JEEP CHEROKEE XJ 4.0
Off-road enthusiasts are spoilt for choice in the all-terrain tyre market, but when it comes to mud-terrains, one name always pops up − the Cooper Discoverer STT.
With more than 10 years service in the 4×4 game, the STT has earned its reputation as an excellent off-road tyre. We’ve personally fitted hundreds of STTs to customers’ vehicles, and to our personal rigs, too. Which is why we were thrilled when Cooper released their all-new STT PRO, and raring to go when they asked us to build a rig that could challenge their new mud-terrain tyre.
As always, we were keen to do things a little differently. The Wrangler Rubicon is the obvious choice for any trail-driving rig, but these days, modified Wranglers are the norm, not the exception.
We settled on the Jeep Cherokee XJ. It is not commonly modified in South Africa; but in the States, these popular vehicles enjoy cult status with off-road enthusiasts. In fact, some tyre companies use XJs to test the performance of their new tyre products; possibly because the XJ is widely available, relatively cheap to buy and to trash, and they’re highly capable 4x4s thanks to their solid axles front and rear.
We wanted to build a rig that could handle any 4×4 trail, so it had to have excellent ground clearance, limited body roll, terrific suspension travel, and lots of traction. We decided to go with a 33-inch tyre – basically, the biggest possible tyre with the smallest possible lift − to create a Low-Cog Jeep. This meant major modifications to the vehicle’s body and chassis, with generous cutting, grinding and welding.
A 2-inch suspension system (OME) was already fitted to the vehicle, but an extra 1.5-inch lift was added, as well as 30 mm wheel spacers. All in all, the wheels jut about 70 mm further out than standard: we wanted the suspension to have plenty of space to flex, but it was also important that the driver be able to observe the tyresas they move over the terrain.
They say form follows function, but that wasn’t the idea behind this Jeep. We weren’t looking for “beauty”; we wanted “the beast”: a vehicle that no-one would miss on the road. Our first objective was to create a 4×4 as capable as the tyres it rode upon; but when the opportunity exists to build a vehicle that demands road presence (especially for a global tyre brand) we feel compelled to take it… to the next level!
For hideously-handsome, matt black is the obvious option; but for the details and exo-skeleton (pipe work), we decided to go outrageously yellow. When the Jeep later turned more heads than a flaming Ferrari wrapped around a tree, we knew we’d picked the right colour combination. Love it or hate it, you’ll never forget it!
Coming back to form and function: the Jeep’s exo-skeleton serves to strengthen the vehicle’s chassis (monocoque), to provide protection against rock rash and / or a roll over, and, naturally, to look cool. The matt-black finish was then added by Venture Graphic Stuios (082 440 1133) to complete the look, and to offer protection against paintwork-damage off road.
Finally, we replaced the Jeep’s stock doors with custom-manufactured new pipe-frame units with personalised laser-cut details. Made using the Jeep’s OE locks and hinges, these doors open and close like stock units and don’t rattle! And again, the pipe doors are there to allow the driver easy visual access to the tyres.
The Jeep was then furnished with a looooong list of tools and accessories – see specification panel.
The 4WD Truckin’ Company specialises in all off-road custom modifications, 4×4 accessories and overland solutions. They’re also the only recognised agents for Arctic Trucks in South Africa. Visit www.4wdtruckin.co.za, or call (012) 803 1040 or (011) 791 3822 for more info.
WHEELS & TYRES
15” A-Line rims with 40mm offset
30mm wheel spacers
Cooper Discoverer STT PRO (33 x 12.5 x 15)
2” Old Man Emu kit
1.5” Rocky Road lift kit
Pro Comp control arms
JKS Quick Disconnects
NitroExpress chromoly 30-spline side shafts
Bracketed rear diff tube
Diff ratio change from 3.55 to 4.56
Automatic Aussie locker (front)
Electromagnetic locker (rear)