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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a total newbie interested in doing some wheeling.

My question is this. I need to get a new commuter vehicle to use for a couple of years. I am thinking of getting a used vehicle that is already capable for doing some basic wheeling, but can be setup later for more serious play. One item that would be helpful, however, would be some cargo space.

So, what vehicles fit this bill?

1.) Jeep TJ/YJ. Wheeling capable even stock. Low on cargo

2.) 4Runner, cargo room, but I don't know what their wheeling capability really is

3.) Pickup (SR5 or sim.) same as 4Runner?

Any suggestions as to what would work? I'm sure a Jeep would be the most fun right off, but I would appreciate any advice, as well as models/features to either look for or avoid for any vehicles!

Thanks,
Chris
 

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Superfly
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Originally posted by Chris Epp:
I am thinking of getting a used vehicle that is already capable for doing some basic wheeling, but can be setup later for more serious play.
Chris, please define "serious play." I know a lot of guys say that their 4x4 can handle any trail they come across but the fact is, we haven't all come across the same trails. If you want to run the hardest of the hard trails around here and in Washington, you will either have to be willing to put up with a dented long wheelbase or go with a short wheelbase 4x4.

4Runners are great 4x4s but I haven't seen any with straight body panels that run the super tight trails. If you want Toyota, go for a shortbox pickup.


...lars



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How about this. Try a Cherokee. Same engine as the TJ/YJ and an auto if you are so inclined. There are lots of good lifts out there at reasonable prices but you are limited to 31 or 32" tires before fender trimming. They ride really nice and flex great. Some rock rails and skid plates are necessary (but also required on a Toyota) to prevent damage to vitals.
The Cherokee is alot more affordable to lift and modify than any of the IFS Toyotas due to the simplicity of its front solid axle. The solid axle Cherokee will also flex way better than the IFS Toyotas.
With the Cherokee, look for the corporate 8.25 rear axle and avoid the Dana 35 rear. The 91 and newer Cherokees have the HO engine.
With Toyotas watch for rust, manual hubs are nice and again watch for rust on the body and frame.
If you are set on the convertable nature of the TJ/YJ you end up becoming a packing wiz to carry all the stuff you want and end up spending the extra $$ for the compact and light weight stuff. I know I do and even still carry more stuff than most people I know but do not show it. Just do not ask why I have spare pushrods and lifters for my YJ.

Wes

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Originally posted by lars:
Chris, please define "serious play." I know a lot of guys say that their 4x4 can handle any trail they come across but the fact is, we haven't all come across the same trails. If you want to run the hardest of the hard trails around here and in Washington, you will either have to be willing to put up with a dented long wheelbase or go with a short wheelbase 4x4.
My definition of 'serious play' is probably rather lacking, but here goes. I'd like to be able to have access to a good number of the trails on the coast here. If I were to get so involved I wanted to hit the most *extreme* trails, I imagine I would be purchasing yet again.

What would be considered a more capable vehicle. A Jeep, or a shortbox pickup? (I imagine that stock, the Jeep would be, but what about after some work?)

What should I be looking for if I were to go for a Jeep? (I would like to stay near the 10K mark mind you).

Thanks again for all the info!

Chris
 

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Superfly
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Originally posted by Chris Epp:
My definition of 'serious play' is probably rather lacking, but here goes. I'd like to be able to have access to a good number of the trails on the coast here. If I were to get so involved I wanted to hit the most *extreme* trails, I imagine I would be purchasing yet again.
Ok, good, so we at least know that extreme trails are not a requirement. Good.

What would be considered a more capable vehicle. A Jeep, or a shortbox pickup? (I imagine that stock, the Jeep would be, but what about after some work?)
Actually, I think a stock Toyota would be better than a stock Jeep CJ/YJ (not including the TJ in this comparison due to the $10,000+ price for used ones). It has more ground clearance and doesn't require swapping as many pieces as the Jeep to make it really good off-road...as long as you're not concerned with rust and the lack of fuel injection. In which case, I think they start to even out in upgrade costs. I could be wrong here 'cuz I've never built a Toyota.

Performance-wise, they can both be built into great 4x4s.

What should I be looking for if I were to go for a Jeep? (I would like to stay near the 10K mark mind you).
4.0L motor, NOT the 4.2L. The 4.0L means you will have fuel injection and the non-French transmission. It will also have the 23-spline tcase which can be swapped out with an invertered Dana 300 if you ever get the urge, some time in the future <g>.

If you get a '94 or newer, you will have the external clutch slave cylinder which is a marked improvement over the earlier internal one (you had to pull the tranny to replace the cylinder's seals...which tend to leak). You could also get an auto tranny in a pre '94 and not have to worry about the clutch.

For maximum reliability, budget $600-700 to swap in a Ford 8.8" rear end. It's not an absolute necessity but I'd do it if you off-road a lot. After that, a 2.5" lift kit and 1" body lift, swaybar disconnects 31" mud tires, and a rear locker and you'll be set for 99% of the trails around here. Aside from the 8.8" rear end, that describes an earlier incarnation of my Jeep and it served me very well for several years.

It did all the earlier trails around Sooke although the newer extreme ones like RIP and Dumicon would have been beyond its abilities. On the mainland, it could do all the trails save for perhaps one or two that most people avoid anyway.

So there you have my Jeep YJ recipe for building good dual-purpose Jeep that can do the majority of the trails.

...lars

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What kind of Jeep? YJ or Cherokee?
Either way 91 and up specifically for the 4.0L HO engine. Pre 91 YJs had a carb 258 and it was not all that popular and had its own set of problems. Cherokees had a low output version of the 4.0.
With the YJ, there were not many choices other than color. Get the hard top for the winter and the soft top for the summer. Also it is a plus to get the 3.55 gears (3.07 were the base gears). All YJs had the Dana 35 rear. Make sure you have the large door mirrors and not the small ones that look like they would do for a Civic.
Cherokees are harder to find with manual trannies. Look for the Corporate 8.25 rear end as opposed to the Dana 35. Try for 3.55 or 3.73 gears. 2 door models make it easier to trim and lift the fenders. Rear wiper is nice to have. Fuel tank skid plate is a desireable option as well as a steering box skid plate.

I am probably missing stuff.
Wes

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Originally posted by lars:
4.0L motor, NOT the 4.2L. The 4.0L means you will have fuel injection and the non-French transmission. It will also have the 23-spline tcase which can be swapped out with an invertered Dana 300 if you ever get the urge, some time in the future <g>.
While we are on the topic of Jeeps, I have an additional question to throw out there.

1.) TJ. If I decided to put out the extra for a used TJ, are they worth it? (And is a 97 a bad thing?) Which years are acceptable. What are the benefits

2.) Legroom. Is the legroom pretty much the same for the YJ/TJ. (Yes, it will be primarily a commuter for a year or two.)

Chris
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Originally posted by Wes Rempel:
What kind of Jeep? YJ or Cherokee?
Cherokees are harder to find with manual trannies. Look for the Corporate 8.25 rear end as opposed to the Dana 35. Try for 3.55 or 3.73 gears. 2 door models make it easier to trim and lift the fenders. Rear wiper is nice to have. Fuel tank skid plate is a desireable option as well as a steering box skid plate.
If I were to go for a Cherokee, what would you suggest would be required to be done before it was usable as an entry level wheeler?

Chris
 

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Superfly
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Originally posted by Chris Epp:
If I were to go for a Cherokee, what would you suggest would be required to be done before it was usable as an entry level wheeler?
Gord Land installed a 3" Rubicon Express lift, 31" Yokohama Geolander MTs, a new front bumper, transfer case skid plate, and rocker armour. No lockers. Stock 3.07 diff gears. No fender trimming.

He was able to drive through the famous Rubicon Trail and only avoided the Little Sluice (which even many "big" 4x4s will avoid) and the Old Sluice. On the main trail, he didn't take any bypasses and even made it through the Gatekeeper at the start of the trail near Loon Lake.

Brand new, I would guess the lift and tires would cost around CAD$2000.

Of course, he did take some minor dents which, IMO, could have been avoided if he had lower gearing or an automatic transmission.


Gord at The Gatekeeper

This is supposed to be a kind of "filtering" obstacle. The Jeep Jamboree doesn't take this route AFAIK. Locals who were familiar with the trail were impressed that he made it through. Oh yeah, the best thing about his Cherokee is that he didn't have to set up a tent every night plus the 44 hour round-trip drive was much more comfortable for him and he used less fuel (more aerodynamic than my brick-like YJ).

One last comment: the Cherokee automatic tranny is different from the CJ/YJ/TJ. It is a four-speed Aisin AW4 tranny that has an over-drive and is quite reliable (as are the CJ/YJ/TJ 3-spd autos). Later model Cherokees also came with the 8.25" rear end which doesn't have the reliability issues associated with the D35 axles. Basically, the latest XJs have been refined to the point that all the problem areas have been removed. The only downside, of course, is that it is more likely to be written-off in the event of a rollover and collision than a traditionally-framed vehicle (ie: YJ, TJ, 4Runner, etc). Running large tires (anything over 33") on a Cherokee can be somewhat problematic because you are limited to how much sheet metal you can trim around the rear doors (4-door model). Even with 31" tires, fender trimming is required (Gord rubbed his fenders at the Rubicon).


...lars

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[This message has been edited by lars (edited July 31, 2001).]



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TJ VS YJ. Yes, legroom is about the same.

For mild mods, the TJ would be cheaper to do and perform better. For the extreme, the YJ would likely end up being better due to the complete removal of the suspension and other parts from a cost standpoint.
As for a 97, it has been my experience that Chrysler is notorious for their quality. I was not too impressed with the fit and finish of my 95 YJ that had been in production for 10 yrs. There were a fair number of bugs that were worked out of the TJ, so I would suggest a 98 or newer just to avoid those production problems.

Wes

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Originally posted by lars:
Gord Land installed a 3" Rubicon Express lift, 31" Yokohama Geolander MTs, a new front bumper, transfer case skid plate, and rocker armour. No lockers. Stock 3.07 diff gears. No fender trimming.

He was able to drive through the famous Rubicon Trail and only avoided the Little Sluice (which even many "big" 4x4s will avoid) and the Old Sluice. <SNIP>

The only downside, of course, is that it is more likely to be written-off in the event of a rollover and collision than a traditionally-framed vehicle (ie: YJ, TJ, 4Runner, etc). Running large tires (anything over 33") on a Cherokee can be somewhat problematic because you are limited to how much sheet metal you can trim around the rear doors (4-door model). Even with 31" tires, fender trimming is required (Gord rubbed his fenders at the Rubicon).


...lars

One other issue with a '97 and up Cherokee is the re-designed t-case tailshaft. D/C made it longer. If you get the 8.25 rear diff (and you want it), it has a lower pinion than the D35. Combine these two elements and you get drive-line vibrations with a lift above 2 or 3" because of drive-line angles outside of spec (unless you're willing to part with a $1,000 for a slip-yoke eliminator kit).

The XJ is a great commuter vehicle. The 101" wheelbase makes them a little smoother at highway speeds than a SWB, and the 195 HP hi-torque 4.0l engine moves them along extremely well.

Staying with 30 or 31" tires takes care of any re-gearing issues - especially if you have 3.55 or 3.73 gearing.

I have the 8.25 chrysler rear axle, 3.55 gearing, OEM limited slip (Trashlok), auto tranny, 2" of "lift" and 30" tires. I still haven't tried to make the Upper Hut Lake obstacles (waterfall & trench), but that's mainly because my front bumper is still OEM and the air dam will probably have to be sacrificed in the effort (& I'm not ready to do that 'til I have my new bumper 'cause I do have to drive a presentable vehicle to and from work).

I did follow Gord Land around the '01 obstacle course the weekend before the 4WDABC AGM and he and I both made it with only one "stuck". Our circuit was done before the rocks were laid in the bottom of the mud holes and as it was our first time around the course neither of us used enough momentum to move through one twisty, deep bit for fear of damage, ergo the "stuck".

I've been able to enjoy the moderate trails at Walker Valley, and have managed to flex my way up and down all kinds of fun stuff with an essentially stock vehicle - with appropriate body armor to slide over the rocky parts.

I do have some rock rash and sheet-metal damage consistent with the nature of the trails I've been on, but nothing untoward.

Looking at Gord's pictures of his Rubicon trip on Sunday has me hyped to get down there before too long!

Whatever you decide upon, welcome. You're going to have a blast!


April/'01 The Median - Upper Hut Lake trail

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DMMcG
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I have to thank you all for your input. I must say I get the feeling that at least in BC, this is a very community oriented recreation. Although I have never had the opportunity to go wheeling in a 4x4(perhaps I should in fact try to find a free seat and go along for a ride one day before I head in this direction!). Although I HAVE been 'wheeling' per say on an ATV for a few hours one day but I was drooling by the time I got back.

One issue that came up. My better half has requested that I avoid a cherokee. She was the passenger in one when it was involved in a very grusome accident, and she feels a little apprehensive about getting one.

So, it looks like it may have to bee a YJ/TJ. (I think I will see if she'll get into one on the lot and see if it would bug her, but I don't think pushing your wife is the greatest way to get into the hobby hey?


Thank you once again for all your replies!!

Chris
 

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If you want a ride on a nice wheeling trip, the next 4WDABC Sunrise Lake maintenance run is Sunday August 12th. Be at the Sasquatch Inn parking lot by 9AM in Harrison Bay off hwy 7 or arrange a ride with someone beforehand.
There are generally spare seats available.
There is generally a nice variety of vehicles present in stock to modified form.

As for vehicle safety, it all depends on what you hit or what hits you and how the hit takes place. I love the little stickers they put in the YJs "The top and doors are only to protect against the elements and are not intended to contain or protect the passengers in the event of an accident" or something to that effect. I believe the Cherokee has side impact beams which are nice. I have taken my YJ doors apart, there is nothing there.

Wes

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Superfly
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You should definitely take your significant other with you to look at YJs and TJs and drive them with the soft-top on and off. You and/or she may find them too noisy and uncomfortable. My wife prefers not to ride in my Jeep because of that. The noise also bothers me after a period of time (anything over 2 hours) but I live with it because I like the size and convertible top. I guess you could just get a YJ/TJ with a hard-top.

In any case, if she's going to be spending a lot of time in the 4x4 of your choice, make sure she'll like it from the beginning so bring her along for test drives.

I can give you a test drive in my YJ if you want an idea of what a lifted Jeep with no top sounds/feels like from the driver's seat.


...lars

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Originally posted by Wes Rempel:
If you want a ride on a nice wheeling trip, the next 4WDABC Sunrise Lake maintenance run is Sunday August 12th. Be at the Sasquatch Inn parking lot by 9AM in Harrison Bay off hwy 7 or arrange a ride with someone beforehand.
I'll definately have to look into that. When you refer to a maintenance run, is that meaning that a group gets together to do required work on trails?

Originally posted by Wes Rempel:
As for vehicle safety, it all depends on what you hit or what hits you and how the hit takes place.
She does not believe the cherokee to be unsafe (in fact I'm sure it is sturied in a collision than a YJ would be). It's just a taboo with her. I bet if we were to get into one she would feel diffrently (Especially a lifted one) She loves trucks, and heavy equipment. (Her idea of a treat is to get to play with an excavator, chainsaw or welder for a day...) how lucky am I!


Chris
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Originally posted by lars:
You should definitely take your significant other with you to look at YJs and TJs and drive them with the soft-top on and off. You and/or she may find them too noisy and uncomfortable
I would agree with you there. On that note, I was wondering about hardtops. I think for anything other than a long trip (or calgary in dead of winter) I would want to stay soft-top. However, how difficult is it to throw on a hardtop for longer trips, winter etc.?

Originally posted by lars:
I can give you a test drive in my YJ if you want an idea of what a lifted Jeep with no top sounds/feels like from the driver's seat.
I would love an opportunity to check our your YJ. I think it's always wise to check out those kind of details before commiting the checquebook to that much $$$. As I should probably find a seat for a day wheeling trip to see what it's all about. (The pictures make me drool, but I *should* try it..) I imagine if I offer to pay the gas bill for the day that should be EASY to come by huh


Chris
 

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Originally posted by Chris Epp:
<SNIP> One issue that came up. My better half has requested that I avoid a cherokee. She was the passenger in one when it was involved in a very grusome accident, and she feels a little apprehensive about getting one.

Chris
The XJ has been in production since 1984. The '97 and up models have side-impact I-beams in the doors, dual, low force airbags and increased structural rigidity of the uni-body. The rear hatch is now steel, not fibreglass. The seats are still typical American production automobile seats and do not compare favourably from a safety perspective with the likes of Saab, Volvo or German cars.

Here's an excerpt explaining the nature of the development of the uni-frame/body of the XJ:

Ever since GM sent a bunch of engineers down to Texas to help Jim Hall design his Chaparral race cars in the 60's, chassis designers have found that the stiffer a chassis is, the easier it is to engineer the suspension to behave is a predictable and controlled manner. Off-road suspension design is about the last form of auto sport to get serious about this, but things are changing rapidly.

In a modern race car the forces can exceed five g's (five times the force of gravity) on any one wheel. Take a one metric ton race car (~2200 lbs), a FIA GTO coupe, stick it in a corner and encounter a bump. Five times the total car weight, over eleven thousand pounds, can be acting on the tire & spring on one corner. That is mucho torque on the frame, and can make tires point all over the road (or off the road).

This kind of load sounds a bit excessive until you learn the aircraft guy's have been designing structures like this for fifty years. It was only in the mid-60's that Engineering and large tires entered racing. Jim Hall recruited GM Engineering to counter Shelby and Richie Ginter's aircraft Engineer buddies at Ferrari and their structures experience learned in WWII (along with aerodynamics). Later, when Ford explored using a carbon graphite composite frame (very early 80's) they built a Probe race car out of shear panels. The car was glued together out of plastic panels and was designed to withstand ~10 g's at any corner. It used up some major Cray computer modeling time and resulted in a very competitive car.

How does this relate to the XJ Cherokee? In the early 80's finite element analysis of structures became a usable tool with computer simulation programs. The partnership of AMC with the French (can't spell that company's name) allowed the AMC engineers a crack at using the French company's supercomputer and modeling program to help design the XJ body. The XJ was one of the first American body/frame designs to be modeled using finite element analysis on a supercomputer. The goal was to allow only 1/2 of a degree in bending with a load of ~three g's (I cannot remember the exact load). The structure came out very well, except a compromise (or rushed mistake) was made to use a less expensive fiberglass hatch (that was addressed in 1996).

On the issue of tying the frame and the unit body together, it is a common practice in racing VW based vehicles. A year or so back Greg Freidman used this advantage to build the cage in his white 89 XJ. The resulting structure is very rigid. The task of tying the XJ roof to a cage Halo loop, and then rigid roll bars, is not as difficult as most believe. The grab handle mounts provide a pilot locator to set up a bolt-in or welded structure that accomplishes a exceptional combined structure. The combination is strong enough to allow some of the cross-bracing to be excluded for a street vehicle.

On the issue of Off-road design evolution, take a look at Walker Evans' ARCA rock crawler S-10.The trailing three link front end (and rear suspension) is designed to counter the ledge obstacle problems common to the XJ four leading links. Coil over shocks, turning brakes, rear steer, front-mid engine placement, and more. It is a good study for an enthusiast (and reflects the serious nature of the driver and competitor, beyond the shear expense to build the thing).......
As far as "creature comfort" goes, you'll notice quite a difference between the ride of a Cherokee and a TJ/YJ.

Rather than this being a "buy Jeep" type of thread, don't forget to look at the other offerings out there. Depending upon the amount of money you have/want to spend, you may like something else as much or more.

As far as getting a new vehicle that you want to use as a daily driver, yet take offroad, you'll be hard-pressed to find greater value than a Cherokee IMO.

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Originally posted by DMMcG:
As far as "creature comfort" goes, you'll notice quite a difference between the ride of a Cherokee and a TJ/YJ.

Rather than this being a "buy Jeep" type of thread, don't forget to look at the other offerings out there. Depending upon the amount of money you have/want to spend, you may like something else as much or more.

As far as getting a new vehicle that you want to use as a daily driver, yet take offroad, you'll be hard-pressed to find greater value than a Cherokee IMO.

Well, for me ideally, I'd like a little more cargo space than a TJ has to offer (although I need to check one out without the back seat in to see if I can make do) Although other than that I like the small size.

I have no intention to make this a 'buy jeep' thread, and please ignore my ignorance on the topic. I would love to hear some other suggestions for a good wheeling capable vehicle that can be used for commuting for a couple of years before being dedicated to the recreation! Budget wise, I'd like to keep it somewhere neat the $10K (for the right vehicle, I'd add a few more to that...)

Chris
 

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Originally posted by Chris Epp:

......I have no intention to make this a 'buy jeep' thread, .....

Chris

No, but my posts could very well be interpreted as such!
I'm not a brand loyalist, per se, and I still make the mistake of calling all 4x4's "Jeeps" - some people take it as a compliment, others make certain that I know that they're not driving "one of those shyte-boxes".


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DMMcG
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Ok I will add my 2 bits here, I have recently purchased an old 1980 CJ7 that needs a little work but is a great toy. I also have a new Nissan Pickup (Crew Cab/ short box) that prior to my Jeep was able to get up most of the trails I wanted to go on, as long as I was going with some friends (just in case I needed help, getting unstuck or being spotted through the tough sections)

So the question has to be, what kind of wheeling do you intend to do?
My Jeep is great and now I can tackle the more hard core stuff. But my truck is what got me wheeling in the first place.

Ben

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