Chris C. started his build with one of the most iconic 4×4 vehicles ever made, the Jeep Cherokee XJ. Chris selected a clean ‘00 model year as his canvas and went to town on it.
He was attracted to the XJ because he feels it’s a wholly inappropriate vehicle. Solid beam axles on a unibody monocoque construction, with an almost too big engine shoe horned into the engine bay—it is an engineer’s nightmare, yet it works nearly flawlessly and never gives up. That character and timeless styling is why Chris has adopted this oil-burning mechanical monstrosity as another child in his family.
Chris has improved strength and reliability of the driveline by swapping in a high-pinion Dana 30 front axle from an earlier XJ build, adding Black Magic brakes, upgraded seals and stuffing the differentials full of Nitro 4.56 ratio ring and pinion sets to make sure the 4.0L inline-six remains as potent as it was when it rolled out of Toledo 18 years ago.
Moving into the suspension, MetalCloak was selected as the manufacturer of choice. Sporting a 3 ½-inch suspension lift, utilizing MetalCloak’s in-house specialty DuroFlex joints within the control arms for maximum articulation and reduction of unwanted NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) transfer into the cabin of the vehicle. Australian made Old Man Emu leaf packs make up the rear spring choice, and Jeep JK Rubicon take-off shocks keep everything dampened. A crafty steering upgrade in the form of a Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ tie-rod finds its home on the front axle to improve strength and reliability.
Defense comes in the form of an Aussie ARB bull bar, Detours unibody rock sliders/frame stiffeners, an early XJ steel fuel skid plate and it all rolls on Jeep JK Rubicon wheel and tire take-offs.
Chris knows that between all of the mechanical upgrades—and the other mods like the Warn winch, tire carrier, drawer system, snorkel and more—the biggest upgrade he can make to ensure the XJ lives on forever is to continue to stiffen and reinforce the unibody frame and make sure the engine has adequate cooling for all conditions.
Chris built this Jeep to show the world that overlanding and adventure travel does not require a $60k Tacoma loaded to the hilt. With the right parts and knowledge, you can build an excellent vehicle that you can actually afford—and not waste time on seeing the world. Next up on the roster for Chris is taking the Cherokee for an expedition to Outer Banks, North Carolina, to explore the forest and shorelines.
If you would like to know more about Chris’ Cherokee, send him a message on Instagram.