We were excited when we saw the photos of this '94 Jeep Grand Cherokee in the application email for the 2019 Jp Dirt 'N Drive Presented by Jeep event, and we were equally ecstatic to see that the builder and owner of this sweet ZJ was NASCAR K&N West Series driver Brett Thompson from Twin Falls, Idaho. How well can a guy who is used to putting the pedal down and turning left handle the slower pace, dirt, sand, and rocks on Dirt 'N Drive? With skill, ease, and finesse!
Brett built this Jeep to take his family on off-road trips into the backcountry of their home state of Idaho. He told us the easiest part of this build was buying the Jeep. He had safety in mind during the build, adding custom framerails to tie the unibody together, and his internal cage is a work of art. It's connected to the frame as well as the exo-cage over the top of the Jeep.
Brett is a skilled pavement and off-road driver—and a master in fabrication. He built this Jeep to take his family on off-road excursions in his home state of Idaho. He is constantly tweaking it to make it more capable, and it performed flawlessly on the tough trails in New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah during our 2019 event.
The long-arm suspension is a combination of Clayton Off Road parts, 4.5-inch Rubicon Express front springs, Eibach rear springs, and Bilstein shocks. Brett added adjustable weighted jacks on the rear springs for variable load capacity. Penske bumpstops are on the front shocks, with Timbren bumps are on the rear. Other suspension mods are a Speedway Engineering 3-piece front sway bar. We love the blending of the speed sport and off-road components in this Grand Cherokee; it makes it a truly unique trail beast.
Brett added a custom hood with cowl and snorkel to help with cooling. The hood is wrapped in black carbon-fiber graphic vinyl. The Hanson Off Road front bumper houses a Smittybilt X2O 10,000-pound winch and some additional lighting. The hood and graphics lend to the sweetly sinister appearance of this ZJ.
Under the hood is a stock 5.2L V-8 backed by a rebuilt Chrysler 46RH four-speed automatic transmission and an NP231 transfer case. Brett added a dual battery system and a custom snorkel with a K&N filter. Providing cooling to the transmission is a 6x11-inch B&M transmission cooler mounted in front of the radiator.
A place for everything and everything in its place! We love the side-mounted toolbox that Brett built for his Grand Cherokee. The tools are easy to access at the right height. He also built the custom rack in the back and the slide-out for the Smittybilt Fridge/Freezer unit.
Brett is using a Dana 30 front axle; he added 4.56 gears, an Eaton ELocker, and a Warn free-spin/locking hub kit. He retained the stock steering but added Redneck Ram hydro-assist. The rear axle is a Ford 8.8 with 4.56 gearing, a Yukon Grizzly Locker and 31-spline Yukon Ultimate 88 kit. He added Wilwood rotors and Cadillac calipers to the rear.
Safety is of utmost importance to Brett, and the internal/external cage that he fabbed up is a work of art. Every possible impact or crumple point appears to be protected. The cage is tied to the frame and doesn't decrease the rear-seat passenger space like other bolt-in cages do. It carries through the roof in three places on each side of the Jeep. His NASCAR racing background is evident in the safety features of this rig.
Most of the interior is stock 1994 Grand Cherokee. Brett did add a custom cooler center console, map holder, and 60-watt Rugged Radio.
To add a little bling while keeping it functional, Brett added a set of 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich KM2 Mud-Terrain tires wrapped around 15-inch Mickey Thompson Classic Lock wheels with Coyote Internal beadlocks.
Vehicle: 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Engine: 5.2L V-8
Transmission: Chrysler 46RH (A-518) 4-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NP231 w/ 2.72:1 low range
Suspension: Custom-built 4.5-in
Axles: Dana 30, 4.56 gears, Eaton ELocker, Warn free-spin/locking hubs (front); Ford 8.8, 4.56 gears, Yukon Grizzly Locker (rear)
Wheels: 15-inch Mickey Thompson Classic Lock wheel w/ Coyote Internal beadlock
Tires: 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich KM2 Mud-Terrain