by Ian Sharp, former Chrysler Corporation engineer • based on a 2015 interview
At first I disagreed with putting a V8 into the Grand Cherokee, becuase it hurt the handling, and I was focused on tuning for handling and ride. The V8 wanted to go straight on when you wanted to turn; the smaller inline 6 was much better for handling. In the end, I guess I’d have to agree that the V8 was better, but not for handling and ride.
After the Grand Cherokee had launched, I was talking to Craig Wynn, Jeep’s president, and he said to me, “We’re coming up to the one millionth Grand Cherokee, and we don’t want to advertise it because we want to be an exclusive brand.” They wanted to still make the Jeep seem like it’s an exclusive vehicle, but we were cranking out hundreds of thousands a year. I don’t know what they did about that.
We based the Jeep Commander on the Grand Cherokee, trying to cram a third seat in. We had to do crash studies, and because the third seat was right up against the rear window, with just a small little luggage space, every rear end crash threw the occupants of the third seat all over the place and killed them.
We couldn’t retain the seats in the back properly, so we had some Indian consulting guys come in. They came up with something to keep the seats in the correct place during the crash. Mathematically it worked, but was totally impractical in terms of what a customer would accept. They had big steel wires attached to the roof interior, running down to the seats. We couldn’t get them to understand:
“This will work! This will work!”
“But the customer won’t buy the car with a great big steel hose attached, a great big steel cable up to the roof interior of the car.”
“No, no, no! It’ll work!”
That’s the problem you have with these guys. Mathematically, it worked, but they were fresh out of college, bright but not worldly.
We didn’t go with the big steel cables, but they did a lot of computer models with them. Can you imagine? I’d love to get a picture of that. It had to work diagonally, a big, ugly steel hose stretching from the base of the rearmost seat cushion, over the second row seat.
Our solution was to put more structure in, but they were adamant the wires could’ve gone into production. Everybody just looked at it and scratched their head and said, “Where are these guys coming from?”
After I finished tuning the 1993 Grand Cherokee, I was asked to tune the European version. We decided to use a different tire for Europe, partly because it doesn’t have much snow in most of the continent, and at that time in England, I don’t think we’d had snow in ten years.
I sketched out a pattern on the proverbial napkin at the conference room at the Goodyear Luxemburg Technical Center. I was being a little bit of a faddist at that time, because it was a time when F1 tires had a swoopy style to them and curved bladed water ejection grooves in them. The Goodyear guys were reluctant to let a chassis guy design a tire, but they acquiesced in the end because there were so many sales riding on it. They used the tread pattern that we came up with together that day.
That tire was brilliant in the rain. It wasn’t so good in the snow, but during the wet, it was really, really good.
Along with the construction, I insisted on putting silica in the tires. Goodyear and Chrysler were reluctant to do it because of the cost, but I put my foot down, and the tire helped to make the vehicle.
Also see: Tuning the original Jeep Grand Cherokees
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