Old Yellow, our 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport
"Why do you put so much effort and money into cars only to sell them?"
Some guy once introduced me as "the guy that always sells his cars." Hey! i'm not Jay Leno, so when I want to start another project something has to fund it! Truthfully, buying and selling cars simply is the only thing I think about in my spare time.
In hindsight any number of cars I've owed in the past could have sufficed as my "forever" vehicle. But once they are done, my mind starts to wander. It seems the only vehicle that interests me is the NEXT vehicle. I need help.
Anyway here is the latest example of my overspending and stupidity. We are pretty much done with the XJ and focusing on more on our BMW Coupe project and our TRD-Pro these days. I wish we could keep them all, but space also dictates "thinning the herd" every few years.
|Note: Door skins are showing signs of rust starting. I sourced new steel replacements skins but installation and painting will have to be the job of the next owner.|
The Jeep Cherokee XJ designation was largely unchanged since its inception in 1980 till its retirement in 2001. XJ stood for eXperimental Jeep because it was Jeep's first foray into unibody design. While a framed truck seems ideal for big tires and big torque for big rocks and puddles, it has now become common knowledge among jeepers that a lightweight vehicle with live front and rear axles can accomplish amazing feats off road. The simplicity of the XJ is another factor. While it's not faultless it's been around long enough to prove its incredible durability and reliability. More importantly it can be repaired and serviced by just about anyone while still be just modern enough to be livable as a daily driver.
Like any good idea it can, and often has been taken too far so many young men have modified them to the point of no return. Old Yellow is taken just far enough to be a perfect appearing SUV while also offering ample capability off-road. It is certainly capable of rescues, adventures or both, while quite serviceable on the highways. While it's not perfect, it's darn close.
|You'll notice the hood it canted slightly, this is a shim kit that allows the engine to cool more easily. I install it in summertime. This Jeep doesn't overheat, but the venting shim makes good sense.|
Old Yellow has zero modifications to the motor. The inline six in the Jeep 4.0 HO is the pinnacle of reliability with more bearing surface area than other motors and a pretty low compression, these run 300,000 miles without a fuss. Yes they are slow, but they deliver grunt, which is what the off road requires. If you seek speed Old Yellow doesn't have it.
Education point: More speed/acceleration is achievable via a longer crank stroke ($2500 modification applying a longer stroke crank in the motor). That would be a nice modificatino, but Old Yellow will remain unmolested in the motor department. A huge bragging point for her is the low mileage so I didn't want to violate the engine till it's older. Most similar jeeps are hovering around 250,000 miles and still running well albeit only worth about $7,000. Currently Old Yellow is sitting at 92,000 mi as of this writing (addendum 95,000 as of 2023). You can also achieve more acceleration with gearing changes, but I've never been inclined to go faster.
Old Yellow has a very modest stance so as not to disturb her street worthiness, but given her shorter wheelbase compared to modern Jeeps and trucks, she does more than fine off road.
- Height is a achieved with a 3" Zone Lift
- Jeep Moab style 16" Rims
- BF Goodrich KO2 tires in a modest 31" size
- (yes, 32 & 33" tires do fit just fine too but those taller tires slow you down at traffic lights, and put more strain on hubs too)
Leaf Shackle (Ironman4x4) position is modified to correct for the lift. Most XJ owners skip this step, either due to cost or lack of concern about ride quality. Complexity is minimal to do this, but labor is extensive, best to leave this to professionals.
|Shackle relocation done properly, not my photo|
EAG Rock sliders are not affixed as side steps, though they look like them. They protect the unibody from rocks and trees when off road. It's lived over 20 years without damage, no point in risking any damage now so those were an easy decision.
Dropped transfer case position and slip yoke elimination (Dusty Dog Garage). This is expensive, but the proper way to raise the clearance on a vehicle is to do so without putting additional strain on your driveline angles. Without doing these things you risk your driveshaft slipping off your transmission while deep in the woods. Again, people can get away w/o doing such things, but if you love your car you want to do it right.
- note: services at Dusty Dog Garage, Wheat Ridge Co included (over $5000)
Other services of note (I have a binder noting all these items)
- RMS (rear main seal)
- Pan Gaskets
- Wheel Bearings
- Water Pump
- Fluids, Oils
- New improved Steering gear (Big Bore SJ Kit)
- New Radiator
- New Tie Rods
Note 4WD Extreme LLC Longmont CO (totaling $2800 plus axle $500)
Yes, you can make an argument for much stronger axle if you replaced the Dana 30 with an axle out of a truck or something, but keep in mind Old Yellow is only running 31" tires so a good Dana 30 and 3.55 gearing will make it plenty tough. I'd agree if you wanted to gear your jeep down to 4.11's and toss on 35' tire then the Dana 30 would be a liability. But Old Yellow is a well balanced and light in her current configuration, will do just fine as she's presently setup.
Noone should be off road without a plan to get home. That can mean multiple friends in additional vehicles, or a satellite phone. but for me it means recovery gear. Which i've never used, but have spent a fortune nonetheless.
Winch is also not your typical Harbor Freight product with a Smittybilt 10,000 lb winch with synthetic line for less risk of injury and wireless controls. The winch is installed internally rather than on a large protruding bumper that looks like Jay Leno's chin. Internally mounting a winch is both harder to steal and doesn't adversely affect the Jeeps approach angle. Another reason Old Yellow doesn't need monster tires.
|Fancy headlights aren't terribly fancy, but you need to see dont you?|
Of course hidden winches are not cheap bot buy or to install. The particular one is from BadDadFab in Washington state, a very well known fabricator.
- There are cheaper winches than a $2000 X20 but it's kind of an important part.
- Winch Mount $800 (but they are backordered into eternity)
Steering is often overlooked until fails. A simple semi OEM concept common to XJ owner is employed on Old Yellow. She uses a Dodge Dakota steering box. This provides the strength to steer bigger tires, even if stuck in muddy ruts. But being stock for a Dodge Dakota, it is not hard to service should the need arise.
People talk about articulation with trucks and yes Old Yellow can articulate more that stock cars. No sway bars exist in the rear, and the front utilizes JKS removable sway bar connections. I'm told it also makes rutty roads more smooth if you disconnect these as they are designed but i've never utilized them myself. Naturally the brake lines are braided steel in instead of rubber/plastic and are longer to allow for more "flex" or articulation without breaking a breakline clean off.
Modern jeeps have iphone connectivity and trail cameras and remote start. Old Yellow has approximated this functionality with a Remote starting alarm system as well Boss Apple CarPlay system with front and rear cameras, but don't get too impressed as it's no match to what 2022 Model Jeeps offer.
Storage, Molly panels by EAG have been placed everywhere, mostly for fun but they do offer some practicality. Cargo Netting has been custom made to keep your gear from whacking you in the head in the event of an accident.
|Those CoccoMats, $250 floor mats. Love them.|
Cargo boxes are $1000 so I made my own with $70 and some scrap wood,
|Works in the hot|
|Works in the cold|