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Old November 10th, 2003, 22:17
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Goatman Goatman is offline
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Bakersfield, CA
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Smile Again.....what is a "REAL XJ"?

Well, a few of the happenings we've had around here recently made me think of "REAL XJ's" again. XJ buggies, big tires on stock gears, etc. I posted this REAL XJ thing awhile back and it generated some good discussion, so let's have at it again.


I've been thinking about what we might call the essence of the XJ, or what it takes to build what I'm going to call a "REAL XJ". So, letís talk about what the Jeep Cherokee is really about. The XJ is a true sport utility vehicle and is able to do many things well. I think everyone has seen by now that the XJ is a very capable trail vehicle. Itís one of the most capable off road vehicles in stock form, and when properly modified can run all the hardest trails, except a few of the most extreme buggy trails and thatís because of all the sheet metal. Besides being a great trail vehicle, we can drive our XJs to the trail comfortably, with the stereo blasting and the heater or A/C on, and all or most of our gear stored inside. Also, when weíre on a dusty trail we can roll up the windows and turn on the A/C. No handkerchiefs around our faces and none of us wear snowmobile suits while driving to the trail in the winter. I think the XJ is both a good street vehicle AND a good trail vehicle and a REAL XJ is built to be good at both. So I think there are a few things that have to be considered when building a REAL XJ.

Now, I have friends who will disagree with me on some of this, and you know who you are, but Iím not talking about a good or bad rig here, or an ultimate trail rig, Iím talking about what makes a REAL XJ. First, a REAL XJ has doors and a roof. You canít keep the dust out and the heat in if you donít have doors and a roof, so if this is what you want, fine, but you donít have a REAL XJ. Iíve seen some nicely done rigs that have removed part of the roof and rear of the vehicle, and then finished it off to look like a crew cab pick up. I think these are REAL XJs because what they did is a very utilitarian modification. A REAL XJ also has an A/C compressor that is still used to cool air, not pump it. A REAL XJ has tires that are not too big for its axles. Since weíre going to drive it home after we run those tough trails, we need to be reliable, so if you have 35" tires on a D35 you donít have a REAL XJ.

Now, I want to clarify something here. A bone stock Cherokee is a REAL XJ. So it doesnít matter how much your rig is modified, just how itís modified, if you want it to be a REAL XJ. Another quality of a REAL XJ is good driving characteristics on the street, even if itís seriously modified. The steering geometry needs to be correct for the amount of lift, and the components need to be strong enough to endure the type of wheeling you do and still get you home safely. If you have 8 inches of lift and 35" tires and you still have the stock steering, your rig is probably not a REAL XJ. Modifications that make it work better on the trail have to be done in a way that keeps it safe and still lets it work well on the street. A REAL XJ is not a trailer queen, it can be driven to any trail. I donít mean that you canít trailer your XJ to an event or trail, but if you have to trailer it, it may be a good trail rig, but itís not a REAL XJ. A REAL XJ can have short arms or long arms, 30ís or 35ís, a D35 or a D60, but it wonít have 35" tires with stock gears or a track bar made in the shape of a Z.

Iíll tell you about some REAL XJs. A REAL XJ is one thatís nearly stock, is driven halfway across the country, and then runs trails all over Moab. Itís one thatís open in front with a limited slip in the rear, 32" tires and climbs out of Mickeyís Hot Tub. Another REAL XJ runs Axle Alley and Sledgehammer with 32" tires, no body damage, and doesnít break. A seriously modified REAL XJ is driven to Johnson Valley, runs a bunch of Hammer Trails with no breakdowns, then is driven back home and to work on Monday morning, and does this often. And hereís a REAL XJ for you, it has dual ARBís and 31ís, is driven 2000 miles to Moab pulling a tent trailer, climbs Dump Bump and other great Moab obstacles, then hauls the family and trailer back home. Thatís also a REAL XJ driver.
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