OR-Fab's Project FerrarJeep XJ

Jul. 19, 2012 By Dan Sanchez, Photos by Dan Sanchez
OR-Fabís Jeep XJ gets lots of attention on the trail, but itís not just because of its bright red paint.

Everyone knows that the Jeep XJ is probably more popular than ever. One of the vehicleís biggest fans is Chris Faustmann, who handles the design and product development for Performance Automotive Group, who manufactures OR-Fab, Trail Master Suspension and Performance Accessories products. Faustmann purchased this 1996 Jeep Cherokee and used it as a test bed for the company's new product development, knowing that the XJís are making a strong comeback on the trail.

The Cherokee has a variety of OR-Fab components, including this new rear rock slider bumper.

In the beginning, the bright red XJ was outfitted with the companyís OR-Fab line of products that include a new front winch mount HD bumper, and a new rear ďcomp cutĒ bumper. The new rear bumper was developed on this Jeep and is much more streamlined with a tapered edge, and designed to easily slip off rocks while protecting the rear hatch and quarters. The Jeep was also outfitted with OR-Fabís rear quarter panels, as well as a set of custom fabricated rock rails to protect the XJís side rockers.

Faustmann used a front Dana 44 axle out of an old Ford F-150 pickup, and he modified it with Superior axles and gears.

The front suspension system used on the Jeep is a prototype that Faustmann designed for the company's other brand, Trail Master Suspension. It's a six-inch lift system that features a tri-link long-arm lift and a heavy-duty cross member and track bar bracket. There's no telling when or if the new suspension will make it to market, but it appears to work extremely well on the XJ when it debuted for its first trail run during the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. To compliment the front, the rear was outfitted with a Rock Krawler four-link coil conversion with RuffStuff chassis stiffeners. Furthermore, to allow the XJ to drive and maneuver smoothly, Faustmann also added a set of 11-inch Fox Racing 2.0 reservoir shocks, a Currie Anti-Rock sway bar system, and PSC hydraulic ram-assist steering.

A new front heavy-duty bumper was also fabricated for this vehicle and houses a Warn M8000 winch.

The XJís drivetrain was totally upgraded to a variety of components that not too many Jeep owners tend to consider. The front axles, for example, are out of a 1976 Ford F-150. Itís essentially a Dana 44 high-pinion housing that was outfitted with T&T Customs axle truss, an ARB air locker, Warn premium locking hubs, and Superior 30-spline Evolution axles with 5:13 ring and pinion gears. The Ford front axle is connected to REID Racing forged steering knuckles and Artec Industries forged steering arms, which all match up great to the XJís body and chassis.

A Ford 9-inch out of another F-150 pickup is also beefed up to work on the XJ.

With a front drivetrain thatís much stronger than the factory XJ axles and steering, Faustmann also did the same with the rear by installing a Ford 9-inch out of a 1979 F-150 pickup. The housing was modified with an RK Heavy Duty welded truss system, 35-spline Superior Evolution axles and gears, a Detroit locker, and a rear disc brake conversion that was compiled from GM 3/4-ton truck parts and Ruff Stuff Specialties caliper brackets. The original transfer case was also upgraded with an Atlas two-speed unit and new heavy-duty, 1310 steel driveshafts from Tom Woods Custom Driveshafts.

Traction comes from a set of Goodyear 315/70R17 MT/R Kevlar tires mounted on Trail Ready 17x8.5 beadlock wheels.

Under the hood, Faustmann added an ATK Performance 4.0-liter engine and outfitted it with an S&S Custom exhaust system. The engine transfers its torque to a rebuilt Jeep AW4 automatic transmission, before it applies the power with the set of Goodyear 315/70R17 MT/R Kevlar tires mounted on Trail Ready 17x8.5 beadlock wheels.

Just in case the XJ ever gets into a precarious situation, the Warn M8000 winch, with Spyder Line synthetic cable running through a Hawse billet fairlead, provides an excellent means for recovery. Extra trail gear can be carried on the Gobi Stealth roof rack, and a set of Rigid Industries LED lights and light bar help to illuminate the way once the sun sets. The overall exterior of the XJ looks like itís ready to take on any challenge, but the interior didnít need to change much, with the only upgrade being a set of front black, Corbeau Baja XR-S seats.

XJ rear quarter body armor is already available from OR-Fab and Faustmann added LED lights to give the vehicle a customized appearance.

Needless to say, this Jeep gets lots of looks when itís both on the highway and the trail. But aside from the American Rock Rod hood louvers and the bright red paint, the XJ is impressive for its engineering savvy and use of nonĖtraditional components. This has many Jeep owners crawling in and underneath the vehicle to check out how the Cherokee was constructed.

Considering that Jeep is now owned by Fiat, who also owns Ferarri, it gave Faustmann the idea to consider a whimsical nomenclature to the Cherokee. While Jeep did build a Ferrari-styled version of the SRT8 Grand Cherokee, Faustmann knew that his vehicle wasnít truly Italian influenced, so it was dubbed the ďFerrarjeep.Ē More than anything, this Jeep Cherokee has stirred the imagination of many enthusiasts who have renewed their love for the Cherokee, and are now inspired to build and drive this vehicle on the trail once again.

The XJ made its debut run at the 2012 Easter Jeep Safari where it naturally garnered lots of attention from fellow XJ enthusiasts.

For more information, contact Performance Automotive Group, P.O. Box 3450, Chino Valley, Arizona, 86323. (928) 636-7080. Visit them at http://www.or-fab.com/ and www.TrailMasterSuspension.com.

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