At our last event at Reno-Fernley Raceway, we were informed by John Pagel of Evil Genius Racing (and the Chief Tech guy for LeMons) that our wheels and tires stuck out too far from our fenders. I could see what he meant, the Jeep did sort have a 1920s roller skate stance, and I recognize that if somebody was dumb enough to run into us and lock tires, it could end badly. John told us that we could race at Reno, but we’d have to address it before our next race. One option would be to get different offset wheels, but we had JUST gotten this new set of 17″ Racelines to fit our Falkens. We discussed running big offroad fender flares, but that would have looked quite out of place with our 26″ tall tires. So here’s how we built a Widebody XJ:
First step was to pull the curtain back and see what we were dealing with. The Jeep being of unibody construction, our options were limited; the most attractive option was simply to bump out the stock fenders by three inches on both sides. We retained the stock mounting points so that the entire fender could be removed should we need to replace them down the road.
We made a stop by a local Jeep Junkyard (www.georgethejeep.com) and picked up some new fenders and some other little parts that we’d need. George and Diana were nice enough to donate the parts to the team and, as always I found myself poking around their amazing collection of rare Jeeps:
Cutting the original sheetmetal so we can add the 3″ panel to extend the fenders:
…ground smooth, and…
…voila! A widebody Jeep Cherokee!
The rear flares were a lot more work as the body panels back there are structural. There was no good way to use the existing sheetmetal, so we had to start from scratch. We used very high tech CAD (Cardboard Aided Design) to get the basic shape figured out and mock it up before starting to cut and bend the 16 gauge material we bought.
Jesse Bauman using the ever handy plasma cutter to make the wheel arch:
We tried to maintain some of the Jeep’s body lines while accomplishing our goal. Many compromises had to be made, and after the steep learning curve we’d probably do some things differently.
Little details like fuel filler access were sometimes overlooked, luckily Sharpie Von Dutch was there to free-hand a NACA duct:
With the driver’s side mostly done, we reversed it and copied it on the other side. Shown here is Petty Cash newbie Aleks Altberg getting the new fender ready for paint:
The final result: