It seems about this time last year when we ran across another Grand Cherokee in Moab that we liked and featured in "SLC Thrashers" (Jan. '04). That's sort of a weird coincidence, but one we hope continues as Grands get a little cheaper and more feasible to build into hard-core wheelers. And why not? Take a look at Mike Demarco's '98 Grand Cherokee for example. This ZJ was built to rock, but is also able to drive home without fear of the local fuzz. Mike resides in Orem, Utah, and therefore finds Moab to be his natural choice for stomping grounds. We caught up with Mike as he and Dave Cowley, a friend who was integral to the buildup of the ZJ, were tooling around at Dump Bump before the crowds got too big. Mike's ZJ is what we'd call a sleeper since on first glance it just looks like a ZJ with a lift and a set of tires, but upon closer inspection, we saw the trick little touches and extensive mods that Mike and Dave came up with. They did an impressive job, especially for Mike's first try at a rig. When asked why he decided to build a ZJ, of all Jeeps, Mike answered, "Cherokees look like boxes on wheels, I don't like the WJ's dash, and Wranglers are for cheerleaders." We want to resent that comment, but our XJ is admittedly a little boxy, and one of our girlfriends owns a Wrangler...and she was a cheerleader.
Tech SpecsVehicle: '98 JeepGrand CherokeeEngine: 5.2L V-8Transmission: Factory stockTransfer Case: NP231Front Axle: Wagoneer Dana 44, Electrac locker, 4.56 gears, Chevy 11/42-ton discsRear Axle: Isuzu Dana 44, Detroit Locker, 4.56 gears, factory Isuzu discsSuspension: 37x12.50-15 Goodyear M/TRs, 15-inch Ultras, Rubicon Express coils, TJ long-arms, custom crossmember/subframe, Rancho RSXs