Several years ago when Kyle Sternberg, an electrical engineer from Los Alamos, New Mexico, borrowed a friend’s Cherokee for the summer, little did he know it would lead to an almost five- year long $50,000 obsession.
Kyle told us, “Originally, my motivations for building a Jeep were to extend the reach of my other outdoor activities.” An avid hunter and backpacker, Kyle wanted to be able to access the end of the trail, rather than the end of the road and then start his “on foot” search for the elusive wapiti or that serene mountaintop campsite. Enlisting the help of his high school buddy Ryan Weber, owner of Montana Fab in Helena, Montana, his dream build began.
One of Kyle’s goals while building the Jeep was to maintain the factory look as much as possible. One of the problems with Cherokees is that no matter how much money you put into one, they all look the same. The integration of the 2500 grille accomplished his goal of a factory look, while making it unique, and not “just another lifted Cherokee.” The grill is a standout feature yet subtle enough that it makes you do a double-take to figure out what is different about this Jeep.
Little on this 2000 Jeep Cherokee was left untouched in some way, shape, or form. The floor and tunnel were cut out to lower the seats for headroom. The headliner is from a Limited Series Cherokee that included an overhead console. The floor has been lined with spray-in bed liner to improve water resistance and reduce sound, and the factory carpet was put back over the bed liner. The icing on this slice of heaven is the Axalta (formally DuPont) silver paint job done by Dan Purdom at Eye Kandy Kustoms in Helena, Montana. The original factory badging was replaced after paint. Interior comforts include heated black cloth MasterCraft Safety bucket seats. Another cool mod is the e¬-brake, which is plumbed into a separate master cylinder that works as a parking brake.
What’s A 2500?
Diehard XJ fans will know what the 2500 Series was, but for other readers, it was a model produced in China. When Chrysler bought AMC in1987, it also assumed AMC’s role in a joint venture with Beijing Automobile Works. Beijing Jeep Corporation (BJC) was the only entity that built the Jeep 2500–with nearly identical styling to the US-based Cherokee XJ. The 2500 featured much of the XJ design, with some styling cues (especially up front) from the Jeep Liberty. It was the third Jeep model to be produced by BJC, and ran from 2003 until 2006.
The original 4.0L I-6 had a high-flow oil pump installed along with a new rear main seal on the bottom end. Top end modifications include a Stage 2 Performance kit from 505 Performance, head, cam, bigger valves, and roller rockers. A 7th Injector kit by Split Second, M62/M90 Supercharger kit, and a 505 Performance header tied to a custom 2.5 inch custom exhaust round out the major engines mods.
Vehicle: 2000 Jeep Cherokee
Engine: 4.0L I-6 with Stage 2 Performance kit from 505 Performance, M62/M90 Supercharger
Transmission: Aisin Warner AW4, Montana Fab AW4 Controller
Transfer Case: NP231 with the 2LOW kit from TeraFlex
Axles: (front) Tacoma-width Rock Assault, 4.88 gears, Detroit Locker (rear) Tacoma-width Rock Assault, 4.88 gears, Detroit Locker.
Suspension: Five-inch custom lift kit, (front), 3-¬link front suspension by Coil Spring Specialties, with Fox 2.0 double bypass shocks, (rear) rear leaf springs by Alcan Springs, with Fox 2.0 Air Bump shocks
Tires: 35x12.50x17 Goodyear MTR
Wheels: Trail Ready HD17
Steering: PSC Motorsports steering box, Currie HD Steering, Currie Anti-¬Rock
Built For: Daily driver, rocks, and speeding across the desert sands of New Mexico
The stereo is a custom unit built by Kyle, and includes Bluetooth input, an auxiliary input from a jack in the center console, AW4 transmission controller, winch controller, switches for led lights on the bumpers, and heated seat controls.
The interior/exterior Montana Fab six-point custom roll cage is a fully integrated work of art. Other interior modifications include rear shocks that penetrate the floor and connect to the roll cage in the cab, the unitbody was cut and modified in the rear to improve departure angle. Unitbody stiffeners, rock rails and the roll cage are all integrated.
Other functional exterior modifications are the Montana Fab front and rear bumpers, and Warn 9500 Extreme Performance winch. The hood sports some sexy vents needed to cool that supercharged motor. Goodyear 35x12.50x17 MTRs are mounted on Trail Ready HD17 wheels, the wheel wells have been trimmed, and the remaining high spots hammered into submission before adding custom Montana Fab fender flares and additional quarter panel armor from JCR Offroad.
The front axle is a Tacoma-width Rock Assault axle by Trail Gear–3 inches wider than stock¬–with hubs from a late 80s IFS Toyota 4¬Runner to achieve the additional width. The rear axle is also a Tacoma-width Rock Assault axle by Trail Gear with 1 ½-inch wheel spacer. Both axles house 4.88 gears and Detroit Lockers. Stopping this little speed demon are Toyota four-piston disc front brakes, and a Chevy rear disc brake and caliper kit from Trail Gear.
The Aisin Warner AW4 transmission was left in play, but added to it are the Montana Fab AW4 Controller, and transmission temperature sensor by Omega Engineering. The AW4 have a tendency to generate excessive amounts of heat, so a 6x14-inch tranny cooler from Northern Radiator was placed in front of the radiator. The NP231 transfer case was modified with the 2LOW kit from TeraFlex and an Advanced Adapters SYE kit–all protected by a modified Rough Country skid plate. Transferring the power to the drivetrain are Tom Woods driveshafts.
A five-inch custom lift kit, 3-link front suspension by Coil Spring Specialties, and rear leaf springs by Alcan Springs, with Fox 2.0 double bypass shock is front and Fox 2.0 Air Bumps in back. A PSC Motorsports steering box with a reinforced mount, steering box brace to passenger side frame rail, and track bar brace to the passenger side frame rail combine with a Currie HD steering setup to handle the big tires.