We don't really cover Jeeps too often at OFF-ROAD Magazine. Instead we leave those to our other dirthead magazines, and we hit hard on fullsize trucks and prerunners in our pages. That being said, we cannot deny the absolute beauty of an all-purpose off-road vehicle-no matter what type it is. But if we're building a Jeep, it's going to have to be either a fullsize Jeep (FSJ) or a unibody. Classic Cherokees (XJs) with unibodies (or unit bodies) can be found going fast in the dirt, climbing over rocks, and charging through the gnarliest off-road terrains. That's why it was an easy choice to start on my all-purpose XJ build that I picked up for $400. Last month we concentrated on the Hesco head and other engine modifications and updates that Jeeps R Us made to my non-running Cherokee. Not only did Jeeps R Us get it running again, the crew there also added more power and fuel efficiency to boot. With my XJ purring wonderfully (save for that crack in the exhaust manifold), I headed over to T and J Performance Center in Orange, California, to get started on some chassis stiffeners and a Rock Krawler front-and-rear long-arm suspension system. Cherokees are notorious for bending if given some over-exuberant love in the dirt, so chassis stiffeners were a must to keep mine healthy as long as possible. Cherokees are also notorious for wrapping the rear passenger side leaf spring up and warping it, so I was excited to be linking the rear of this one with a Rock Krawler kit. I'd also ordered a set of 33-inch Cepek F-C II tires and some DC-1 wheels to shoe this XJ. The 33s are not going to stuff completely without some fender trimming, but for now I want to concentrate on getting the suspension installed and mounting my new rolling stock. 1. The absolute first thing to do before the suspension was to install some T and J chassis stiffeners and under-rail skids to help prevent the body from bending. I've been in an XJ with chassis stiffeners before, and the difference in handling (even on the street) was definitely noticeable. The skids help further stiffen the body up, and offer protection from rocks. Once you compromise the lower "frame-like" rails, or unirails, the Cherokee's body will bend much more easily.1. The absolute first thing to do before the suspension was to install some T and J chassi 2. It's debatable whether to weld everything up in the air or on the ground. When you weld something like a brace (or in this case, stiffener) the metal will bend towards the weld. You can use this to your advantage. If a Cherokee is already a little bent and the doors are hard to open, then get the weight off the axles and lift it more in the center before welding the stiffeners. You can often pull the body back into better shape and the doors will open more easily again.2. It's debatable whether to weld everything up in the air or on the ground. When you weld 3. The chassis stiffeners bolt into the stock lower control arm bolt and the front eye bolt of the rear leaf spring. Once they're tightened on with the suspension bolts, you can tack weld them in place. It is a good idea to unbolt the suspension and drop it out before completing the welding so you don't melt the suspension bushings.3. The chassis stiffeners bolt into the stock lower control arm bolt and the front eye bol T and J has a long-arm stiffener option that does not tie into the front lower control arm (since the factory brackets get cut off with long-arm suspension kits).T and J has a long-arm stiffener option that does not tie into the front lower control arm 4. Our suspension of choice on this Cherokee is going to be the Rock Krawler Triple Threat front long-arm kit and rear four-link conversion. You can get either a 4.5- or 6.5-inch kit. We opted for the 4.5 inches of lift. The arms are made of solid stock and use Krawler joints on one end and rubber bushings on the other end.4. Our suspension of choice on this Cherokee is going to be the Rock Krawler Triple Threat 5. Since the chassis stiffeners and skids basically made a framerail underneath our XJ, we opted to cut off one side of the long-arm brackets and weld them directly to the stiffeners and skids. This made for a stronger mounting point and will keep the brackets from fatiguing the unirail.5. Since the chassis stiffeners and skids basically made a framerail underneath our XJ, we 6. Since we were going to have to be welding link brackets and the cradle to rear axle, I made sure to get an axle that I would keep under this truck. I opted for a Ford 8.8 axle with a Super 88 kit. It was picked for under $400, and I added the Super 88 kit and an Auburn Ected limited slip and locking differential to it.6. Since we were going to have to be welding link brackets and the cradle to rear axle, I 7. The rear Rock Krawler cradle is made for either a Dana 44, Dana 35 or Chrysler 8.25 axle (since that's what came as options in the back of XJs). We trimmed the brackets to fit the Ford 8.8 tubes. The upper truss and cradle allow the two upper links to triangulate over the axle. You'll have to cut off your stock exhaust and figure out a small muffler to put in place just behind the catalytic converter.7. The rear Rock Krawler cradle is made for either a Dana 44, Dana 35 or Chrysler 8.25 axl 8. Once the welding was done, T and J bolted our Rock Krawler links into place. 9. Rock Krawler's rear upper coil bucket bolts in place of the stock bumpstop. Once it's bolted in place, it needs to be welded to the unibody. Sometimes stitching the welds (instead of one, continuous weld bead) is a good idea on a unibody. We ordered our Rock Krawler kit without shocks, and used a set of Bilstein 5150 shocks to help with the absorption. The Rock Krawler kit calls for a shock that is 11 inches (compressed) and 21 inches (extended) for the 4.5-inch setup. The 5150 is much like the Bilstein 5100, but with a small piggyback reservoir to float the piston that divides the oil and nitrogen in the shock.9. Rock Krawler's rear upper coil bucket bolts in place of the stock bumpstop. Once it's b 10. To keep costs down, the 4.5-inch Rock Krawler kit calls for used rear TJ Wrangler coils to be utilized in the back. I tried it, and didn't like it at all. The spring rate was too soft, and it sagged too much for my taste. For pure rockcrawling, the TJ coils are fine, but you'll want something with more spring rate for any prerunning.10. To keep costs down, the 4.5-inch Rock Krawler kit calls for used rear TJ Wrangler coil 11. After the Cherokee was back together and on the road, I ordered some Old Man Emu coils for the rear to replace the stock TJ coils. This turned out to be perfect and gave a much better spring rate and ride height to this XJ. If you do this rear link conversion on your Cherokee, I strongly suggest using Unlimited Wrangler (LJ) coils, or Old Man Emu TJ coils.11. After the Cherokee was back together and on the road, I ordered some Old Man Emu coils 12. In the rear, we cut one ear off of each bracket and welded them to the T and J stiffeners and skids, just like in the front.12. In the rear, we cut one ear off of each bracket and welded them to the T and J stiffen 13. Rock Krawler also provides a new track bar bracket to bolt onto the frame. This is much more robust than the factory two-piece track bar brackets that can rip and tear.13. Rock Krawler also provides a new track bar bracket to bolt onto the frame. This is muc 14. Rock Krawler offers a replacement passenger side upper control arm bracket for the front axle. Instead of the stamped piece that can twist and bend, a solid mount with gussets is given for heavy-duty use. I happily added this to the suspension kit.14. Rock Krawler offers a replacement passenger side upper control arm bracket for the fro 15. Another option Rock Krawler offers is rebuildable joints to replace the rubber bushings found on the front axle's upper mounts. Once the old bushings were pounded/burned out, these were an easy and cool install.15. Another option Rock Krawler offers is rebuildable joints to replace the rubber bushing 16. Both upper and lower control arms mount on the same bracket. The four-link easily cycled more than 14 inches of movement without shocks, steering, and a track bar hooked up, but we'll be limiting this XJ's front travel to 10 inches with some 10-inch-stroke shocks and properly placed bumpstops. Without modifying the shock mounts we couldn't get any longer of a shock in with a 4.5-inch lift. Besides that, the track bar and steering linkage would both have to be modified to allow any more travel than 10 or 11 inches.16. Both upper and lower control arms mount on the same bracket. The four-link easily cycl 17. I used 10-inch-stroke Bilstein 5150s in front to match the rear shocks and provide present the correct package with the Rock Krawler 4.5-inch coils.17. I used 10-inch-stroke Bilstein 5150s in front to match the rear shocks and provide pre Quick-disconnect sway bar links are given with the package so you can take the sway bar out of the suspension equation when really twisting up on trails.Quick-disconnect sway bar links are given with the package so you can take the sway bar ou Rock Krawler also included longer stainless braided brake lines to take the place of the original rubber ones.Rock Krawler also included longer stainless braided brake lines to take the place of the o 18. Since I like to be a little unique, I took my Cepek DC-1 wheels to May's Powdercoating in Arroyo Grande, California, and had them coated with a glossy anthracite powdercoating. They looked absolutely great and cleaning them is as simple as swiping a cloth across them.18. Since I like to be a little unique, I took my Cepek DC-1 wheels to May's Powdercoating I used 33x12.50R15 Cepek F-C II tires for tread. Not only did I like the way this tire rolled down the highway (where I'd spend the majority of time with this Jeep), I've always liked the traction gotten with this tire when off-road. Next month, I'm going to work on some more touches to make this XJ the off-road-ready sport-ute that I've always wanted.I used 33x12.50R15 Cepek F-C II tires for tread. Not only did I like the way this tire rol Sources Bilstein 14102 Stowe Drive Poway CA 92064 858-386-5900 http://www.bilsteinus.com Rock Krawler Suspensions n/a 518-270-9822 www.rockkrawler.com May's Powdercoating n/a 805-458-5513 T And J Performance n/a 714-633-0991 www.tandjperformance.com By Dirk Saters Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!