Vehicle: 1980 Jeep Cherokee Chief
Goal: To have a safe, comfortable, self-contained, relatively nondescript truck for up to a month of vehicle-based exploration at a time.
Budget: The total budget is $5000. Including ALL gear. Since I traded for this truck, I have assigned it a value of $1,500 (the price I paid for my original truck). It already has the wheels and tires, lift, roof rack, and a recently rebuilt motor… So the below has to be done for under $3,500. This means I will be learning how to paint and doing all of the mechanical work myself. I am going to have to farm out the welding work, but I may be able to barter for some of it. My metal guy is really cool.
Why: There is an assumption on the Internet and elsewhere that overland travel is an expensive hobby. My goal is to prove that it is not just possible, but quite easy, to enter this hobby with minimal expense. Of course it requires more work and potential lost blood, but this also gives you a more intimate relationship with the vehicle. This in turn means that when you do break down 500 miles from humanity, you are more likely to know not only what happened, but why it happened and how to make it stop.
The Vehicle: I chose a fullsize Jeep for a number of reasons. My initial options were Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Land Cruisers, Troopers, and modern(er) Jeeps. All of these are excellent vehicles with their own strengths and weaknesses, but all also fall short in places I consider very important. The Cherokee Chief is a 110” wheelbase fullsize truck that has roughly the same footprint as a Range Rover SWB. It is a bit wider, but should still fit in all but the tightest trails. It is a classic, body-on-frame, solid axle, leaf sprung, pushrod V8 design. While many might see these as a liability, I see a bulletproof design that is eminently field-repairable, with ease of modification. The Dana 44 front axle gives me a turning radius tighter than most modern cars, and the stock ground clearance/articulation mean that minor modifications are all that are needed to create a truly formidable offroad machine. Even with all this, the Cherokee shares almost all of its components (and development dollars) with the uber-expensive Grand Wagoneer, so it has a relatively supple on-road ride, and the entire interior from the luxo-wag can be dropped right in. Because it is a 2-door, rear seat removal doesn’t look stupid.
As of 10/26/09...
$2,171 spent. $2,829 remaining.
Most recent photo:
What it looked like when I bought it:
* Tracked down and defeated all vacuum leaks
* Installed upgraded wiring harness
* High amperage alternator
* Engine rebuild: Bored out, RV cammed
* High capacity radiator
* 3" suspension lift
* 1" body lift
* Edelbrock Shocks
* 33" mud terrain tires on steel wheels
* Tad-Rack roof rack with hi-lift & shovel mounts
* Headliner & Steering wheel from '88 Grand Wagoneer
* Custom rear carpet installed (was bare metal)
* Upgraded ignition system to Ford TFI, MSD coil, Ford Motorsports wires
* Custom front bumper
* Replaced stereo & broken window with unbreakable lexan
* Porsche 924 seats
* SunPro tach installed
Upcoming Projects: (the below will eventually be expanded as work progresses)