1994-to-2001 Dodge Ram 1500 4WD Pickup
Dodge literally changed the face of its light truck line when it introduced the second generation Dodge Ram 1500 in 1994. This new design caught the envy of some and the questioning stares of others, but in time the look has proven to be popular. These were the last solid axle half-ton trucks made in the USA and offer a good selection of engines, a number of cab and bed choices, and a four-link-and-coil front suspension. Aftermarket support is not tremendous by comparison, but mod parts are available for suspension, engine, and drivetrain.
These trucks came with Magnum engines choices of a 3.9L V-6, 5.2L V8, and 5.9L V-8. Transmissions were either five-speed manual (NV3500, unless it was a ’94 or ’95 with an NV4500) or four-speed automatic (42RH-RE or 46RH-RE). The transfer case low gear ratio was 2.72:1 in either an NP231 or beefier NP231HD transfer case. The front straight axle was unique in a 1500 class truck at this time as Ford and Chevy both had some form of independent front suspension. Dodge offered a Dana 44 on a linked suspension with coil springs. Out back, a Chrysler 9.25 axle on leaf springs was used. Wheelbase ranges from 119 to 155 inches.
1984-to-2001 Jeep Cherokee (XJ)
Production numbers for the smaller, boxy Jeep SUV were high ones during its 18-year model history. That means there were, and are, a lot of these Jeeps still in existence. They’re readily available for sub-$1,000 prices and up. There is considerable aftermarket support for this model and plenty of parts availability. Hence, it is a good candidate for a wide range of modification goals.
American Motors opted for a unibody design when it came time to build this SUV, and it was built in both two-door and four-door flavors. The four-door model is typically considered a bit sturdier off-road, given the extra body pillar support between the front and rear doors. Some reinforcement of the unibody frame rails is generally desirable when running tires much larger than 31-inches for more than light duty off-road use. We should also mention that the XJ was available in 2WD as well with a straight, non-driven axle up front. All versions sit on a 101.4 inch wheelbase.
The Quadra-Link front suspension with coil springs at each corner can offer a stable and comfortable ride, and lends itself readily to lifts and other modifications with widespread aftermarket support. Engines ran the gamut from the AMC 2.5L I-4 to the GM 2.8L V-6 to the AMC 4.0L I-6 and even a Renault 2.1L diesel thrown in between ‘85 and ‘87. The 4.0L is definitely the most desirable as it has proven itself to be long-lasting and dependable. In the later years, a high output (HO) version was released and can be counted on to help turn upsized tires on a lifted XJ.
The earlier manual transmissions were a bit weak, so the Aisin-Warner AX15 or New Venture Gear NV3550 five-speeds are preferred. The AW-4 four-speed auto used from 1987 to 2001 works very well as long as it is not over-heated. Transfer cases were the NP207, NP231, or NP242 which are all chain driven with a 2.61:1 or 2.72:1 low range. The front straight axle on all models is a version of the Dana 30. The rear could be a Dana 35, Chrysler 8.25, or the best being a Dana 44 with 30-spline axle shafts.