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Project JR 2.0: 1999 Jeep Cherokee Sport

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2011
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OK people, that's a wrap. JR was originally built up as a magazine project vehicle backin 2003. Our goal was to retain the parts of the original buildup that were still relevant, worked well, or didn't bug us and update the rest. The Jeep also received a new mission in life, trading its alter-ego Jeepspeed prerunner-status for that of a comfortable daily-driver capable of sustained travels in the outback over moderate-to-hard trails.

Our illustrious web elves have Parts 1-5 of the Project JR 2.0 series uploaded to our website at, so we won't go into all the gory details of the XJ's rebirth here. But after the last installment there were still some items that needed mopping up and addressing.

The new Currie Enterprises high-pinion Ford 9-inch front axle posed some fitment issues with the stock front driveshaft and exhaust. Rather than shorten and balance our 155,000-mile front driveshaft, we ordered a brand-new, heavy-duty CV front driveshaft with the correct flange at the axle end from Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts. Also, there was no way our factory downpipe would clear the pinion when the front suspension compressed, so we brought JR to RPM (Richard's Performance Muffler) in Oceanside, California. RPM previously built an impressive exhaust system for our '68 M-715 project at a decent price. The staff knows off-road vehicles and understands how to work clear of moving suspension components and trail obstacles.

We had Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts build the rear CV driveshaft for Project JR back in 2003. Still going strong after almost eight years and 60,000 miles, we had no reservation in ordering another shaft from the company for the front. Wood loaded the correct flange at the axle end for the Currie high-pinion front 9-inch centersection and included Grade 8 mounting hardware to ease installation.

With the exhaust finished and a fully functional 4x4 system again, JR was ready to roll. On-road, the Poly Performance three-link suspension feels every bit as stable as the four-link it replaced. We do notice a clunk on hard pothole hits from the upper control arm. The control arm mount bolts to the Unitbody under the passenger-side floorboard and the sound can transfer to the cabin. We've found it to be a pretty normal tradeoff in running long-arm systems on Unitbody Jeeps and it's something you get used to. Otherwise, there are no shimmy or handling quirks at freeway speeds and hard cornering is predictable and stable. The Toyo Open Country MT tires are some of the more civilized mud-terrain tires that we've used on the street. The on-road civility is contrary to the great off-road grip that you get out of them. And with front-and rear Eaton Detroit Truetrac differentials inside the Currie Enterprises Ford 9-inch front and rear axles, you can be sure the tires will get a proper workout on many southwestern trails as JR is put to use over the coming years.

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Currie Enterprises
Corona, CA 92880
Poly Performance
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Eaton Performance/Detroit Locker
Cleveland, OH 44114
Toyo Tires
Dewey, AZ 86327
Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts
Ogden, UT 84404
Chino Valley, AZ 86323
RPM Muffler

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