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Transplant Patient - 1996 Jeep Cherokee XJ

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Dan Sanchez | Writer
Posted July 1, 2012

This Jeep XJ was Upgraded with Inexpensive JK Parts that Improve its Off-Road Capabilities

Most Jeep Cherokee owners scoff at the hype over the JK four-door. After all, the XJ’s were four-door Jeeps long before the JK was conceived on the drawing board. But with many JK owners upgrading their axles, gears, and other components with aftermarket parts, guys like Chris Faustmann, in charge of research and development at Performance Automotive Group, saw this surge of JK popularity as a unique opportunity for his personal XJ Jeep.

“Jeep JK’s have great brakes and 30-spline axles,” says Faustmann. “It seemed like a great idea to upgrade the Cherokee with many of these spare OE JK parts that are inexpensive and readily available.” Aside from the JK axle housing that has some potential problems, the Cherokee uses JK axle internals in a new Dynatrac Pro-Rock 44 front housing. The Dynatrac JK axle housing is five inches wider than the stock XJ unit and can be ordered bare so that the new perches and shock mounts can be welded on separately to accommodate the XJ suspension components.

Faustmann could have easily replaced the stock shock mounts and leaf springs onto the new housing, but he opted instead to upgrade the Cherokee with a coil-over suspension that consists of Fox Racing 12-inch reservoir coil-over shocks that use dual Eibach springs. New shock mounts and adjustable bump stops were fabricated for the added ride height, which allowed for the installation of large 37x12.50R17 Goodyear MTR tires mounted on Raceline beadlock wheels. In addition, a PSC hydraulic ram assist system is used to give the Cherokee’s steering precise control over the oversized wheel and tire combination. Because this truck sees both street and trail use, a Viair Extreme onboard air compressor ensures that it’s easy to quickly air the tires back up when the trail ride ends at the pavement.

With the leaf springs and factory coils gone, Faustmann used a Rock Krawler tri-link front kit and adapted the control arms to the Cherokee’s frame with some new mounts. At the rear, the Cherokee uses a factory JK axle that’s been upgraded with Superior Axle’s new Evo Shafts and 5:38 gears, as well as an ARB Air Locker and Dynatrac cast iron cover. The factory transfer case was also dumped for an Atlas II unit, which gives the vehicle a 4.3:1 ratio for superior crawling abilities and added strength.

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