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1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee - The Off-Road Rescuer

Posted in Features on December 1, 2002 Comment (0)
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At first glimpse of George Aupperlee's '96 Jeep Grand Cherokee, one can hardly keep from making siren sounds. With its bright-red paint scheme, EMS emblazoned on the side, and rescue basket secured to the roof rack, it certainly brings about the desire to do so. George wouldn't mind so much if you did, either. After all, the vehicle is used for off-road and wilderness emergency rescue work, attending all Paragon Adventure Park events in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. In addition to that, George is pretty well equipped to handle such emergencies once he reaches them. He spent 20 years serving his country as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman and has been a civilian EMT/Paramedic since 1972. A qualified guy in a qualified rig. Whistlin' is the least you could do.

Having previously owned a Toyota, a Blazer, a Jeep Wrangler, and even a '72 Suzuki Jimney, George purchased his Grand in 1999 and set out making it ever capable on the trail almost immediately. The suspension received the most attention, but a host of other modifications and installations were carried out as well. In looking for the best suspension setup for his rig, George turned to Rock Krawler Suspension in Albany, New York. The crew at Rock Krawler suggested the use of its Severe Duty 7-inch Long Arm Suspension system, which includes replacement front and rear control arms, long-travel coil springs and shocks, heavy-duty track bars, and associated hardware. The secret behind the Rock Krawler kit is its true tri-link configuration, using a single upper arm to locate the axle and extra-long lower arms for maximum flexibility. Once the kit was installed, a set of 15x8-inch American Racing Python wheels were shod with 33x12.50R15 BFGoodrich A/Tko meats, and the fenders were trimmed to ensure they wouldn't rub the edges.

With the Grand's suspension all dialed in, the Rock Krawler crew attacked the factory axles, stuffing the front Dana 44 with 4.11 gears and an ARB, and the rear Dana 44 with 4.11 gears and the factory TracLok differential. The axles were then joined to a Quadra Trac NP239 transfer case via a CV driveshaft conversion aimed at eliminating driveline vibration, with driveshafts coming from Six States Distributors. Other extras on George's Grand include an ARB Bull Bar bumper equipped with a Warn 9000 winch, Rock Slider rocker guards, and Skid Row skidplates.

One of the coolest aspects of George's Rescue Grand Cherokee is that it not only looks the part of the emergency vehicle it's designed to be, but it succeeds in performing as it as well. We watched George negotiate trails throughout Paragon Adventure Park following TJs and CJs with 37-inch tires. The coolest part for George, however, is that he gets to make a difference within the off-road community with which he's been involved for more than 27 years. As an active member of the Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance and Jeeps "R" Us, George and his wife Kathy travel to multiple events across the East Coast, offering his Rescue Cherokee and his EMT services. George also organizes Toys 4 Tots events in his area and encourages other 4x4 enthusiasts to volunteer their time and vehicles for emergency service. Did we mention that the Grand also serves as his daily driver?

With so many vehicles built for specific uses these days, it's great to see that some of these vehicles get built for more than just fun. While George may see the vehicle as a source of many hours of enjoyment and spending time with friends along the trail, he also opted to give something back with it by donating time to the sport's evolvement and survival. Though we may have dubbed the vehicle The Off-Road Rescuer, it still takes people such as George to function as the rescuers once the Grand gets them there.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown: George Aupperlee/ Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Year/make/model: '96 Jeep {{{Grand Cherokee}}} Laredo
Engine: 5.2L V-8
Transmission: Automatic
Transfer case: NP239
Frontend: Dana 44, ARB Air Locker
Rearend: Dana 44, TracLok
Ring-and-pinion: 4.11
Suspension: Rock Krawler Severe- Duty 7-inch Long Arm Suspension
Wheels/tires: 33x12.50R15 BFGoodrich A/Ts/15x8-inch American Racing Pythons

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