My '89 YJ is my first car. If I had it to do all over again I would have held out for a '91 or newer with the 4.0 H.O. and 5-speed transmission.
WHY? The BBD carb is a real hassle. You do little fixes to it all the time while on the trail. I was alway spraying my venturi bolts out or doing something else to it. It really
sucks when the engine doesn't idle! I spent $700+ upgrading the engine. A new carb was one of the first mods.
Having a manual transmission can save your butt! If the starter or battery dies you can still get it running. This prevents you from needing to immediately spend $$$ to be able to drive.
My Jeep was damned near stock. Discounting the things I needed
to replace for reliability issues (the BBD carb, mostly), it was as stock as they get! I did the following to it, and went many, many places that even larger trucks had difficulty going!
*Converted to HEI ignition (didn't know about TFI then) for water resistance.
*Built/Installed snorkel. (This is much
easier to do on an EFI rig! I had to have parts custom made for my carb.)
*Disconnected sway bar and both track-bars. This made the second-most noticeable difference in off-road ability, and only minimally impacted on-road performance.
*4"-extended Stainless-steel brakelines. Without the sway and track bars I had enough flex to rip apart the stock lines. These work perfectly! My shocks are currently the limiting factor in suspension movement.
*New tires! Brand-new (in '98 I think it was...) 31x10.5x15 Bridgestone MTs on stock rims. These made the biggest difference in off-road performance.
Things I could still do to the stock suspension to improve it:
*Old Man Emu's "Hydro shocks" have the same compressed length, but allow 2" more droop.
*Open the spring-clamps on the leaf packs to allow for this extra 2" of droop.
With the setup I had, my Jeep went many places and surprised many people. I did as well as many of the lifted Jeeps around here, and kept up with many lifted full-size rigs as well! To my knowlege I was the last person to successfully run "the ditch" at Crane Park, and I did it three times that night. My friend's '78 Cherokee on 36s didn't even make it. (It was a real [email protected]
$-to-the-wall run which I'm sure contributed to the untimely death of the BA-10 tranny....)
However- put me on a steep hill and the engine just quit running [img]/wwwthreads_images/icons/frown.gif[/img] Bounce the Jeep hard, and the engine quit running [img]/wwwthreads_images/icons/frown.gif[/img] Get an itty bitty piece of dirt into the wrong part of the carb...and the engine quit running [img]/wwwthreads_images/icons/crazy.gif[/img] There were times I just didn't want to drive my Jeep because I didn't want to deal with the constant engine adjustments.
Swapping to EFI can be done, and for less than the $1500 difference you are talking about. You'll have to get a 4.0 head, computer (appropriate to your transmission- manual or auto), and the wiring harness. Then you have to find out what wires from that harness you actually need and what else can be taken out. Same goes for the wiring harness already in the Jeep. Some of it stays and some of it goes. Dont expect this to be a quick and easy process!
Personally, it scares the hell out of me! Give me a wrench and I'll stand a good enough chance at fixing something, but give me a soldering iron and I'm only going to burn the hell out of myself repeatedly.
Having said all that, my vote is to wait it out
until you find a '91+ Jeep (with manual tranny) in the $5000 range. Yank the track-bars and spend the rest on sway-bar discos, 31" Mud Tires (oh hell, get swamper TSL SXs [img]/wwwthreads_images/icons/cool.gif[/img]), and a nice set of tow-hooks for it.