John M’s Zebra ZJ

John Mesko
Mena, AR

1998 Grand Cherokee Ltd.

When John sent me some pics of his Zebra ZJ, I knew I had to feature it on Here’s what John has to say about his jaw-dropping rig:

We started with the roll-over from Copart Salvage Auction. It is a 1998 Grand Cherokee Limited with every whistle and bell and power everything including keyless entry. When we were rebuilding it, we cut the fender wells all the way out to the door posts and nearly out to the turn signal and tail lights.

When we got it rebuilt, we left the bumpers off and painted the zebra stripes on it. This required using masking sheets to mask the entire vehicle. Then the stripes had to be cut out with an exacto knife. When we peeled off the masking sheets the stripes were there. Ted Nugent’s Bronco Zebra had the pattern I liked best so we used a more narrow verticle pattern. It’s almost a snow cammo pattern instead of a true zebra.

We also cut out 2×2 inch openings in the rocker panels to recess the custom boulder bars which were welded to the frame and the pinch welds. They are very tough 1/4 inch 2×2 square tubing. Note there is no loss of clearance with them installed.

We then fabricated the custom bumpers from 3/8 3×4 inch angle iron which is actually incredibly light at only 7 lbs/ft. It’s also very tough and gave great clearance. We also fabricated the custom roof rack for some roll protection and it also acts as a tree slider. These pictures show how much we gained. With no lift we got 35″ Mud Kings on.

We then started the lift by cutting out the control arm brackets with a cutting torch. We then re-inforced the frame rails with 1/4 3×4 inch angle iron and fabricated our 5-link and 4-link suspension. We installed the D-44 high pinion front axle and the D-60 rear axle. They both had Detroit lockers and 5.13 gears. We added 8 inch Skyjacker front coils with 2″ spacers and 10 inch rear springs from Rusty’s Off Road. Tires and wheels finished it off.

Of special note is the “Air Chuck” quick disconnect system on the front sway bar. Also that the Zebra is actually a working farm vehicle with the Mile Marker Hydraulic system to run the Hay Rake.

Mods include:

– 10 inch custom lift
– Skyjacker 8″ coils and 2″ spacers on front
– Rusty’s Off-Road prototype 10″ rear coils
– “The Chassis Shop” Heim Joints and Chromoly tubing custom control arms
– Custom 5-link Front Suspension
– Custom 4-link Rear Suspension
– 38 12.50 Interco Super Swamper TSL’s
– 16″ x 10″ Aluminum American Racing Baja Wheels
– Champion Bead Locks
– 1978 Ford F-250 truck axles
– Dana 44 High Pinion Front axle
– Dana 60 Rear Axle
– Detroit Lockers Front and Rear
– Pro Comp Adjustable MX6 Shocks
– Custom Rock Crawling Bumpers Front and Rear
– Custom Rocker Protection Rails recessed into Rocker panels and welded to frame
– Halogen back-up lights incorporated into roof rack
– Ramsey 8000i Winch
– High Steering Arms
– AGR Rock Ram Steering
– Yukon 5.13 Gears from Randy’s Ring & Pinion
– Warn Heavy Duty Lock out Hubs in Front
– Moser Axle upgrade in Front with Spicer 5 760-x u-joints and full circle clips
– High Lift Jack
– Lighted Inclinometer
– Mile Marker Hydraulic system plumbed to rear bumper (used to run farm equipment or rear winch)
– Palm Pilot Rand McNally “NavMan” GPS Navigation System
– Unique “Air Chuck” Discos for sway bar
– On board CO2 system with 280 ft/lb air wrench also airs up tires
– Oasis air down system
– “ZEBRA” vanity plate

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