Photo by Rick Péwé
Cherokee--it's the other 'wheeled Jeep. XJs are making their mark on the trails and the off-road industry, as more companies are gearing up and realizing that unibody Jeeps make great wheelers/daily drivers. With some proper and thought-out reinforcing, you can prolong the life of your unibody Jeep. We are planning an Ultimate Adventure trip with our budget XJ later this year, but we want to get it ready for the extreme beating it will take.
At the same time, we also want to keep this vehicle in the "budget" range and keep our entire build well under $20,000. Sound like too high a cap? Well, remember that the Ultimate Adventure is no wussy trip, and only the most built vehicles will be chosen to attempt the trip. For us, this means getting good-quality bolt-on parts and adding to our existing XJ rather than ripping it down and spending mucho dinero on high-zoot lifts and custom-fabbed parts. All of these modifications below are fairly easy weekend bolt-ons that you can do yourself with a little time and perhaps a little assistance from a friend.
Skid Row Tank Skid
The back of our Cherokee had a plastic gas-tank guard...and that was it. That's OK though, because Skid Row had this 3/16-inch steel gas-tank skid available to bolt up into the factory tow-hitch nut plates using four M12x1.75x30mm bolts. But guess what? We have the only XJ model we've ever seen without the nut plates for the hitch, so if you're in the same boat as us, the factory parts for these hitch plates are PN 52001174 (right side) and PN 52001175 (left side). Once you've made sure that you have the nut plates, the installation is as easy as getting your buddy to lift the skid into place while you place the four bolts it takes to mount the gas-tank skidplate. It'll also work in conjunction with a tow hitch, if you have one.
Airaid Air Intake
This Airaid Quickfit intake for '84-'01 Cherokees is a brand-new edition to the Airaid line-up. It installs by simply sitting on top of the original cold-air intake box, very similar to the way the original lid attached. The intake box has a rubber strip that seals to the hood of the vehicle, and it filters down to a smaller micron than other comparable air filters. Does this mean more air restriction? No, because Airaid filters have larger pleats, therefore giving a larger surface area to suck through. Installation time was about 15 minutes. It had no problem fitting with the Poweraid throttle-body spacer. If you can only make two power upgrades to your Cherokee, these should be them.
A.C.O.S. stands for adjustable coilover spacer. These bolt-on adjustable spacers for Cherokees or Wranglers fit directly over the original bumpstop, while giving you the adjustability of 1 1/4 or more inches of lift with the turn of the machined adjuster ring. We used these in conjunction with our 4-inch coil-to-net around a 5 1/2-inch lift, with the best part being that we can change our minds and go higher if we want. To install it, all we had to do was pull off the coil and cut off the bottom part of the bumpstop. There is a single hole that you tap inside of the factory bumpstop to run a single Allen-head bolt through the A.C.O.S. to hold it in place. The fitment was perfect and it was one of the easier installs we've done.
Jeepers & Creepers Cables
Wanna talk about overkill? These huge AWG 00 battery cables replace the puny factory cables and come with the correct length and accessories to make this an easy in-your-driveway swap for your Cherokee. Jeepers & Creepers gives all-new red cable to go to your alternator, starter, and main fuse box, while also providing the black cables to run to your engine and unibody. Install time was around an hour, with 20 of those minutes figuring out how we were going to route them. Once on our vehicle, it may have just been our imagination, but our XJ did in fact seem to start a little more quickly.