Sand Cars Features

Jon Crowley snapped these photos of Adam Ofstad and the trick Jeep Cherokee that he built with help from his friends, Chris Marshall and Kris Barr. Adam is a 35 year-old firefighter who also owns his own auto repair and performance shop. As you can see, he loves fast cars, lots of flames, and powering through the dunes in style. This project took Adam and his crew approximately three year to finish.

Fire Fighter's Flame

Modified Jeep Grand Cherokee with 21 inches of travel and more than 1,000 horsepower under the hood
By Michael Sommer | April 22, 2013

Photos by Jon Crowley -

The Grand Cherokee is Chrysler’s flagship model for Jeep’s lineup of vehicles, but that’s not the reason why Portland, Oregon’s Adam Ofstad chose this vehicle for a radical off-road machine. A firefighter who also owns Pro Auto Repair as a sideline business, Adam’s roots with custom and high performance vehicles runs deep. He’s also not afraid to put the cars he owns to the test, confident that he has the ability and know-how to fix any mechanical problems and put his cars back on the road ... or the off-road in the case of this 1996 ZJ Grand Cherokee Limited Edition. While most people wouldn’t even think of hitting the 4WD switch in their Grand Cherokee and heading out into the sand, Adam welcomes the idea wholeheartedly and takes it to the extreme.
It all started in 2004 when Adam ventured out to the coast and attended DuneFest with his buddies, attempting to conquer the dunes of Winchester Bay behind the wheel of his fully lifted Ford Super Duty diesel truck that was rolling on 44 inch Super Swampers. A few days later, during the four hour ride home and with the truck now having a melted turbocharger and blown front diff, Adam was so hooked on recreating in the sand that he was already thinking about his next custom build. His basic parameters were a full-size SUV so that he could haul as many friends as possible, as well as a powerful engine and the ability to run paddle tires. As luck would have it, Adam’s donor vehicle for the project materialized sooner than he expected. It happened while he was commuting to work and the engine blew up in his 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Instead of overhauling the engine, he decided to do a complete overhaul on the vehicle and transform it into the custom ride you see here.
The project began when Adam transported the Cherokee to Marshall’s Auto Body in McMinnville, Oregon where owner Chris Marshall applied his racing and fabrication experience to the design of new roll cage and long travel suspension. Together, they came up with a plan that utilized the stock body and Jeep frame members, however, they strengthened the vehicle by fabricating a complete roll cage using 3-inch O.D. DOM tubing that ties in with the front and rear suspension components. The front suspension uses a 9-inch housing that’s secured to the subframe with a triangulated 4-link setup, and it incorporates Dana 44 knuckles and spindles, PSC full hydraulic ram steering unit, and a heavy duty antisway bar system. Stopping power comes from Wilwood disc brakes, while a set of King 2.5- inch coil-over shocks and a set of King’s bump stops control the 21 inches of wheel travel.
The fully modified 4-link rear suspension is also based on a 9-inch housing that uses Strange 35-spline axles, antisway bars, along with King coil-over shocks and bump stops that allow for 21 inches of travel. Brakes in the rear are also Wilwood, and the drive shaft is a super stout model that is designed to absorb the shock of the vehicle slamming to the ground under power while weighted down with five passengers. Adam told us that he gives a lot of credit to Chris Marshall for knowing how to build a setup like this, as well as Kris Barr of Oregon Motor Sports for supplying all of the components needed to complete the project. Barr not only acquired the King shocks, he also provided Adam with the Reel Racing double bead lock wheels, 16.50 Desert Trak front tires and 20.00 Padla Trak paddles, as well as many of the supplies that were needed to fabricate this red hot Cherokee.
When it came time for the power plant, Adam knew he wanted neck-snapping performance. So, he contacted Tom Pinkowsky of Tom’s Performance Machine located in Orchards, Washington. Adam was deadset on using a GM Small Block to keep the weight of the vehicle to a minimum, but he wanted as much power as possible. Tom suggested increasing the displacement to 406 cubic-inches with the use of an Eagle crank and rods, installing a set of Probe pistons designed for 8.2:1 compression ratio, and then topping the motor off with a supercharger to yield the 1,000+ horsepower that Adam wanted. The engine utilizes Edelbrock Victor Jr. cylinder heads, Cam Motions camshaft, Comp lifters, Crower rockers, Moroso oil pump, B&M oil cooler and an MSD ignition system.
Profile view with the Cherokee hammering into a slide gives you a good look at the ground clearance and massive 4-link suspension system with 9-inch members front and rear. Intercooler for 1,000+hp engine is visible beneath front bumper and lights.
The induction system is where a majority of the power is generated, thanks in part to the Holly Strip Dominator intake manifold with 16 injector bungs, 105mm throttle body, FAST EFI system that uses 16 Bosch 160-lb./hr. fuel injectors and an Aeromotive belt drive fuel pump. But, it’s the F-2 series ProCharger supercharger with 4-inch aluminum pipe that really wakes up the engine; it produces 35 psi of boost while working in conjunction with a ProCharger intercooler and dual waste gates to control the intake charge as the engine revs to its max power of more than 1,000 horsepower to the rear wheels. This was confirmed after the TH 400 transmission (built by Marty’s Transmission of Portland) was installed and Adam’s Cherokee was strapped down on Tom’s Dynojet where it hit 980hp to the rear wheels. And there was even more room in the tuneup for additional power. Tom and Adam estimate that the engine is capable of making about 1,600hp at the crank, running 35 psi of boost on methanol alcohol.
Other components include custom built stainless headers with 4-inch exhausts using Magna Flow mufflers (built by Gerald at Downard Motorsports), as well as a Superior Billet 4200 stall speed torque converter, heavy duty input and intermediate shafts, trans brake, Redline clutches, 6-core custom radiator and a Milodon oil pan. In essence,the driveline was built with everything necessary to handle more than 1,000 ground pounding ponies at full gallop.
Scoping out the interior you’ll find the stock Grand Cherokee leather seats fitted with 5-point harnesses tucked between the roll cage tubing. But, a few upgrades were added to accommodate the high performance driveline components. This includes a Wilwood pedal assembly, stock shifter with a trans brake lever, Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges that are mounted in a custom panel made by Chris Marshall, and a high volume fuel cell that was fabricated by Downard Motorsports which is mounted just below the rear cargo area.
When it came time to add the finishing touches, Adam and the crew disassembled the Cherokee and began prepping it for paint at Marshall’s Auto Body. Downard Motorsports did all of the aluminum sheet metal work, as well as the chrome plating and polishing work, while Chris Marshall applied the House of Colors candy paint over the black base coat. Check out those awesome airbrush flames, which are perfect for a firefighter like Adam. It almost looks too good to be driven off-road. But, this “Fire Fighter’s Flame” is not a trailer queen and she gets taken out to the dunes as often as possible during the summer months. Would you expect anything less?

 A Few More "Sand Cars" Stories...

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