Wyld Chyld YJ Project
Sean K. Byington
“Wyld Chyld YJ” is based on a 1994 Jeep “YJ” Wrangler. This Jeep came off the production line touting a 2.5l inline four cylinder engine mated to the AX5 transmission that had a NP231 transfer case attached. The front tires were driven by the Dana 30 axle with the vacuum actuated center axle disconnect. The task of driving the rear tires was handled by the Dana 35 axle. Both axles were open differential, with 4:11 gears. Keeping the axles connected to the frame was the job of leaf springs on all 4 corners, with a ride made worse by panhard bars that prevented the suspension from working properly.
Love is Jeep
Shortly after they met Jennifer Andrews, and Sean Byington were on a hike in southern Utah. This hike is when Sean learned that Jennifer’s husband had been taken away from her by brain cancer. As a way to cope with this loss; Jenny had turned to nature for therapy, but the vehicles she currently owned limited her range to how far she could walk from the trail head. She wanted to get to where people aren’t, and Jenny had always wanted a Jeep because “a Jeep can go anywhere”. When Jenny heard about a Jeep that was available in her area within her budget she took it as a sign, and bought it. Sadly the fuel pump failed on Jenny her first trip out, leaving her stranded. After having the Jeep towed to a shop for necessary repairs, and the subsequent bill Jenny had lost all trust in her $2500.00 vehicle purchase. She wasn’t comfortable with driving it, and was playing with the idea of selling it. Although Jenny really wanted to keep her Jeep, learn to drive it off road, and wanted to learn how to make her own repairs on it. However; Jenny had nobody in her friends group who could teach her, or even wanted to do Jeep things for that matter. This was Sean’s opportunity to shine, and he shamelessly let Jenny know that he is probably the best mechanic he knows. After Giving Jenny an idea of his experience, He offered to look over the Jeep. Then Sean would use any issues found to teach Jenny the ways of the Busted Knuckles Clan. Once they had the Jeep in order, Sean would teach Jenny to wheel the off road. Stoked! Jenny was amazed at Sean’s stated abilities, and a little taken back by this sudden manifestation as their next date was planned
The next afternoon Jenny pulled into Sean’s camp driving her mostly stock 1994 Jeep Wrangler YJ. While Sean had no doubt about Jenny, he had mixed emotions about the Jeep.
To Sean it was sad looking, but the cool factor was kinda there… I mean it is a Jeep… Right?
Sean was unable to find any hard issues that stood out as red flags while looking the Jeep over. In fact the only issue he did find other than the engine was that it didn’t have any seatbelts. Not bad considering the clapped out rust bucket Sean had envisioned through Jenny’s description. There was not much that could be done about the 30 year old 2.5l 4cyl engine that sat under the hood, it was as good as it was going to be. By pure happenstance Sean just happened to have seatbelts laying around that he and Jenny installed together. Then life happened; before they had a chance to give the little Jeep a good off road test, Sean was called away to California.
A couple weeks later after an unforgettable reunion involving Jenny saving Sean’s life, the two took the little YJ for a ride together. The Jeep was a gutless wonder; it could barely get out of its own way. Honestly it was not that good on the road, but it’s a Jeep… Right? Maybe the Jeep would improve off-road… Nope! The Jeep immediately got stuck, and spit out the front driveshaft in a creek at the beginning of a water crossing as if in protest. Not a very Jeep like thing of this little YJ Wrangler to do.
Yes, that is ICE on the edge.
After getting pulled out, and getting the Jeep home Sean and Jenny began replacing ALL of the U-Joints with new Brute Force joints supplied by CC Auto Parts (Napa Auto Parts, Kanab Utah). While in the process of making repairs Sean noticed that for some ungodly reason Jeep engineers put panhard bars on a leaf spring suspension, and removed them. After everything was either removed and replaced or thrown away, Sean was confident that the Jeep would do much better… On Christmas Eve 2021 Jenny, and Sean took the Jeep out to go shooting; Sean decided to take the water crossing again, promising they would not get stuck this time. Against Jenny’s plea to the contrary Sean tried the water crossing again. Jenny more or less predicted the result, as the Jeep got stuck 20 feet downstream from the same spot they got stuck above. You can visit Ramsay’s Towing Stick To The Pavement feed on Instagram to see where they ended up. They got pulled out, and this time nothing was broken, and the Jeep still ran. Life is good! They decided no more water crossings, they were accepted as something just not meant to be…
The next time out; Jenny, and Sean drove up HOG Canyon in Kanab, Utah. This trip was met with great success! The little YJ with open axles, on 31×10.50 Milestar Patagonias took us through snow and ice up to the cell tower overlook above Kanab without a hitch in her giddyup. On the way down Jenny and Sean were halted by a Dodge 2500 that was in trouble, stuck on snow and ice mid trail. The driver was an IT professional on his way up to make a repair at the cell towers. Sean hooked the Jeep up to the Dodge, and managed to pull the Dodge up to a safe pull off where the Dodge driver parked and piled his dog, himself, and his tools into the Jeep with Jenny, Sean, and their two dogs. Back up to the towers they went… Confidence in the little Jeep was growing by the minute.
After a few trips out in the Jeep Sean’s trust in the Jeep was enough that he felt comfortable with taking the Jeep deeper into HOG, and getting Jenny on the off-road. For this trip they picked Trail 4 (Mosdell Trail) in HOG Canyon, «technical, but not bad» is what Sean was told while asking around. Jenny got some seat time, but the little YJ was struggling, having a very hard time with making it through. To say the trail was a challenge with open axles, and 31 inch tires is a lie, it took every bit of skill I had to push as far as we did. That trail was brutal to the Jeep, more than once Sean found himself feeling like He and Jenny might end the day walking… Sure enough that is exactly what happened. Trying to set up for the crawl up the last obstacle at the end of the trail, the YJ got trapped on ice, and wedged against a tree on the edge of a cliff while trying to reset. If it wasn’t for the tree, the Jeep, and possibly Sean would not be with us today, Sean made Jenny get out when things got sketchy. They were wheeling alone without any way to recover. The Jeep would sit right where it was for a week before they were able to find someone with a vehicle capable enough that could get to the Jeep in order to help Jenny, and Sean recover it.
The walk out was not that bad. To take their minds off of the current situation, Jenny and Sean talked about what they could do so they would be less likely to get stuck again. With the goal of making it so they wouldn’t need to be so hard on the Jeep as well. Sean shared a bit of his off-roading experience, and how he would approach the issue. Sean began by explaining what he would do, and then explained what everything they could do would accomplish. Jenny liked Sean’s ideas, and wanted to make the modifications. While planning the modifications Jenny mentioned something about a budget, and saving up to do something. Sean did not understand this foreign language Jenny was suddenly speaking. Unbeknownst to Jenny, Sean started gathering parts the next day. Three weeks later all of the parts Sean, and Jenny talked about needing to modify the Jeep were delivered, and laid out ready for install.
Jenny was given a short crash course in off-road vehicle modification by lifting her little YJ 2.5 inches, installing a winch with recovery bumpers, installing new wheels with 33×12.50 Milestar Patagonias, and wiring in dual batteries with a heavy duty alternator in under 48 hours…
You can’t do all that work without testing it out! Filled with excitement Jenny and Sean went back to HOG Canyon. This is when Wyld Chyld YJ earned her name. With the new suspension,and tires supported by a winch Jenny made great advancements at the wheel. Sean, and Jenny loved the adventure of going out in the Jeep together. However, issues with what they had done showed themselves quickly. With the addition of the 33 inch tires, the Engine was now worse than gutless. The lack of power found the throttle wide open in most cases, or the jeep was not going anywhere, with very little happening at half throttle. The four wheel drive high gear was useless, The Jeep wasn’t strong enough to power both axles without placing major strain on the engine. Making the choice either two wheel drive or four wheel drive low gear. Even with the lack of power something in the front axle was starting to protest the tires as well as it started making popping sounds intermittently. When parts like the starter just started removing themselves from areas Sean and Jenny never touched, something needed to be done. Swapping the 4 cylinder for a V8 was the only acceptable solution in Sean’s Eyes, but research needed to be done prior to pulling that trigger as there may be a different solution.
Sean has spent half of his life building custom cars. Having had his hands on everything from street rods to hot rods, USDM and JDM, on and off-road, race or show, mild to wild, the bolt on special to full tube chassis fabrication Sean has the experience to do it all well. With that said; if a vehicle does not perform the way he feels it should, in most cases Sean is fully capable of handling the possible modifications himself, and prefers to do so with his personal vehicles.
With that said, it comes to no surprise that when Sean found himself disgusted by the lack of power that the Jeep (amc) 2.5l engine could not produce, Sean hit the interwebs for information that could enlighten his ignorance of the Jeep. As Sean educated himself, and became familiar with the YJ Wrangler, He quickly found that the engine and transmission are what he would consider to be boat anchors. Meaning they are not good for anything except using to keep a boat from floating away, maybe yard art. Sean immediately wanted to unlearn the sad truth he found about what the OEM put under the hood of the YJ Wrangler. The first step of Sean’s research was to find power adders for the dismal engine, sadly upgrading the 2.5l engine to give it more power was out of the question. The AX-5/ 5 speed manual transmission Jeep installed in the YJ Wrangler is just barely strong enough to handle the torque output of the engine it was mated to, and in fact can suffer catastrophic failure by just adding larger tires. Therefore, bolting power adders to the 2.5l also added a greater risk probability to the likelihood of the AX-5 shattering like a glass box. Armed with the knowledge he now had, Sean came to terms with the fact he and Jenny were facing a full powertrain swap. While this revelation was a small inconvenience, it was a welcome game changer as options were no longer limited to what was possible with the OEM.
You find yourself with what are essentially unlimited options when it comes to deciding on what engines / transmissions / transfer cases to use with all of the possible combinations. Making the final decision on what to swap into the YJ was not so easy for Sean. Back to the interwebs he went again to improve his knowledge beyond the fact every engine / transmission option available is an upgrade over the 2.5l / AX-5. The set criteria was fairly basic at first. The engine must be fuel injected, a manual transmission was mandatory, the donor must be 4 wheel drive, and the combo must have been manufactured no later than 2000. Powertrain packages from Chrysler, Ford, GM, Nissan, and Toyota all fit into that search. So the process of elimination started, first to go were powertrain packages that would require parts from multiple auto manufactures with aftermarket adapters so they would bolt up, and work together. Next to go were packages with electric shift transfer case packages, then complete powertrain packages that were too long to fit under the Jeep allowing for rear driveshaft angle. Finally, cost thinned down the list. Ultimately, Sean’s experience, combined with his research findings had solidified the decision that for the Wyld Chyld YJ project a V8 swap was in the future.
Sean’s opinion is that anything other than the power produced by a V8 in the Jeep would be a bad idea due to the power adders that are required to «boost» V6 engines to V8 levels. While the turbo V6 powertrain packages are impressive, they are expensive. While they do produce enough power, the power is weak at first and comes on hard as boot is introduced. When building a vehicle for rock crawling you need an engine that will provide you with early smooth and linear torque delivery. The major issue with using any turbo engine is that you suffer boost lag off idle. Meaning that off idle your engine is not turning enough rpm for the pistons to «pump» sufficient exhaust in order to spin the compressor blades within the turbo fast enough to produce boost. Until a positive boost is produced you will have low power. When the turbo produces boost the added power tends to roll in hard, and fast. When rock crawling, that boost hitting unexpectedly could upset traction, breaking the tires loose when traction is key causing major issues on some obstacles, especially if they are off camber.
When the decision has been made to swap in a V8, It’s understandable why most people go with swapping in an GM truck LS engine using an adapter to bolt up the AX-15, or the NV3550 transmission mated to the NP231 transfer case. Besides the fact that if you have the 4.0l I6 that transmission / t-case combo is OEM, there is also a massive amount of aftermarket support for this swap. Ensuring that everything possibly needed is readily available. Which brings us to a swap that some diehard Jeep enthusiasts, and others may decide on. Swapping in the 4.0 I6 powertrain from another Jeep instead of selling their Jeep and buying one with a 4.0l which makes no sense.
Sean, and Jenny decided to go with the absolutely unknown with zero aftermarket support, and swapped in the 2001 Ford F150 4.6l powertrain with the M5OD transmission, and the Borg Warner 4410 transfer case, as it was the option that met the needs for Wyld Chyld YJ Project. When Sean announced that he was swapping in the Ford 4.6l the comments made were uneducated, antagonistic, and unfactual. The statement that it would not work is wrong. The statement that the 4.6l V8 will not fit in a YJ is wrong. The statement that the LS is far more powerful than the 4.6l V8 is wrong. The statement that the 4.0 I6 produces equal power, and is more reliable than the 4.6l V8 is wrong. The statement about the 4.6l V8 being heavy is wrong. The only factual statement commonly made is that aftermarket support for the 4.6l V8 / YJ engine swap does not exist. This was the perfect challenge for Sean, and Jenny because the 4.6l swap is unlike an LS swap; which in Sean’s eyes has become a simple bolt on power adder for the bolt on boys, in that all the work has been done for you. There is no originality or challenge in that, because everyone and their brother has an LS swap.
Here are the stats for the above mentioned engines..
Engine Horsepower Torque (ft lb) Mileage / gal weight (LBS)
4.8l V8 LS 255 285 14 – 19 520
4.0l I6 XJ 190 225 15 – 19 515
4.6l V8 MOD 231 293 14 – 18 500
2.5l I4 YJ 123 139 17 – 18 340
No Replacement For Displacement
Now that a decision had been made on the powertrain, it was time to find a donor vehicle. It was by luck Ramsay’s Towing had the perfect, un-modified, running, driving, fairly straight F150 4×4 regular cab truck with zero rust. Sean bought Jenny the truck as soon as he saw it, and took it home. The following day the donor truck was nothing but frame, and drivetrain.
Then it was time to take the Jeep apart. Working together Jenny and Sean were able to take Wyld Chyld down to the frame in just a few short hours.
For the 4.6l V8 swap there was nothing available for reference; all research and development required for mounting the Ford F150 4.6l V8 4 wheel drive powertrain in a Jeep YJ Wrangler was performed in-house by Sean and Jennifer. With easy access to the chassis and Powertrain packages in both vehicles, taking measurements was made simple. Sean was surprised to find that when measured from inside frame rail to inside frame rail the F150 was only a 1/2 inch wide where the engines mounted at 28 inches for the Jeep, and 28.5 inches for the Ford. Further measurements showed that the difference was on the driver’s side of the engine. When measured from the passenger side inner frame rail to the center of the crank both engines are situated 13” toward center. From the center of the crank to driver side inner frame rail the F150 measures 15.5 inches while the Jeep measures 15 inches respectively. The main concern for Sean was the width of the 4.6l, before taking measurements he wasn’t sure the exhaust manifolds, and head pipes would fit between the frame. Fortunately according to the measurements there would be room to spare. Overall the powertrain package in the F150 is 6.5 inches longer than the 2.5l powertrain package in the Jeep. Satisfied the swap would fit it was time to remove the engine from the Jeep, and start preparing the chassis.
Once the powertrain package was removed from the Jeep, the first order of business was cutting away the OEM engine mounts to make room for the F150 powertrain. According to Sean’s measurements the F150’s transmission would land on the Jeep’s belly pan, and be able to use the Jeep’s forward factory transmission mounting position. With the frame prepped for the swap it was time to lower the F150 powertrain onto the Jeep chassis for the first time. Sean had hoped that by using the factory Jeep rear transmission mount location he could get the engine closer to the firewall. While that would have got the engine back further it left no room for a driveshaft. The forward mount was the only way to go. With the engine mocked into the chassis, and the transmission bolted in place it was time to build engine mounts.
The engine mounts are welded to the cross member that supports the front differential housing at an odd angle on the F150 chassis. Because of how they are situated, cutting them off for reuse on the Jeep is not an option. Sean’s solution was to build an engine cradle out of the OEM front bumper off the Jeep. He modified the bumper in such a way that made it so that he could mount the cradle to the engine. He then was able to slide the engine into place making locating the mounts to the frame in the correct position an easy task. Once the cradle was tack welded in place the engine was removed so that the mounts could be completely welded to the frame. While the engine was out Jenny, and Sean noticed the bottom half of the cradle would interfere with the front drive shaft as suspension cycled. The solution was simple: cut away the lower portion of the cradle, and use the pieces to triangulate the engine mounts to the bottom of the frame. Once the mounts were welded up, and Sean and Jenny were happy with everything it was time to drop the 4.6l V8 powertrain on its own weight onto the Jeep YJ chassis for the first time, and hopefully the last.
The main reason for finding a donor vehicle is to use everything possible from under the hood, and in the cabin. There are a few key components that are required when using the OEM Ford PCM, otherwise the engine will not start. Ford PCMs want to see the gauge cluster they are paired with, the GEM module that is paired, and the transponder key that has been paired. If you do not have any one of the three, chances of success are zero unless you have the full version of forscan, or buy an aftermarket PCM. Obviously the Ford dash components, interior wiring harness, steering column, fuse boxes, and vacuum modules were not made for the Jeep YJ. However, everything fits very well.
Taking your time while laying everything out making sure to check and recheck that everything will plug up and go in place without interfering with OEM under dash components like the defrost vents will ensure success. Once satisfied with the layout and clearance is acceptable. The final step of the process is cutting the dash and welding tabs to mount everything. Fortunately the Ford F150 steering column fits quite well in the dash where the Jeep Steering column lived without cutting the dash. To mount the bulky Ford column Sean cut apart the Ford F150 steering column mount then modified the Jeep steering / pedal assembly mount by welding the F150 mounting brackets in place. Once modifications to the dash were done Jenny repurposed the rear wall carpet board out of the F150, and made a carpeted dash cover which added the finishing touch.
Let’s be honest, nobody truly likes wiring, but it is a necessary evil when dealing with vehicles that rely on computers to run. Now that the dash is figured out, wiring becomes the chore. Don’t let the massive amount of wires and plugs scare you. If you forgot to label the plugs as you were disassembling the donor vehicle don’t panic. Manufacturers have made life easy by using different plugs in a group area, in most cases it is impossible to plug something into the wrong spot. When repurposing a under dash wiring harness from a different vehicle the best place to start is by plugging in the dash. Doing this will locate the wiring harness for you. Now you just need to find a place to mount the fuse box, and start hiding wires up and under the dash out of the way of anything that may pinch or cut the wires. The method for doing this varies, most use zip ties to tuck the harness up and away. While mounting the interior fuse box, make sure it is in a place that the fuses are accessible without tools. Wiring is another of those things that if you use common sense, take your time, and pay attention to your ground connections, this step will be easier than expected.
With the dash, and under dash wiring complete Sean decided to address a couple issues with the exterior of Wyld Chyld YJ before dropping the body pan on the chassis. First issue Jenny and Sean tackled were the OEM front fenders. While out wheeling the front tires got into the fenders, cutting the tires, and destroying the fenders. Sean, and Jenny replaced the crappy trail modified OEM front fenders with vented aftermarket highline fenders. Same as the front, the rear tires were contacting the rear wheel well, bending things and cutting tires. To fix this issue Sean and Jenny extended the wheel well radius as far forward as was possible, high as the body pan pinch welds would allow, back around the rear corners to the tailgate. Essentially removing 2/3rds of the rear quarter panels. With work on the body pan done as possible without being on the chassis, the pan was readied to be dropped back onto its body mounts.
When things are going way too easy; and you start to feel like you can’t go wrong, start preparing for poo. Because that feeling is Murphy’s law saying poo is about to hit the fan, turning a good time into a poo party. Something will come in play that will ruin the good time, much like cops breaking up the party at 9PM. Always when least expected you’ll stumble over a mistake, or an inconvenience such as the engine sitting ¾ of an inch above the hood line. Preventing the hood from closing after it has been installed, forcing you to remove the hood again so you can figure out how to deal with the fresh poo situation that you left for yourself to deal with. Sometimes the best solution comes from the outside, a good friend came up with an idea, and shipped the solution to Sean and Jenny. The Chevrolet Avalanche hood cowl looks great on Wyld Chyld YJ, and the hood was able to be installed without an unsightly hole leaving the engine open to the elements.
The Driving Factor
Throughout his years of experience in the automotive industry Sean had never seen a vehicle that had been booby trapped by the OEM in the way Jeep did with the 2.5l YJ Wrangler. Once he started researching the things he wanted to do that would have improved the Jeep the truth was exposed. It was a sad thing to find the Jeep 2.5l YJ Wranglers are base model vehicles designed to break, and doing modifications would in turn shorten that life expectancy. For the 2.5l Jeep YJ the OEM loaded the powertrain and drivetrain with triggers that armed slow fuses set to cause mechanical failure. This would punish Jeep owners financially for doing modifications, or attempting upgrades. Modifications and upgrades to power or tire size would only work long enough for the driver to get a taste of the true possibilities of their Jeep before major components start to break. Causing enthusiasts to want an upgraded Jeep. Instead of throwing money at what they already own because it has failed they buy new. How else is Jeep going to sell a $120,000.00 Wrangler known for breaking the OEM “Dana 44” in half if taken off road.
With the Ford powertrain between the frame rails, Sean was worried about the axles handling the new power. The axles mounted under the YJ Wrangler are the Dana 30 up front, and the Dana 35 out back. Both axles are open differential axles. Meaning power is only provided to the tire with the least amount of traction. To solve this issue enthusiasts install a differential «locker», or buy crate axles with lockers in the differential. Lockers work by essentially tieing the two wheels the axle drives together, sending 100% power to both tires at all times. This allows for the best possible chance of having constant traction in any situation. Along with Lockers enthusiasts also change the gearing in their axles as well. This allows for more torque to be provided to the wheels, giving the ability of running larger tires with less strain on the powertrain. The issue most enthusiasts have with the Dana 30 axle that Sean and Jenny wanted to address, is the Center Axle Disconnect (known as the CAD). They were looking for a way to bypass the CAD, and add strength. However, Research again was met with disappointment. While the parts are readily available to upgrade the axles under YJ Wrangler, further research revealed that investing the time and money to upgrade the Dana 30 and the Dana 35 only extends the life of the axles. Larger tires and double the power made investing anything into the axles a foolish waste of time and money, the OEM axles under Wyld Chyld YJ were guaranteed to fail no matter what mods or upgrades were done.
In today’s world of “One Tons And 40s” referring to one ton axles and 40 inch tires, the Stirling, the Dana 60, and the Dana 80 axles are all the rage. This is largely in response to upgrading the Dana 44 under the front of Jeep Rubicon JK-U. An axle known to break in half on enthusiasts who use their Jeep off-road with a false sense of confidence in the “upgraded” Jeep axle. It is true that the Jeep Dana 44 under Rubicon is an upgrade to the Dana 30 and Dana 35 under Wrangler. However, the Jeep Dana 44 is not the same stout axle that was made popular by full size four wheel drive truck manufacturers in the 60s and 70s. They do look the same, but the similarities stop there. The Jeep Dana 44 was “enhanced” for Rubicon by Jeep engineers who felt the axle was too heavy the way Dana Corp originally developed it. Engineers managed to cut weight on the Dana axle by casting the differential housing thinner, and by using thin wall axle tubes. The result destroyed the reputation of the Dana 44 axle. One ton axles make sense on JK-U and JL-U because they are heavy vehicles. On YJ the 1978 – 1979 Full size Bronco high pinion reverse cut Dana 44, and Ford 9 inch axles are a perfectly acceptable upgrade.
There are several options when it comes to sourcing axles that are budget dependent. If your budget allows for new axles, manufacturers like Currie and Fusion are great sources for axles built to your specifications. For those on a limited budget used axles are the way to go. The first step here is to decide what axles suit your project best, then familiarize yourself with what year, make, and model truck was available with the axles you are going to be searching for. The internet is your friend, checking with auto salvage and tow yards yields good results, of course cruising back roads watching for old trucks works well, but a certain amount of luck and bravery are needed for this approach to work out. One thing to keep in mind when buying used axles is to shop wisely. It is a wise decision to rebuild used axles, plus you probably want to install lockers and gears while the axles are not in the vehicle. An axle rebuild kit costs around $200.00 dollars. Lockers range from $100.00 and up depending on the choice. Gears can also be found for $100.00, and can get expensive from there. You can expect to spend around $500.00 each to have a shop regear, and rebuild with your supplied parts. Before you buy used axles keep in mind that each axle will cost you a minimum of $900.00 to rebuild when you are planning your budget. Still beats $3,500.00 each for crate axles.
It was pure luck shining on them when Sean and Jenny got a tip from one of the town locals about where they could find several late 70s four wheel drive Ford trucks. The fortunate part was the trucks were on property that was open to the public due to the fact it was a business. Sean wasted no time acting on the tip, and chose to show up in person so he could talk to the business owner. Sean felt this would give him the best chance of actually striking a deal, and picking up a holey grail set of matching axles. At first the lead seemed to be a disappointment as the gentleman who owned the trucks showed no interest in parting out the axles on any of the old Fords sinking into the Southern Utah soil. Getting nervous about losing the opportunity, Sean sidetracked the gentleman by asking about some of the other things in the yard. This began a friendly conversation, and the gentleman started to loosen up. When a relevant opening was made available Sean started talking about Wyld Chyld YJ Project. The gentleman was a diehard Ford Truck enthusiast who had never owned anything else, and when Sean mentioned they had dropped a Ford V8 into the Jeep, and that is what the axles were for, the gentleman was suddenly interested. That opened the door, and a deal was made. The axles Sean would get were on a truck that was hidden from view, his excitement escalated when he was finally able to see what he just bought. There in the weeds where it had been abandoned for 20 years was a 1978 – 79 Ford F150 4×4 sitting on the original high pinion reverse cut Dana 44 front axle, and the matching Ford Nine Inch rear axle. Sean got lucky, and paid $300.00 for both axles. All he had to do was remove them, and take them home. Removal was super easy considering the age of the truck, and the lack of rust. If the donor truck had been sitting on the East Coast removing the axles would have been a nightmare because of rust.
The front axles that come off of the 1978-79 Ford truck and full size Bronco have “C” mount cast steel castings on the axle tubes that most people remove by cutting them away. Well screw that, Sean and Jenny aren’t your normal people, and both of them hated the way the Jeep rides on leaf springs anyway. It just happened that while removing the front axle from the donor truck, Sean had noticed that the entire front suspension was simply bolted in place, not welded or riveted. Back to talk with the gentleman about the donor truck suspension Sean went. When he got home they had everything needed to install radius arm suspension on Wyld Chyld YJ. Turns out this was an amazingly easy to do upgrade, that was perfect for the Wyld Chyld YJ Project.
Everyone Needs A Turn
When installing the front axle if you stretch your wheelbase by moving the axle forward you are limited to how far forward you can push the axle if you plan to use a steering box. In Jenny and Sean’s case, using the F150 radius arm suspension the axle was pushed beyond the possibility of using the OEM steering box. Faced with this major problem, Sean and Jenny weren’t sure what to do about turning the Jeep left or right. Then one day a tractor was going down the highway slowing up traffic, and a light bulb came on. Tractors have had hydraulic steering since wagons were in style, so time to make it work on a Jeep. Thing is, it’s been done so no big deal… However, Sean and Jenny have put together an inexpensive hydraulic steering kit that should work well on the YJ and TJ Wrangler 2 door. Using the factory steering components makes installation clean in the engine compartment. However, welding and fabrication skills are needed to mount the ram to the axle in the correct location. For the connection to the hydraulic ram, ¾ inch grade 8 hardware is used with the hydraulic steering tie rod kit from Barnes 4 wheel drive by drilling out your steering factory knuckles. While the axles are out, may as well build trusses for a little added strength. With the axles back under the Jeep connect the 2 hoses from the steering control valve to the Ram, and installation is done. Removal of all air out of the Steering system is imperative for proper operation of the steering system. Taking your time on this step, and following the instructions on proper bleeding techniques will ensure success. While making the hydraulic connections cleanliness is key, just the smallest particle of dirt can cause havoc within the internal workings of your steering. The hydraulic steering system on the Jeep Sean, and Jenny are using does not require a power steering pump. The steering control valve is what’s known as a helm pump; it not only handles steering control, it is the hydraulic pump as well. Unlike other Hydraulic steering setups this system allows for easy steering even with the engine disabled. The route Jenny and Sean went with the steering on Wyld Chyld removes a lot of parts that are known to bend or break on trail. The choice to go with hydraulic steering ended up costing about the same as installing the four wheel drive chevy astro van steering box with the necessary components, and work. For the Wyld Chyld YJ Project, hydraulic steering was the perfect solution to an upsetting oversight while building the front suspension. In actuality the axle is so far forward that the Astro Van box may not have worked either. Installing hydraulic steering saved the cutting away, and complete rework of the front suspension from happening.
Twist and Shout
With the axles installed measurements for driveshafts can be made, so they can be ordered. This is a good time to build your exhaust system, and check your undercarriage.