Join Date: Sep 1999
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Re: Which Jeep to get on a budget?
If you're looking for the most for your money, I'm actually going to steer you away from the SWB vehichles. These are so popular that they are much more expensive than comparable vehichles with identical drivetrains that might be better for what you are doing anyhow.
For instance: I know where a '95 2-door Cherokee, 124k on the 4.0 with the 4-speed automatic & 4x4 plus full factory skidplate package, that runs and drives excellent, is for $5k
The same place has a '98 in the same condition and the same mileage but no skidplate package for $6k.
You will be hard pressed to find any vintange of Wrangler is as good a condition as those two Cherokees for those prices.
But I digress, I think a full-size wide-track Jeep from the '80s is just what you need. Possibly the least popular of Jeeps at the moment (and therefore least expensive), yet fully equiped with excellent parts and enough room for 33" tires bone-stock. The '80-83 Cherokee wide-track with a AMC 360 engine, TF-727 trans, NP-208 x-case, and D44 front/ AMC 20HD rear axle is a real beast of a 4x4, and it even has an excellent ride. The J-10 is the 1/2-ton pick-up version, and the J-20 is the 3/4 ton pickup version, with a T-18a 4-speed manual optional in this model (best manual Jeep tranny ever offered). The pick-ups lasted until 1987 when Chrysler bought out AMC and elimated these trucks as competition to the Dodge Ram (ugly worthless IFS-riding POSes that they are).
The most popular swaps for SWB Jeeps are Cherokee/Grand Wagoneer axles, AMC v-8 engines, and HD auto and manual tranies that will bolt up to those engines (namely the ones from FSJs). Why not get something that already has all of these parts bolted up and ready to go?
This coming from someone who's got a YJ Wrangler with half of a Grand Wagoneer drivetrain installed, and the other half of that drivetrain waiting to be installed.