Forgive me Uppu, for I have sinned. I bought a thing, and have neglected to share it with you all until now! Here she is, my new-to-me 1998 Jeep Wrangler Sport:
I gotta admit, I've never been into Jeeps much... until I got bit by the Jeep bug all of a sudden a couple of years ago. It really came out of nowhere, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. This would be my first Chrysler product after a history of GM and Ford vehicles, filling a conspicuous hole in my ownership experience as I had long avoided the proverbial red-headed stepchild of the Big Three. The Wrangler would be a perfect candidate thanks to its simplicity, wrenchability, and aftermarket support. It was right up my alley! Too bad I picked the worst time (COVID era) to peruse the used car market...
In no hurry to overpay for what was no doubt going to have at least some amount of rust here in Michigan, I patiently started narrowing down just what kind of Jeep I wanted. TJs and YJs struck my fancy, but all I knew beyond that was that it had to be a manual, and had to have the legendary 4.0L straight-six.
I soon discovered that among the different manual transmissions offered throughout those years, the AX-15 5-speed was the one for me. There were too many reports of issues with the 6-speeds to ignore, and I don't like how early 5-speeds have their clutch slave cylinder mounted inside the bellhousing. An externally-mounted slave is a much more service-friendly design, should the need ever arise. That right there was enough to narrow down my target range to late YJs and early TJs.
Allowing myself to be picky, I declined many potential candidates. I soon grew a distaste for diamond plating, convinced that its presence was most certainly hiding rust holes (prove me wrong!). But as time wore on, I slowly began to accept that rust was something that I needed to be prepared to deal with on my upcoming purchase.
There was ONE very clean candidate that popped up, a beautiful TJ with a complete set of full doors, half doors, soft top, hard top, and a damn-near spotless original frame that suggested an excellent maintenance history. Alas, it sold FAST, and I was just a little too late in contacting the seller. It was actually a 2005, outside my preferred range, but man oh man, just look at this thing:
sigh... oh well. The hunt continues.
I passed on many other candidates, including a YJ with a 318 V8 swap (intriguing, but far too molested for my first Jeep), a snowplow-equipped TJ (which no doubt had seen more salt than the average Jeep), a carbed YJ (I like my fuel injection thanks), and countless 2.5Ls and automatics (no thanks).
One of the ads that looked promising enough to see in person was an orange-reddish one that ticked all the right boxes and even included full- and half-doors. But when I went to see it in person, my underbody inspection revealed a suspiciously large fan shroud... and sure enough, opening the hood revealed a four-cylinder, not a four-liter as the ad had (erroneously) claimed. Here's the difference as seen from above; you can see how that fan shroud was a dead giveaway:
Left: 2.5L (via JeepForum), Right: 4.0L
Time went on, and my standards were getting lower. I accepted that some rust repair was very likely in my future, and though I wanted a cool color like blue, red, or -if I had my druthers- green... maybe I should just suck it up and stop ignoring otherwise good candidates in boring colors like white, silver, or black.
And then I saw this
You can see why I started to get excited. Moss Green (PJN)! Perhaps slightly more modded than I would have preferred to find, but not overly obnoxious. And this time, the ad included pics of the engine bay and interior, so I knew it indeed had the powertrain I wanted. But what it didn't include pictures of, was this:
Hmm. It had a check engine light, too. Good thing I brought my code reader: P0138 (O2 circuit) and P0443 (evap circuit). Manageable fixes, I'm sure; I can sort those out later. The frame was a much more important matter and would soon be my main point of negotiation. I'd been doing my research and knew what kind of a job lay ahead of me...
I test-drove it, getting the engine up to temperature and running it through the gears, but not putting too much strain on the suspension with the frame in that state.
I made an offer in light of the work it needed and we struck a deal. Still more than I wanted to spend in this stupid market, but the less I dwell on that, the better. The hunt is over. I finally got my Jeep!
I've got a lot to share with you all in future postings about my adventures in fixing it up, but I'm pleased to report that after a few months in the garage, and a few weeks local driving, it successfully made its longest stretch-of-the-legs yet, to the Autopian meetup this past weekend!