A unicorn is a mythical horse with a long, spiraled horn alleged to have magical properties. The origins of the unicorn legend date all the way back to ancient Greece. In the automotive world, unicornrefers to a vehicle that is so rare and desirable it is almost as mythical as the single-horned beast. Timothy “Woody” Woodson’s 1998 5.9L Grand Cherokee Limited definitely qualifies for unicorn status. Chrysler manufactured nearly a quarter-million Grand Cherokees in 1998, the last year of production for the ZJ model. Of those, fewer than 15,000 were Limited models with the 245hp 5.9L Magnum V-8.
Woody wasn’t satisfied to just own one of these rare Grands; he wanted the baddest one on the block. He has been a fan of the ZJ platform for years, taking his 5.2L-powered rig to such distant locations as Alaska and Baja and all points in between. On those trips he gained knowledge about what he liked about his vehicle and areas where there was room for improvement.
Armed with this experience, he enlisted the help of Samco Fabrication in Reno, Nevada, for the job of building his unicorn. Samco has a reputation for creating vehicles that win desert races, but they also have built rockcrawling trucks, sand trucks, overlanding rigs, and even relationships with OEM vehicle manufacturers. This made Samco the perfect choice for turning Woody’s unicorn into something legendary and almost mythical.
1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Engine: 5.9L Magnum V-8
Transmission: 46RE four-speed automatic
Transfer case: NP242
Front Axle: High-pinion Dana 44 with Eaton Detroit TrueTrac, 5.38 Sierra gears, Sierra chromoly axleshafts, and Warn Premium hubs
Rear Axle: Spidertrax Spider9 with True Hi9 third member, ARB Air Locker, 5.38 Richmond gears, Spidertrax chromoly axleshafts and unit bearings, and Wilwood brakes
Springs & Such: Fox IBP coilovers, Light Racing Jounce Shocks, and Samco Fabrication radius arms (front); Fox IBP coilovers, Light Racing Jounce Shocks, and triangulated four-link (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 35x12.5R17 BFGoodrich Baja T/As on 17x9 Method Race Wheels beadlocks
Steering: Stock steering box, 11⁄2x0.250-wall DOM tie rod, 11⁄4x0.120-wall DOM draglink, 3⁄4-inch FK chromoly rod ends and misalignment spacers
Other Stuff: Protofab bumpers, Samco Fabrication custom rock sliders and aluminum skidplates, Bushwacker fender flares, Lightforce Genesis HID lights, cutting brakes, Samco Fabrication rollcage, ARB air compressor, Optima BlueTop marine battery