As you read this, the '02 Jeep Liberty will have been in dealers' showrooms for only a few short weeks. However, as the aftermarket industry is apt to do, it wasted no time in giving the Liberty the modification treatment. The Liberty featured on these pages is, to our knowledge, the first Liberty to be enhanced, and Truckin's SUV is the first publication to bring the vehicle to the printed page.
This Jeep Liberty Patriot is the brainchild of Larry Weiner of the Performance West Group, a company that prides itself in taking new, stock vehicles, adding the aftermarket touch, and showcasing the results. Larry also works closely with Jim Bell of Kenne Bell on many of these projects, and a key feature of the Jeep Liberty Patriot is the Kenne Bell supercharger kit for the Jeep's 3.7L V-6 powerplant. It also benefits from a retina-burning paintjob, a bevy of aftermarket driving lights, bright stainless panels, and upgraded rolling stock.
The 2002 Liberty is Jeep's first new vehicle of the 21st century and is perhaps an indication of Jeep's future direction. In announcing the introduction of the Liberty, Jeep also informed consumers of the demise of the Cherokee, a decision that was met with mixed reactions. A bit larger in size than the Cherokee, the Liberty definitely has Jeep-heritage styling, with round headlamps up front, the trademark seven-slotted grille, and an aggressive hood and side cladding. Powered by a 3.7L
V-6 that pumps out 210 hp (a four-cylinder, 150hp engine is also available), the Liberty is dubbed the KJ model and checks in with a base price of $17,035.
We found the new Liberty to be a very capable ride on and off the road (see our road test on page 76 of the Oct., '01 issue), and while a bit of departure for the Jeep nameplate, the Liberty is certainly a strong addition to the Jeep lineup. However, the aftermarket is always more than willing to step in to take the vehicle to the next level, as is the case with the Performance West/Kenne Bell Jeep Liberty you see here.
This Jeep Liberty Patriot vehicle is the result of a well-thought-out mixture of aftermarket parts, one-off upgrades, and tweaking of stock components. Perhaps the first upgrade that immediately grabs your attention is the Liberty's bright-yellow paintjob. Dubbed "Highlighter Yellow" by Kenne Bell's President Jim Bell, the color is actually designated SolidGold Bullion, a House of Kolor blend that was expertly sprayed by Mike Face Custom Paint. After your eyes adjust from the blinding flash, they begin to notice other body-enhancing mods.
Up front, there's body armor stainless steel trim from Cruiser Stainless Accessories and a lightbar up top, also from Cruiser, holding a bank of four PIAA model 80 Racing off-road lights. A set of the same PIAA lights also resides in the Liberty's grille. Along the Jeep's sides, stainless steel, rubber-faced step bars from Cruiser Stainless Accessories allow easier entry and exit maneuvers.
The upgraded rolling stock is also an attention-getter and is comprised of stylish 16-inch Konig NR/N alloy wheels with chrome accents that are wrapped by LT245/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R rubber. Out back, a trailer hitch from Mopar Accessories stands ready to haul essential Liberty extras, and a White Light system from Cruiser Stainless Accessories is also on call for enhancing the Jeep's rear vision. The Jeep's stance is given a slight boost with the addition of Intrax Plus Height springs that serve to improve departure and approach angles, providing a bit more ground clearance.
Pop open the bright hood on the Liberty and you're greeted with additional prominent upgrades in the form of a supercharger kit and performance enhancements by Kenne Bell. The heart of these upgrades is the Autorotor twin-screw supercharger (Kenne Bell is the exclusive North American distributor for the Autorotor). This supercharger kit increases horsepower and torque by as mucg as 40 percent and was the first supercharger kit of any type to be installed on a Liberty 3.7L powerplant. Kenne Bell has a knack for making these installs look almost factory, and the Liberty install is no exception. Also helping out in the performance department is a Kenne Bell Optimizer computer, which recalibrates fuel and spark curves and indicates when detonation is present, and a Kenne Bell Boost-A-Pump, which increases fuel delivery for the increased horsepower and torque of the supercharger. A Ram Air kit, Optima battery, and Denso spark plugs offer further gains under the hood.
Step into the Liberty's interior and you're greeted with more aftermarket wizardry. Custom leather is very evident, on both seating surfaces and door panels. The leather seats and accents have been expertly stitched by Katzkin Leather, and they lend an elegant flair to the Jeep's interior. Stainless steel door entry guards from Mopar Accessories carry the Jeep logo, as do the floor mats. The interior upgrades also include racing pedal pads from Summit Racing Equipment.
Similar to many project vehicles, this Jeep Liberty was built up to highlight a variety of aftermarket manufacturers and to illustrate just how far the vehicle platform can be taken in terms of style and performance enhancement. At press time, the Jeep Liberty Patriot was scheduled to be prominently displayed at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas, and we're confident that with the Jeep's dazzling paint and plethora of accessories, it is sure to turn heads and create a lasting impression.