Nitto Trail Grappler Tires

Monday, August 01, 2011

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One of the most common gripes we hear among grizzled old-timers involves late-model IFS rigs: “You can’t lift ’em, they’re too damn complicated, and nobody makes parts for them anyway.” Enter Russ Livingston, a veteran wheeler with decades of experience on the fabled high-altitude trails of Colorado’s San Juan range, and his 2008 Grand Cherokee Overland, dubbed the “Black Bear Edition” in honor of the legendary Ouray-to-Telluride shelf road that served as the inspiration for his buildup. Livingston, who’s been wrenching and torching on Jeeps since his youth, parlayed his fabrication skills a few years ago into founding his own company: 4xGuard, a manufacturer of trick body-armor components for late-model Jeep WKs and Commander XKs. Livingston’s Grand is a tastefully rendered yet super-functional example of a late-model IFS four-wheel drive that’s been treated to many trick modifications that improve traction, elevation, and overall trailability without having to bust the budget on a lot of complex customizing.

So yes, when it comes to late-model Grands and Commanders, you can lift ’em, and people do make parts for them. You might not quite be able to stuff a set of 44s beneath a WK, but as the Black Bear Edition proves, even if you can’t always get what you want, you just might find you get what you really need.

The most noticeable of the many 4xGuard upgrades on Livingston’s WK is the Matrix brush guard. A bolt-on modular grille-guard system that comes in four basic configurations, it features outboard light-mounting tabs so the KC driving lights shown here won’t impede airflow to the radiator, and optional lower mounting points can accommodate massive D-ring shackles. Another version of the bumper (pictured) allows for mounting a portable winch using a 2-inch front receiver hitch that ties into the frame and crossmember using a “rail-to-rail” backing plate secured with eight Grade-8 bolts. In other words, this thing is solid—and its integration with the Jeep’s existing bumper and front fascia is seamless in execution.

The Superlift front suspension system retains the factory coilovers and leaves the upper control arms in their stock location, achieving some four inches of lift via the addition of extended coil towers, drop brackets for the front diff and lower control arms, and bigger, replacement steering knuckles to compensate for the increase in arm spacing. It’s a clean installation, and it allows room in the wheelwells for 295/70R17 (33.2-inch) Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts mounted on 17x8.5 AEV Pintler alloy rims.