a build thread here. I have one going on already. It will be slow progress, but the end result should be goes!

Background story- Beginning May, 2016...

I have always loved FSJ's and have owned multiple Waggys. But I never had a Jeep Truck. I knew that someday I would build one, but that day never happened...until now. The need for a tow vehicle provided all the justification I needed to start the Craigslist search. I missed out on a few, passed on many more, and finally found "The One". It is a rust free J20, 1987, originally owned by Al Unser Jr. of Indy 500 fame. After negotiating a screaming deal including delivery from Springfield OR to Redmond, OR, I was a proud new owner. Here's what I started with...

Craigslist ad:

Randyzzz 04-23-2017 09:18 PM

Got it home, here's some of the initial pics. From the front and it looks just like the add-

From the rear-

Dealer decal-

Proof provided by seller- yep, Al Unser Jr's truck!

Randyzzz 04-23-2017 09:28 PM

So, my first order of business was to check it all out. Tired 1977 360, 727, 228. Nah, not my style. Hacked wiring by PO. Big Time. Mouse infested Waggy seats. No headliner. Wheel flares cut to fit bigger tires.

But...No rust. Yep, I love it. And...low mileage 60K..not that that matters.

Randyzzz 04-23-2017 10:15 PM

OK...Photobucket is being too frustrating.:banghead: I'll continue tomorrow...

swampdrainer 04-24-2017 06:06 AM

Nice looking truck! Looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

Frank Ziebert 04-24-2017 08:21 AM

Standing by.

Kaiserjeeps 04-24-2017 08:30 PM

Wow! A celebrity truck with intact floor pans. :thumbsup: Some things are worth waiting for. Nice looking rig.

Randyzzz 04-26-2017 11:10 PM

So, next step was to start the teardown.

Into the garage.

Off with the front clip. No rust, all the bolts came right out. Just a lot of mud.

Lots of dirt in the cowl...


Randyzzz 04-26-2017 11:28 PM

Next step, out with the engine, trans, and t/c. I had them sold by this point. It was a 1977 360 out of a Chief, a 727, and a 228 case.

Next step was a thorough washing of the frame. There was so much dirt I should have been paying property tax on it. But- no rust and everything came clean. You can see some fresh Rancho front springs in this shot- they were installed shortly before I bought the truck.

There was a lot of haphazardly placed seam sealer all over on the firewall and cowl. All original, but it looks like they gave kids balls of Pla-Dough and had them stick it wherever... I'll reseal all that before it all goes back together.

The wiring under the hood looked like a victim of Jack the Ripper, but I have a couple of spare Waggy harnesses to pick from. Under the dash looks good. So, I removed the seats and cleaned the floor pans. Things of beauty! The seats were shot, the mice had made them beyond nasty. Here's a pic of the beautiful rust free floor pans!

Randyzzz 04-26-2017 11:39 PM

So, at this point I was beginning to collect bits and pieces for the build. I got a couple of Jeep Liberty seats, but I decided I really wanted a bench. I picked up a couple of front fenders to replace the ones that the PO trimmed the flare lip on. I also picked up a rusty bed with good flares to cannibalize the rear flares from.

The engine was a bit of a challenge, but after many dead ends I finally bit the bullet and ordered a remanufactured GM 6.0 LQ4 engine from AER. They rebuild engines for Ford, GM and Chrysler, and I got a wholesale price to boot. It's a 2004 engine, so same drill as the 5.3 in my Scrambler.

I also picked up a headliner form SMS, $135 delivered. Looks nice!

Randyzzz 04-26-2017 11:53 PM

Next step was to remove the cluster and dash bezel. I forgot how much fun removing the actual cluster bezel was. Whomever in Jeep decided that the defroster vents needed to be attached to the back side of the glove box with one way speed nuts should be shot. My hands look like I went the rounds with an angry bobcat. But- the good news is that Jack the Ripper of wiring was unable to get to the wiring behind the dash. I removed a bunch of scotchlocks and what's left looks to be in great shape!

I gave the bucket seats one last try, but even with a smaller steering wheel my beer muscle just gets in the way. It all worked out well- I traded with Frank Ziebert my buckets for his bench seats, I'll be able to make one good bench out of his two.

All this dash removal was in preparation for the install of a Vintage Air heat/cool/defrost unit. It's a servo controlled unit, smaller than the Magnum but it should be plenty.

It fits like a dream! Passenger view-

View from down low-

Lots more fabrication will be involved with the A/c install- I'm planning on cutting in the vent registers into the black strip at the bottom of the dash, and then I still have to adapt the defroster vents and fill a bunch of holes in the firewall.

Enough for tonight- to be continued. We're getting close to being caught up!

Frank Ziebert 04-27-2017 06:56 AM

Randy I have a slightly used B 350 with a t400 that I'll swap you straight for that 6.0:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

200M 04-28-2017 09:55 AM

Nice project! I need to start a thread for mine:D

DarkMonohue 04-29-2017 10:44 AM


Originally Posted by Randyzzz from Springfield OR...


Really!? That was right in my backyard. I must have been sleeping on CL. Not that I need another J20, but...

Looks real good. Let me know if you end up over here again.

itselliot 04-30-2017 02:24 PM

Just noticed your A/C install
I also am going that route, but I am putting the cold air outlets in place of the ashtray and clock slots in the dash (1979 J20) are you going with the Gen 4 unit? I see that the sliding controls are same as what I am using...but I'll be mounting them vertically on the left side in place of the old controls.

What model # AC kit did you order?

Randyzzz 04-30-2017 08:58 PM


Originally Posted by Frank Ziebert
Randy I have a slightly used B 350 with a t400 that I'll swap you straight for that 6.0:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

I think I'll keep the 6.0...:thumbsup:

Randyzzz 04-30-2017 09:02 PM


Originally Posted by itselliot
Just noticed your A/C install
I also am going that route, but I am putting the cold air outlets in place of the ashtray and clock slots in the dash (1979 J20) are you going with the Gen 4 unit? I see that the sliding controls are same as what I am using...but I'll be mounting them vertically on the left side in place of the old controls.

What model # AC kit did you order?

I'm going with the Gen II. The Gen IV took up too much real estate, and I didn't think I needed that big a system on a pickup cab. If it was a Waggy I'd go with the IV. It was the 68000 unit. Amazon had the best price, you bought the evaporator and they threw in the control panel. I'm mounting the panel where the original panel was in my '87, and putting the heated seat switches next to it.

Randyzzz 04-30-2017 09:10 PM

So, with the dash out, I decided to repair the area under the headlamp switches where the PO had installed a pyrometer. I got a sheet of thin Kydex, and cut a replacement applique. Came out pretty good. No lettering but that's OK. I might put the dual tank switches in the blank area. I also repaired the headlamp switch retaining tabs and cleaned the contacts on the dimmer.

Randyzzz 04-30-2017 09:18 PM

I also ordered a set of the ABS door panels and kick panels from Men In Black. Excellent product, great communication, can't give enough positive feedback.

Also found a nice Warn 8274 and a mount on Craigslist. I'm going to integrate the mount into a factory front bumper. May use the 8274 or may get a Warn 10K.

Randyzzz 04-30-2017 09:40 PM

Well, with this post I'll be current. I was watching Craigslist, and found a cheap set of BFG All Terrain 265/75/16's. A few posts later there was a set of wheels I liked, also at give-away prices. Bought them both and mounted them right up. 7" wheels with 3.6" backspace put the tire tread right at the outer edge of the flare. Perfect! And the skinny tire on a skinny rim give it just the old school look I was going for. Plus the wheels are one of my favorites.

So today I got busy working on making one good seat out of the two I got from Frank. Both seat backs were good, but the bases were another story. On one there were only 4 springs that were unbroken or not missing. But that was OK, because there were only 3 broken on the other one. After a quick spring transplant, I had a good seat. I installed it just to see how it felt- and like I figured, the bench seat is perfect of someone 6'2" and 280 lbs. The only bad thing was the cushion springs were so fatigued, and the foam so deteriorated, that it is way to soft and "lumpy". I've been researching fixes. One is to rebuild the base springs- new perimeter wire, new no-sag springs (the ones that look like a chain of S's), and new burlap and thin layer of foam. The other option is to buy a chunk of quality upholstery foam, build a support base out of either sheet metal, suspension cord, or straight stretches of the no-sag springs, and then carve a new base cushion to fit. This would replicate modern seating technology, and actually sounds good as I could then contour the cushion to get some raised areas to keep my butt from sliding around. I'll post up a step by step once I do one or the other- I'm guessing a lot of us deal with saggy seats. On our Jeeps.:D

Here's a pic of the bench installed. it looks huge, I'm guessing it's like that because whomever reupholstered it used a couple of layers of carpet underlayment foam and some automotive carpet over the top of the deteriorating factory foam. Double wrapped foam around the front wire makes the seat base look strange.

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