Life With Matilda
It has been an experience.
After 15 months and a whole lot of modifications, our daily-driven fullsize Cherokee, Matilda, is a turnkey vehicle ready to go at the drop of a hat. This is probably more exciting for us to write than for you to read since we’ve had a backstage pass to everything that has happened with this project truck over the last number of months.
Parts have been added, parts have been broken, and the cost of ownership has increased slightly with this big dog. But it’s been a great trip, and we don’t ever regret teaming up with Jeeps R Us and delving into the task of building an off-road project with 47-inch tires that can still be driven to work every dayif necessary.
And we have in fact been driving it to work, to shows, and even to a wedding. If you live in the Southern California area, then you might have spotted this monstrosity cruising up and down the SoCal freewaysa sight to be seen, for sure. We would sometimes notice a gap of about 100 feet as other freeway commuters would give wide birth to the behemoth Cherokee. At first glance, we probably would, too!
Two years ago, we would have told you that driving at speed on 47-inch bias-ply tires was near impossible and should never be tried. Today, we’ve not only done it, but done it comfortably for hours at a time. The bias-ply Pit Bulls have really surprised us on the street. In fact, the only experience that has really shaken us in Matilda was prerunningthe short wheelbase and giant Pit Bulls made it so the Cherokee bounced back and forth from balancing on its front tires to balancing on its rear tires.
Aside from the scary prerunning experiences, this fullsize Cherokee on 47-inch tires has really turned out to be something we can put our seal of approval on. With the right combination of modifications, we were able to finish a vehicle that would do all that it is supposed to off-road, and still transport us safely down the roadways.
1 Admittedly, we did have some drivetrain problems to start. To begin with, we strapped 47-inch Pit Bull Growlers onto some Dick Cepek 20x12 wheels, and stuck them on a light-duty set of 3/4-ton axles under a fullsize ’77 Cherokee with a wildly-built 401ci V-8. One day, we just looked at the dirt the wrong way and three axleshafts snapped themselves in fear.
We knew that was coming (the timing was off, but we obviously knew), and we had already started building a 14-Bolt rear and Dana 60 front axle with 5.13 gears and ARB lockers in both.
Once the 1-ton axles were in place, we went out for some off-road testing, only to find a couple more driveline issues. The angle was too steep on the front driveshaft and we ended up breaking it. We also broke the rear one at a different time. In the rear’s defense, the snapping was only brought on after the lift blocks shattered and the axle was able to spin in the U-bolts.