Jeep's XJ Cherokee is one of the biggest bargains in the world of trail riding. Produced from '84 all the way through '01, the XJ is easy to come by at a reasonable price. Far from a niche machine, the XJ is a generalist that has been set up for everything from hardcore rock crawling to high-speed desert racing. Most owners and their XJ buildups fall somewhere in between the two aforementioned extremes, setting up their Cherokees for trail riding and general off-highway exploring.
Jay Parodi is one such XJ owner. Jay owned and 'wheeled a Jeep TJ for a few years and was happy with its general performance. When it came to daily use and family-friendliness, however, the TJ lacked the cargo capacity and ease of ingress and egress Parodi found he needed. He reluctantly sold his TJ in favor of a clean '98 four-door XJ. It was a practical decision.
"Practical" doesn't have to be synonymous with "boring." From his experience building XJ's at PDC Motorsports, his Brea, California, shop, Jay knew he could make his XJ into a worthy trail rig. The goal was to run 35-inch tires and to keep the lift height as low as possible. He also wanted the superior ride and handling characteristics that come with today's long-arm suspension systems.
BDS Suspension and Bushwacker had the goods. BDS Suspension's long-arm kit for the XJ Cherokee is available in a variety of lift heights, and BDS recommends its 8.5-inch lift for use with 35-inch tires. To fit 35s with a 6.5-inch lift, Jay turned to Bushwacker and its line of cut-out fender flares. The extra clearance created by the Bushwacker cut-outs made fitting 35s with a 6.5-inch lift a high-performance reality instead of a tire-rubbing nightmare.
This story starts with PDC Motorsports in Brea and ends with Tri-County Gear in nearby Pomona. A few weeks after the installation was completed, Jay got a call from Tri-County's Jason Bunch. Bunch offered Jay a sales position at a pay rate Jay couldn't refuse. Better yet, Jay would no longer have to deal with the physical shop labor as he once did. Parodi's expertise is available to anyone placing a call to Tri-County Gear.
Read on for the installation details. There's a lot going on with the BDS 6.5-inch long-arm kit. With BDS, Bushwacker, and a set of 35s this XJ is ready for the trail.
The BDS Suspension 6.5-inch long-arm kit is very complete. The kit consists of a transmission crossmember with integrated four-link mounts, a transfer case skid plate, four front long-arm links, an adjustable track bar, a dropped pitman arm, new front Pro-Ride coil springs, new front bump stops and bump stop strike pad extensions, front and rear shocks, Kevlar-lined stainless steel extended brake lines, new rear leaf springs, new extended rear shackles, new rear U-bolts, mini skid plates for the axle end of the front lower link mounts, and a new steering stabilizer. One of this kit's best features is the BDS "No Fine Print" warranty, which states, "If you are the original purchaser of any BDS product and it breaks, we will give you a new part. Period." The shocks and steering stabilizer cylinders are covered under a separate limited lifetime warranty. This suspension also requires a slip yoke eliminator kit on the transfer case and a CV-style drive shaft. This suspension is compatible only with the 4.0 inline six and automatic transmission.