Jeep Cherokee Widetrack Revival - with questions for the experts - Stoffregen Motorsports

This Cherokee sat for so long that literally every mechanical and electronic part needed to be rebuilt or replaced. Funny how people think letting a vehicle sit is actually a good thing. Nope... The only thing I did not have to replace or rebuild in the engine bay was the spark controller. The brake booster seems to be holding, but I bought a new one just in case (haven't installed it yet). Mecahincally speaking, everything else in the engine bay had to be rebuilt or replaced. As far as the rest of the Cherokee was concerned, anything that moved at some point was frozen up.

One of the items on the list was the rear window electric motor. It was actually rusted through and the window was stuck, luckily, in the down position. Finding a new motor proved to be difficult, as everyone that listed it was out of stock. Not deterred, I scoured the web for on that looked similar and found one from a classic Buick that looked the same. When I received it and opened the box, it was nearly identical except for two minor differences. Fisrt and most obvious was the body length, which was about half an inch shorter. Second and not immediately obvious was the length of the three legs that mount it to the window regulator assembly. My first thought was to use the motor portion of the new unit and attach it to the gear portion of the Jeep motor. I fiddled with this for hours and couldn't get the motor to work consistently, so I gave up. Then I tried rebuilding the rusted out Jeep motor, and I was able to get it to work, but again, consistency was the issue. Ultimately, what I ended up doing was to machine the three mounting legs on the Buick motor to make them shorter, and it worked like a charm. Sure, I lost the small register from each leg (which locates the motor in the regulator, but so far, this hasn't been a problem. One side benefit to using the shorter Buick motor was that the original motor was so long that the connector housing was contacting the body. The new motor, being shorter, allowed for a bit of wiggle room. And while I was in there, I installed a heavy duty relay kit from BJ's to help bring the motor up and down a little faster, and safer. I also rewired the entire tailgate. What a pain in the ass that was... The hole where the harness fits into the main body it super tight. It took a solid hour to get the wiring through the two holes and securely protected with wire loom.








Another item that needed attention was the power steering. Even with the pump cleaned out and verified for flow, the box apparently gave up the ghost and would not accept the hydraulic fluid. Red Head Steering Gears is my go-to for steering box rebuilding, and I had a new one in a day. New hoses, new pump, new box. Everything there now works like it should. I even rebuild the shaft between the column and box and installed a new rag joint.


 
Driving around the neighborhood revealed an erratic ignition timing, which bounced around too much. I knew the distributor was not worth saving, but I wanted to at least give it a shot. I mentioned earlier that the distributor was "broken". Inside of the dual diaphragm vacuum advance module is a plastic double tree that connects the two diaphragms and acts as a lever against the moving distributor advance plate. The plastic tree was broken in two, and I made a new one out of .120" thick aluminum. That works like a charm, but the rest of the distributor was in bad shape. The mechanical advance was rusted, notchy and sloppy. Even after I welded up the shaft and the slots in the cam. So I ordered up some generic distributor advance springs and played around with it until I got the mechanical advance working properly. It still could use some work, but alas, I'm throwing in the towel and ordering up a new HEI unit from D.U.I. The reason I'm giving up on the original unit has nothing to do with the distributor itself. The reason is the cap. I've ordered three and all of them have been manufactured incorrectly with the eight contacts molded off-center inside the cap, allowing them to contact the rotor. My temporary solution was to grind away at three of the contacts until they cleared the rotor, but this is not perfect and even slight pressure on the side of the cap while the engine is running will allow the rotor to contact the cap. Attempts at rectifying this through the suppliers have come up dry. Not one to beat a dead horse, I'll change it out with a distributor that is proven to work.






One item I forgot to mention was the timing chain. The original was so worn that I'm surprised it hadn't skipped a tooth. I would have liked to install a "true roller" chain set, but the two that I ordered were advertised incorrectly and were not for an AMC V8. What I did install was a traditional set from Cloyes. It was super tight, and now I know the cam timing is back to where it was intended.


 
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One non mechanical item that was bothering me was the left front fender. It had taken a small hit and I wanted to straighten it out as much as I could. I tried first to ********** it into shape while still attached to the body, but eventually removed the fender so I could get a hammer and dolly in all the right spots. It ain't perfect, but it looks and fits better now. Overall, the body is in pretty darn good shape, and I intend to leave it alone as much as I can. There are three small rust sections and luckily all of them are located inside the black portion of the body, which I plan on repainting anyway, so when I get around to those repairs, no orange paint will have to be disturbed.

Here's the fender.




 
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SkiWill

Member
Thanks for saving this Jeep. It brings back a lot of memories. The ones associated with tailgate window motors and wiring were memories I was hoping to forget permanently, but I had so much fun in my 70s Cherokees. They're such an ideal size with a lot of payload capacity. Not too big, not too small and loads of character.

I hope you can still find the parts you need. Even 25 years ago some parts were pretty tough to find. No surprises about the problems with the ignition system, and good choice going with the HEI. I see that auto parts store ignition parts are of equal lack of quality from 25 years ago. The joke then was that AMC should have made a 9 cylinder engine so that it would run on 8. I can't remember many FSJers that drove a lot keeping the stock ignition system. Most eventually got fed up and upgraded to something else.

Jeeps of this era definitely stood for Just Everyone Else's Parts. Luckily the Ford and GM parts are still readily available, but anything AMC specific will likely be difficult as it was already difficult 25 years ago.
 
Thanks for saving this Jeep. It brings back a lot of memories. The ones associated with tailgate window motors and wiring were memories I was hoping to forget permanently, but I had so much fun in my 70s Cherokees. They're such an ideal size with a lot of payload capacity. Not too big, not too small and loads of character.

I hope you can still find the parts you need. Even 25 years ago some parts were pretty tough to find. No surprises about the problems with the ignition system, and good choice going with the HEI. I see that auto parts store ignition parts are of equal lack of quality from 25 years ago. The joke then was that AMC should have made a 9 cylinder engine so that it would run on 8. I can't remember many FSJers that drove a lot keeping the stock ignition system. Most eventually got fed up and upgraded to something else.

Jeeps of this era definitely stood for Just Everyone Else's Parts. Luckily the Ford and GM parts are still readily available, but anything AMC specific will likely be difficult as it was already difficult 25 years ago.
Thank you for chiming in. You've just answered one of my "questions for the experts". So it's not just me that's had problems with this ignition system then.

Parts are definitely scarce, especially anything relating to the body or trim. I had to buy new seatbelts, as there were none when I got it, and for the $500 I spent on them, I would have expected them to fit a little nicer than they do. Such is the problem with the aftermarket. I did find a NOS razor grille, but the guy wanted $1500 for it. Not exactly in my budget right now. Luckily though, some of the aftermarket stuff is better than original. BJ's sells a billet aluminum glove box pull, Team Grand Wagoneer has a firm plastic glove box insert, and other cool parts are coming to market every day. I still haven't found the original center caps for the 8" wagon wheels, or the Cherkoee emblems for the rear sides. but I'll keep looking. Mechanically speaking, with the D44 axles and other common parts, the drivetrain parts were a no brainer. I do, however, need a passenger side rear axle shaft, as mine is slightly bent, and no, I don't want to spend the $500 on chromoly replacements. Trevor Huiskens at WFO thinks he has a stock one in the shed, but I've got to go dig it out.

One other area I'm having issues with is the carburetor. It's a Motorcraft 4350 4bbl with CA emissions. Parts are out there, but the info is not. I already rebuilt it and it works well enough, but the choke seems to be hanging when I stomp on the throttle. It will cause the throttle to stick at WOT, which is not great. I've called around and I can't seem to find any 4350 experts and I don't want to send it off to one of the generic rebuilders. So, I am considering an Edelbrock carb and an adapter plate (which BJ's sells). Though I loathe carb adapters, it's a lot less expensive than a new intake manifold. Also, Since I just re-sealed the motor and gave it a professional paint job, I don't want to tear the intake off. It looks too good. Any thoughts on the carburetion would be appreciated.

Another issue I'm having is embarrasing to admit. I have a leak coming out of the quadratrac t-case, and I think it's because I overfilled it. The underdrive unit on the back of the t-case has its own fill plug, bu there is no seal between the underdrive and the main body of the t-case. I think what happened is that I overfilled the underdrive unit and it's spilling over into the main case, causing it to leak out of the top, at the breather. My question is, will this work itself out by leaking out what it doesn't need? Or did I do something wrong in the rebuild process?

Lastly, I've got an inside joke about '70s Jeeps. Toledo, Ohio in that era - I can just picture Laverne and Shirley working the assembly line. The humor in it helps me justify the idiosyncrasies.
 

SkiWill

Member
Thank you for chiming in. You've just answered one of my "questions for the experts". So it's not just me that's had problems with this ignition system then.

Parts are definitely scarce, especially anything relating to the body or trim. I had to buy new seatbelts, as there were none when I got it, and for the $500 I spent on them, I would have expected them to fit a little nicer than they do. Such is the problem with the aftermarket. I did find a NOS razor grille, but the guy wanted $1500 for it. Not exactly in my budget right now. Luckily though, some of the aftermarket stuff is better than original. BJ's sells a billet aluminum glove box pull, Team Grand Wagoneer has a firm plastic glove box insert, and other cool parts are coming to market every day. I still haven't found the original center caps for the 8" wagon wheels, or the Cherkoee emblems for the rear sides. but I'll keep looking. Mechanically speaking, with the D44 axles and other common parts, the drivetrain parts were a no brainer. I do, however, need a passenger side rear axle shaft, as mine is slightly bent, and no, I don't want to spend the $500 on chromoly replacements. Trevor Huiskens at WFO thinks he has a stock one in the shed, but I've got to go dig it out.

One other area I'm having issues with is the carburetor. It's a Motorcraft 4350 4bbl with CA emissions. Parts are out there, but the info is not. I already rebuilt it and it works well enough, but the choke seems to be hanging when I stomp on the throttle. It will cause the throttle to stick at WOT, which is not great. I've called around and I can't seem to find any 4350 experts and I don't want to send it off to one of the generic rebuilders. So, I am considering an Edelbrock carb and an adapter plate (which BJ's sells). Though I loathe carb adapters, it's a lot less expensive than a new intake manifold. Also, Since I just re-sealed the motor and gave it a professional paint job, I don't want to tear the intake off. It looks too good. Any thoughts on the carburetion would be appreciated.

Another issue I'm having is embarrasing to admit. I have a leak coming out of the quadratrac t-case, and I think it's because I overfilled it. The underdrive unit on the back of the t-case has its own fill plug, bu there is no seal between the underdrive and the main body of the t-case. I think what happened is that I overfilled the underdrive unit and it's spilling over into the main case, causing it to leak out of the top, at the breather. My question is, will this work itself out by leaking out what it doesn't need? Or did I do something wrong in the rebuild process?

Lastly, I've got an inside joke about '70s Jeeps. Toledo, Ohio in that era - I can just picture Laverne and Shirley working the assembly line. The humor in it helps me justify the idiosyncrasies.
I couldn't find the wheel center caps in the 90s either. I found one at a salvage yard once that they were using as an ash tray at the checkout counter. There was a full size jeep forum years ago. I'm not sure if it is still active or not, but that would be the best place to help find parts.

The 4bbl Motorcraft carbs leave a lot to be desired and I'm not surprised that no one specializes in rebuilding them. There's very little demand for wanting them rebuilt. I actually had a 2bbl Motorcraft carb that worked really well. I had a 4bbl and it did develop a sticky throttle as well. How I made it to middle age, is still somewhat of a mystery. There was more than one panic stop of shifting to neutral stabbing the brakes with my left foot and blipping the throttle with my right to try to get the throttle unstuck while not floating the valves. I had a different perspective on "fun" then.

I had an Edelbrock carb as well. It was an improvement for just driving around, but was terrible off-road. At one point they made an off-road kit for them which may help. It certainly couldn't be any worse. I also remember having issues with throttle linkage with the Edelbrock carb. I also seem to remember needing an adapter plate or some other kit so that the throttle linkage and cable actually worked correctly with the right range of motion and enough length to close the throttle. The 2bbl was by far the best at running reasonably well at angles and over bumpy roads, but that doesn't help you either.

As for the Quadra-trac, it's been over 20 years since I rebuilt one. I remember that the correct fluid smells like rotting fish and was laughably expensive (from a Jeep perspective). From what I remember, there was actually a fluid capacity in the manual, which I'm guessing you don't have. I believe there was a breakdown of how much to put in the low range gear section and how much to put in the main case. They actually offered these things without a low range, which is common now but bizarre back then, and you could simply bolt up the low range gear unit later if you wanted. Sorry that's not real helpful, but I'd probably open the fill plug on the main case and see how much runs out, then take the fill plug out of the low range gear unit and make sure there is some in there.

While most Jeeps and Land Rovers will "self level" their fluids at some point, I'd be a little worried about having it overfilled if it's coming out the breather. There's not much room in there to dump heat and that's a lot of hard to find rotating parts swimming in a lot of incompressible fluid where bad things could potentially happen.

I heard it first from a Land Rover owner, but it describes my FSJ experience equally well, "if it's leaking it's not a problem. It's when it stops leaking that you have a REAL problem."

Regarding 1970s and 1980s Jeep build "quality" I also had a 1982 Jeep Scrambler. At one point I threw out all of the carb junk (which is way more and way worse than the Motocraft carbs of the 1970s) and installed a TBI system from Howell. It wasn't what I would call great either, but did save me about 16.2 miles of vacuum hoses. When wiring it up I some how located an original wiring diagram which showed a factory splice wrapped in duct tape. Yes, duct tape splice from the factory on the diagram and then found it to complete my wiring job. Unbelievable. I finally parted with that Jeep which certainly made my marriage easier and we have a modern vehicles only rule in our household now. They don't build them like they used to, and we're all better for it.
 
I do know that the 4350 was used on certain Ford big blocks, and has a bit of a following. I like the carb's simplicity, but the choke mechanism is overly complex and where the problems lie. Yesterday I drove a 75 Cherkoee with a 360 and a 2bbl, and I really liked the smooth power delivery, but as mentioned, the 2bbl swap would be more comprehensive than a swap to an Edelbrock carb. I don't plan on off-roading this Jeep, not really. I plan to use it for the occasional snow trip up Wentworth Springs road, which can be treacherous, but hardly qualifies as off-roading.

My last experience with Jeep was the restoration I performed on my 1974 CJ5 prior to auctioning it off on BaT. The build quality of that era was a real eye opener for me. The body was sooo poorly put together that there was as much as 3/8" difference in height from the right rear corner to the left rear corner of the body tub. You know you're in deep when you're "adjusting" body fit by slamming a piece of clamped on 3" angle iron with a 20 pound sledge hammer. Below are some pics of that CJ.

I also had a rude awakening to the Jeep aftermarket "restoration" parts. The two major suppliers of those parts, which I will not name here, manufacture some of the worst quality parts I have ever seen. A common tag line in their product listings " built to meet or exceed the factory specs " makes me so angry. If you saw some of the parts I was dealing with, it would make you angry too.



 

SkiWill

Member
That reminds of a joke I heard about Jeep CJs. 4 Jeeps show up for delivery at a dealer. One of the employees runs to the manager and says, "we have a big problem. Three of the Jeeps are leaning badly to one corner." The manager says, "you're right. That is a problem. Send that one back and prep the other three for sale."

My CJ-8 Scrambler was something like 1 to 1.5 inches out from one corner of the frame to the opposite corner of the frame and I found that it was actually within factory spec for "quality control."

My experience with the Cherokees of the same vintage was better, though not perfect. I think since the CJs are just a frame and a tub, there was really no quality control at all. The Cherokees still had to have an enclosed body so someone had to pay at least a little attention to make sure the entire thing actually ended up being a box that could mount to the frame.

As for carbs, I vaguely remember an off road spec Holley that I believe was called the Truck Avenger gained popularity about the time I moved on from FSJs. My Edelbrock was fine for what your suggested use will be, so I would definitely consider it. However, I haven't found myself messing with carbs in 20 years, and have no intention to go back to them either. When I had my Cherokees most people I talked to were off roading so there wasn't any love for the 4350. I believe the 2bbl was model 2150 or something like that. Everyone either got one of those, mounted a Q-jet, truck avenger, or a few brave souls retrofitted EFI in the early days of TBI swaps. There may be some Ford folks that have some love for the 4350, but I don't have a lot of love for it or any advice for the choke and sticking throttle. After it tried to kill me a couple times, I threw it in the trash.

Also, I 100% agree the aftermarket parts suppliers for vintage Jeeps are the reason why I got out of it. Once places like Turner 4wd and others that had original spec parts inventory dried up, moving on to the aftermarket was complete garbage. I once ordered a dash for my Scrambler and literally 1 or 2 of the holes were in the right spot out of 12+ and it was a different gauge steel so the windshield wouldn't close. The aftermarket parts are shameful. Looks like you did an amazing job with that CJ anyway, so I look forward to seeing what you can do with this Cherokee.
 
I do and I don't want to swap this to EFI. The idea of owning and driving something simple is winning out, and EFI is not super important to me right now.

The aftermarket is a joke. Let me be clear that I am speaking of the restoration parts as supplied by two major companies. Not referring to the great shops like BJ's, who make and sell high quality, well thought out products.

The joke is awesome. I swear, every CJ I've ever had in the shop has had some kind of gangster lean.
 
Speaking of gangster lean, my Cherokee had a lean, and it was pretty consistent, so I knew it was probably a bent leaf spring. Knowing that I wanted to use this Jeep in the snow, I settled on a 33" tire size, and I would have loved to keep the ride height stock, but the two factors - gangster lean and 33" tires - forced me to buy and install a lift kit.

I bought the 2"-3" kit from BJ's, which uses Deaver springs and Bilstein shocks. The springs have many more leaves than the stock springs, but this doesn't mean they ride too firmly. I am very happy with them. Overall, the kit was pretty well thought out, except for a couple issues. One was the front spring pins. The diameter was too large to fit in the spring perches. The second, was that the driver side pin was too short to engage the original steering stabilizer bracket, which sandwiches between the leaf spring and the axle housing. I removed them and installed a pair of socket head cap screws that I machined to fit. Other than those issues, the kit was pretty comprehensive. Note - why do shock manufacturers supply bushing sleeves that are much too short? I hate this. If you install them with the supplied sleeves, the bushings squich too much and are destroyed in a matter of months. Solution - machine my own sleeves. This allows the bolt/nut to tighten firmly against the sleeve without over-squishing the bushing.

Here are some pics, with before and after measurements.

Before -







After -






 

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