With all the current publicity shining on the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee like a movie premiere spotlight, it’s time for a straight-to-the-vein injection of what the name Jeep Cherokee means to most off-roaders. The XJ Cherokee run was from 1984 to 2001. The body stayed largely the same, though there was a substantial refresh in 1997. And this yellow 1990 XJ is a perfect example of why these compact SUVs are still rockin’ the off-road world.
“I got it for $500 with a blown transmission.” – Max Wilson, DirtBound Offroad.
In December 2008, Max Wilson of DirtBound Offroad in San Dimas, California, was looking for a new project. The first two weeks after finding it, Wilson spent his nights swapping out a dead AW4 automatic trans and rebuilding an AX-15 5-speed to drop in. During this down time, the rig was also painted the prominent yellow it is now.
Over the years, the entire drivetrain has been replaced, leaving the body the only original part. Even so, the body has been modified beyond typical trail rashes. The front clip has been changed out for a newer XJ nose, giving it a bit more modern look without the price tag of the newer generation Jeep.
A 4.0L Renix inline-six is in charge of motivating the American steel. The engine is kept cool using a triple Spal fan kit by built by DirtBound. A NP231 transfer case splits the power to the differentials utilizing a Rugged Ridge Slip Yoke Eliminator (S.Y.E.). Shifting the NP231 is handled by a DirtBound Cable Shifter.
Heavy duty drive shafts from Powertrain Industries spin the yokes of the front and rear differentials. Up front sits a high-pinion Dana 30 axle housing loaded with 4.56 gears and an Aussie Locker. Out back is a Chrysler 8.25 rearend filled with matching 4.56 gears and a limited slip.
Front suspension duty is handled by custom built long arms and an over-the-tube track-bar that support Rubicon Express 5.5-inch coil springs. Front damping is controlled by FOX 2.0 Reservoir shocks with custom mounts. The suspension was designed to stretch the wheel base 2.5-inches, getting the front tires a bit further away from the rear of the wheel well.
Using Ruff Stuff Steering components and a well-designed suspension, this Jeep does not need a steering dampener to avoid the dreaded death-wobble. Supporting the back-end are Rubicon Express 5.5-inch rear leaf springs, Bilstein 5100 shocks and DirtBound Rear Leaf Spring Bump Stop Plates. Max intends to replace the rear shocks with Bilstein 7100s to get more travel and better performance.
The Exterior of the Jeep is loaded with goodies as well. A DirtBound Extreme Front Winch Bumper loaded with a Warn Zeon 8-S winch give a super strong and mean front end. A DirtBound Mojave Rear Tire Carrier Bumper supports a matching spare 33×12.50R15 Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tire and Hi-lift jack.
The rear quarter panels are protected by DirtBound Rear Quarter Panel Armor and Diamond plate door armor protect the most vulnerable points on the doors. The rockers are also super sturdy; 2×4-inch rectangular, 3/16-inch-wall tube replaces the factory sheet metal rocker panels. Multiple LED lights provide a well-lit path on night runs; a Soye 45.5-inch light bar sits on the roof using DirtBound mounts and a Rigid Industries 10-inch bar sits on top of the front bumper stinger.
The inside of the Jeep is truly a command center. Featuring DirtBound switch panels to control every bit of electronics wired through a Bussman fuse panel and an Alinco DR-135 2-meter radio allows for communication to the outside world when the CB radio isn’t quite enough. The driver also has a hand throttle to utilize when the trail needs you to use your feet on the brake and clutch at the same time.
Max doesn’t have much he’d change about his Jeep. His only main plans for the future is swapping the rear shocks and adding a full interior roll-cage. The Jeep works just as he wants it too. It’s been to the Rubicon and tons of other trails many times in various forms along its build life.
This Jeep and many others like it are exactly why so many people are still in love with their old XJs. The XJ is a rough and tumble four-seat 4×4 with real cargo space, and all the right components you’d expect from a Jeep. And they’ve been rockin’ the trails with four doors long before it was cool to own a JK Unlimited.