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1997 Jeep Cherokee XJ - Building The Ultimate Cherokee, Part 3

Right Front View
Ben Stewart | Writer
Posted September 1, 1999

ORGS sets up the rear suspension and we (almost) hit the trail

Step By Step

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  • The ORGS custom leaf packs are rated at 175 lb-in and provide 5 inches of lift. The springs contain 11 thin leaves and bolt-together-style clamps for maximum articulation and ride quality. The ORGS boomerang shackle is an inch longer than stock and allows for more wheel travel. They mount using bolts with grease fittings to keep them quiet and long-lasting.

  • Hinkley welded these spring pads on our custom Currie Dana 44 to mount the new springs. They were angled to eliminate any driveline vibration that might have come from the lift. If you have a stock rear axle, ORGS includes a 4-degree shim that, combined with a transfer-case short-shaft kit and the correct-length driveshaft, will eliminate rear driveline vibrations.

  • These ORGS U-bolt plates have a lower bumpstop extension welded onto them, so excessively long bumpstops are not needed. ORGS does use factory Comanche bumpstops to replace the originals, which are only marginally longer.

  • The shackle installed, ORGS mounted up the rear springs, installed the supplied U-bolts, and cut the ends for a clean look that wouldn’t interfere with suspension movement.

  • Our stock exhaust system had been bashed on quite a few rocks in the past (as was the front axle, which ultimately led to this buildup), and it was deemed beyond repair. This Borla Cat-Back exhaust is made from stainless steel and will provide a bit more power as well as a throaty note to our 4.0L Six.

  • This bumper bolt located behind the shackle must be trimmed prior to spring installation, because it will rub on the shackle as it moves during suspension travel.

  • With the longer braided stainless-steel brake lines installed, the gang at ORGS mounted up the new Rancho RS 9000 adjustable shocks.

  • We mounted the ARB Air Locker compressor in the engine room. Space was pretty tight under there, so we removed the stock airbox and filter and mounted the compressor in its place. ORGS was careful to run the air lines so they were protected from the elements and allowed full suspension travel.

  • Hinkley mounted these toggle switches to control the Air Lockers in the Cherokee’s ashtray. This keeps them out of the way but still easily accessible.

  • Here’s how the completed rear suspension looked when flexed up a bit. We will need to trim the fenders and break in the springs and bushings before we get a true ramp score. However, we were impressed by the preliminary flex test.

  • The fenders need quite a bit of trimming before we hit the trail. The maximum tire size you can fit with this suspension without trimming the fenders is 31x10.50R15. Next month, we’ll give you a full trail report on the setup and show how to trim Cherokee fenders properly.

  • The stout ARB bumper adds a clean, rugged look to the front of our Jeep and will provide a home for a Warn winch eventually. The IPF 800 off-road lights are 130 watts and should provide plenty of light for our trail needs.

Last month, we detailed the installation of Off Road General Store's 51/4-inch XJ front suspension. This time, our focus is on the rearend. Blocks and add-a-leaves are an easy way to provide lift in the rear suspension of a 4x4. However, they typically don't increase suspension travel or improve ride quality. The Off Road General Store suspension system is designed to address both of these concerns and does so with custom spring packs, custom shackles, and RS 9000 shocks.

ORGS proprietor Mark Hinkley has spent many years playing with different spring pack combinations, shock lengths, and shackle arrangements. From the looks of it, his rear setup is about as close to perfect as a Cherokee owner can get for balanced performance on the street and trail. The custom spring packs are longer than stock and contain 11 thin leaves with bolt-together-style spring clamps and Teflon wear pads to allow them to move uninhibitedly. The ORGS shackles are 1 inch longer than stock and angled so their swing allows more suspension movement than a stock shackle. They also contain grease fittings on the bolts for quiet, long-lasting operation. Since our custom Currie Enterprises Dana 44 rearend (the buildup was highlighted in Part 1) came to us without spring pads or shock mounts, Hinkley welded on these and painted the new axle. He also welded on new shock mounts for the Rancho RS 9000 shocks (PN 9118).

With the front and rear suspension together, ORGS mounted and wired our ARB compressor and Air Locker switches. We also mounted up an ARB bull bar front bumper and wired up some IPF 800 lights from ARB for nighttime trail use. ARB bumpers are some of the strongest we've tested and really toughen up the look of our Cherokee. An added bonus with ARB bumpers is that they come ready to mount a Warn winch. Our stock exhaust was a bit rusty and trail- mangled and required more time to get back in shape than we were willing to spend. With that said, it gave us a good excuse to go after a bit more growl and power for the 4.0L by bolting on a Borla Cat-Back system.

While the lead photo in this story shows our Cherokee seemingly ready for trail action, we still have a bit more work to do. As we mentioned last time, the 33x13.50/15 tires are a bit too large for the stock fenders. We will trim these next month and take the Cherokee on a trial run to see how everything performs.


Precision Gear
Suwanee, GA 30024
JB Conversions
Sulphur, LA 70664
Borla Performance Ind.
Oxnard, CA 93033
ARB Air Locker
Seattle, WA 98134
Alliance, NE 69301
4 to 1 Manufacturing
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
Off Road General Store (ORGS)
Laguna Hills, CA 92653