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1989 Jeep Cherokee XJ 4x4 - Chill Pill

Posted in Features on January 1, 2007
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Photographers: Sean Douglass

Sean Douglass was born in the dirt... well, almost. "I started off-roading in a dune buggy when I was 3 months old," he relates. "By the time I was 5, though, my parents sold the buggy and the off-roading ended.

The early experiences off-road left an indelible impression on Sean, so when a good friend took him out in the dirt not far from his present-day home in Ladera Ranch, California, Sean got quickly readdicted: "It reminded me of how much fun it was to be out in the dirt. After some sketchy trips out there, I decided I wanted my own vehicle with a rollcage.

Despite a plethora of options, he quickly narrowed the candidates down to one: the '89 XJ seen both clean and filthy on these pages. Most potential buyers would have been gun-shy about purchasing a vehicle with 310,000 miles on the original engine, but Douglass decided to go for it. After all, the buildup plans called for replacing just about every other component on the truck anyway.

When it came time to selecting a fabricator, Sean had another plethora of options but quickly whittled down these as well to one: Dan Fresh of DXR Racing. Dan's resume inspires confidence: Seated astride a Yamaha YZ250, he was a contender in the motocross wars that were a part of the Mickey Thompson stadium series from 1988 until 1993 with several wins to his name. Dan later doubled the number of wheels on his race vehicle by getting into a Jeep Commanche race truck where he also enjoyed extensive success. The '02 SCORE season was especially stellar, as Fresh finished First in Class 7S, claimed Sixth overall (all classes) in total SCORE season points, and was a member of one of six teams to receive the Toyota Milestone Award for finishing every mile of every SCORE race in '02. Dan came back the next year with a bigger motor in his Commanche and took home the '03 SCORE Class 7SX title. While Dan was honing his four-wheeled driving skills, he was also busy honing his tuning and fabricating skills. He founded DXR Racing, a shop offering custom fabrication and off-road race prep.

The initial buildup was a six-month effort and included a King-shocked coilover front suspension, a full 12-point rollcage, four racing seats with five-point harnesses, 33-inch BFG Baja T/As, a Currie-built Ford 9-inch rearend, and Deaver rear leaf packs. Sean's profession as a computer programmer and computer consultant left him with precious little time outside of work, so letting someone else handle the buildup was the right way to go on several fronts. Notice that the buildup didn't touch the then 310,000-mile inline-six engine. "The XJ has been evolving over time to its current state and has prerun the Baja 1000, many MDR races, and has been to Ocotillo Wells and other off-road locations more times than I can count," Sean tells OFF-ROAD.

When he's not pushing the inline-six around the desert, Sean can be found pursuing other activities, including "hiking, camping, bodysurfing, mountain biking, running, rollerblading, pretty much anything outdoors. Being outdoors and off-roading provides a great contrast from what I do at work and helps to keep me from getting stressed out about things.

With a well-built 'cage and suspension as well as plenty of room for friends and outdoor gear, Sean's XJ has a lot to like and leaves almost nothing to be desired. To us, that sounds like the ultimate chill pill.

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