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1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee - Turd Chaser

Front View
Melissa Howard | Writer
Posted July 24, 2008

A Unique Grand Cherokee

If someone came up to you and said he built a Grand Cherokee with honkin' tires and Dana 60s to get to a manhole, would you think he'd had one too many sips of the happy juice?

That's what we wondered when we first talked to Greg Goan, a sewer and drain specialist from Portland, Maine. All we could picture was this massively built Jeep sitting proudly on the street next to a manhole cover. Of course, a city street was not what we found when we went to check this thing out.

Greg built his '97 Grand Cherokee to reach manholes in the middle of nowhere in order to inspect sewer lines and storm drains. He has a little robot that he drops into the hole to watch real-time video of blockages. The robot is tied to the Jeep through a 700-foot umbilical cord, and Greg can mark on a map where he sees roots, cracks, or giant alligators that need to be removed, fixed, or fed later.


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Still, doesn't sound so rough, does it? Greg tells us that he has clients in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The lines he inspects often run between two roads. No big deal, right? Well, most of the time the roads through the woods of the northeast are pretty far apart, often a matter of miles from one to the other.

Therefore, the Grand Cherokee needs to travel through anything from rocks, mud, steep drop-offs, off-camber sections, and other kinds of hazards that we go to for fun. But Greg does it as part of his 9-5 job.

"I ain't afraid of no ghost." Yes, that's Slimer from the movie Ghostbusters on the front of the Jeep. Unbeknownst to Greg, Slimer decided to go for a ride on the first trip after the build. That went so well, Greg decided it was a good luck charm and could stay. It's a squeak toy, so before every voyage it gets a little squeeze for luck. Hey, if it's worked so far, why stop now?


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The first thing you notice about this Jeep are the 38.5x14.50-16.5LT Super Swamper TSL SX tires. Sure, 38.5-inch tires might not be that big. But on a Grand Cherokee, we still think they look pretty huge. They're wrapped around16.5x10 steel Rock Crawler wheels with 4 inches of backspacing and are bolted to a pair of swapped-in Dana 60 axles.

The front is a high-pinion Dana 60 pirated from a '79 Ford F-350. The inner knuckles were cut off and rotated 6 degrees, the kingpins were rebuilt, and the high steering setup features 11/4-inch-diameter solid chromoly links that move with the aid of an AGR Rock Ram. The Ford dual-piston calipers provide the whoa, while a set of 5.38 gears and an ARB Air Locker provide the go. The rear axle got similar treatment in the form of another set of 5.38s, coupled with an ARB locker and Cadillac calipers and discs braking the rear. Heavy-duty Crane differential covers cap off both axles.

Power is handed down from a 4:1 Atlas II transfer case with 32-spline front and rear outputs through a pair of thick-walled Tom Woods driveshafts sporting 1350 U-joints. The Atlas is bolted to the stock 42RE overdrive automatic transmission, which in turn still takes marching orders from the 5.2L V-8 that was put between the framerails before the Jeep left the factory. Leaving well enough alone, modifications to the engine are few, only a cold-air intake and exhaust modified to clear the suspension.

Elevating the Jeep for those monster tires fell to front and rear 7-inch Rock Krawler lift coils and JKS ACOS adjustable spacers. The front got a Clayton long-arm kit, with the lower links lengthened to push the front axle forward about 4 inches. Longer custom control arms bump the rearend back about 3 inches, and since the Jeep ended up with so much droop, limiting straps were added at each front corner and to the middle of the rear axle so that the shocks wouldn't overextend or the driveshafts separate.


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