Wheeling our 1999 Jeep Cherokee Project Disposable Hero

    Part 7: In the Gulch

    Ali MansourPhotographer, Writer

    We’d rather be lucky than good. It’s a saying you’re all probably familiar with. For those wheeling their rigs for the first time post-build, that saying can mean a lot! When we first purchased our ‘99 Jeep Cherokee, it was in rough shape. Having survived a rollover, years of off-road abuse, and its share of general neglect, we knew we weren’t starting with a crown jewel.

    Familiar with the XJ platform, we knew that beyond the dents, rust, and scraped sheetmetal, there was plenty of potential. We also knew that when the Unitbody inevitably became a pile of sheetmetal mush, we could peel-off the valuable components and move them to another XJ (hence how we arrived at the Disposable Hero moniker). The idea for the project from the very beginning was to build something simple, reliable, and not overly expensive.

    The fact that our G2 Axle & Gear Core 44 JK axles cost more than the XJ isn’t lost on us. For us, that was the area we knew we needed to invest in the most. The stock H.O. 4.0L was fine, so no need for an engine swap. The transmission and transfer case both had clean fluid and were in working order, so there was really nothing to improve there either. Spending a few months at the host build shop Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, we’ve addressed virtually all of the must-have upgrades to make the XJ a safe and reliable wheeler.

    In the end, all the work would be for naught if the Jeep didn’t perform well on the trail. To officially break-in the build, we headed south to one of our favorite East Coast wheeling destinations, Gulches Offroad Vehicle Park. Located in Laurens County, South Carolina, the park has more than 40 trails to satisfy the wheeling needs of rigs from stock to over-the-top. The park was a little wet the weekend we went, which upped both the difficulty and fun factor.

    So, how did the XJ fair? Nearly perfect. We say nearly because we were denied on a few obstacles we hoped we could have taken. In this last installment of our Disposable Hero series, we’re breaking down the details of how it all worked and the things we might improve down the line. To check out all of the articles from the beginning, visit fourwheeler.com.

    Final Thoughts
    A Jeep build is never really complete. Overall, we are pleased at how stable the Jeep feels. The Corbeau seats, in combination with the Rock Hard 4x4 internal ’cage, make the cockpit seem a little cramped at times, but it’s something we’ll get used to. Power off-road is great, as the 5.13 gears and stock 2.72:1 T-case gearing offers ample wheelspeed for the longer climbs but enough control in the technical sections. With the exception of the limited rear up-travel, we’re extremely pleased with this setup. For the time, money, and parts invested, we call this build a success.

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