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Old 07-25-2019, 10:15 AM   #1
ManNamedJed
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1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

I started posting this on a local 4x4 forum, but wanted to share with you guys as well. This started Sept 2018:


I have a Jeep Cherokee I really love. It has taken my wife and I on some cool trips. We went to moab and biked and jeeped the awesome trails there. We did a trip across Nevada all on dirt where we saw petroglyphs, ghost towns, hot springs, and some amazing wildlife and scenery.

But we have kids now and when I take the wife, two kids, and dog camping, it just isn't big enough. Here is how the poor thing looked on one of last year's camping trip.



So I wanted something bigger. I consider a Land Cruiser, or a full size Wagoneer, but they really are only about a foot longer and a few inches wider. Hardly worth starting over.

So I settled on a suburban. I've also had the itch for a classic car, so I decided a older burb would maybe scratch that too. I ran across this article and love how this guy's suburban looks:

http://www.fourwheeler.com/features/...an-sir-burban/

Turns out its hard to find the cherry 'barn find' 4x4 suburbans like this guy did. They all have rust issues. Many are just trashed. Not many of them are 4x4. After about 8 months of looking I found this one in Chico. You might remember seeing it in the 'finds' thread.



It has had all the body work done and a repaint in the 90s. The interior was tuned up. It got a Goodwrench 350 installed then. Lots of the little things were done and I got to start with a decent running/driving rig. Since I have two little kids, I couldn't take on a major project, but can do some things here and there when a weekend frees up.

The goal is for it to be a family offroad exploration rig. Not a crazy rockcrawler, just reliable, simple and fun.

Here is the plans for this thing:
1. Install aftermarket AC/Heat (Classic Air system already bought)
2. Get some more oomph from the 190hp 350
a) upgrade to HEI (already purchased)
b) Install mild cam and intake (already purchased)
c) Headers or performance rams horn exhaust manifold
d) down the road do a Holley sniper or similar fuel injection upgrade
3. Upgrade to 3/4 ton or 1 ton axles, some kind of locker in rear
4. Mild lift and 35" tires
5. Upgrade bumpers and winch - hopefully find a nice vintage Warn 8274
6. Mild cage to add some protection for the family in case I manage to flop it somewhere.
7. Roof rack
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:15 AM   #2
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Oh, and I'd like to keep it looking fairly period correct. Like it was all built in the 70s or 80s. Hence the desire for an older winch. A challenge will be finding bumpers that look right.

I got a roof rack/basket ordered and happen to have a set of these vintage cast aluminum rack mounts that will look appropriate.

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Old 07-25-2019, 10:17 AM   #3
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Before I could even get into the cool projects, I had an issue with it not starting. The battery cables were pretty corroded and nasty. It also had a dual battery setup where one was isolated but you could connect it to the other via a soleniod. However it was only connected with a 12 gauge wire. And I couldn't figure out how the second battery was even getting charged.

A long time ago my CJ was needing a new battery and I realized a dual battery tray and two group 24 marine starting batteries cost less than one new Optima, so that is what I did and it worked great. They lasted 10 yrs and didn't mind when I didn't start the jeep for months at a time. So that is what I decided to do here.

I dropped the solenoid and got two new batteries and wired them in parallel. I built my own cables with copper lugs , solder pellets and heavy duty heat shrink. Its super easy to do and you can make your cables for less than crappy pre built ones.

I used this method:
https://www.wiringdepot.com/jt-t-tec...-Battery-Cable

I also used 'military' battery lugs which allows you to stack other wires on the bolts.





Since I plan an upgraded alternator at some point, I also dropped the fusible link wire and went with this cool resettable breaker. I'm using an 80A now (63A alt), but will change when I upgrade.



Yes I still need to clean up some of the other wiring.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:25 AM   #4
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Here is the winch that is currently on it. It has a great retro look, but they don't have a great reputation. Tenson TX2.

I'm hoping to find a decent warn 8274 that I can refurb.

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Old 07-25-2019, 10:28 AM   #5
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

I posted these in the 'Accessory you didn't know you needed' thread that spawned some discussion of the cool rack mounts.

Last weekend I had meant to install the HEI dist and start the AC project, but brakes went out on the wifes car, and had a tire blow out on the highway (in my XJ). So never really got around to Suburban projects.

This weekend my wife is working so I have our two small boys, so its not good to tear into major projects, so I decided to install my roof rack. This is the Smittybilt Defender and its pretty decent for the price. I used these vintage rack feet I had and I think they look very appropriate. The rack starts to change the look of the rig from 'classic show car' to 'vintage off road vehicle'.

I also just scored a canoe that just happens to have the same color scheme. The blues are almost exactly the same. I think they look like they were made for each other.











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Old 07-25-2019, 10:33 AM   #6
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Installed my aftermarket air conditioning kit (Classic Auto Air). It is a complete unit that replaces your heater core, blower, controls, as well as adding AC and new ducts.

It was a major pain in the ass. I probably have 15 hours into it. Its one of those projects that snowballs as you discover other things to fix/update once you start digging in.

All the old stuff comes out:




New unit gets wedged behind the dash:


New heater control valve:


This is the new heat/AC controls. I don't really like them. They totally clash with the look of the vehicle. I hope I grow to like them.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:42 AM   #7
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Scary part - cutting into your dash for new vents. I think they wanted to be sure you didn't cut this hole too big as the template was undersized, so there was lots of filing to make it fit. Note, I am not the one who cut the radio hole...



New side vents - required a 2 1/4" hole saw which apparently is not a common size. Was not in either of my hole saw kits, and wasn't available at Home Depot. Apex Saw - a local place - had it though, and it was priced the same as the ones at HD.



Center vent installed.


All the hoses run and ready to have the glovebox reinstalled (which is now about 3" deep unfortunately)



New AC compressor. Looks like they sent me the wrong length hoses, so I'm getting that straightened out.I think this might be due to the different engine mounting positions. CAA was really nice though and sent me new hose components, so I figured out how long I wanted them and a local AC place crimped them for me.


I didn't bother to take a pic of the stuff that goes in front of the radiator - which I had in and out about a dozen times before it was all done.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:46 AM   #8
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Got the radiator filled and did a test drive. I still need a belt for the AC pump, and maybe swap those hoses, so can't test that part. However it blew hot air really well and with much more velocity that the OE system.

I took three days off this week hoping to tackle some of the work on this project. After the AC kit I'm pretty burned out, so the HEI, headers, and intake will have to wait. I was bummed to realize I will have to unbolt a bunch of this same stuff again to do these - especially the cam.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:47 AM   #9
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

October 2018:
The previous owner regeared it to 3.08 to try to get better mileage. That combined with the ~200hp engine makes it rather underpowered. The TC's low range of 2:1 doesn't help, so I haven't really taken it offroad yet.

However I'm hoping to do some camping trips next year and maybe a trip to moab, so the pressure is on to sort out the suspension and drivetrain.

It doesn't make sense to regear the 1/2 ton drivetrain, so I've been looking for a deal on 3/4 ton or 1 ton axles and haven't been having much luck. I hope to find a set with at least a 14b full floater and 4:10 or 4:56 gears. However that will mean moving to 8 lug wheels, so I'll also have to buy wheels and tires, which means I'll have to do the suspension at the same time, as I'd want to get the planned 35" tires at the same time.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:47 AM   #10
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Jan 2019:
Winter, lack of garage space, young kids and a travelling wife have all conspired to kill forward progress on this.

However, I just picked up some 3/4 8 lug axles I'll be putting on (4.10 gears). I have some cool wheels, and some 33" BFG ATs too. I also have an intake, cam, headers and HEI ignition for the engine. Between the better gearing and the engine mods, I hope it will really pep this up.

Hopefully I have time to dive into it shortly!
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:48 AM   #11
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

The cam I got is pretty mild, but a bump up from the stocker. For headers, I'm just going with corvette style ram's horns. All the other full length tube style headers hung down past the frame rails and I'd rather not give up ground clearance.

The engine is the inexpensive GM 'Truck' replacement 190hp unit. Based on the paperwork, it has about 19,000 miles on it now. I'm basing my mods on this article where they build one up:
http://www.superchevy.com/how-to/463...-engine-build/

Mild cam, intake and headers should put it at 250-275hp. I'm debating having the heads worked just a bit when I have it apart like they do in the early stage of the magazine article.

This is the cam I got. Pretty mild and should work well with stock heads/springs, etc. It is supposed to work well in the 90s TBI engines, and I may add GM TBI at some point. It currently has an Edelbrock 1406.

https://www.summitracing.com/parts/SUM-K1102

My dad offered me a brownie box with under, direct, and overdrive the other day. That would be super cool, and I certainly have the length to accomodate it, but not sure I want to monkey around with trying to make it work.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:11 AM   #12
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Feb 2019:
14 bolt Full Floater ready to go in. Replaced seals and added RuffStuff diff cover and disc brake conversion. The ruff stuff parts have all been great BTW.

I did get the Eldorado brake calipers with the parking brake provision. Later I learned this is problematic as the stock cables won't reach the new position, esp when I added the lift.

Front is also getting a Ruffstuff diff cover. One hub doesn't seem to lock, so I've got to figure that out. Then just wait for a decent weather weekend to swap them in. This thing doesn't fit in my garage!


Got the 8 lug Dana 44 ready to go in. I fixed the warn hub on one side that wouldn't engage. Put on new calipers and ruffstuff diff cover.
I later learned one of the inner seals was leaking. I was going to replace everything at this point, but my old man talked me into just putting them in and seeing how they work...

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Old 07-25-2019, 11:17 AM   #13
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

March 2019:

Decided to dive into the engine stuff. Going to install new cam, intake, HEI ignition and maybe the rams horn exhuast. I think I have all the appropriate gaskets and tools.

I'm considering have a mild port job done on the heads.

--------------------------------------

Put in about 4 hours today to start the cam, intake, and HEI install. Had lots of 'help'. Basically just managed to unbolt stuff. Glad it all went smooth. I'm really happy with what I've found in the motor. It is very clean inside, backing up the receipt for the crate motor i found in the glove box, that says it was installed 18,000 miles ago.





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Old 07-25-2019, 11:21 AM   #14
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Progress is slow. Can't really work in the evenings as its in the driveway and I've got kids to wrangle. My wife works some weekends, so that slows things down too.

And i'm taking my time and trying to make sure I do it all right. Only ever did one other cam install and it was 10+ yrs ago.

But, Cam in. Rockers adjusted, intake installed, HEI installed and new wires run (points used 6V, HEI 12V).



Sorry for the rotated pic.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:23 AM   #15
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

May 2019:
Yes took over a month to do this part.

But finally got it running again!
Got it all back together with the new intake, cam, HEI, and clutch fan (to replace the solid fan), and...... it wouldn't start. Its crucial you get it started right after a cam swap to do a proper break in.

When I pulled the distributor, I just noted its position. Then when I installed the HEI, I put in the same spot (after realigning everything else). Well, I'm not sure how it was set up before, but that sure didn't work with the new dist. I finally had to do it the 'right' way and actually find TDC and re-install the dist. It fired right up then thankfully.

Still got some odds and ends to clean up, and some tuning to do, but the quick drive around the neighborhood showed more power off the line, and it will now rev past 3000 rpm.

Took a pic, but it just looks like a complete engine, so not much to see.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:32 AM   #16
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

June 2019:
Made some more progress. Added lighter advance springs to the HEI. Invested in a timing light with tach and adjusted the carb. This was a very worthwhile investment, I certainly got a much better tune than I could have achieved by 'ear'.

Now its actually got a bit of power! More off the line, more midrange, and actually will rev up through 5000 if you want. I've got some different jets/needles for the carb I'll try soon, but for now I'm going to actually drive it a bit.

Installed a tach and new window washer tank/pump (stock one was cracked and had to move anyways for the AC pump).

I took an automotive electrical class at the local community college. We had an 'open lab' night and got to use their AC machine to get the AC charged. I was happy to see I had zero leaks. It was blowing 35 degree air!



I do wish I'd gone a bit more aggressive with the cam. I would've like just a bit of a lope, and of course more oomphf. However I was limited by the very low compression stock heads, and I've gone too aggressive in the past and know how its worse than being to conservative. I still think its really fighting its too-tall gears (3.08s). So the 4.10s should wake it up, the tradeoff being 2800 rpm at 65mph.

Still need to do the lift and axle swap. Have to cut the spring pads off, which is kinda a pain in the ass.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:41 AM   #17
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

July 2019:

Wife and kids were out of town, so I worked hard all weekend on the suburban and have painfully little to show for it.

It doesn't fit in the garage, so all work is being done in the hot driveway (over 90 all weekend).

Goal was to install new axles and lift kit. Decided to go with the 2.5" lift springs and shocks from Tuff Country, FYI. Jegs has a good price on that kit and they had a coupon deal, so I jumped on it. Went with the Nitro shock option too.

The internet said my rear axle would bolt up except for the shock mounts. Well that was wrong and the spring pads were in the wrong spot. Got them cut off. Tried to use my plasma cutter and ended up gouging my axle tubes, so wasted time filling gouges and smoothing with grinder.

The internet also said the driveshaft would bolt up and likely be an okay length, well its too long now and uses a different u-joint.

Got the Eldorado parking brake disc calipers from Ruff stuff and the parking brake cables aren't long enough now.

The new lug nuts I bought are the wrong thread.

Of course the leaf spring bolts were rusted solid.

The disc conversion is thicker than the drums and I'm concerned the studs aren't long enough now.



So here it is after a hard weekend and the rear isn't even done. The rear axle is centered, angle set, and the new perches are tacked on. The brake lines have been sorted and the calipers bled. Need to get the driveline shorted, spring and shock mounts welded, and still have to do the front. My dad came by and was a big help, wouldn't have even made this much progress without him.




I am happy with how its looking I think the small lift was the right choice. I like how the tires and wheels look. They are metric 33" tires that I bought lightly used from someone who took them off a new Wrangler. I just hope the front goes smoother.

Note: The previous owner said he'd just had the brakes overhauled. Found nice new brake parts in the rear. Felt bad about taking this off!

Last edited by ManNamedJed; 07-25-2019 at 11:52 AM.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:47 AM   #18
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Installed the 8 lug Dana 44 with 4:10 gears. The new brake calipers needed a different brake line bolt than what was on there, so I had to leave the old rusty ones.

Special thanks to my friend Denis for helping me weld my spring and shock mounts on the rear!! By 'helping' I mean he did it for me. Much better looking welds than I would have managed.

The rear parking brake isn't hooked up because I need longer cables. If anyone has any tips on where to get them, please let me know. From what I've read, you really need them hooked up and adjusted right for the brakes to work properly. Right now they are squishy and weird, but there could be other factors.

But.... I'm stoked with the new stance, love the wheels. The pics makes it look taller in the front, but that's just my driveway. I think its a nice balance between an aggressive look without being all huge. The new gearing really peps it up. Haven't tried it on the highway yet though due to the brake issue.



FYI - the measurements from hub to fender lip were all 22-23" before the lift. Afterward they are all 25-26", It will likely settle a bit. So the Tuff Country 2.5" lift does deliver the advertised lift. Ride is firm, but not harsh, just as I wanted.

Ordered a new master cylinder and prop valve from Pirate Jack which will hopefully get the brakes working properly after the rear disc conversion. They were super nice and helpful BTW.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:51 AM   #19
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

This brings me current. I don't think I'll tackle any more major projects this year. Kids keep asking 'Daddy, when is the busburban going to get fixed?' as I've promised it will be used for camping trips and drive in movies soon.

I want to get the windows tinted to help keep temps down. I'm also going to get some basic seat covers to protect from, you know, kids.

If anyone is interested in the 6 lug axles and tires/wheels let me know. Would be a good start to a 4x4 conversion, if you didn't mind the tall gears.
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Old 07-25-2019, 02:05 PM   #20
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Great write up Jed. I really like all the mods you have done so far!
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Old 07-25-2019, 06:37 PM   #21
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Very nice!
I love seeing stuff like this, and hope to see you post more milestone pics and talk about your process.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:32 PM   #22
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Kinda bummed after reading this. I just bought the tuff country 2 inch softride. I was sold on the premise that itís a 4-6 hour job with no mods necessary. No moving perches no driveshaft mods. I hope mine goes better than yours because Iím no welder. Might buy you axles too


Quote:
Originally Posted by ManNamedJed View Post
Installed the 8 lug Dana 44 with 4:10 gears. The new brake calipers needed a different brake line bolt than what was on there, so I had to leave the old rusty ones.

Special thanks to my friend Denis for helping me weld my spring and shock mounts on the rear!! By 'helping' I mean he did it for me. Much better looking welds than I would have managed.

The rear parking brake isn't hooked up because I need longer cables. If anyone has any tips on where to get them, please let me know. From what I've read, you really need them hooked up and adjusted right for the brakes to work properly. Right now they are squishy and weird, but there could be other factors.

But.... I'm stoked with the new stance, love the wheels. The pics makes it look taller in the front, but that's just my driveway. I think its a nice balance between an aggressive look without being all huge. The new gearing really peps it up. Haven't tried it on the highway yet though due to the brake issue.



FYI - the measurements from hub to fender lip were all 22-23" before the lift. Afterward they are all 25-26", It will likely settle a bit. So the Tuff Country 2.5" lift does deliver the advertised lift. Ride is firm, but not harsh, just as I wanted.

Ordered a new master cylinder and prop valve from Pirate Jack which will hopefully get the brakes working properly after the rear disc conversion. They were super nice and helpful BTW.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:47 PM   #23
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

I'm just astounded how much work a ManNamedJed gets done in one day!
Seriously though you've done a lot of great work on your Burban. If mine was a K model it would look very much as yours does.
Tuned in for more!
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:52 PM   #24
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrtoni View Post
Kinda bummed after reading this. I just bought the tuff country 2 inch softride. I was sold on the premise that it’s a 4-6 hour job with no mods necessary. No moving perches no driveshaft mods. I hope mine goes better than yours because I’m no welder. Might buy you axles too
This was only necessary because I also swapped in an 14 bolt full floater from a 'squarebody' truck. If you are just putting them on your existing axle, you won't have to do any of that.

The biggest obstacle for you will be the rusty bolts. The kit comes with new spring bolts, so save yourself a headache and just cut yours out. A 7" grinder makes pretty short work of them.

Come by an check out those axles. Got tires and wheels you might be interested in too.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:57 PM   #25
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Re: 1971 4x4 Suburban Project - the 'Family Adventure Wagon'

Got my disc/disc master cylinder and prop valve today and got them installed. Didn't do a very involved bleed and the brakes are already better. I'll do a pressure bleed this weekend I expect them to be really good then.

However, during the test drive I got it up to 50 or so and found I have quite a driveline vibration. So either I set the axle angle wrong, or they didn't do a very good job on my driveshaft. Any bets on what it will be?

I have a few sets of angle shims from when I lifted my Cherokee, so hopefully I'll be able to tune it in if its not too far off.
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