We’re huge fans of XJ Cherokees since they can still be had for very little cash and can be built into very capable trail rigs with simple bolt-on parts. Chris Faustmann’s ’96 Jeep Cherokee caught our attention during the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab—a place notorious for oceans of Jeeps—earlier this year, and yet this XJ stuck out like a bright red exotic car. Well, there’s a very good reason for that! Not only did Chris build this XJ to perform on technical trails and rock gardens; he built it to look good doing it! Of course, when it came time to choose a color, who could go wrong with Ferrari red?
After landing in Chris’ home state of Arizona, we were able to to take a few minutes of his time in the local state forest to see that he spent the coin where it counted: everywhere! Chris has updated almost every piece and feature of his XJ, and he has done so in only four short months (as Chris tell us). We almost find that a little hard to believe, knowing how long it took us to complete our own project Cherokee. It just goes to show how fast a project can be done with a proper plan and motivation!
1996 Jeep Cherokee— An Exotic XJ Crawler
Vehicle: 1996 Jeep Cherokee XJ
Owner: Chris Faustmann
Chassis: Stock unibody with custom-fab rock rails, Ruff Stuff Specialties XJ chassis stiffeners
Engine: ATK Performance 4.0L Inline-6, S&S Custom Off-Road Spintech exhaust system
Drivetrain: AW-4 automatic, Atlas II two-speed T-case with 3.8:1 low range, Atlas disc parking brake, Tom Woods 1310 double-cardin front driveshaft, Tom Woods 1350 double-cardin rear driveshaft with flange yoke, Ford high-pinion Dana 44 front differential with ARB air locker, 30-spline Superior D44 chromoly Evolution axleshafts with Super U-joints, Warn locking hubs, Reid Racing forged steering knuckles, Artec Industries forged high steer arms, TNT Customs front-axle truss, Ford 9-inch rear differential with Rock Krawler HD welded truss system, Detroit locker with 35-spline Superior chromoly Evolution axleshafts, Superior 5.13 gears
Suspension: Trail Master 6-inch Tri-Link Long Arm lift kit, Trail Master HD crossmember, 11-inch stroke FOX Racing 2.0 remote reservoir shocks, Currie AntiRock sway bar, Rock Krawler four-link rear coil conversion
Steering: Custom heavy-duty track bar with HD track bar bracket, S&S Custom Off-Road 1.25-inch solid stock chromoly steering centerlink with GM tie-rod ends, PSC Steering hydraulic assist ram system with 12-inch aluminum cooler
Brakes: Dana 44 front disc brakes, Chevy 1-ton rear disc brake conversion
Tires/Wheels: 315/75R17 Goodyear Wrangler Kevlar MT/Rs on 17x8.5 TrailReady beadlock wheels
Interior: Corbeau Baja XR-S seats with rail mounts
Other Parts: Lower half sprayed with Inyati Kevlar Liner, OR-Fab front HD plate winch bumper, OR-Fab comp-cut HD rear plate bumper, OR-Fab rear quarter body armor with ORO LED taillights, Warn M8000 winch with synthetic Spyder Line and billet Haws fairlead, Gobi USA Stealth roof rack, Truck Lite 5x7 LED headlights, 10-inch and 40-inch Rigid Industries LED E-series long range lightbars, Rigid Industries Dual D2 LED driving lights, American Rock Rod hood louvers
Favorite Off-Road Area: Moab, Utah
A Gobi USA Stealth roof rack allows Chris to carry all of his gear while still being able to carry friends for weekend wheeling trips. A massive 40-inch Rigid Industries LED E-Series long-range lightbar is seamlessly mounted to the front of the roof rack for extra visibility for night runs. Chris tells us that the name Ferrar-Jeep came about after the XJ was painted because the body shop used the leftover paint from a Ferrari 360 Spider that was having its front clip fixed the same day that the XJ was in the shop. Meanwhile, Fiat had just bought into Chrysler, and Chris’ work colleagues mentioned how Fiat also owned Ferrari, so the guys started calling it the Ferrar-Jeep and the name stuck. The paint on the lower half is a military-grade Kevlar-blended spray-on liner that was done by Inyati in Chandler, Arizona, and it sure gives the Cherokee an aggressive, all-business look.
The high-clearance OR-Fab front plate bumper provides plenty of front protection against stray rocks on the trail while also providing adequate recovery points via two D-ring shackles on either side. Two Rigid Industries LED driving lights as well as a 10-inch Rigid Industries long-range LED lightbar light up the night for those late-night wheeling sessions. Just in case the XJ gets into any precarious situations, a Warn M8000 winch with Spydura synthetic winch rope is tucked neatly behind the OR-Fab bumper for vehicle recovery.
The rear OR-Fab bumper provides ample rock protection in case Chris decides to drop off a ledge or two. The OR-Fab quarter-panel body armor helps keep rock rash at bay while a set of ORO LED taillights mesh seamlessly into the body armor. The 315/75R17 Goodyear Wrangler MTR Kevlar tires bite hard on the rocks and are wrapped around a set of 17x8.5-inch TrailReady Teflon-coated beadlock wheels. A set of Bushwhacker fender flares allow for enough clearance to stuff the tires while crawling around trails.