1. home
  2. features
  3. 1998 5.9L Jeep Grand Cherokee - Louis

1998 5.9L Jeep Grand Cherokee - Louis

Pete TrasborgPhotographerSue MajichWriter

A V-8 powered Grand Cherokee ZJ is nothing special. In fact, they’re pretty common. A 5.9L-powered ZJ, however, is very special. Only about 14,000 of the ’98 5.9L Limited ZJs were produced. To put that into perspective, 14,000 is about 1 percent of all ZJs ever produced. After spending nearly two decades searching for a good one he could afford, Editor Trasborg finally managed to find a 5.9L Limited ZJ that the owner was willing to part with.

When Trasborg got Louis, while not completely stock, it was close. The only modifications were a 2-inch Rubicon Express budget boost and a backup alarm. Forget that he got it with over 100,000 miles on it. Forget that it’s the better part of two decades old. When you get a vehicle from the wife of the owner of a Jeep restoration and rebuild company (Jeeps R Us), you can rest assured that it’s probably going to be in pretty good shape. Louis is in really great shape.

During the whole “get to know you” process (“Bringing Home A Used Jeep,” July ’15), Trasborg found that the brakes could use some love, the gear oil was well past its life expectancy, and the battery was nearing death. All of those items were easily fixed or replaced—the bad intake-manifold gasket, not so much. Tearing apart an engine is never an easy or quick process, but it can be rewarding. In this case, the reward was stopping the oil-burning problem that Louis had. Plus, Trasborg didn’t have to do it. He had his freelancer and model, Kayla, do it.

Being who he is, Trasborg couldn’t leave Louis alone for long. New shocks took care of some of the body roll. He also had to put together a new spare-tire hold-down to accommodate the much larger than factory spare tire. Jeep’s designers just didn’t give enough room in the factory spare location for such a large tire. With a little ingenuity and some of the numerous spare parts lying around his garage, Trasborg shoehorned that spare in the factory location while keeping the rear hatch and the back seats fully functional. Surprisingly enough though, that’s where the modifications have ended—for now, at least. We all know he won’t leave it be for long.

Good, Bad, and What It’s For
Louis might eat a fender or two in the process, but this thing hauls ass. It handles great and can carve the canyons pretty damn well when you take into account that it’s a 5,000-pound brick. The problem with the fenders is that the ZJ was never designed to be run on 32-inch tires. Sure, you could put a big lift on it, but big lifts are not generally conducive to daily driving. Do we see some possible reciprocating saw action in Louis’ future? This poor Jeep doesn’t know what it got itself into.