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Rolled But Not Resting: The Davenport’s 2001 Jeep XJ Cherokee

Posted in Jp Dirt N Drive: 2017 on August 14, 2017
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Contributors: Courtesy of Ronda Davenport
Photographers: Trenton McGee

Chase and Ronda Davenport traveled a long way in order to be a part of the 2017 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep, and they certainly weren’t going to let some minor setbacks slow them down from having a good time. Hailing from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, they are no strangers to adversity off the pavement. The Davenports own an off-road recovery business that stays pretty busy pulling hapless tourists out of the sand in and around their hometown of Corolla. Chase built his Cherokee to help with the recovery business, but it’s also set up for serious four-wheeling, and he wasn’t taking any go-arounds on the 2017 Jp Dirt ’N Drive. A mishap and a bad bounce at Sand Mountain ORVA resulted in Chase and the Cherokee doing a pirouette in midair, followed by an endo, and then a complete side-roll that miraculously ended with the Jeep back on its wheels. Even more miraculously, nobody was hurt. The video of the spectacular rollover went viral and made the rounds on social media before anyone could even survey the damage.

A lucky landing kept the roof intact (not even the windshield broke), but the passenger side of the nose took the bulk of the hit, which broke the radiator, fan, and fan shroud, but miraculously little else mechanically critical was injured. Ever resourceful, Ronda called local parts stores and located replacements while the Jeep was still being towed to nearby Sand Hollow Off-Road (St. George, Utah) for repairs.

Giving up was never an option, and with the help of the shop (which had just opened up that same weekend), some fellow Jp Dirt ’N Drive participants, and a lot of zip ties, bailing wire, and straps, the Jeep was cobbled back together well enough to not only complete the 2017 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep, but also do wheelin’ in Moab for the entire Easter Jeep Safari. In fact, the repairs even solved a nagging issue with overheating and vapor lock!

Thankfully, Chase knows his way around Cherokees and builds them tough. In fact, the bulk of the drivetrain is from a previous Cherokee he built, which also met its demise in a rollover. A stroked 4.0L resides under the hook and is backed by a built automatic transmission and NP231 transfer case. The stock Dana 30 has been fortified with an Artec truss, inner C-gussets, chromoly axles, 4.56 gears, and a Grizzly locker, while the Ford 8.8 rear has matching trusswork, gears, and lockers. Both axles have been shaved for ground clearance and are located by a modified 5-inch Rough Country long-arm kit, which in turn makes room for 35x12.50R15 Goodyear MTRs on aluminum wheels with Chase’s own homebrew internal beadlock wheels.

No stranger to being upside down, Chase built an extensive internal rollcage that is tied to the unibody in multiple places, which increases the rigidity of the chassis and strengthens several known weak points. The Cherokee sports front and rear winches along with dozens of other little tricks that Chase has come up with over the years. Never one to let a little adversity slow him down, he plans to fix the Cherokee properly once it’s back home and keep right on wheelin’. That is exactly what we would do, and hopefully the Davenports’ story helps inspire people who have suffered similar mishaps.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 2001 Jeep Cherokee
Engine: 4.6L stroked I-6
Transmission: AW4
Transfer Case: NP231
Axles: (front) Dana 30, 4.56 gears, Grizzly locker; (rear) Ford 8.8, 4.56 gears, Grizzly locker
Suspension: Rough Country 5-inch Long Arm Kit
Steering: HD linkage, steering box brace
Wheels: 15x10-inch aluminum wheels
Tires: 35x12.50R15 Goodyear Wrangler M/T
Other Stuff: Homebrew inner beadlocks, Artec axle trusses, integrated rollcage, modified engine and transmission skidplates, rear winch, cut and radiused differentials for additional clearance

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