This past spring I bought myself a Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ. It's an '04 Overland with the 4.7HO engine in it. I never owned a V8 and it's awesome! The reason I bought it is because I needed a proper rig to tow my trailer with a '79 CJ7 to the trails. It was pretty much a standard model when I got it, with a relatively low 80k'ish mileage. For a 10 year old car, that's not much. But then again, you don't want to drive that beast here much anyway given the price of petrol.
So the WJ spent it's life in my posession as daily driver, commuting the 12km drive to work, shopping runs to the gunstore and occasionally tugging my CJ to some trails. The stuff I initially did to the WJ was pretty basic:
- GROM BT3 Bluetooth module for the RB1 unit...I need my Spotify tunes.
- New K&N airfilter
- Installed a cabin air filter
- Heavy duty rubber floor mats front and back (with Jeep logo, whoo!)
One thing I always noticed was that the WJ tends to sway in the corners. I come from an Alfa Romeo GT 2.0 JTS Selespeed, so I'm used to much more direct handling.
I went from this:
. It's somewhat of a difference.
Of course comparing a 2 tonne WJ to a nimble not-quite sportscar isn't fair, but I felt it could be improved upon. I read a lot, and I soon discovered that the cure for the boatlike behaviour is a new heavier duty swaybar.
So I contacted our good friend Kolak and he fixed me up with some stuff:
- Addco front and rear swabars
- Spring isolators
- Superchips Traildash (doesn't help handling, but I want to see what it does)
While that order was underway, I installed a CB radio, and soon after everything arrived I installed the swaybars and the traildash. The spring isolators are still waiting to be installed.
Here I was, with a decent WJ I can use for what I needed. But apparently needs change from this:
Sweden Offroad Tour – SOT
Early this year I found out about the Sweden Offroad Tour
. To those unfamiliar with it (pretty much everyone, I guess), it's a road trip through Sweden, hitting about 17 offroad locations underway. It's like our own Ultimate Adventure. I spend a lot of time in Sweden. I love the country and I always wondered what it would be like exploring it offroad. Too bad general offroading on public lands isn't allowed there either so the next best thing is offroad parks. And this tour visits most of them.
When I read about it, I wanted to join for the 2014 edition. With my CJ7. Now, because of various reasons (most of it because the CJ wasn't ready to drive) I had to skip 2014, but I have my sights set on 2015. I pretty much decided I don't want to spend two and a half weeks living out of a CJ7, which is not the most reliable vehicle to begin with. So my choices were:
Take the CJ7 – Nope. It's not reliable enough (though a decent enough offroader) and too cramped to go camping in.
Trailer the CJ with the WJ – That's expensive in multiple ways, not to mention slow.
Buy a wagon like offroader – I don't have room for more vehicles, and I really don't want to tax and insure another heavy rig. Besides, who says I can find an offroad ready rig in time which is reliable for a reasonable price
And then I took a good look at the WJ. Hm...it looks like a soccer mom's mobile now, but it can be made into a somewhat capable offroader:
It has the V8
It has a Dana 44, albeit an aluminium one
It has the factory skid package and rock sliders (for what it's worth)
It has the vari-lok diffs. Not as good as selectable lockers, but better than open diffs.
It was decided that the WJ was the rig to take to Sweden Offroad Tour 2015, and that decision has been strengthed after reading about offroading a WJ and watching a load of videos of a WJ doing some stuff I'll be too chicken to try anyway.
I came up with a shopping list: I've a couple of 33” Maxxis Buckshot I can use, so I opted to go all out with a 6.5” lift. It has to be bolt on so I selected the IRO Premium kit. I contacted Kolak again, see what he could do.
I guess pretty much everyone already knows that Nick can give some pretty good advice and we started bouncing off options and ideas back and forth. In the end we settled on an adjustable 4” Critical Path lift with a load of other goodies:
- Bilstein shocks
- IRO OTK tie rod kit
- IRO Tranny skidplate
- IRO HD crossmember
- IRO Steering Equalizer
- MOOG steering damper
- BTF Kryptonite Diff covers for the D30
Nick quoted me a price and I pulled the trigger.
I also want to protect the underside of the diffs. Since I can't find anything I can buy, I guess I'll be fabbing up some skidplates myself based on some examples I found. I can bake metal together if needed. It won't be pretty but it'll do the job.
Instead of the 33x12.50R15 I intended (15” likely won't fit the WJ anyway) I'll be rocking 32”. It'll be a relatively narrow 235/85R16. I picked up a set of 16” rims for cheap ($110) yesterday, which I'll either be painting or powdercoating. Probably matte black. My 17” are in pristine condition and I'd like to keep it that way. Also, 16" gives me 1/2" more sidewall. Why the pizza cutters? A couple of reasons. I've read about a lot of pros and cons of using narrow tires offroad. The general consensus seems to be that unless a lot of flotation is needed, narrow tires will perform mostly well on most surfaces if they're aired up and down properly for the surface. Combined with less weight, better handling and less stress on the steering components, there's little reason why narrower tires won't bring me where I need to go. Besides, they're a lot cheaper to buy, too
The candidates: BFG AT2, Cooper STT or Hankook MT RT03. I'll probably go with the Hankooks. It's a lot of tire for the money and they get quite good reviews.
Anyway, a few days after I pulled the trigger on the IRO order, I decided to do a driveshaft swap. My WJ has the Rezeppa style driveshaft in the front, which according to IRO should be good up to 4”. But I don't want to risk breaking anything in the drivetrain 1000 miles away from home if I could've prevented it beforehand. I'm out to wheel, not to wrench. Emailed Nick again, and an IRO conversion is underway too. I'll be disappointed if I don't get a free sticker out of all this
So this is where I'm at now. I just placed the biggest import order I've ever made (about $3k, and that's without local import tax and VAT) with someone I only dealt with once before, to build up my daily driver Jeep WJ to go offroading on a level I might not be ready for yet.
I guess it's a Jeep thing.
While I'm waiting for my stuff to arrive I'm considering if I need a winchbumper and whether or not I should buy or build a roof rack. There's an outfit in Poland
which sells both a bumper
and a roof rack
for not too much money. I know an ARB bumper is the cat's meow, but what I need to spend on only the ARB bumper will pay for both bumper and roofrack from CoverXtreme with leftover for gas or an additional skid plate
. But that's for after the next paycheck comes in (or the one after that).
A big thanks goes out to Nick from Kolak Perfomance and Offroad for hooking me up with some decent deals and the advice! If you need anything from anywhere, give Nick a shout. He'll make it happen. Also a big thanks for everyone writing their stuff in the WJ and general section of this forum. It's an inspiration.
I'll keep this thread updated as my soccer mom WJ gets built into a rig with some balls.