Full size Jeeps (FSJs) like this 1977 Jeep Cherokee have always had a cult following, and that’s for many reasons. These vehicles came from the factory with stout drivetrain parts—often a V-8 or potent inline-six engine, as well as solid axles, a ladder frame, spacious interiors, and more. These FSJ rigs are kinda midsize by today’s standards, relative to modern full-size trucks. Being larger than most open-topped Jeeps, like CJs and many Wranglers, but smaller than most modern SUVs and full-size trucks puts them in about the perfect size category for a great trail rig. There’s space for your gear and family, but the rig will still fit on tight trails without rounding-off the corners. This Jeep Cherokee SJ is owned by Shayne Wardle from Bull Head City, Arizona, and it has many beneficial factory features and a whole slew of aftermarket and custom upgrades that make it perfect for most any rockcrawling trail. Shayne got the Jeep from his dad with stock drivetrain, a Superlift Suspension, and a set of 35-inch tires and has slowly made it his own with a ton of hand-fabricated detail. Check out the end result.
Shayne’s 1977 Jeep Cherokee SJ probably came from the factory with the venerable AMC 360 V-8 and a pair of Dana 44 axles, but that drivetrain is long gone, replaced with the heartbeat of a Chevrolet—namely, a 2000 5.3-liter from a Silverado. Aft of the 5.3-liter is a 4L80E that turns a Northwest Fab black box and a 1978 Chevy (driver-drop) NP205. That combination gives gobs of gearing ahead of a Chevy kingpin Dana 60 with 5.13:1 gears, chromoly shafts, a set of Yukon Locking Hubs, and a Spartan Locker. The rear axle is a 1978 Chevy 14-bolt with the same ratio and a Detroit Locker. That combination yields a crawl ratio of 66:1 with both the NP205 and Northwest Fab Black Box engaged.
The front axle is located under the Jeep with a custom three-link suspension, with lift coming from 14-inch King coilovers and a set of Locked 2.5 bumpstops. The front axle is directed by a 1 3/4-inch PSC ram with a Howe pump running a 5 ⅜ pulley, Howe reservoir and filter, and a large inline cooler. Northwest Fab high-steer arms are grafted to the factory knuckles. Out back, Deaver leaf springs locate the 14-bolt axle with 14-inch King piggyback shocks and another set of Locked 2.5 bump stops. Toyo MT 40×13.50R17 tires turn true thanks to 17×9-inch Method 105 beadlocks with an 8-on-6.5-inch bolt pattern.
Safety and Bumpers
The cage work on the Cherokee stretches from the front shock hoops to the rear bumper with a stout rollcage and custom interior in between. The front framerail-and-engine ‘cage was hand built by Shayne to maximize strength and front axle up-travel. The interior is filled with usable space and features a ton of handcrafted fabrication, making the Cherokee feel very luxurious. The sheetmetal is lightly wrinkled from use, just the way we like it. Suspension seats keep the occupants comfortable, and the dual transfer cases are shifted with cool custom levers made from green prybar handles. Slim tube bumpers front and rear keep the ends mostly where they are intended to go. Shayne also backdated the 1977 Cherokee with a Rhino grille, and we love the vintage effect. Tubular rock sliders are tied to the extensive cage and frame to protect the rockers from hard-hitting rocks. A Badlands winch with 100 feet of synthetic rope and a thimble from Tactical Recovery Equipment is tucked under the radiator, well-hidden to preserve the vintage looks and retain an impressive approach angle.
1977 Jeep Cherokee Build Details
- Somping grounds: Rock Trails around the southwest
- Build time: family owned since 1990 or som current build started in 2014
- Engine: 2000 GM 5.3
- Transmission: 4L80E
- Transfer case(s): Northwest Fab Black Box and a GM NP205
- Low range ratio(s): 1.96:1, 2.72:1
- Crawl ratio(s): 66:1
- Front axle/differential: 1978 Chevy king pin Dana 60, Chromoly Axles, Spartan LockerYukon locking hubs, 5.13 gears
- Rear axle/differential: 1978 Chevy corporate 14-bolt, Detroit Locker, 5.13 gears
- Front: 3-link with 14-inch King coilovers and 2.5 Locked bumpstops
- Rear: Deaver leaf springs with 14-inch King piggy back shocks and 2.5 Locked bumpstops
- Tires: 40 x 13.50R17 Toyo MT
- Wheels: 17×9 Method 105 beadlocks
- Badlands 12K winch with synthetic line and a Tactical Recovery Equipment thimble
- Steering: PSC Ram, Howe power steering pump and Northwest Fab high steer arms
- Full cage and fabricated front frame
- Slim custom tube bumpers
- Cage integrated roof rack
Watch a Full Episode of Dirt Every Day! Combining a Range Rover With a Ford Ranger—Huh??
When Fred Williams and Dave Chapelle attempt to build one vehicle that can run all types of terrain, the results are ridiculous. On episode 51 of Dirt Every Day, they combine an old Range Rover with a Ford Ranger to build an overlanding prerunner that can also play in the mud and rockcrawl. Sign up for a free trial to MotorTrend+ and start watching every episode of Dirt Every Day, plus much more!
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