A Jeep Cherokee prerunner isn’t necessarily unheard of, in fact it’s pretty rare, but when it’s done right, the results can be glorious. Take for example what these two guys Eric and Ryan did to a 1998 Cherokee (found on Pirate4x4.com), a five-year project that kept getting better as it went on.
It was bought for $1,300 with all stock parts and a cracked steering box that made it unable to drive. After tinkering with it for a weekend (welding, plating, new tires, Detroit Locker installation), the thing was mobile again and in relatively good condition for a 17-year-old XJ. However, that was only the start of this fixer-upper on its journey to becoming a prerunner.
After taking the time to get the parts together from other Jeeps, they removed the axle housings and installed a Currie-fabbed 9-inch housing with 35-spline Ten Factory shafts for the rear, with a custom Ford 8.8-inch axle and 31-spline chromoly shafts for the front. They later decided to re-gear an aluminum 3rd member, and later they scraped it and turned it into a twin-traction beam setup from a ’91 Ford Bronco.
A twin-traction beam used to be the front axle style of choice for Ford from the early 1980s through mid-1990s on their 3/4-ton or smaller 4×4 trucks. The guys didn’t explain their reasoning behind the decision, but given how everything turned out, this approach worked more than fine on a Jeep Cherokee.
Afterwards, they pulled the transfer case and installed a Rubicon Express slip yoke eliminator and a 1350 drive shaft, a real boost on capability for it, but they still had a ways to go. Another new set of 37-inch tires and the body and cage work was ready to begin.
With hopes of racing it in the Baja 1000, they went and built the cage out of 1-3/4 .120 DOM so it could get SCORE tagged, but had to go about it a bit differently, starting with the outer engine cage and then work on from there. It took them two days to fit the tube behind the dash. For the most part the rest of the cage was a fairly easy fit and was just a matter of welding it together. However they overlooked the cage landing points and chassis stiffening.
Their solution was to cut frame plates and some brackets that serve as the cage tie in, the nerf bar and allowed them to mount a tube to help stiffen the chassis. An addition of a custom design on the rear shock mounts (which is apparently easier than it sounds) put a Tecate beer label design on them, made by possible with quick and dirty CAD work.
Some interior work put a bit of love and comfort in while they awaited more parts and continued modifications. More work went into the shock mounts, as well as fitting the cross member and capping it off. The twin traction beams were truly installed at this point, fine-tuning the front housing and the steering for an added wheelbase. They also installed a single swing idler set up, a new muffler, and a grip of other awesome mods as well.
The prerunner Jeep had finally entered its final stages. A set of 37-inch tires and Raceline wheels went on for a real finishing touch, and the guys took it out to the desert to put it to work.
The intended goal for the project was to be able to use it as a family car on most days and still be able to run it through the desert on the weekends, but like any prerunner it needs to be suitable for the street and a beast on the dirt. This prerunner is not only unique in the fact that is a Jeep Cherokee with TTB, but it’s altogether what a self-built prerunner is all about. We tip our hats to these guys and their rockin’ XJ.