1973 Wagoneer - Full Size Camping Goodness

Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
1973 Wagoneer - Full Size Goodness!

Greetings!I'm Dr. Marneaus (Andrew). Not sure how much cross-forum traffic there is, but you may have seen me over on Jeepforum or IFSJA.

So, I have stopped in here in the past as a guest, just randomly viewing or if some search had lead me here through google or what have you. I decided to join up and start a log of the stuff I'm doing because a buddy of mine brought to my attention that pretty much everything I've been doing has been aimed towards making the vehicle better for long drives and camping trips, with a lot of trail riding and exploring....sounds like this is the place for me!

A little back story:

I got into jeeps about 5 or 6 years ago, I had a little 4cyl TJ that I built on a dime and it was actually pretty dern capable for what it was. I ended up selling it after a few years in vegas because of no AC, and the lack of power on highway drives, etc. I loved that lil thing tho!

Ended up buying a 2005 Dodge Magnum R/T and drove that around for a good 3 years. Took it camping a lot, great for road trips, but not so much off-road haha. Plenty of dents under it when I sold it. Thing probably saw more dirt than a lot of jeeps!

I liked to take it off-road at least....maybe not wheelin but still!

Anyway, while I had the magnum I graduated from UNLV and figured I'd treat myself to another 4x4, but didn't need it to be a DD since I had an actual car. I started searching for CJ's, specifically CJ5's but checked out some 7's too. My only stipulations were that it be a CJ, and it be stick shift.

I soon realized that being 6'3" was going to make a CJ5 uncomfortable, and also that CJ5's would be pretty bad for any extended highway driving, even the later models seemed pretty squirrley (not bad, but you know what I mean). Not to mention, in a CJ I figured I could have myself, and 1 other person, along with our camping gear. if that. I'd need a trailer or something most likely.

Well, having the goals of a stick shift CJ, I somehow came home with this:

That pic was from the first time I saw it, and I instantly fell in love....

The story begins!
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Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
So, thats how it starts. I know that picture doesnt look like a whole lot, but the truck is solid. One tiny rust spot in the rear passenger wheel well (size of a silver dollar) that had been bondo-d' whenever the truck was repainted, and it ran strong.

You can clearly see the drip spots under the truck, which is in typical FSJ fashion haha.

One thing that drew me to this rig was that by sheer chance, it had the EXACT tire/wheels and lift setup that I planned to purchase for any given wagoneer/cherokee that I may have bought. It was already installed (at 4 wheel parts apparently) and was less than a year old. Tires had less than a few thousand miles on them. It was currently being daily driven by the owners live-in-nanny deal just to and from work down the street. Whatever.

Other than that, it seemed original. Interior is okay, seats are clean and unripped. dash pad was mostly good, carpet is mostly there, headliner is falling. Some of the gauges work, some dont. All in all pretty good for a near 40 year old truck, a lot better than some of the basket cases I see out there!


AMC 360 (thats 5.9l) V8
GM TH400 3 speed Auto
Dana 20 T-case
D44 rear
Closed knuckle D30 front end.
Tow package with 3.31 gears
And it even has AC! (not functioning at the moment, haha).

As soon as I took it for a test drive and the next day when I drove it home I realized I had exactly what I wanted. I can power down the highway at 75mph and it feels like riding on a couch, along with having 4 people in the truck with all their gear. All while getting 13mpg!!! Weee!

So, here's how it's sitting now, we'll get into the mods here in a few.

Me and the love of my life..... Oh and my girlfriend too.

Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
Before I get into all the mods and work I've done, I'd like to make a note that this thread is going to be chronicling the expedition style mods that have been done, and the trips I have taken with the jeep that have lead to those mods, problems I've had to overcome, etc.

I've done a crap load of boring stuff to it too, from minor interior work like fixing gauges, to swapping in an engine from a 1987 grand wagoneer and rebuilding the transmission in my garage, brakes, steering, completely buffing out the paint and redoing the wood grain, etc etc etc. But unless it relates to expedition style stuff, i'm going to skip the nitty-gritty mechanical crap, and cosmetic crap too. Lets just say that literally the last thing that needs to be 'gone through' on this truck right now is the axles. I've had my hands in everything else pretty much, and I'm currently sourcing 1974+ D44's for a swap so i can have 6 lugs and disc brakes up front.

If you'd like to see all the minor details and mechanical crap, as well as a ton of pictures of everything I've ever done, cruise on over to my thread on Jeepforum. Its long but everything is covered in detail.

Click here for 'Marns 73 Wagoneer Thread' There's close to 1500 posts in there.

So, lets get on to the fun stuff, shall we?


Expedition Leader
Plans for it relating to expo type stuff? My last FSJ (83 F/S Cherokee) was great since I could sleep in the back in relative comfort but I'm only 6'. Looks like you have a nice ride but I bet you didn't tell the GF that lil slip of the tongue... haha! Can't wait to see where this goes. And remember... a 4bt will easily put you into good fuel numbers. Just saying. :smileeek:

Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
Plans for it relating to expo type stuff? My last FSJ (83 F/S Cherokee) was great since I could sleep in the back in relative comfort but I'm only 6'. Looks like you have a nice ride but I bet you didn't tell the GF that lil slip of the tongue... haha! Can't wait to see where this goes. And remember... a 4bt will easily put you into good fuel numbers. Just saying. :smileeek:
Thanks. I guess I can describe the overall plans for the rig and whatnot at this point. I got my rock crawling and more technical stuff out of the way with my TJ. I played on the rocks, in the mud a little, etc, and that was fun and all, but the fear of busting something on my DD was no fun. This rig is built for an entirely different purpose.

I love the outdoors, I love camping, I love hiking, I love being away from crowds and cities, and getting out to areas that most people and most vehicles will never go. This vehicle is going to enable all of that. I'm not sure if 'expedition' is really the right term (I've never used it before now haha), but isn't that pretty much just long trips in remote areas? Maybe I don't go on month long trips or anything, but that's petty much my goal, trail riding (remote areas) and camping. Thats what i've been using it for since purchasing, and I've done several projects and mods to make it better suited for that, as well as making it more reliable/capable overall.

I hate to admit it, but I plan to keep this truck looking as close to original as possible while doing the work to it. At least thats my goal for now. I've got a minor lift and tires, but thats about the only thing that separates it aesthetically from 100% stock. I also wanted to keep the drive train mostly stock, but with the new axles going in, I'm getting away from that a bit. I've got the original 360 sitting on a stand in my garage waiting for a rebuild, but I'm not sure if I want to go that route, or go diesel of some sort. It's always everybody's dream, isn't it? 4bt's are getting hard to come by and expensive. Maybe a GM diesel swap would be good, who knows, that's down the road though!

The other MAJOR goal for it (now this may not be very expeditiony) is a period correct Pop-Up camper. Everybody does M101's and whatnot, and rooftop tents, but I'm planning on a compact pop-up likely with a mild lift and likely some other upgrades to make it more trail worthy. Again, this is down the road a bit. I've bounced back and forth between utility trailer build and camper build, but always land back on camper. Hey, it's a family station wagon after all!

I realize that alof of the work (the majority) I have done is more refreshing/refurbishing/replacing and doesnt really belong on this forum, but below is the list of the related stuff I've done :smiley_drive:

List of CURRENT mods relating to Expedition type stuff that I will touch on as we progress:
1. Radiator Upgrade
2. Engine swap/tranny rebuild (wont go into details with this, but it applies)
3. Fuel system revamp
4. Lighting Upgrades
5. CB Radio
6. Interior Upgrades
7. Matching Pop-Up Camper
8. Axle swap to later model D44's

List of FUTURE Upgrades:
1. Axle Swap (including upgrades) - Done
2. Trailer of some sort - Done
3. Shade Awning (coming soon actually!)
4. Fuel delivery (EFI?)
5. BIG MAYBE - Drivetrain swap?

Also, just throwing it out there that I'm literally building this thing on the weekends, in my garage, with my hands and tools, as money allows (the woman and my gun collection often times cut into that, not to mention I don't have tons of money laying around anyway haha). Before buying this truck I had never even changed my own oil. The biggest project I had ever done was putting coil spacers and springs on my TJ (in an afternoon, with the help of a friend). I figured there's no better way to learn than to dive right in. Literally everything on this truck has been the 'first time' I've done it, and I've been learning as I go. It's been a ton of blood (16 stitches and countless band aids), sweat, and tears along the way, but it's been a ton of fun too!
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Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
So, onto some mods, mostly in chronological order.

After purchasing it and doing minor stuff (getting it smogged was a $600 endeavor) like your standard tune up and all that, I started to get it ready for the trail. I put the bumper back on that the PO had removed.

Installed working mechanical gauges for everything so I could monitor my vital signs, and actually cleaned and refurbed my ammeter so I can keep an eye on the charging system and not have to rely on only a voltmeter.

First actual mod: I went and picked up a Uniden CB. I like to be able to talk to fellow trucks in our group and on the trail, so this was literally the first mod I did. When I replaced the speaker for the stereo it was too deep to fit the stereo back in the slot on the dash so I slid the CB in there.

Antenna in a pretty standard spot.

One of the next things I had to take care of was not by choice. I was on my way to a halloween party and my radiator sprung a leak. I pulled into my buddy's driveway and he asked what was dripping. oh crap! Turned around and drove home.

The issue:

I had never had any actual overheating problems with the stock 40 year old radiator, but it ran warm sometimes. Living in vegas heat is definitely an issue. on more than one occasion I had pushed it up to about 240* in the 115* heat, which was not comfortable. The stock system used a 195* t-stat and normal operating temp was about 210*

I picked up an el-cheapo chinese all aluminum 4-row unit on ebay and went to work.

Not the prettiest welds, but looked like a quality unit. Here it is next to the old'n

it went in with ZERO issues. Fit was spot on.

I had to make new lines for the built-in transmission cooler because my old ones broke when being removed. Easy Peasy. This all got changed and cleaned up a little with the engine swap and tranny rebuild, totally new cooling lines are on my list.

Anyway, it has worked great for almost 2 years. I ended up doing a 185* t-stat and with the new rad in place the truck runs at about 190. If it's 115* outside and I'm pushing up hill, it'll creep up to about 205. Highest I've had it is a slight grade uphill through loose gravel in 4wd, for about 3 miles @10mph in the 110* heat, and it only touched 215*. All in all, great upgrade that made a noticeable difference.


fsj's are sweet. i have a 72 also. isent your a 73? with the newer style gauge cluster. just wondering. I have (very slowly) been gathering parts for a 5.3L/6l80E swap. i have pretty much all but the axles.

Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
Nice FSJ! IMO there's just something awesomely cool about these old jeeps!!!
Thanks! I feel the same way :sombrero:

fsj's are sweet. i have a 72 also. isent your a 73? with the newer style gauge cluster. just wondering. I have (very slowly) been gathering parts for a 5.3L/6l80E swap. i have pretty much all but the axles.
Yes, 73 was 'sort of' a cusp year, a lot of minor changes took place. Interior stuff mostly. But 74 was more of the actual cusp year, when they ditched the closed knuckles, went to bridged rockers, offered discs as an option, and so on and so forth.

Sorry, I was out at the beach all day, I'll get back to continuing the story whenever I have the time!

and again, if you want some background, check out this thread:

Marns 73 Wagoneer Thread

Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
Well, that wasnt technically an expedition upgrade, but it increased reliability, which seems to be a big part of it.

After that I wheeled it abit on the rocks and whatnot, around the local desert, you know, the usual.

I started taking it on longer drives, 100 mile round trips (this is a 40 year old truck, i had to build up the trips!). One of my favorite rides is down to a local spot on the colorado river. several miles through soft gravel from a main road. THIS is the kinda stuff i live for.

Truck was driving well but developing some bottem end noise, as well as lifter noise, turned out to get louder and louder. My oil pressure at 65mph was only about 25 PSI, and at idle it was about 10psi, which is some scary stuff. I ended up driving out to Ventura Ca in a work truck and picked up an engine from a guy on IFSJA for about $200, it was a known good runner.

I'll spare the details but I picked up this:

cleaned it up, sealed it back up, and painted it into this:

pulled this out:

and dropped this in:

While doing that, i also rebuilt the transmission (I ended up needing a little help from a shop on that one...sigh)

re-sealed the t-case, redid all the drive line u joints, replaced the steering gear box, and installed a new B&M plate style transmission cooler.
Not bad for a kid who had never changed his own oil before, huh?

Again, idea was to increase reliability. Got the new engine in, new battery, and it was rnning on electronic ignition now vs the 73 engine that was points converted over to electronic.

Oil pressure is now 55 on the highway even with 110* temps!

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Dr. Marneaus

Station Wagoneer
After that, I wheeled it a bit again, but nothing crazy, local trips, 100, 150 miles round trip.

Eventually my headlights started having issues. They'd be fine for 20 minutes, then flicker off. I'd hit the switch and they'd sometimes come back on, sometime stay off. I replaced the floor mounted dimmer, I replaced the actual switch, same issue. I eventually fiddled with the wiring harness some and got it to settle down.

A while passed and the problem came back. I pulled the front of the truck apart and cleaned/checked all the grounds, re-covered a few splices (FYI AMC used duct tape, from the factory, to cover the splices in the harness). Still no dice though.

I got fed up with the issues and searched around. I learned that as with the ammeter, all of the power for the lights is routed into the cab, and it ALL goes through the switch, and the back out the headlights. I was able to SMELL the switch after the lights had been on for 20 minutes. Time to right this wrong.

I went out and picked up some wire, some relays, and some fuse. I built a harness to bypass the power from the switch, through some relays, to the lights, this did a few things.

1. Removed the load from the in-cab switch.
2. increased the brightness of the lights.
3. allowed for a bulb upgrade
4. installed a fuse between the battery and the lights.

A lil wiring never hurt anybody:

instant upgrade to the lighting in terms of reliability and brightness, but it doesnt stop there!

I again went out and bought some stuff...H4 conversion stuff! The old sealed beam lights got better with the upgrade I did, due to the direct power from the charging system (rather than being routed from the switch).

This was a few months later, but we'll put it here because we're on the topic.

I picked up a set of india made h4 lenses and bulbs, which were a direct swap. My upgraded wiring harness would be more than enough to handle the increased lighting.

new vs. old.

I swapped out the crappy bulbs they came with for silverstars, and went to town.

Incredible difference.

Hands down one of the best mods thus far. Overall cost including the harness i built and the lenses/bulbs was about $100.00

So at this point, I've only upgraded the stock lighting, but the difference was incredible. As I said, there was a good period of time between the harness and the H4 conversion, and i took several long trips but we'll touch on those shortly.

P.S. sorry some of those pictures suck.


sweet! if you want another whole drive line to rebuild/mod. let me know. :smiley_drive: I am almost to the point with my swap to get rid of the old.

nice work on the lighting too.