Well I was going to chime in but it looks like it has already been done with my answer...manuals. :beer
Do you friend a big favor, buy a set of new manual hubs and hold on to them without saying anything. When his go out...and they will...then just whip em out and tell him to bow down to you. :rockon hehe
That or give em to him as a b-day gift or something. The autos were made to be more "Driver Friendly". But as mentioned before, there is more to break and it does. If he has the 3 bolt hubs, then he will also need a conversion kit. If its the 5 or 6 bolt hubs...just the new hubs will do.
hehe you can also wait til he gets stuck with his broken auto hubs then you can prove how much better the manuals are. :twak
I owned a pushbutton (Selectrac switch) Cherokee and not only is it not as satisfying to feel the stick shift the t-case, but it seemed to always have a delay between the click and the engagement....at least the jeep had a lever to engage low.
BTW I think Billybob was saying that the pushbutton t-cases can have the autolock hubs - unlike alot of manuals which have the manual (get out and twist the hub into a locking position for the wheel to lock to the axle)... I have a manual transfer case on my Pathfinder w/ auto locked hubs which is the way a lot of newer trucks are today. Not nearly as strong and why I use my Bronco for the serious wheeling. If anyone ever comes out with a 3 or 4" lift for the '97 PF, I might convert the hubs as well...