In an earlier post I mentioned that my 4xGuard experiments with my father this summer had included the installation of a prototype Front Guard (version 1.5) that had never gone into production. As I wrote then:
Good for me, but not useful for anyone else. Not to worry, though: we also effectively redesigned the production Front Guard model (which would make it Front Guard 4, I think) and its bracketry in order to fit the XK with very minimal cutting. The results should be a win for everyone.
Well, Front Guard 4 has arrived. I just completed the test-fit on my Commander. It simply could not have gone better. Before I get to the details, here’s the latest shot of my Commander at distance:
Okay. Now for the nitty gritty…
There’s not a lot to the kit on arrival. It was very well packed, and everything was in excellent condition. There’s a parts bag, some instructions, two brackets, and, of course, one massive skid plate:
There are small tweaks across the kit, but the major XK-relative redesigns (they won’t change fitment for WKs but will greatly ease fitment for XKs) are primarily to the brackets and the guard itself.
Let’s start with the brackets. It’s a bit hard to see the shape of the brackets in the picture above (I didn’t realize my exposure wasn’t good until I was done with everything, and I’m not going to take the thing apart just to snap another one), but they’ve been changed in a rather important way for XK owners. This simple diagram will help explain:
The black parts have not been substantially changed. As you can see, though, the old design (Front Guard HC; I’ve colored it grey) had the front end of the skidplate mounting bracket bending back around on itself (sort of a hook shape) in order to reach its attachment points on the vehicle’s crossmember. The redesign cuts out this hook by instead introducing a simple jog (in red) in the bracket. This won’t matter a lick for most WK owners, but to XK owners it’s a huge difference. The Commander’s front fascia, you see, hangs lower than that on the Grand Cherokee. Where the WK’s crossmember is more or less exposed, on the XK it is tucked up under the face of the fascia. One way or another, therefore, the XK owner will need to cut a slot in the fascia for his or her mounting bracket. By jogging the bracket rather than hooking it, that slot is significantly reduced in size. Here you can see the crude fascia whacking I did to make the slot:
In my defense, the biggest reason for the roughness of my cutting is this summer’s experimental work with different brackets. As you can see on the tape measure, all you need to do now is to measure over from that tab (it’s 1 away from the center of the vehicle) about 5.25″ and then cut straight back until you reach the recess in the fascia. That’s the inner cut. The outer cut begins about 7″ over from that tab. Saw it back to the same depth as the inner one and square ’em off (I used a Black and Decker RTX, a “Dremel” type rotary cutter). As you can see, it’s important to cut all the way to that recess in the fascia, but you don’t need to cut into it. The bracket will mount flush with it:
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Because of the redesigned skidplate, those two small, simple slots are all the fascia cutting you need to make. And once the Front Guard 4 is in place, you cannot see these cuts. They’re completely hidden. To make the previous Front Guard fit an XK, on the other hand, required serious time-consuming and stress-inducing hacking, much of which required difficult scribing and was in the end open for the world to see. The biggest reason for this difference is the fact that the sides of the Front Guard 4 are shorter than those on the previous version, while maintaining the same strength. In other words, the Front Guard 4 is just as strong as the Front Guard HC, but it weighs less and now fits an XK with less labor and far less vehicle body modification. Yahtzee!
Actually, now that I’ve said it, I need to revise that last statement. The Front Guard 4 isn’t “just as strong” as the Front Guard HC. It’s stronger. The seven vertical openings in the guard — which look dynamite under a Jeep grill — have been moved up slightly from where they were previously. On the HC version, for instance, the openings went all the way down to the bend in the plate. The HC version of the Front Guard wasn’t a slouch when it came to strength, but it doesn’t take multiple graduate degrees to know that by moving the slots off the bend Front Guard 4 becomes substantially stronger across the full width of the skidplate, particularly at the edge of that bend — which is almost assuredly the part of the plate most likely to take rock strikes on the trail. Double Yahtzee!
Another design difference visible on that kit picture above is the fact that the mounting bolts now go into recesses in the skid plate. The bolt heads on the Front Guard 4, in other words, are less exposed than they were on the Front Guard HC. You can see them here on a side-view of the installed plate:
Nice, eh? And check it out from a bit more distance, showing off the way it works with my 4xGuard Matrix:
Okay, one more picture and I’ll stop. Here’s the Front Guard 4 and the Matrix from head-on (moments after tightening the last bolt):
‘Tis a beautiful thing. A very beautiful thing. 🙂