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97 Jeep Cherokee XJ Rebuild - The $400 All-Purpose XJ Part 1

Dirk Saters | Writer
Posted September 1, 2010

Getting Bargain Betty To Run

XJ Cherokees, made from 1985 to 2001, have got to be one of the most versatile all-purpose vehicles ever invented. In fact, our editor-in-chief would tell you they're the best ever built. And after years of him pounding the worth of a monetarily worthless 4x4 into our heads, I figured I'd drop a thousand bucks and take a crack at making an XJ that can be driven to work every day and hammered in the deserts and on trails during the weekend.

I wanted to be realistic about this build as well; I know it will never climb rocks like a rock buggy nor conquer desert terrain like a Trophy Truck, but seeing as how I'm not racing and I don't like dents, this XJ should be the perfect fit for me and my cohorts to head out for some fun after work and on the weekends.

Since I only live a few miles from work and going fast is more of a concern with this build, I'm going to keep it sort of low with 33-inch tires, and then do some 4.56 gears for a little faster rpm windup than it had stock. A little motor work, some fancier (but not too expensive) suspension, maybe a rollcage, and of course some new seats will all go into the All-Purpose XJ project before it's done.

After searching through the classified ads for a couple weeks, I came across a real bargain. The owner was asking a $1,000 for this non-running '97 XJ, but I ended up towing it away for $400 after I noticed a trailer brake under the dash and he made the mistake of telling me it was used to tow a slipstream trailer in a past life. I had found my Bargain Betty, and it was time to crack into that engine and figure out why this Jeep isn't running before I start anything else.


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