Build Updates: Project XtremeJ

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For build updates, newest to oldest, scroll down.

Jeep has no model that has more heritage than the Cherokee. Project XtremeJ is a 2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ four-wheel-drive. The Jeep was purchased in May of 2014 and has a touching backstory associated with its previous owner.

The vehicle was purchased from Travis Witten, a veteran CAL FIRE firefighter, serving from 1969 until he retired in 2007. While we know very little about him, we didn’t want to let his service go unnoticed as we have relatives and friends that live in the areas Travis used to protect.

His son Jay, who is also a fireman, is an incredible guy with a ton of strength to keep a straight and sharp mind while dealing with a lot of stress trying to figure out what to do with everything. We would like to dedicate the entire XtremeJ build to the memory of Travis Witten, as it is hard not to honor the work that the previous owner did.

The concept behind the build is to create a fully capable, rock-climbing Cherokee XJ. We want to make sure that the Jeep has excellent wheel travel, bulletproof engine performance, and durable hardware that can take this project anywhere.

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The Jeep arrived at the shop bone-stock, a blank slate that we can have our way with. Not too often do you get a chance to start something that someone has not had their hands in before. Travis and his son’s love for Jeeps and off-road vehicles will be shown with the additions we have planned for XtremeJ.

The first step to creating an off-road rig is getting it off the ground. With a lift, as well as larger wheels and tires, we will be able to start conquering the rocks on the trail. Since the Jeep will be up against rocks while it is climbing, the addition of body armor will be necessary. Belly pan skid plates, rock sliders, and bumpers will all need to be added to keep the body safe.

Just like any other off-road vehicle with additional weight, we will need to add new differentials, axles, and driveshafts. Everything that will be installed to the project will have a purpose, just how Travis would have wanted it.

Stay tuned for updates as we dive in and start adding to the project, with the end goal of creating a rock-crawling radical Jeep Cherokee. Off Road Xtreme will be making sure that Project XtremeJ lives up to a high standard.

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10/20/2016 – Getting A Stronger Facelift

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We went with armor that bolted to the side of the Jeep instead of traditional rock sliders.

We had to remove the factory trim (left) to make sure the body armor would fit. We then had to centerpunch (center) each hole on the armor, before we started to drill holes (right) for the​ supplied nutserts.

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With everything installed Project XtremeJ was ready to hit the trail and be able to withstand any beating, we put it through. Be sure to check out the full article for all the behind the scenes action!

2/17/2016 – Time To Play

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Installing products is always a good sign of progression on a build, but it is even better when you get to go out and test the products. We recently headed out to Ocotillo Wells, California to see what the recent additions could do.

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Our Toyo Open Country M/T tires were able to take us everywhere. We did have a trouble with our Jeep going into four-wheel-drive while we were out there.

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Even with our Jeep stuck in two-wheel-drive we were still able to go places vehicles in our group had to do in four-wheel-drive. We were amazed at everything the Jeep could do with just the lift and tires.

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We are already itching to get more products on the Jeep and head back out for more testing. Stay tuned for more updates.

12/11/2015 – Full Facelift

XtremeJ came into the shop to get a complete suspension overhaul. We would be installing a Skyjacker six-inch lift, with new wheels and tires. The lift would get the Jeep looking the way we want – in the air!

XtremeJ came into the shop to get a complete suspension overhaul. We would be installing a Skyjacker six-inch lift, with new wheels and tires. The lift would get the Jeep looking the way we want – in the air!

The new Fuel wheels and Toyo Open Country M/T tires are just a little different from the factory set. They measure five inches taller than the factory 28-inch tires. These tires will give the Cherokee the traction needed out on the trail.

The new Mammoth wheels and Toyo Open Country M/T tires are just a little different from the factory set. They measure five inches taller than the factory 28-inch tires. These tires will give the Cherokee the traction needed out on the trail.

We did not want to use drop down transfer case brackets so we opted to install a SYE (slip yoke eliminator) kit. The kit meant that we had to tear into the transfer case.

We did not want to use drop down transfer case brackets so we opted to install a SYE (slip yoke eliminator) kit. The kit meant that we had to tear into the transfer case.

The lift kit installed new leaf springs out back, and new springs and arms up front. Stay tuned for a full install article and tire review!

The lift kit installed new leaf springs out back, and new springs and arms up front. Stay tuned for a full install article and tire review!

11/2/2015 – Header Install and Heat Shield

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Project XtremeJ came into the shop to get its new Doug Thorley headers for its inline six motor. The project was be placed on the dyno to get a before run, and would also be run on the dyno again after the installation.

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Everything all laid out before the installation. The header install would also be done with a heatshield kit from Heatshield Products. The heatshield kit also came with a wrap for the injectors. It is a common problem on these Cherokees for the injectors to receive to much heat.

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The header all wrapped up before it was to be installed. Everything was checked and the final install took place.

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The look from up top, not only do they look great, but the are functional. One final dyno run would prove what these headers could really do.

10/1/2015 – Gibson Cat Back Exhaust

Gibson’s Superflow muffler has no packing inside. The reason for this is to prevent rust or blow-out, as well as improve flow.

Gibson’s Superflow muffler has no packing inside. The reason for this is to prevent rust or blow-out, as well as improve flow.

Top left: A mark is made for a cut to fit the exhaust tip. Top middle: After the cut is made, the metal on the tailpipe is deburred. Top right: The tailpipe is inserted up and over the axle. Bottom: The exhaust tip is fitted to the tailpipe and tightened.

Top left: A mark is made for a cut to fit the exhaust tip. Top middle: After the cut is made, the metal on the tailpipe is deburred. Top right: The tailpipe is inserted up and over the axle. Bottom: The exhaust tip is fitted to the tailpipe and tightened.

It took less than 10 separate parts to make this Jeep get better horsepower and torque gains, shout a little louder out the back, and start us off with a fun project.

It took less than 10 separate parts to make this Jeep get better horsepower and torque gains, shout a little louder out the back, and start us off with a fun project.

About the author

Steven Olsewski

Steven Olsewski grew up with a true passion for anything with a motor. He loves his wife and kids, and during the year can be found enjoying quality time together. They are a huge part of his life and their passion for God.
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