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TJ Rubicon Suspension Repairs

February 2024

Jeep Promo Rubicon press photo

Remember when the Jeep Rubicon was introduced? Waaay back in late 2002? Ah yes, the TJ Jeeps were hot. And Jeep had the audacity to put out a knockout offroad package, the Rubicon. Dana 44 front axle, air lockers front and back, 4 to 1 transfer case, 4 wheel disc brakes, WOW.

Well, I bought one in January of 2003. I still have it. It's served very well and now has 163K miles. But it's been worn down a bit. Rust.

rusty axle brackets

Not terrible (compared to some of the insanely rusted frame TJ's I've seen repaired on youtube), but still enough to require attention.

So, I've got a page on repairing the front axle brackets, and general refresh.

CJ3A Updates

December 2022

Red Koenig hardtop panels

Here's a little update from the Jeep appearances department. Way back in the beginning of the hard top refurb, I thought I'd paint the whole top the ivory color. I did so, and I got some feedback from the home front that the color combo might be a bit ugly. Even for a Jeep. So, while my painting equipment was still out, I re-painted the doors and jambs red. It was better and I stopped there. Here's what it looked like:

Initial Ivory top rear panels Koenig Willys top

After some pondering, l thought maybe the rear and corner panels would look good red too, but I just didn't get around to it until this past fall (2022)...I wanted to get it done before it got too cold. I unscrewed the rear panels, cribbed the top panel up, and slipped the corner and rear top panels off the Jeep. There was window removal, scuffing, masking, mixing, spraying, and a smidge of buffing: Hey presto it's mostly red now (top photo). For a little more detail, go to the Flatfender Assembly page 2 and scroll to the bottom.

CJ3A Assembly Part 2, Final Report

March 2022

Click to see CJ3A final build

Part 2 of the final assembly of the CJ3A is here. Sorting out all the details in a comprehensive rebuild takes alot of time. But in the end you end up with a very reliable and fun to drive machine. Click here to check it out!

CJ3A Electrical System

February 2021

Go to CJ3A electrical system build

Back in 2017 when I put the CJ together for state inspection, I built a completely new electrical system from scratch. I gathered reliable, high quality materials, drew up a schematic and put it together. The intent was to get the Jeep rolling with minimal cost so practicality was king. The page covers a conversion to 12 volts, integration of a fuse panel with relays, a modern starter, turn signals, and more. Click here! to check it out.

CJ3A Update

February 2020

CJ3A here

Update on CJ3A build. It's kinda done. Well they're never really done, but it's to a point where I can take it out anytime worry free and have a blast. I've been driving it all winter. So here's CJ3A Fnal Assembly Part 1.

December 2019: GTO Trim Ring Report

GTO in 1988

Back when I first bought my GTO in the 80's, it came with steelies and hubcaps. I wanted to get rid of those as quick as possible so I went out seeking Rally wheels. Since Rally I wheels seemed to be nonexistent in New England back then, I bought some Rally II wheels. I ran those in the early years with a mash-up of mystery trim rings. The picture above is in 1988 with this setup.

After a stretch of time I managed to get a set of Rally I wheels. The Rally I's needed trim rings too, but it wasn't so easy: Rally I wheels need a narrow trim ring that nobody made back then (and even now the re-pops are wider than originals me-thinks?). To solve that problem, I bought a set of quality trim rings from JC Whitney (they offered nice quality ones up until the early 2000's but not anymore) and cut 6 reliefs in each one to clear the 6 slots of the Rally I wheel. The reliefs allowed a tight fit and looked good. These were not "brushed" like originals should be, but they were a great solution. Here are the slot reliefs I cut...basically trim off the underside lip where the slots are:

relief cut Rally I trim rings PontiacReliefs cut in trim ring to clear Pontiac Rally I slots

After the restoration, I thought I'd like to get back to running Rally II wheels with correct "brushed" trim rings. I managed to collect two used original style rings, but they are in tough shape.

Ames offers new sets of  brushed trim rings, but being the cheap yankee that I am, I suspected that there was nothing special about the process their supplier uses to "brush" them that I couldn't do myself. So I purchased the more common fully polished type trim rings from AMES; part number T111H. Here's a comparison of a T111H (on right) to what I believe to be an original brushed Rally wheel trim ring (on left):

comparison of original GTO trim ring to new

The new rings have a different style of retention using spring steel "tangs" that dig into the dish of the wheel rather than edge clips. The spring steel is thick and they don't "give" very well. In fact, in my first attempt at installing a ring onto a wheel, the tangs deformed their mounts and warped the whole ring. I can't see how they'd work as is. Close inspection showed that the tangs appeared to be sticking too far out exceeding their ability to conform to the wheel. Bending the tangs back a little bit seemed like a good solution. I mounted a heavy duty flat tip screwdriver in my vise and maneuverd the ring so that the tip of the screwdriver contacted the base of the tang.

Bending trim ring tang

Light taps from a hammer bent the tangs to a more shallow angle. I only bent the tangs closest to the rivets. The following pictures illustrate the angle of the tangs...first picture is before modification:

Tabs before bending

Next picture is after modification (tangs bent down a bit):

Tangs bent down a bit

They fit the wheels nicely, and I ran them in their fully polished state for the rest of that season:

Shiny trim rings about to be brushed on GTO

But I finally got up the nerve to make an attempt to "brush" them. I mounted the rings to a spare wheel, and mounted the wheel to my rear axle. I put the car into gear and sanded the wide face of the trim ring with 150 grit sandpaper, followed by a scotch-brite pad polish. I stayed away from the narrow face of the trim ring as this is supposed to remain shiny (as original). I'm happy with the result. DIY brushed trim rings:

Sandpaper to get brushed trim ring finish

This is the result (I like them):

1967 GTO with DIY brushed trim rings

CJ3A Paint Work Part 2 COLOR

November 2018


There is COLOR on the Jeep. I told you I'd do it. So I sprayed the tub with a pretty color very close to the original Luzon Red. It's been a ton of work due to some extensive paint repairs. Let's just say I don't like low VOC single stage. But the Jeep is coming together and I am very happy with how it's coming along. Check out CJ3A Paint Work Part 2.

CJ3A Paint Work Part 1

October 2018

CJ3A tub in 2K primer

In year 4 of the ressurection of this crusty old CJ3A, I finally sprayed some finish coatings in preparation for paint. Check out the CJ3A Paintwork Part 1 to see the filler work and prep all the way to spraying the 2K primer.

CJ3A Bodywork Part 4

August 2018

CJ3A tub finally stripped and ready for primer

It's hard to fathom that a big chunk of a year has passed since my last entry. Yeah. The Jeep is not running yet, but it is painted. But I'm not ready to show that yet. I have to make a few interim entries first! Like CJ3A Bodywork Part 4. As we left off last February, I whipped the Jeep together in order to present a full working vehicle at an inspection station so I could get this thing legal in my name. I was successful. I was happy. And I then tore the Jeep apart. It's been a long slog to finish up alot of details, so check out the final entry for the body fabrication and paint preparation.

And I promise the shiny pictures will follow along soon.

CJ3A Bodywork Part 3

February 2018

Recently revived Willys Jeep CJ3A 1950

The tub, fenders and windshield metal work are done. Check out Part 3 of the Willys Jeep bodywork page.

CJ3A Bodywork Part 2

December 23, 2017

The Willys now has floors, wheel wells and a tool box. It's time to install the sides of the tub. This is fun. Check out Part 2 of the CJ3A Willys Jeep bodywork page.

CJ3A Bodywork Part 1

November 25, 2017

Willys CJ3a tub restoration 1950

Work continues on with the ol' Willys CJ3A Jeep project. As noted in previous entries, the chassis and drivetrain are operational, but the body tub was severely rusted out. Replacement body tubs are available, but they are a bit pricey, and have their own issues. I wanted to rebuild the entire tub while keeping it as stock as possible. In this update, all rot has been removed and all flooring and bracing has been replaced. Click Here to check out Part 1 of the CJ3A Willys Jeep bodywork page.

It Runs

January 22, 2017

Go to the Squids Fab Shop CJ3A page

After owning this little Jeep for ten years it's finally running. It stops too. To read details about the final round of chassis work, click on the picture and go to the Jeep CJ3A Chassis and Drivetrain page. There's a link there too for a short video of me tooling around the neighborhood.

1967 GTO Current Status Report

February 2016

1967 GTO convertible on country lane

If you've followed the GTO restoration process on these pages, you'll note that I haven't updated in a long while, and indeed I've never put up pictures of the "finished" GTO. This entry aims to rectify that situation. 

To recap: 

In 2013,  I finished enough on the car to get it to a fairly presentable state. I intended to post a bunch of pictures, but I kept putting it off for several reasons:

1) I wanted to get the chrome work done,

2) I never finished the interior,

3) I was never happy with any pictures I took. 

Another reason could possibly be I have a problem finishing stuff. 

So, despite misgivings, I'm posting some shots of the car... warts and all.

1967 GTO with fresh radial redline tires

Shown above is the car in early 2013 when it was mostly assembled, but before the new top. This was a full year after I had painted the car. (Yes, it takes a long time to assemble a car in full detailing mode.)

The redline tires were an awesome surprise from my wife. She had them mounted on the Rally I wheels I had. 

The car looked a little funny with no top frame installed:

Front view of freshly painted Linden Green 1967 GTO

I got the car running in the spring of 2013 but work continued on projects such as the complete "re"-rebuild of the Muncie transmission and the Quadrajet upgrade.

In the fall of 2013, I did the convertible top installation. By the time I got it done, the driving season for 2013 was pretty much at an end.

1967 Convertible GTO with new top

In 2014 I continued to just work on my punch list which included getting the original AM radio up and working.

I also refurbished a set of JA code Rally II wheels and mounted 15 year old BFG's on them. The car rolls so smooooooth with these wheels. I hope to get a correct style trim rings for them this spring.

JA Rally II 2 Pontiac wheel

Here's the car as it is now:

1967 GTO side view Linden Green Rally II's1967 GTO headlight detail

Note the indents on the front bumper from past bumper jack action. I pounded out a few big dents on the rear bumper too.

1967 GTO Convertible Rear view detail 1967 GTO front view1967 GTO in the eveningGTO at farmGTO going into sunset

I've just been enjoying the car. It starts, runs and drives fantastic. 

The big ticket items I'd still like to complete is a new instrument cluster, seat upholstery and new chrome for the bumpers. But, in a way, I don't mind the patina on the engine and bumper chrome. When the budget gets better, those will be good future projects.

I hope to have a gopro video soon. I'll post it asap!


Willys L134 Flathead Test Stand

February 6th, 2015

1950 Willys Jeep L134 engine

Loading up the CJI've had the "Jeep bug" for a long time and my internal automotive radar has a high sensitivity for Jeeps. If you've scanned the links to the left you might have noticed the story of my acquisition of a wee little 1950 Willys CJ3A in 2006. It was about to be scrapped after having spent two or three decades (or more) out of commission sitting out in the elements.

Despite it's advanced state of deterioration, I still felt compelled to take it home. To see the details of what I dragged home that day, see the CJ3A introduction page.

Willys L134 Jeep engineAfter getting it home, a quick survey revealed it needed a replacement engine and in 2009 I found one, but I stuffed it into a corner and the Jeep continued to languish.

But recently, the Jeep whisperings have been getting louder...and a window of time has opened up at Squids Fab Shop.

It was time to get busy on the Jeep. I decided the first thing I wanted to do was to hear the new-to-me engine run. The engine was pulled out from it's dusty corner to begin work.

L134 Flathead Willys Engine

Willys L134 engine standA crude engine stand was my first mission. A cart was fashioned with some lumber and casters. Old scrap steel was employed to adapt the motor mounts and bellhousing to the cart. More scrap steel was used to position the CJ radiator and shroud in front of the engine to take advantage of the cooling fan. A small panel was made to hold water and oil gauges, as well as switches for the ignition and charging system (not shown yet.) Note how previous owner did some custom stenciling on the side of the block. Also note the head is not the same (keep reading below to find out why).

Bypass Oil Filter System

External Fram bypass oil filter for Willys L134 engineWith the "stand" ready, the engine systems were next: The old Jeep flathead engines (like many engines in those days) used externally mounted oil filters, and I was missing many parts. I sourced the external oil lines from, but got the hard-to-find flare fittings at a local hydraulic supply company for a few dollars. (It pays to search around...there can be huge variations in costs across suppliers, both local and online.

Broken head stud Willys Flathead 134 on 1950 CJ3AThe installation of a new oil filter mount disturbed a few of the head studs/nuts, necessatating a re-torquing. Unfortunately one of the head studs broke while approaching the torque value. So off came the head in order to drill out the offending stud. While certainly a bummer, it did allow an inspection of the pistons, cylinder walls and valves. The good news is that it's in pretty decent shape and in fact still has standard bore pistons. 

Industrial Willys L134 head before sandblastingIt seems that a crack in the head gasket allowed gases to erode the stud which weakened it. I managed to drill out and remove the stud without damaging the original threads in the block. I sourced some Dorman head studs p/n 675-013 from Amazon (sometimes you can get Dorman stuff on Amazon for extremely good prices...woot) and switched to my blasted, cleaned, and crack free "INDUSTRIAL" head from the seized engine that came in the Jeep. (The head I removed from the replacement engine was riddled with cracks). I also inspected the tappets, and removed the intake exhaust manifold which in turn required me to source new manifold studs. I got those, shockingly enough, on a twirly rack at a Pepboys.

Charging System

The original CJ Willys charging system was a 6 volt generator with an external regulator. The components on the Jeep have long been dormant and likely corroded beyond usefulness so I decided to "upgrade" to a modern (well, 80's vintage) Delco 12si 3 wire alternator. 

Jeep Willys Alternator swap CJ3a flatfenderThe Delco alternator has internally regulated 12V output, it's cheap, super reliable, and easy to use. The 12si is probably the ultimate unit to look for (better internal cooling according to my research), but the 10si's are fine as well. The P/N I sourced is for a 1980 Camaro application.

A minor glitch when using a modern alternator is the relatively narrow pulley that does not work well with the very wide "V" belt the L134 crank and waterpump use. There are suppliers that sell wide "tractor" type pulleys, or you can chuck the narrow pulley in a lathe and machine the "V" groove wider.

CJ3a alternator conversion bracket Willys L134Adapting a modern alternator to the little flathead requires a custom bracket which can be had from some Jeep specialists online, but it's easy to fabricate your own. My little box of scrap metal yielded enough bits and pieces to weld one up. It's fairly thick steel so I used a propane torch to preheat the metal for better penetration.

Last thing to do was to replace the cap, rotor and ignition wires. I figured the rest should be okay since it was advertised as running when I bought it. At the first start attempt, cranking speed was normal, but there was no sign of a pop. A test for spark (with a removed spark plug) was positive, but there was no ignition when installed. I put in a new coil, and still nothing. I replaced the points, and bingo! Instant ignition. 

A few leaks were attended to, and a few minutes of run time indicated a dirty carburetor. The solex carb has a bunch of plugs and caps that can be removed to access internal passages. I removed all of them and blasted everything I could with carb spray cleaner. A dramatic improvement to idle quality was observed and after a little warmup, it revved nicely too. There is a bit of blue smoke I think from leaky valve guides, but this little flathead is a decent runner.

I made up a low quality phone video of the running engine:

Coming soon: The Willys Jeep CJ3A drivetrain test stand!

Delco AM Radio Project

April 4, 2014

The "Bench"

The GTO on these pages was born with a classic Delco pushbutton AM radio. Luckily enough, the radio was in a box of stuff that came with the car when I took ownership. I wasn't interested in an AM radio back then, so I just stored it away. So, decades later, I'm interested in getting the dash back to it's vintage look. But, since an AM radio is pretty low tech, I did a few things with very inexpensive components to get an "aux" input as well as stereo output capability.

AM Radio "Refurb"

First thing to do was to test the radio I have. My original 10 ohm speaker was toast so I put  two 4 ohm speakers together in series and hooked it up. After a few wisps of smoke (probably from 30 year old crust on the volume pot) it seemed to work. 

Even with a positive sign of life, I decided it would still be prudent to replace the seven electrolytic capacitors in the unit. Three of these capacitors are on the underside of the top circuit board which entails desoldering the tuner housing and removing a few 1/4" nuts. The board can be folded up onto it's side to gain access to the caps. With the board tipped out, replacing those three caps was easy. (mind the polarity!....the board actually has little "+" signs on the traces) The three capacitors are easily identified with their silver case and "DELCO" stamp. They have date codes too, and mine were from early '67. Interestingly, a friend of mine tested the three original Delco capacitors after removal and they all tested very good. Oh well. The board was laid back down and soldered and screwed back into place.

Delco AM radio capacitor replacement Pontiac 1967

The remaining 4 capacitors reside in a huge aluminum can at the back corner of the radio. This large can is filled with coiled foil within a gooey oil. I simply bypassed this by constructing a small board to which I mounted 4 replacement "modern" capacitors of similar values. Modern capacitors are much smaller so there was plenty of room to fit a small board. (See picture above) The leads to the original "can" (which can be partially seen behind the new light blue caps) were desoldered, lengthened as necessary and connected to the new caps. (mind the polarity!) The radio was then tested again, and it worked fine, but my friend still did the full adjustment suite on the thing; it involves connecting all sorts of equipment...turning eyes glazed I just watched. The output transistor voltage was fluctuating a bit, and we could not find the cause, so we just let that be.

Besides replacing the capacitors, I removed the front faceplate and cleaned all the dust and gunk from the pushbuttons. I also removed the faceplate and repainted the orange dial pin, and finally repainted the "PONTIAC" script on the faceplate.

Additional Equipment

So, now the radio looks good and works fine. If I stopped here, I'd have to buy a new 50 dollar 10 ohm speaker and I'd have a working AM radio. But, I would like to have some modern options like FM, and even an "aux" input. There are companies that I could send my radio to for a "conversion" which entails loading it with a tiny AM/FM IC chip. Another option is to just get a new "retro" radio. But all these options cost hundreds.

To just get FM capability, I considered an old fashioned "FM Converter" which would be kinda cool, and definitely old school. But ebay searching indicates that these are hot right now, and buying a crusty used converter for 50 bucks or a never used unit for $100 bucks was not appealing. 

Investigating possibilities further led me to these mini stereo amplifiers. There is a family of mini stereo amplifiers that can take a "line level" input, an mp3 device input, and put out extremely good quality stereo sound. I chose the Lepai 2020+. It uses a Tripath 2020 IC chip which caused quite a stir in the audiophile community when it came out. This amplifier is something like 20 bucks, comes in a pretty small case, is very efficient, and runs cool. 

Lepai amplifer for use in Pontiac GTO

So to make this thing work, I needed to convert the mono speaker level ouptut of the DELCO AM radio to a line level output suitable for audio amplifiers. To do this, I used a simple, passive line out converter. I chose the PAC SNI35 which features a voltage divider/transformer network to convert the speaker output of any radio to "line" levels.

Line out converter for auto

The converter is meant to receive and "adapt" stereo speaker inputs, but you can input a mono source: I just connected the single speaker output of the DELCO to both "+" inputs of the line out converter. The "-" inputs of the PAC were all tied together and connected to chassis ground. The converter also has two ground wires that can be connected optionally (the brown leads) and they indeed reduced noise when also connected to chassis ground.

The output of the line out converter has RCA jacks. So a simple RCA cable was run to the RCA jack input of the Lepai amplifier. Finally, I connected a pair of 4" PYLE coax speakers to the Lepai amplifier. I chose the 4" speakers because I thought might be able to fit the pair side by side into the original speaker location up under the dash. But, the magnets are just too big and they wouldn't fit. So, I fashioned some crazy mounts to fit them in the void areas down low behind the dash. I made square plates out of 1/8" aluminum to screw the speakers to, then bent up some sheet metal tabs to adapt the speaker mounts to existing holes near the intended locations. 

Plates and brackets fabricated to fit speakers under dash of Pontiac GTO

The speakers point down but sound pretty darn good. The right speaker fit on the right side of the glove box which can be seen in the picture below. It is held in with three brackets and that was enough to make it sturdy. I used two existing holes for mounting, but I did have to drill one hole on the underside of the metal lip of the dash. 

4 inch coax PYLE speaker under Pontiac GTO dash

The other speaker fit on the left side of the glove box, but this one did require making a long strut that I tied into a defroster duct screw.

In Summation

So, instead of spending 50 bucks on one speaker just to get AM radio, I spent about the same amount for a line out converter ($11), a stereo amplifier with "line" and "aux" inputs ($20), and a pair of 4 inch coax speakers ($18). The beauty of this set up is I can:

1) play the AM radio through the amplifier which powers the two speakers with high quality sound,

2) plug in an iPod directly into "aux in" input of the amplifier which then plays my music and podcasts, or, 

3) play FM radio through the same auxiliary input.

The FM option is kind of cheating since it still has to come from an external source, but some ipods have FM capability and it's simple. 

Downsides? Well, it took quite a bit of time to fix up the original radio, then time to fabricate up some speaker mounts, and then time to just wire and solder all the components together. And, critically speaking, there is now a funky box mounted under my dash. 

However, subjectively speaking, the little box looks kind of cool; it basically looks like a modern version of an FM converter. And as for the time it took to cook up this rig, my labor is cheap, and it's kinda fun to do these projects.

So, this definitely is not an option for show cars. But for driver cars, it's a funky hybrid kind of set-up; it's sanitary looking, the original radio still fills the dash, you get stereo sound, and it's CHEAP!

I want to give a big thanks to GT182 (from Performance Years forums) for giving me a couple AM radios to use for parts. They also came in handy for testing to compare voltages and signals.

Benched muncie
Muncie rebuild

Muncie Rebuild

The most popular page on this site is up and running. That's the GM muncie 4 speed rebuild. This trans was purchased to swap into an automatic GTO.

Sandblasting goat
GTO under construciton starting with Trunk Repair

GTO Trunk Pan Installation

The GTO trunk body work page highlights some extensive wheelwell repair, trunk pan and braces installation.

Minolta stereo cameras
Minolta SLR stereo rig

Stereo Camera Rig

Also added is a cool project for a Stereo camera setup using older Minolta SLRs. This technique makes stereo pairs with slide film. A simple viewer of the pairs shows awesome 3D pictures. 

DIY Microphone Preamplifier

July 2009

DIY Microphone Preamplifier

Click the pic to check out the latest with my mic preamp. The preamp has been fired up. It works, but I still want to do more testing with different opamps. I'm researching ways to attach mp3 samples soon too.



Willys Jeep CJ3A Forum

There exists a nice set of webpages for CJ3A's. It's got a forum too that caters to both '3A's and  CJ3B's. It's a great resource, and frequented by very knowledgible folks.

1967 GTO Original Owner

These two videos feature an original owner GTO. This car was featured in Hemmings Muscle Cars magazine a couple years ago. Part 2 has inside and outside shots of the owner driving the car. Very nicely done.

Blues Maker

"Mississippi" Fred McDowell. One of the great Bluesman. This is a documentary made in 1969.


Pinstriping the ol' fashioned way. Pretty nice.

MGB Racecar

I've always liked MG's. Watch this MGB lift it's inside tire a few inches off the tarmac when going "'round the bend". Awesome.

Pepsi Throwback

Pepsi Throwback with Sugar!

Pepsi has put out a "limited edition Throwback" version of Pepsi with REAL sugar, instead of high fructose corn syrup which has been used since the 80's. Holy cow there IS a difference; it's WAY better. Find some quick!

Copyright 2009-2024---Dave Miles----Squids Fab Shop