When the XJ Cherokee came out back in 1983 as an ’84 model, it was a turd. With an optional 2.8L V-6 barely putting out 10 more horsepower than the base 2.5L four-cylinder there really wasn’t a great engine to talk about. It was the first Jeep without a real frame and it had goofy square headlights. The fact that it had no removable top wouldn’t have been an issue if the windows were big enough to let any air in. Fortunately, it had those vent windows that made it really easy to break into.
Looking back on it though, the XJ was manufactured for 18 years, and with over 2,800,000 of them built, they are easy to find and cheap to buy. The 101-inch wheelbase means it has a great ride and is the envy of many short-wheelbase Jeep owners. The front coil/rear leaf suspension architecture works very well and provides great platform to build from.
They make good platforms for both prerunners and rockcrawlers and there really isn’t any one right way to build them. However, we’ve accumulated a lot of information on builds that work. Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way.