Article by Will Carlton.
Editor’s note: Rock Lizard Fabrications is no longer building XJ bumpers. Similar bumpers are currently available from JCR Offroad though.
Now that I had the lift, tires, roof rack, custom stereo and other goodies installed on my 2000 Cherokee, it came time to focus my attention towards recovery points and rock protection for trail runs. I originally purchased a JCR Stage 1 bumper from JCR Offroad. While this bumper is very inexpensive, it was inexpensive for a reason. I needed a beefed up bumper to stand up to anything that was thrown in front of my Cherokee. I looked around on the internet at many different bumpers such as BPI, Custom 4×4 Fabrication, JCR Offroad and other fabrication companies. Then I remembered that Marty Verburgt, owner of Rock Lizard Fabrications, who lived just on the other side of town, mentioned to me a couple of months before that he was going to make one mean Cherokee bumper. I gave him a call and he told me that he had just picked up his first prototype model of his Monitor
Lizard Front Bumper. Hey, even the name sounded cool enough for me to check it out. I checked his web site and knew it was the bumper for me.
The bumper body is made of 3/16″ Grade 50 formed steel for extra strength and the mounting brackets are made from 3/16″ steel plate and laser cut for precise fit. A cool feature of this awesome bumper is that the mounting brackets also act as an outer steering box brace to help reinforce the weak unibody where the steering box bolts up in Cherokees. Marty told me the Monitor Lizard Front Bumper will come standard in Matte black powder coating with 3/4″ thick shackle mounting tabs, a front hitch receiver, outer steering box brace incorporated into bumper mounts, and of course the entire bumper was made of Grade 50 steel. This heavy duty bumper will definitely give the other aftermarket bumpers a run for their money.
Once I did the research on this bumper, I had to have one. I asked him to give me a call when he had the prototype powder coated and ready for install. In less than a week I drove out to his shop and we unbolted the cheap excuse for a front bumper that was presently settled on my frame mounts.
We unbolted the three bolts that held my steering box in place, and managed to break one of the bolts right at the inner aluminum steering box plate. Corrosion between the dissimilar metals (aluminum plate, steel bolt) caused the two to fuse together and just snapped instead of breaking free. Marty dropped the steering box down to where it could be easily worked on, broke off the cheap factory aluminum plate to get to what was left of the broken bolt, and was able to remove the remains from the steering box. Being it was late and right before a weekend, there was no way to get a new plate and factory bolt for at least 4-5 days. So, Marty went over to his own Cherokee, unbolted the steering box, and used his own plate and one of the bolts so I would have a means of transportation over the weekend. Now that’s service!
After getting that little mess figured out, we test fit the bumper and it slid on with ease and fit snug, but not too tight, to the Cherokee’s frame. Once in place, we bolted it in place utilizing the heavy duty zinc plated hardware included with the bumper. Two 1/2″ bolts replaced the front two factory bolts per side that held the old bumper in place. A seriously thick bolt (5/8″) secures the bumper at the rearward most mount holes and bolts in place nicely on the frame. All that was left was to put the third front bolt (factory) back in place and then replace the 3 steering box bolts on the driver’s side. Marty and I then stood back and admired all the meticulous design and hard work that went in to creating such a great bumper. This bumper was the first prototype made from his original design, so there were a few minor imperfections that, although barely noticeable unless he told you what they were, had already been addressed and fixed on his design plans to ensure future production models were perfect.
When Marty at Rock Lizard Fabrications designed this bumper, he spent a lot of time studying other bumpers on the market, and researched a lot of what customers of those products had to say about them. He paid close attention to what people liked and didn’t like about a bumper, and when he did up his designs, he threw in all the good and left out as much of the bad as possible to come up with something customers would really be happy with. Although the exact retail price has yet to be disclosed, he said his Monitor Lizard bumper would be in the $400-450 range, and although it may not be the cheapest bumper on the market, the style, build quality, and all the “included features” that you would have to pay extra for on most of the competitors bumpers, will actually make it tough to beat.
After having the bumper on for almost a month, I could not be happier. The bumper looks mean and gives my Jeep a new attitude. I have received nothing but great complements on this bumper and everyone wants to know where I got such a great looking bumper!
For more information, contact:1 comment