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For the next year or so, I was pretty happy with the height my Jeep sat at. The front-burner issue now became horsepower. Back when had I first bought it, I had a performance muffler put on at Exhaust Pros (which made the in-line 6 sound more like a V8). I also had put in a K&N air filter. This setup had been adequate for driving in the Midwest, but just wasn't cutting it going over the high-elevation passes in Colorado. I was becoming a little jealous of the V8 Grand Cherokees flying past me going up the mountain. After being back in Colorado for two years and having to slam it into second gear to keep up my momentum every time we went through Vail, I decided it was time for a newer more powerful ZJ. That summer I traded in the '95 at Mr. Robert's Used Cars for a '98 V8 5.2L Laredo. I almost got a 5.9L (they were only another $1,000), but the 5.2L had a better reputation with regards to maintenance issues and was less prone to overheat during serious summertime off-roading. (Besides, when I test drove the 5.2L, I was able to do an easy 85 mph up the steep grade between Denver and Evergreen, which is plenty of get-up-and-go for me.) At the time of purchase, I arranged to have the dealer switch out the Rancho suspension and Edelbrock shocks from my '95 and put it all on my new (to me) '98. I also kept my wheels and Mickey Thompson tires, Smittybilt sidebars, and Yakima roof rack.
The '98 Grand was definitely more luxurious than my '95 - I now had leather interior! The ride felt a lot smoother as well, and I enjoyed the quicker response I got when I stepped on the gas. The exterior looked a little more stylish as well, with the bottom molding being painted the same color as the rest of the vehicle (rather than the grayish-plastic which had clashed somewhat with the paint job on my previous ZJ). I was very pleased.
ZJ build, continued
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