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Beyond Fullsize

Front Side View
Jimmy Nylund | Writer
Posted February 1, 2000

Is Wider Better--for a Jeep?

Step By Step

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  • The widening is most apparent from the rear—it’s hard to play with the lines when there really aren’t any. The standard tailgate made room for a practical lockable compartment on either side. Had Jean been only 10 people farther back in line at the DMV, he would’ve had the perfect license plate. Oh well.

  • A few things on this vehicle are in sets of three, including the fuel tanks, windshield wipers, and bucket seats. The bucket seats allow Kris Murray to either distance herself or snuggle up to Jean (from what we saw, they get along fine), while daughter Audry has her own seat either way. Notice that the 30 extra inches allowed Jean to also throw in an extra glovebox, complete with lettering off a tailgate. A mold was made from two CJ dashpads to create the only fiberglass part on the vehicle.

  • Behind the Jeepsteresque grille sits a stock TBI 454, and there’s plenty of room for dual Optimas under the banquet-table-sized hood. With 50-gallon fuel capacity and consistent mileage of 14 mpg highway and 11 mpg around town (despite the aerodynamics of a cabover Freightliner), Jean can reach those faraway trails without stopping at every other gas station.

  • It’s not often you see a Jeep CJ with 44-inch tires, and it’s not the tires that look big. Jean Cherrier has created a vehicle that is amazingly proportional for having had 30 inches added to its width. The axles are full-width GM 1-ton issue, and even with 12-inch-wide rims, everything fits under the heavily modified fenders.

If we had a quarter for each time we overheard Jean Cherrier patiently tell curious onlookers that his ’78 CJ-7 is 2.5 inches wider than a Hummer, you wouldn’t be reading this—we’d be retired. Of course, Jean (whose name has ended up being pronounced John) should’ve known that by adding an extra 30 inches in width to his Jeep, people would ask a few questions about it. Heck, any CJ with 44-inch tires demands attention.

In this case, the neat part is that they almost look proportional. Actually, except for when you’re looking from behind, Jean has managed to make the whole thing look quite proportional—at least until Jean parks his 6,400-pound beast next to a normal Jeep. That’s because Jean has an eye for what looks right, in addition to the ability to do the rather extensive work required to widen a vehicle. Plus, being an all-around nice guy, he even has the patience to answer the same repetitive questions for hours.

Let’s describe the vehicle in better detail so that if you see Jean on the trail, you can admire the craftsmanship or watch him ’wheel rather than waste time asking those same questions again.

It would be reasonable to suspect that this vehicle was built more to attract attention than for actual four-wheeling, but that’s not the case. Far from a trailer queen (aside from the fact that an 89-inch-wide vehicle on a trailer would require a wide load permit), the CJ has been intimate with both branches and rocks on some pretty heavy-duty trails. Built to be a daily driver and trail mobile, the CJ has been to Moab, Telluride, Sand Mountain, Rubicon, plus other trails, and Jean never took the bypasses on Rubicon. Had he not, despite our protests, freshened up the paint just before these photos were taken, you’d have seen for yourself that this puppy isn’t babied.

We couldn’t possibly cram all the neat details found on this vehicle into three pages and still have room for photos, so check out the spec box, read the captions, look at the photos, and enjoy.

Since Jean’s a body shop worker (OK, auto body technician, these days) by trade, building this unique ride was probably more a matter of getting enough time to devote to it—it took him four years to piece it all together—than a task to do it. Curiously enough, we never heard anyone ask why Jean built this CJ.