Camp rig, maybe an XJ for me? -
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post #1 of 8 Old 03-24-2020, 01:09 AM Thread Starter
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Camp rig, maybe an XJ for me?

Hi all,

My wife has expressed interest in getting a Jeep or similar vehicle for camping. Moreover, we're planning to buy property in rural Oklahoma (probably southeast, near the mountains), and some of the remote locations are supposedly only accessible via 4x4. I've heard good things about the offroad capabilities of Jeeps.

I was initially drawn to the old Wagoneers/Chiefs etc for their classic appeal, but quickly realized a later model would be more practical.

Quick background: we had a full size conversion van for about 5 years, and we loved the space and utility. It offered plenty of room and comfort for us and our two small kids, plus all our gear (camping, events, road trips, hanging out with friends, etc). But it made a poor daily driver for my wife, so we got rid of it last year. Now she has a nice Mazda 3 that's much more efficient and convenient.

So, we're wanting an extra vehicle to get back some of that space and utility with something that can also do light offroad duty. I see the 1980s-1990s Cherokees (which I gather is the XJ model) are relatively cheap and plentiful around here (central Oklahoma). I was initially looking for something lifted and with bigger tires, but after doing some research on here, I'm leaning heavily towards bone-stock. It seems that for mixed offroad and highway use, stock configuration will be more reliable and more pleasant to drive than even a well-executed lift, no?

Is it at all worthwhile to get slightly bigger tires on an otherwise stock XJ? Would doing so require other changes, or add a lot of stress to the rest of the suspension or drivetrain?

I can turn a wrench, but I have no experience with offroad vehicles. Always been more into classic Euro and Japanese sports cars. I have no interest in lifting a Jeep or otherwise modding it just for looks, it will be very much a vehicle of utility. And while I don't mind buying a minor project, I'd like to avoid ongoing maintenance hassles as much as possible.

Am I right in concluding a stock XJ is probably my best bet? Or, if there's a model other than the XJ that might suit our needs better, I'm all ears.


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post #2 of 8 Old 03-24-2020, 04:26 AM
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XJs are solid vehicles, very offroad capable and have a huge aftermarket. A lot more usable space than a wrangler and lower cost. If you want more space look into a ZJ they're very similar mechanically. As far as keeping it stock vs lifting if you're only doing mild offroad/ more like logging roads etc stock will be fine but beyond that maybe consider a good quality 2" or so lift with complete replacement springs and shocks running 30" tires or so. That would still ride great and give you more clearance and capability.

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post #3 of 8 Old 03-24-2020, 02:23 PM
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This is my built 99 XJ on 35s. Rig is totally unreliable and is perpetually inoperable. Over the past 40 months the engine block cracked, lifter seized, O2 sensors failed, neutral safety switch failed, throttle position sensor failed, electric fan failed, power steering gear box failed, and fuel pump failed. This is with 130,000 miles on the rig. My TJ and YJ do not have these types of mechanical issues.

I’d recommend a first gen 4Runner. Higher degree of reliability and more capable off-road.
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post #4 of 8 Old 03-24-2020, 06:21 PM
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I can only speak to my experiences but my XJs have been great. I currently own two - one that's a trail rig on 33s and another that's a daily/weekend warrior. It's a 97 and a baby Jeep but a great base camp and decently capable offroad (I have sway bar disconnects and a 1.5" lift). I think you'd be fine with a mostly stock XJ. Most of these things didn't come with any real recovery points stock though, so I'd want to equip whatever you get somewhat. Look up "Upcountry" and "Upcountry Clones" - that might be what you're after.

My rig is a 99 and it's been a great vehicle and I've had it since it was stock. I've taken it on multiple long-distance trips in various configurations, including twin locked on 33s. It's never left me stranded. I reckon it's somewhat hit or miss with these things.

I will say this - XJs aren't that big. They're compact SUVs after all and there's not a lot of extra cubby space inside. Rust is a big killer for these things too.

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post #5 of 8 Old 03-26-2020, 12:24 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the feedback! Well now I'm torn between an XJ and a ZJ. Just from pics it doesn't seem like the ZJ has that much more space, is it just a bit longer in the back?

I've got a couple of suspects to check out not far from where I live. Here's a pic of a '99, does this appear to have a lift? I can't tell if it's lifted, or if it's just from taller tires. Seller doesn't say, and might not even know......

Good to hear about the drivability of a moderate lift. As cheap as these vehicles are, it seems like it might be worthwhile to find one that already has a slight lift and bigger tires, winch bumper, etc. Looks like to add a winch bumper, winch, and lift kit myself would be around $1,200-$2,000+, and that's not counting tires.

Guess it's time to go look at some Jeeps.......

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post #6 of 8 Old 03-26-2020, 08:35 AM
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No lift on that one. Why not go back to a van? So much easier if you get to a place and its raining you can still sleep inside.
Some bigger tires and a slight lift will take you many places. A lot lot more space for the family and gear. An XJ would need a roof rack manditory for all your gear.


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post #7 of 8 Old 03-28-2020, 08:13 AM
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I will say though I have no experience with XJs I can easily sleep in my ZJ with the seats all the way forward. You end up with atleast 6 and a half feet back there. Even if you get 6 feet in an XJ that extra 6 inches would make a big difference. Most comfortable vehicle I have ever slept in lol

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post #8 of 8 Old 03-31-2020, 04:34 PM Thread Starter
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The beefed up van idea is a good one....seems like we'd have the best of both worlds. Yes, we'd almost certainly need a roof rack for the Jeep.

I chatted with my wife a bit more and even floated the van idea again, but she seems really drawn to a Jeep...the boxy XJ in particular. I don't have much preference either way, other than the fact that the Jeep would be something I've never owned or worked on before and might be interesting from a wrenching/modding perspective.

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