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1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee - Project Ain't It Grander

Drivers Side View
Willie Worthy | Writer
Posted December 1, 2007
Photographers: The Four Wheeler Archives

Seven Years Later, Our Project Grand Cherokee Checks In For A Makeover

Some seven years ago, we brought you project "Ain't It Grand" where we made some modifications to our '96 Grand Cherokee. Now, after 76,000 miles have been added, it's time for a makeover. And indeed, it will be a major makeover. But let's first review what we did to it back in 2000 and how things held up.

First on the list was a 3-inch Teraflex suspension lift. This has allowed us to try a wide variety of different tires and wheels, the latest being some excellent (especially in ice and snow) 31x10.50 Cooper Discoverers mounted on Pro Comp Street Loc wheels. The outer imitation bead-lock flange offers extra protection to both the tire and rim, but that lip catches water, dirt, and mud, so cleaning them is kind of a pain. Not only are the wheels seemingly always dirty, but have needed repainting several times. In a less harsh climate than Montana, we're sure they would do fine.

Up front we installed ARB's front bumper and a Warn 8,000-pound winch, both of which have served us admirably. The winch in particular, along with Warn's bag of extraction equipment, has saved us a long walkout on several occasions as we often travel by ourselves in places we most likely shouldn't.

With its ARB bumper, Warn winch, and Teraflex suspension, the Grand became a great trail vehicle.

One of our gripes involves access to the winch's control lever. It's kind of hidden inside the bumper. After all these years, you'd think we would've figured out a way-with a bit of parts swapping and a hole saw-to remedy the situation. Maybe we will this time around.

The powdercoating on the ARB bumper has held up remarkably well, considering the amount of gravel and salt put on the roads during the long Montana winters and then blasted against it. While it still looks good from 10 feet away, it definitely could use repainting.

We felt that the lower radiator support was vulnerable to damage on steep frontal approaches, so we built a steel skidplate that angles down towards the axle and is attached to the bumper. It's similar to a factory-offered piece, but doesn't act as a scoop when reversing.

While we repainted the Tomken bumper many a time, and later made a couple of modifications, it has served us well.

Back to the Teraflex suspension. The added weight of the ARB bumper and Warn winch set the front at least 1 inch lower, so we supplemented it with Air Lift Company's front airbags within the coils, and all was great-at least they were great for about 30,000 miles, when we finally pinched one of the bags. Now we live with a lower front-to-rear aspect ratio.

The Teraflex suspension has served us well, offering a good compromise in ride quality, handling, and lift height. However, over the last 10,000 or so miles, we've developed some suspension noise that seems to be coming from the front upper control-arm bushing. It would be time to replace these if we weren't making the changes we have planned.

We've got the same set of Rancho RS 9000 shocks, and other than rust on the shock body, they're still seemingly working like new. However, always after long high-speed dirt-road running, some damping is lost. JKS had supplied us with its pin-bar eliminators for the bottom and new eye mounts up top. The top mount for the driver side that goes right under the ABS pump was almost impossible to install due to clearance.

At the rear, we ditched the Mopar Accessories spare-tire carrier as it really wasn't up to handling the 31-inch spare. On went a Tomken Machine bumper and tire carrier. It's been repainted numerous times, and we finally ditched the hard-to-use, inconvenient, and wobbly spare-tire mount. We found that a 31-inch spare would just fit in the factory inside location.


Rancho Suspension
Monroe, MI 48161
K&N Engineering
Riverside, CA 92507
Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015
Tomken Machine
Buena Vista, CO 81211
Pro Comp Tire & Wheel
Tera Mfg.
Borla Performance Industries
Oxnard, CA 93033
Cooper Tires
JKS Mfg.
Nifty Products
Wet Okole Hawaii
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