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A family Minded 1975 Jeep Cherokee Chief

Posted in Features on March 9, 2015
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We’ve been wheeling with Rob Jenkins of Encinitas, California, for nearly two decades. During that time, our vehicles and the kind of off-roading we did has evolved to meet the challenge and abuses. As necessity and trail failures surfaced, Rob slowly transformed a near-stock Toyota FJ40 into an extreme rockcrawling rig and proceeded to destroy it from behind the wheel over several years’ time. The FJ40 eventually became a trailer queen because there wasn’t much left of the body. When Rob’s wheeling needs made a right turn and his family grew, he decided that he wanted a mellower machine with more seating. Rather than selling his thrashed FJ-40 for almost nothing and losing all of the expensive components he already bought, he removed many of the parts from the Toyota to be transferred over to a ’75 Jeep Cherokee Chief S model. These fundamental parts included the built 383ci fuel-injected engine, transmission, T-case, rear axle, rear suspension, and a few other random bits. Some of the work was done in Rob’s garage, but he had friends at JD Fabrication and T-Bilt perform most of the metalwork. The finished product is a 4x4 that Rob can drive around town or to the trailhead if need be, plus he now has a heater, plenty of room for family, friends, and any extra gear he wants to bring along.

Out back, T-Bilt fabricated a simple 13⁄4-inch, 0.120-wall DOM bumper complete with a 2-inch receiver hitch. The Jeep rolls on 35x12.50R15 BFG Mud-Terrain tires wrapped around 15x8 American Eagle 0589 wheels.

At A Glance
Vehicle: 1975 Jeep Cherokee Chief S
Owner: Rob Jenkins
Stomping grounds: Southern California deserts
Build time: 6 years

Engine: Ed Hale Performance 383ci small-block Chevy V-8
Transmission: Art Carr TH400
Transfer case(s): Advance Adapters Atlas II
Low range ratio: 3.8:
Crawl ratio: 46:1
Front axle/differential: FSJ Dana 44/4.88 gears, open
Rear axle/differential: Dynatrac ProRock 60/4.88 gears, spool

Front: BJ’s Off-Road 6-inch leaf springs, 1.5-inch shackles, Bilstein shocks
Rear: Custom Deaver spring-under leaf springs and mounts, 2.5-inch King shocks
Steering: Stock, BJ’s Off-Road drop pitman arm

Tires: 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain
Wheels: Aluminum 15x8 American Eagle 0589

Armor: T-Bilt custom front and rear bumpers and rocker guards
Cool stuff: Widened rear fenders, Warn 9.5ti winch, 7-inch HID lights, JD Fabrication rollcage, Beard seats, Auto Meter gauges, Art Carr gate shifter, Hi-Lift jack, fullsize spare tire mount, aluminum interior panels, bedlined floor, Edelbrock Pro-Flo EFI, JBA ceramic-coated headers, Flowmaster muffler, Optima YellowTop battery, manual reverse transmission valvebody, B&M 2,400-2,600 rpm stall converter, BJ’s Off-Road aluminum radiator, B&M transmission cooler

You don’t notice it at first, but JD Fabrication pulled the rear fenders out a full 4 inches to allow the tires to tuck inside the wheelwells when the suspension compresses. The front fenders were trimmed a bit for more tire clearance.
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