Thread: Project Hippo

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  1. #1 Project Hippo 
    Member Tuzmaster's Avatar
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    Hey all. Thought I would finally start a thread on building my Jeep WJ. Figured I'd share my findings as this is a first major build that I'm doing.

    Little bit of background. Hippo is a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. My family got it in 2007 with 140K miles on it. Now its at 232K with an original engine and tranny (though those are getting pretty tired). Over the years it had not given us too many problems. The radiator was replaced and the heater core, maintanence, etc. At one point there was a transmission problem, but by the time we got enough money together to pay for it, it was gone. My theory is something got stuck in the valve body and after sitting for 2 years, it dried and fell into the oil. Been driving on this for over 2 years. Original plan was to keep it daily driver until grad school was finished with just a 2" lift and 31's. Well then I found a pair of nice D44s that are exactly what I wanted in the long run. So now its a current project (I will try to keep the prices included for those who are interested how much it costs).

    Speaking of, over the 2 years, here is what was done.
    -2" BB. Its the poly spacers and idk if I'd do this again
    -31" tires
    -NP242 swap
    -New spring cups on the D30 (not welded yet) cause old ones rusted away

    So onto the main portion of this project. Whats it going to look like (all of this hopefully done before the summer starts):
    -As mentioned, the stock axles will be ditched for a pair of D44s (purchased, $3600)
    ->Front is a teraflex housing, elocker, 4.88 gears, clayton steering
    ->Rear is a Rubicon JKu axle, 4.88 gears, elocker
    -Clayton 6" long arm kit (purchased, $3800)
    -Tcase rebuilt and sye (not sure yet if ill do a hack and tap on current one or sye from Tom Woods or just straight up go with a 231)
    -new driveshafts
    -JCR rocksliders ($400)
    -35" BFGoodrich KO2's with new steel wheels (~$1700)

    In long term on top of this (I'm sure the list will keep growing)
    -HKOffroad high clearance bumper or custom equivalent (~$1000)
    -12k winch
    -Custom rear bumper and roof rack
    -Rebuild or remanufactured engine and tranny (~$3000 for both)
    -onboard air/battery relocation to the old spare tire place
    -Engine/Tranny skid plate

    The end goal here is for now to still be able to drive on the streets more often than usual (partially a DD), hence the choice of tires. Once perhaps a tow rig is purchased, I'll switch to mud terrains.

    So far I have managed to get all of weld on parts installed onto Hippo from the Clayton lift kit. That would be the new transmission crossmemeber, unibody rails and rear control arm brackets. During this install, here is what was discovered:
    1) The old muffler on the WJ's are the size of the titanic. Turned out it was shot and had to be replaced anyway. What happens is on the passenger side where the exhaust runs, Claytons rear control arm bracket actually runs into the muffler. You can't even install the bracket with the muffler there. So the 26" muffler was replaced with a 14" turbo muffler and some pipe. From the original muffler back, pipe was reused just to keep the vehicle drivable and finish this quickly. That was done because the entire exhaust system on the WJs (at least v8's) hangs on only 2 hangars. One towards the front and one right above the passenger rear wheel. Even now however, the upper control arm from that bracket will still run straight into the muffler. There isn't much room to move it forward either because the cat and the O2 sensor are very close. So, after the lift is installed, the jeep will go to the exhaust shop to get that relocated so it can clear the new articulating suspension with some custom bent pipe. Or I'll just get a pre-bent exhaust builder's kit and do it myself.

    2) Speaking of catalytic converters, if you are going with a Clayton t-case skid plate for the WJ's (its .25" thick. Its a beast), be aware of the fact that the cat will actually rest on the skid plate. Once driving there will be rattle. There are a couple of options and I have not decided on what to do yet.
    i)Cat can be replaced for a flatter version
    ii) cat can be moved back
    iii) skid plate trimmed to fit it.

    3) When welding this kit to the WJ, a 110V welder was enough. There was a issue when welding the endcaps to the transmission cross member. The top length of .25" thick endcap gets welded to practically sheetmetal. There was some burnthough and was very difficult to get right. This is purely cosmetic and so I wasn't too worried about it.

    This is what I got so far, more updates and pictures are coming once I figure out how to put pics on here. I am in grad school and the semester just started, but this will be updated once more information is gathered. So this will be a little slow until the classes are done. The first days class is over, Hippo will go onto jack stands haha
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  2. #2 Re: Project Hippo 
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    I am trying to upload a photo from photobucket as it seems to be the easiest way. Not sure if this will work. Testing. But basically if this uploads, this is what Hippo currently looks like
    Last edited by Tuzmaster; 01-25-2018 at 11:40 PM.
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  3. #3 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member Grand Slam West Planner Ted_Z's Avatar
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    All the cool kids have at least 2 LED light bars now.

    I'd move the rocker sliders up on your list. Then cut your fenders, trim the bumper, relocate the washer bottle, get some JK take offs and a pair of sway bar disconnects then wheel it!
    -Ted Z
    '97 Grand Cherokee Laredo w/ stuff
    '02 Grand Cherokee Limited w/ less stuff
    Quote Originally Posted by Cody View Post
    everytime someone makes a bumper with a stinger, God kills 6 baby Koala's.
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  4. #4 Re: Project Hippo 
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    Well I aint trying to be cool haha. Rock sliders are on the list right after wheels and tires, new driveshafts and an sye. I have mentioned this before, but here are some pics:
    1) all of the weld on parts of the clayton lift and their installation:


    Old crossmember vs new


    Here is everything tacked in place. As mentioned, the old muffer was cut out during installation to be replaced with new one and some pipe. That was $69.01.


    Here is what I was talking about. The stock cat is resting on the skid plate. Even though the back half of the exhaust is missing, where the cat sits with the rest of the exhaust is still too low. Something will haveto be done about this


    Right now this is how he sits. Just extra brackets hanging on. Ill put the pics of the axles going under it once I find them. The major welding potion of the lift is done and now, once I find time, the full lift installation can begin
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  5. #5 Re: Project Hippo 
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    I have found the pic. Here are the axles that'll go under Hippo (beefy little bastards):
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  6. #6 Re: Project Hippo 
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    BTW speaking of washer bottle relocation, where did you guys put it? I have like no room under the hood with the vacuum system (my guess is what that is) behind the intake box. I was thinking or relocating the battery to the old spare tire location, but thats a lot of work. Id rather keep all the emission stuff under the hood.
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  7. #7 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member Ken L's Avatar
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    Regarding your cat, take a look at this. Will free up a bunch of space. Not sure if you need the version with the O2 sensor port in it, but there's a Magnaflow with one available if you need it.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/2-25-Flowma...gAAOSws6ZaKAnR
    Ken L
    '96 ZJ with stuff
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  8. #8 Re: Project Hippo 
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    The cat looks small enough that it would work. Some piping can be used I'm sure to acomidate the 2 O2 sensors that are present (1 before the cat and 1 after). Will keep looking into it though
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  9. #9 Re: Project Hippo 
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    So a couple of things came up that I would like to know y'alls opinion on
    1) as far as driveshafts, can I pull some off of the junkyard and lengthen them? I heard that an front XJ driveshaft would work as long as you lengthen it. Or is that not going to work due to different ujoints?
    2) speaking of, what about rear driveshaft?
    3) is there a place in Colorado where I can get a remanufactured tranny for about $1k? reason i ask is ill end up pulling the tcase anyway to rebuild and reseal it and the tranny thats on right now already had a problem that went away 2 years ago. It was undrivable then and by the time we got enough money to fix it, the issue was gone. Or should i get a rebuild kit and rebuild it myself? it would be cheaper, but how hard is it? It seems the hardest part is to keep the valvebody intact. rest is just taking things out and putting them back in in correct order.
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  10. #10 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member MallCrawlin Supporter
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    Have you got the 4.7 or the 4.0?

    I do not recommend rebuilding an automatic transmission on your own. When I went to replace mine to get a reputable rebuild I was looking at the $2,000 mark. That was removing and installing it myself. To have it done at a reputable shop it was in the $3,500 range.

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  11. #11 Re: Project Hippo 
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    I have the 4.7 in it. A shop we went to have the tranny rebuilt for another Grand (Quality care transmission) said if I pull it and bring it to them, to freshen it up is 1700. So i guess thats cheaper then getting a remanned one
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  12. #12 Re: Project Hippo 
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    Hey guys, trying to decide something here that is very important. A winch. There is a lot of arguement on which to use, a Warn or non-Warn. I was leaning towards the Warn, for a simple reason. That WJ will be with Clayton long arm lift, with 35" tall tires and fully locked axles. If it gets stuck (I am not saying it never will, but it does have a lot of aids), then you are really is a craphole. Is that a good reason? What do you guys (the experts) use?

    Idk if you can tell from this build, but I'd rather spend the money once and not have to worry about it ever again.
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  13. #13 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member Grand Slam West Planner Ted_Z's Avatar
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    Do you buy designer jeans or just Levi's?

    Warn used to be the top of the pile, but now just about any reputable brand winch is fine. Look for one with a synthetic line. I'm partial the the X2O or XRC line up from smittybilt. Good balance of performance and value.
    -Ted Z
    '97 Grand Cherokee Laredo w/ stuff
    '02 Grand Cherokee Limited w/ less stuff
    Quote Originally Posted by Cody View Post
    everytime someone makes a bumper with a stinger, God kills 6 baby Koala's.
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  14. #14 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member MallCrawlin Supporter
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    I went with the engo.
    It has been extensively used and never let me down.
    Ask Ted

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  15. #15 Re: Project Hippo 
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    Okay, I heard smittybilt was pretty good. Have you had good luck with those?
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  16. #16 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member Grand Slam West Planner Ted_Z's Avatar
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    Yup, I've used mine more that I'd like to admit. I have this one https://www.summitracing.com/parts/smt-98495 I paid less than $400 shipped when it was on sale the Christmas before last.
    -Ted Z
    '97 Grand Cherokee Laredo w/ stuff
    '02 Grand Cherokee Limited w/ less stuff
    Quote Originally Posted by Cody View Post
    everytime someone makes a bumper with a stinger, God kills 6 baby Koala's.
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  17. #17 Re: Project Hippo 
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    Cool, thanks guys, Ill go with a smittybuild one. My question on driveshafts reamains. Given that there is a 4.7 under the hood, can I use an XJ driveshaft and just lengthen it? Also, what to do about the rear one? Ideally doing something similiar as the front would be ideal to save a few bucks, but not sure what vehicle to pull the shaft out of
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  18. #18 Re: Project Hippo 
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    A little update. Since the clayton long arm brackets were welded on, I have been just saving money for other parts. Now I need some help picking something quite trivial. Rock sliders. My rock sliders are fine. There is only 1 small dent on the driver side, but otherwise they are intact with no rust.

    There are basically 2 types that are out on the market. There are the ones that just get bolted onto the unibody rail and the pinch seem (Kevin's off road, JCR, IRO). And there is one that replaces the rocker panel all together, but still gets bolted to the unibody rail (HKoffroad one). Which one do you guys recomend?

    Both types are heavy duty. With the ones that replace the rocker panel, you gain extra clearance (~1"). But I already have the Clayton subframe hanging low as it is. That will be most likely the first point of contact. So is it worth getting the ones that replace the panels or get just standard ones? It seems they are very close to each other in functionality and strength and so the decision comes down to experience out on the trail, which i do not have much of. Price is not too much of a issue as long as there is good justification, but HK's sliders are $700 and others are $500.

    Oh, just got my new full set of 35s. Went with the BFG's KO2s since this is still partially a daily. Will put up some pick of comparison later haha
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  19. #19 Re: Project Hippo 
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    Another little update. I put the wheels and tires next to the jeep and some trimming is required haha


    So, when the time comes, the rear, front pinch seam will have to be dealt with. Gonna cut it and have it rewelded to clear the tires. While mocking those up, I came up with a plan for the exhaust. Will end up doing my own. Summit racing has a kit for about 190 with just prebent tubes. To deal with the CAT issue and save a few bucks, it will be pushed as far forward as possible to the clayton cross member. That should give enough room to fit the muffler between the cat and the rear control arm bracket. from there, the prebent tubes can be used to make it exit out of the rear. Will also need to get the exhaust hangars too. Hopefully it does not matter for the O2 sensors where are they located with respect to distance from the engine. As long as one kept in front of the cat and another right behind it.

    Still need to find a place for the wash bottle. I have the Evap system under the hood and I want to keep that there. But the bottle has to be relocated, unless I can find room in the HKoffroad high clearance bumper. Does not look like an option. But, since the new spare wont fit at all in the place of the original, I can relocate the battery there and put the wash bottle there form a ZJ. Any suggestions?

    Still need suggestions on the rock sliders though. guys?
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  20. #20 Re: Project Hippo 
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    So I went with Kevin's off road sliders. I liked those cause they stick out more and thus give more protection and they can be used as steps. Also ordered the SYE from IRO who are the only ones that confirmed that their tcase SYE work with WJ's 242. Those interested its P/N 13322. It says its for a TJ, but they said that it works with a WJ. I also got front bumper and radiator skid plate on order from HKoffroad. The bumper is high clearance recessed winch bumper and the skid plate is their heavy duty gatekeeper skid plate. Tomorrow Ill order from Novac the 242 rebuild kit. Now the question is, do I get the chain? The tcase works great right now and 4x4 is awesome, so that means the chain is fine right? That seems to be the only part on the jeep that doesn's make any noise.

    What do you guys think? I don't really see the reason to change it out
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  21. #21 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member Ken L's Avatar
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    If you're going inside the 242 you should do the chain. It's not that difficult to do. The t-case can still drive fine with an amazing amount of slop in the chain, so it might sound fine now..... and you know the rest!
    Ken L
    '96 ZJ with stuff
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  22. #22 Re: Project Hippo 
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    Okay, decided to order that. Now onto another pain in this build. The washer bottle relocation. I want to do how the guy did it on this pic here:


    What is the pipe made out of? Honestly this looks like a PVC pipe. To insulate from heat, Ill just build a small sheetmetal box around it and coat in some heat (and sound, doesnt apply here though) paint. And then i can use the ZJ washer bottle. I have the evap canister and want to keep it like on the pics. I dont know what it will do to the jeep if removed. Thought it was part of the emitions too. Another way to do the relocation is this:



    but this is not as big as a ZJ wash bottle that I would use in the first pic. What do you all think? Honestly, I like how the first pic will get a little bit of "ram air"
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  23. #23 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member Grand Slam West Planner K2's Avatar
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    If you move a few things you can fit the ZJ reservoir and retain your stock intake. I made a bracket for the vacuum lines and moved them closer to the engine and put the reservoir closer to the fire wall than pictured above.
    95 ZJ, Lift, dents, and noise.
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  24. #24 Re: Project Hippo 
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    Do you have a pic by chance on how it looked?
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  25. #25 Re: Project Hippo 
    Senior Member Grand Slam West Planner K2's Avatar
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    I don't, shoot me a PM with your number if you want and I can text it quick. I have the Jeep here at wok and can grab a pic now at lunch time.
    95 ZJ, Lift, dents, and noise.
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