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Beyond Speed

Posted in Features on March 16, 2004 Comment (0)
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Wanting to fulfill his need for speed and satisfy his competitive nature, Rob Walden of Ventura, California, built this '85 Jeep XJ to compete in JeepSpeed competitions. The only problem is that he kept building, adding, and increasing the performance of the vehicle. Soon, he had overbuilt the vehicle, disqualifying it from race events. This can be considered a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. For starters, Rob isn't able to compete; on the other hand, he has one very competent Class 14 desert racer that is capable of some serious trail prerunning.

JeepSpeed is an off-road competition race club open to '84-'01 Jeep Cherokees. The club's mission is to limit vehicle specifications in the spirit of creating equality and durability, while keeping construction costs to a minimum. The competitors' vehicles must conform to the rules and safety regulations of event organizers and promoters such as SCORE International, Best in the Desert, and Mojave Desert Racing. The racing consists of high- and low-speed racing generally held on unmaintained desert trails.

Rob had T&J Performance Center in Orange, California, complete the buildup of his Cherokee. The owners of T&J, Mike and Tom Barnett, have been involved in the sport since its inception, when they put together a race vehicle with the integrity and intention of only building something they would personally want to race.

Starting with the Cherokee's unibody frame, it was strengthened with the Barnett's Pro Chassis stiffener kit. The suspension was completely re-engineered with custom-mounted King dual-rate coilovers and King triple-bypass 2-3/4-inch dampers up front. The rear suspension consists of custom-built Deaver long-travel leaf springs mounted with T&J's spring-under system and boomerang shackles for maximum travel. The rear suspension is also dampened by King triple-bypass shocks, while both front and rear suspensions use Crow limiting straps.

The front axle is the original Dana 30 with the factory disconnect discarded and converted to a one-piece axle. A Barnett HD differential cover was installed, and a Barnett Dana 30 gusset kit was used to increase the axlehousing's strength. The rear axle is a custom-built Currie 9-inch prerunner package with 35-spline axles and a spool. It's gusseted under and behind the housing, and was converted to disc brakes. Both front and rear ring-and-pinions were geared to 4.56. The steering uses a Currie HD steering kit and a Barnett Performance steering-box brace.

One of the reasons the vehicle doesn't qualify for JeepSpeed-sanctioned events is because the Cherokee's engine compartment is stuffed with a transplanted Vortec V-6 donated from a '97 Chevy S-10. The 4.3L engine was mounted using Barnett's performance motor mounts, uses an aFe intake and custom aluminum radiator, and has a custom set of headers built by Mike Leach of Positive Performance in Orange, California. The fuel system consists of a 32-gallon full-aluminum can Fuel Safe fuel cell with dual electric pumps.

Transferring the engine's power to the driveline is a TH400 transmission built by G&S Transmission in Ventura, California. The tranny is fit with an Art Carr gate shifter, and is cooled by rear-mounted transmission coolers. The NP231 transfer case was also rebuilt, and fit with Barnett's tailshaft conversion kit. P.T.I. built new driveshafts for the rig.

Inside the cab of the XJ, the custom 'cage was built with DOM 1-3/4x1.20-inch tubing. T&J incorporated the 'cage to accommodate the shock mounts and dual spare tires. The engine cage picks up all the suspension pivots, the radiator mounting, and is integrated into the interior cage for additional strength and protection. The exterior of the Cherokee features 6-inch flared front fenders and Lexan side windows with the Fuel Filler neck mounted on the rear driver-side window. A Proto Fab bumper was used up front, with a custom-built bumper by T&J in the rear.

Even though he can't enter his XJ in JeepSpeed competitions, Rob is extremely happy with his vehicle and the way it turned out. On any given weekend, you can find him racing through the desert, pushing this very capable prerunner to its limits.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown: Rob Walden/Ventura, California
Year/make/model:'85 {{{Jeep Cherokee}}}
Engine: '97 4.3L Vortec V-6
Induction: aFe intake
Transmission: TH400
Transfer case: NP231
Frontend: Dana 30
Rearend: Currie 9-inch
Suspension: King dual-rate coilovers, King triple-bypass shocks, Deaver long-travel leaf springs, T&J spring-under system
Wheels/tires:15x10-inch American Racing Outlaws/33x10.50R15 BFG Mud-Terrains td>
04054wd 01z+1985 Jeep Cherokee+Passenger Side View
04054wd 10z+1985 Jeep Cherokee+Front View In Desert
The extensive custom work on this '85 Cherokee makes it a very competent desert racer. The extensive custom work on this '85 Cherokee makes it a very competent desert racer.
The XJ features a custom interior cage built by T&J; in the rear, the shock mounts and dual spare tire holders are integrated into the cage. The XJ features a custom interior cage built by T&J; in the rear, the shock mounts and dual spare tire holders are integrated into the cage.
The Cherokee rolls on 33x10.50R15 BFG Mud-Terrain tires fit on American Racing Outlaw wheels. The Cherokee rolls on 33x10.50R15 BFG Mud-Terrain tires fit on American Racing Outlaw wheels.
The engine cage helps protect the '97 4.3L Vortec V-6. The engine cage helps protect the '97 4.3L Vortec V-6.
Proto Fab supplied the front bumper for this desert racer. Proto Fab supplied the front bumper for this desert racer.
04054wd 07z+1985 Jeep Cherokee+Rear Passengers Side View
The interior was fit with Corbeau seats and Crow four-point harnesses for comfort and safety. On the dash, you'll find a full array of Auto Meter gauges and a Painless fuse panel. The interior was fit with Corbeau seats and Crow four-point harnesses for comfort and safety. On the dash, you'll find a full array of Auto Meter gauges and a Painless fuse panel.
04054wd 09z+1985 Jeep Cherokee+Rear Suspension View

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