It's flying in our photo, but the first time we spied the Nissley Racing Team and their Jeepspeed Cherokee it was an entirely different situation.
Flash back four years for a moment. At the time, the Green Streak had screeched to a halt next to the race course in Barstow, California, after the driver's side steering knuckle called it quits. With a dangling wheel and no spare knuckle, the only thing they could do was wait for a fellow Jeepspeeder to finish the race so they could borrow the knuckle from his rig and make their XJ mobile again. After a long day, the unmistakable NRT Cherokee was safely back on the trailer and headed back to the shop for some upgrades.
"I inherited a two-door XJ 4x4 from my grandfather," Chris Nissley relates. "I had planned to build it up into a Jeepspeed racer, but realized that it would be cheaper to find one that was already built." Chris, together with his father, Bill, and his brother, Tom, found their already-built XJ on eBay. The four-door 2WD had been built by a Jeepspeeder in San Diego, California, and had been raced in the SCORE series. "It was in pretty bad shape," recalls Chris. "Even though it was cheaper in the beginning to buy something already built, we ended up re-building almost everything." Needless to say, a ton of things have changed on the Nissley Jeepspeed Cherokee since we saw it the first time.
The Nissleys didn't build the XJ all by themselves. Chris is quick to give credit to Keith and Tony Sato of Sato Brothers Racing. The latest Sato Bros. upgrades re-worked the engine cage, as well as the front and rear axles which Tony assembled using Currie components. Keith was responsible for the front light bar, which houses a retina-searing quartet of Sol Tek lights.
The day after our photo shoot, Chris lined up for the M.O.R.E. ORAF 500. He drove the entire race and took home top honors in the Jeepspeed class. "I had help from a few different co-drivers that day, and my friends from the Mojave Mafia chased for me from start to finish. Toward the end, I was getting pretty fatigued. I came into the pits and Tony asked me how I was doing. 'Bad,' I said. He told me 'OK, get going!' After I finished, I was almost delirious. My wife came up to give me a hug and I shook her hand!" Chris somehow recovered from the 11-hour driving session and celebrated around the campfire until the next day's dawn was beginning to crack.
Congratulations go out to the entire Nissley Racing Team. We first met them on the sidelines. If you want to see them now, you should check out the finish line.
More information is available at www.nissleyracingteam.com.
1990 Jeep Cherokee four-door 2WD
Nissley Racing Team, Brea, CA
4.0 inline six built by Jeep Tricks motors, MSD ignition, Mopar Performance roller rockers.
Stock with UNI filter, F&B throttle body
Custom Currie 2wd beam fabricated by Tony Sato
Currie F9 with, 35-spline axles, disc brakes
Ring And Pinion:
6.0 to 1
Skyjacker 6-inch kit with Currie Johnny Joints on all pivot points, Fox three-tube bypass shocks, Rubicon Express ZJ coil springs, Fox bump stops.
Deaver leaf packs, Fox three-tube bypass shocks, Currie shackles
33-inch Maxxis Bighorn
NRT-built dash with Auto Meter gauges. All wiring was done by Bill Nissley. Icom radio, Lowrance GlobalMap 1600 GPS, Crow Enterprises harnesses.
Sato Bros. Racing engine cage and light bar
After a particularly hard hit bent the original engine cage, Keith and Tony Sato re-built
What do you do when your brake master cylinder is in the way? Move it! This dual bellcrank
Do you have cool neighbors? Keith Sato happens to live next door to Chris, and generously
The front end is another Sato/Currie creation. Tony Sato used heavy-wall tubing for the ma
The dash was fabricated by Bill, Tom, and Chris Nissley. Bill re-wired not only the dash,
....Note the color-indexed gauges in front of the co-driver, which have idiot lights below
One of the best parts of racing a Jeepspeed Cherokee is the generous storage room inside.
The stock Jeep rearends are marginal when it comes to withstanding the relentless pounding
......Currie employee Tony Sato personally welded this housing, which uses 35-spline axles
The rear spring hangers are gusseted to the unibody's main rails for extra strength. Deave
Did we mention storage space? The floor jack is fastened with a rubber bumper that keeps i
This XJ's fiberglass parts come courtesy of Rusty's Off-Road, and do a great job of coveri
We mentioned the Mojave Mafia. It's made up of a collection of friends and family who shar