This may be the one ultimate buildup well catch the most flack for. Thats OK though because for us, it just so happens that the ultimate Grand Cherokee doesnt really need to go off-road. Its for street racing and towing. Yeah, yeahits won all kinds of awards for being the best 4x4 of the millennium or, better yet, the sport utility most likely to whoop-ass on a cute ute. But when you take a relatively light-weight V-8-equipped all-wheel-drive vehicle and put it into some corners youve got yourself a four-wheel-drive Corvette and a real rice burner if its set up properly. You might think any V-8 Grand is a good candidate, which for the most part is true, but for real tire spinning and canyon carving wed start with a 98 Grand Cherokee Limited 5.9L.
Chassis & Driveline
Its gonna be a hunt to find the 98 but once we get our hands on it wed set to wrenchin. Wed stiffen the chassis and protect ourselves from stupidity with a light interior rollcage. Wed be careful though because we wouldnt want to mar up our nice leather seats and carpeted interior; its gotta impress the lady folk, too, ya know. Wed drop the suspension about an inch and possibly swap in stiffer coils and most certainly some real performance road shocks. Some air bags out back would keep our Grand level when were towing our trail rig. We can deflate the bags when we arent towing so wed always have a smooth ride. Sway in the corners would be combated with thicker aftermarket sway bars front and rear. With the suspension setup to carve like O.J. with a steak knife, wed set into the drivetrain. The 245hp 5.9L is already a souped-up version of the Dodge 5.9L. But we wouldnt let that stop us from going even further with the power output. Wed shoehorn in a supercharger designed for the Dodge 5.9L and combine it with a nitrous system. Thatll keep the street gnats behind us and well laugh all the way to the finish line. For gratuitous tire spinning launches wed dump the NV249 full-time case in favor of the NV242 Selec-Trac with all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and two-by. The front axle would be relieved of its CV-style steering joints and wed replace them with Spicer-style U-jointed shafts for strength. Wed do the same for the front driveshaft by rebuilding it with U-joint-style yokes instead of the CVs. Out back wed ditch the aluminum Dana 44 cause there are no real lockers or good limited-slips available for it. In its place a Ford 9-inch would fall complete with an ARB Air Locker for straight-line launches and dune patrol.
Body & Interior
Ever heard the phrase, If it aint broke, dont fix it? Nah, us neither. But in this case it seems fitting. Leather seats, electric windows, and carpet are fine as is. Except wed build an interior cage to combat body flex. Less flex means better stability and handling. Wed use 1 ¾-inch .095-wall chrome moly to keep it light and rigid. Since there is no real frame wed use large plates welded to the body under the carpet as mounting points. The exterior of the 98 body would surely still be in good shape and would probably only need a coat of wax.
Wheels & Tires
Heres where well get the real chastising so well make it quick and painless. Wed run the stock 16x7 aluminum wheels. The 225/70R16s would be swapped out for some smaller 255/60R16 Pirelli Scorpions. These will grip better in the corners and off the line but probably be worthless in any off-road situation other than sand. OK, now you can send hate mail.
Good, Bad, & What It's For
Well, the ultimate Grand Cherokee certainly isnt for trail duty, although it might be fun to wheel in the dunes. But imagine opening some eyes at the local dragstrip or street races. With all this power on tap and with the transfer case shifted into all-wheel-drive, it could easily tow our trail rig and pass 1-ton trucks in the process. The all-wheel-drive feature would provide added stability with the relatively short Grand Cherokee wheelbase. If youve ever towed with a V-8 Grand youd know what we mean. Theyre real stable, even when the trailer is dancing around due to insufficient tongue weight. Many arent aware that some V-8 Grand Cherokees are rated to tow 7,000 pounds in stock form.