Spotted In The Shop: Rusty’s Off-Road Cherokee XJ Armor

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The Jeep Cherokee XJ was originally just an SUV marketed toward the family that wanted something less grandiose than the Wagoneer, but more refined than the CJ-7. What’s amazing about the XJ, however, is that the vehicle not only spawned an entirely new market segment (midsize SUV), but it gained an eager off-road following that continues to thrive to this day.

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In a previous installment on our build thread for XtremeJ, Rusty’s provided us with some much-needed improvements to our bumpers and doors. Having seen how well these products stand up to the deserted wilderness of Ocotillo Wells and other areas, it was an easy choice to pair up with the company again for fender flares and rock rails.

Our ongoing Cherokee project, XtremeJ, has demonstrated again and again just why this platform is such a dependable one when it comes to braving the elements. Through many stages, we’ve improved its exhaust flow, suspension performance, and off-road grip. Now, it’s time to buff up its ability to take hits on the trail, and for that, we went for Rusty’s Off-Road Products.

We recently took shipment of steel fender flares (PN RA-MF500-XJ) and Rocker Armor (PN RA-RR2024-XJ) for XtremeJ, and we can’t wait to put them on and see how they do. But first, we reached out to Rusty’s to learn some more about these pieces and how they’ll keep our Jeep protected.

We spoke to none other than the company’s president, Rusty Megois. “The body panels are 1/8-inch steel, and the flare portion is 3/16-inch,” he explained. “On the front, the brace gussets are 3/16-inch. We do all of our laser and forming here in Alabama, and the continuous one-bead welding is done robotically for consistency. The pickled and oiled steel is laser-cut and formed-up, and keyed so it fits perfectly on a customer’s vehicle.”

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The fender flares offer an additional 3.5 inches of clearance over the stock fenders.

“We’ve built our products to stand up to off-road abuse,” continued Rusty. “They’re strong enough to hold up the weight of the vehicle for recovery purposes.”

Something we noticed about the rear fenders was a protruding bar that runs from end to end. Rusty explained that this was a slider bar, intended to stop rocks and tree limbs from smacking the rear windows and drips rails. “They also work as additional tie-down point, if you’ve got a roof rack on your Cherokee,” he said.

Made from 1/8-inch and 3/16-inch steel, Rusty's XJ fender flares are laser-cut, CNC-formed, and robotically welded for consistency and ideal fitment.

Meanwhile, protecting the rockers of the XtremeJ was where the Rocker Armor would come into play. “Whoever ends up driving this is going to find these to be a big plus,” commented Rusty. “They’re made with 1.75-inch tubing and 3/16-inch mounting brackets, and mount in nine locations throughout the frame and pinch weld. The kicker bar is 1.25 inches in diameter, and offers great clearance and protection while also serving as a stepping point for lifted Jeeps.”

One aspect about Rusty’s products that he wanted to point out was the powdercoat finish. “Rather than send our products raw to the customer, and then force him to take them to a P&B shop or rattle-can them, our powdercoating means these parts are ready to install right when you get them,” he said. “And if you ever damage them or find a defect in manufacturing, we’ll take care of the issue.”

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Rusty’s Rocker Armor is a three-fold upgrade to Project XtremeJ, offering protection, clearance, and help with entering and exiting a lifted Jeep.

We encourage you to learn more about Rusty’s Off-Road Products by visiting the company’s website and checking out its Facebook page, too. In the meantime, stay tuned as we get ready to install these sweet armor upgrades to Project XtremeJ!

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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