By on November 17, 2015

00 - 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Colorado  junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The value of a first-generation Grand Cherokee that’s even slightly rough crashed hard quite a few years ago and has remained just a hair above scrap value ever since, so junkyards here in SUV-crazed Colorado tend to be packed with these trucks. XJ Cherokees are plentiful as well, but I tend to notice them more than the bigger and more Chryslerated Grands.

This ’97, however, is one of the (presumably) super-rare Orvis Editions, and so I broke out the camera when I saw it in a Denver yard last week.

Yes, Bob Lutz introduced the world to the first Grand Cherokee by driving it up some stairs and through a plate-glass window.

04 - 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Colorado  junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Ford had the Eddie Bauer Explorer during the 1990s, when American families were finalizing their divorce with the station wagon and moving en masse to crash-safety- and fuel-economy-standards-evading SUVs, so Chrysler felt the need to team up with a rugged-yet-stylish clothing company as well.

11 - 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Colorado  junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The Orvis Edition Grand Cherokee was available for the 1995 through 1997 model years, and it featured these handsome green-and-tan leather seats plus a lot of Orvis badges on the exterior.

18 - 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Colorado  junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The basic design of this truck came from AMC, during its final days, and so there’s a bit of Kenosha in this truck’s genes. The engine, however, is pure Chrysler: the Magnum version of the venerable 318-cubic-inch V-8 (you could still get the even-more-venerable AMC straight-six in ’97 Grand Cherokees, of course).

The ideal vehicle to help a tortoise cheat against a hare.

In Australia, the loser drivers of the Roller and the Mondial were forced to use ordinary driveways, while the manly (and equally wealthy) ’97 Grand Cherokee driver rumbled over a conveniently placed rockpile by the outer wall of the compound.

Meanwhile, the Grand Cherokee’s American marketers were chasing those cheapskate dollars with a zero-down deal.

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67 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis Edition...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I remember driving around looking for a place to set up a tent near Hancock NY when I was down there to fish the Delaware River. There was an Orvis outfitter lodge nearby, and some very big money fly fishing enthusiasts cruising through in all sorts of Range rovers, upper trim Grand Cherokees, etc. My old MPV was quite out of place, as was I, foolishly thinking I’d find a public piece of land along the river to camp out on.

    I really like the ZJ Grand Cherokees, a friend was gifted a ’98 Laredo with about 115k miles when we were seniors in high school (velour interior, Selec-trac, 4.0L), I recall his mom paying $5k for it. Super nice truck, if I could find one as clean nowadays with low miles, I’d jump on it. A really smooth ride with the solid axles front and rear on coil springs, it flew down seasonal roads (unpaved, gravel with some larger rocks) with aplomb.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The ZJ has got problems galore though, as they age. Specifically electrical and transmission, IIRC. I never hear much good about them.

      Oh, and rust.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Yeah I mean at the end of the day it’s a Chrysler so there’s a bit of a reputation for certain areas as you correctly named them. But there’s also a TON of ZJ/WJ trucks breaking the 200k mile mark. The 5.2L and 4.0L are solid motors, as Murliee stated. Transmissions can last just fine if maintained, and probably best if saddled to the lower power 4.0L. Full time transfer cases fail pretty regularly, the viscous coupling to the front end locks up. Guys will swap in Selec-trac t-cases and call it good. Anything this old will have issues, but I think if one could find a clean, rust free unit that hasn’t been abused, that it would make an excellent weekend hauler/camping rig. They’re definitely better highway vehicles than my stiffly sprung and somewhat cramped 4Runner.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Definitely would stick to the 4.0, as the 5.2 is rated in gallons per mile from everything I’ve read and heard!

          That’s part of why they are just valued so low. When fuel got expensive, a smallish SUV that got 11mpg wasn’t exactly too desirable. I think the 4.0 models got the same blame as the 5.2 in this regard, though incorrectly.

          But seriously, 5.2 drinks like a Suburban.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            About the only thing that drinks more gas than a 5.2 is a 5.9!

            Definitely would rather have a 5.7 Suburban than a 5.9 Grand Cherokee/Durango.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Indeed. The GM option is larger, more reliable, and has a better image and resale value.

          • 0 avatar
            Car Ramrod

            My 5.2 got 13-14mpg city and 16 highway.

            Fun fact: cruising at 100mph, instant fuel economy was 10mpg.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Car Ramrod, that sounds more on point. I knew someone with a 4.0L WJ, it would hit 20mpg on the highway if driven sanely. The friend with a ZJ and a 4.0L was getting about 13mpg around town, then we realized he only had 15psi in his tires. It went to about 15mpg in city driving after we amended that. Tolerable. A coworker with a WJ with the 4.7L V8 and full time transfer case said he averaged about 17mpg on his commute.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Heh, I just remembered that my one uncle owned both a 454 Suburban and an 8.1 2500 pickup! Talk about bad gas mileage!

            I remember how impressed by the Allison transmission I was…I didn’t know what it was, but he told me they put them in big rigs and that was enough for me.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    True story: Most Orvis models were painted a special green color – so this one is unusual because it’s not. Someone will want those seats! I have always been a fan of special edition Jeeps, they’re as corny as special edition Lincolns!

    The Orvis was always loaded up, top of the line. I suspect it was even more expensive than the Limited.

    And less corny than a Northface Avalanche.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I didn’t know that Orvis was an outdoor retailer until I was an adult. Growing up in the Detroit area, I just thought it was a Jeep trim. They were plentiful around these parts. My parents coveted one, but we couldn’t afford no Orvis Jeep. We had a burnt orange Mercury Villager instead.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I didn’t know that it was a retailer – until reading this article. It honestly sounded like just a Jeep invention to me. I’ve only seen maybe one or two Orvis, ever. Probably the same one, just saw it twice.

        They should have done a Bass Pro Shop Edition for the rest of America. Now that’s got name recognition!

        Your parents had a white Eagle Premier, which is the ultimate in automotive expression. All other cars are wont to keep up. Even if it were a Villager with prestigious Nautica trim.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          There is an Orvis by me, but I think it’s just an empty building that Jeep decorated with Orvis logos. Maybe they’ll turn it into an “Overland” store now.

          My parents had weird Chrysler products because my dad sold cars at a Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge dealer for a couple years after hurting his back on a job site. He always bought some weird a$$ leftover vehicle that no one wanted. This continued after he went back to the skilled trades as well. Eagle Premier, Dodge Spirit R/T, Eagle Vision, Chrysler Concorde, Chrysler New Yorker, etc. From 1990 to 2014 we had at least one Dodge truck as well.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My sister’s friend growing up got driven around in a Vision by her parents. Since my aunt had a same-color Intrepid at the time, the Vision seemed cooler and more expensive. The sporty, angular nature and BIG Eagle badge on the front told me it was better. It also had better looking rear blinkers. Never got to ride in it!

            I would sort of like to drive around in a later Concorde or final New Yorker, just to see. they are just so huge, so much room in there! The New Yorker seemed like it had a pretty nice interior for the time, but I’m guessing that’s because I haven’t touched it. I shall speculate here that the ride was not as good as a similar FWD Cadillac.

            The actor from the Dodge commercials died the other week, didn’t he? The guy who was also in Overboard with Goldie Hawn.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Funny, Cincinnati DOES have an Orvis across from the main mall (had no idea). But it’s only been there since sometime in 2013.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          In 1997, much of America hadn’t heard of Bass Pro Shops either. Only recently with the march of Generica moving into every inch of the country, has BPS become mainstream.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Color (no pun intended) me confused here. If SUVs and CUVs are the versatile saviors of the automotive world as the industry seems to think, then why is a special SUV like this, rare model and rare color, in a junkyard with no value?

      I personally think the switch to SUVs and CUVs is going to end up eroding the value of automotive brands, as is the demise of the manual transmission. IMHO. Our most popular and growing vehicle segment is completely disposable. And this proves it. When people want to preserve a brand’s products, that has a benefit to the brand’s current good will, unless you completely pee it away as GM has done.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        “If SUVs and CUVs are the versatile saviors of the automotive world as the industry seems to think, then why is a special SUV like this, rare model and rare color, in a junkyard with no value?”

        Two completely divergent concepts. SUVs/CUVs are the “saviors” of the automotive world in that they are the practical cars everyone is moving to but no one particularly cares about in an emotional way. Kind of like the quartz watch was what brought the watch to everyman but you don’t see anyone saving the average Timex because it doesn’t have much emotional value.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Haven’t cars been disposable since they started making cars?

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          Automakers have long capitalized on brand equity created by special cars of their past, even where those cars did not sell in particularly large numbers. Nissan did it some years ago by tying itself to the 240Z. I think it even sold approved restored examples through its licensed dealers. Now its bringing back the “4SC” name from the 1989 Maxima that was such a good car (unfortunately this about the only good thing about the new Maxipad). Chevy features pictures of old Camaros in its brochures for new Camaros from time to time. Ford resurrected the “5.0” name, even styling the nameplate to be identical to the 5.0 liter emblem affixed to the Fox Mustangs that brought Ford so much cred in the 1980s. And so on.

          Do you think manufacturers of 2030 will have this type of equity to draw on from today’s CUVs? LOL! By then people will be buying their made-in-China cars from Costco. Why not? There won’t be any emotion or good will tied to any of the big manufacturers.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Bit of Kenosha? These trucks were pure Plymouth Road Engineering (AMC engineering, later JTE Jeep Truck Engineering, in the now-abandoned old Nash Kelvinator building there.)

  • avatar
    phlipski

    Detroit must have been depressing as hell to live in back in the late 80’s, early 90’s. If jeep were to re-shoot that video today they’d show a jeep racing to get the hell out of the place! That Jeep’s design has aged well though.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Makes me a bit sad to see this one, as I sold these when new. This one is somewhat rare, there weren’t that many in Driftwood Metallic. As CoreyDL correctly states above, most were sold in emerald green, as anything dark green was a hot item during a 3-4 year cycle of the 1990’s.

    This one in particular appears to have been a loved vehicle for most of its “life”. Its interior appears to have been well maintained, and its paint is original – it still sports the painted-on pinstripes that were optional on Grand Cherokees of this vintage. A very classy touch, IMHO.

    I wouldn’t mine owning one of these nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Oh, and the green Orvis versions had green painted wheels on the inside bits. There’s quite a lot of Orvis parts for sale on Ebay at high prices, even a full set of door panels! $359 or something.

      EDIT: Some of the green ones had green painted wheels. Jeep confuses me with their number of wheel options in this period.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Pics! Look how nice. I’m really a fan of these, even with MPG and crap reliability. Like an American version of the Holland&Holland RR.

    https://www.drive.net/r/jeep/288230376151999985/
    http://www.cardomain.com/ride/2968008/1996-jeep-grand-cherokee/photo-gallery/

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I’ve only seen one of these Orfice, I mean Orvis Edition Jeep’s in my lifetime in 1997. I haven’t seen one since. They were handsome, but that name was terrible.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    When I first saw this I assumed it was the 4.7 V8 not the 5.2, the former which as IIRC is junk.

    If this was the AMC I6 it would still be on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      “the 4.7 V8 not the 5.2, the former which as IIRC is junk.”

      I beg to differ. I had a ’03 Durango with the 4.7 motor and in 190,000 miles it never missed a beat. It would still be running today if not for the fact an armed car-jacker, on the run, plowed into it in L.A. and totaled it (I’m not making this up!).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Carjacking story time!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        In the 90s the GC had a V8 which was problematic in addition to all of your standard GC fare such as electrical issues. Maybe it was the 5.2 although I do believe it was the 4.7 but by MY03 its certainly possible any issues were ironed out.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          4.7 is a bit hit or miss. Some (most) people rack up massive mileages without any issues, but there have been horror stories as well. One thing is for sure, it doesn’t take abuse and neglect quite as well as the cast iron 5.2. Oil and coolant changes are more important, the alloy heads on the 4.7 apparently do not take well to overheating events.

          Overall, buying a used older Grand Cherokee, I think I would opt for a basic 4.0L with the selec-trac transfer case (2H,4H unlock, 4H lock, 4L lock modes). High-trim WJs simply have a lot of stuff to go wrong, HVAC blend doors being one of the more notorious issues, a poorly maintained 4.7L and/or fancy locking diffs and transfer case being the other liability. Of course, condition and maintenance history trump all of that.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            We always tried to buy the 4.0 back in the day, but the loaded examples were almost always a V8. People walked because we didn’t offer a loaded version of an SUV at times. Bob generally tried to buy Mountaineers as opposed to Explorers for this reason as the Merc generally didn’t cost us much more. Chevrolet Tahoes seemed to be the big sellers when we had them, although we also seemed to sell a fair amount of Pathfinders/Infiniti SUV

  • avatar
    turf3

    Yes, I remember the Orvis/fly fishing fad that infected the US in the late 90s. It was particularly amusing to see the yuppie posers taking fly casting lessons at a public park, in Dallas, TX. There are no trout streams within at least 500 miles and probably 1000 miles of Dallas. More apropos would have been lessons in casting with plastic worms and how to untangle your hook when it gets hung on the inevitable weeds. Or, alternately, lessons on how to run a trot line.

    • 0 avatar
      FAHRVERGNUGEN

      Fly fishing is very akin to old car enthusiasm.

      It’s about as much fun as watching a bathtub Packard rust in a forest glade. Much grace, total serenity and communing with nature.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Rich yuppies learn to fly fish in Texas public parks so they don’t embarrass themselves when they travel to Jackson Hole or Alaska to fly fish for real.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I’ve seen a lot of people from the Chicago area fly fishing near my place in Northern Michigan. They seem to acquit themselves well enough, but I am not a fly fishing expert.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Yum! 5.9 Limited!

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    The Australia commercial also played stateside, I remember it well if only for how stupid and consistent Jeep was in branding itself as the ‘climb over big rocks that are conveniently very flat in an apex’ people.

    Overall though their consistency in design more or less made it timeless which is kind of amazing since I scrolled through some of Corey’s photos (from some other person) and a vehicle nearly 20 years old still looks fresh today. It pays to keep the same basic lines…

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Ahh, Jeep couldn’t resist adding their logo to the wood trim so you could be absolutely certain it wasn’t real wood, rather than just embossing it into the pleather just above.

    Seriously though, these were great road trip vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      That was real leather on those Grand Cherokees. It’s the Germans who are into that fake leather garbage (no offense to those of you who do not mind frying your arsches on SensaTec and MB-Tex).

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        True story: V-Tex burnt my taint. Don’t ever drive a black car with black leatherette, and no window tint, in Southern Arizona. Your suit pants will be no match for those seats.

        • 0 avatar
          Roberto Esponja

          bball40dtw, my wife’s former car was a Mercedes with light beige MB-Tex, and sitting on those seats on any sunny days gave a true meaning to swamp arse. Never again! I also had the misfortune of renting a Volkswagen Touareg with black imitation leather in Florida, and it was the same thing: sitting on those seats was tantamount to placing your hand on the lid of a lit BBQ. Awful!

      • 0 avatar
        Car Ramrod

        I meant on the dash (see photo #5). The leather in these was actually decent except for the steering whee, which began to fall off in chunks on mine around 90K/ 6 years.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    I own one of these fine beasts. They came loaded with every thing standard except for the moon roof, that was the only option. If you wanted a 4.0 in the orvis it was special order only. The 5.2 is the way to go, the 4.0 comes with the 42 re transmission… It’s problematic. There were only about 6,000 made in 95-97 much rarer than the one year only 5.9 limited.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Looking pretty picked over, and no clear evidence of CoD.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Picked over because it was in pretty good shape. The electrical gremlins likely did it in. Once they start chewing on the wires, it’s like whack-a-mole, at $200 (and up) a whack. That gets old really fast.

  • avatar
    rbg

    Had a 1996 Limited with all the trimmings. Bought it in 2003 for about $6200 from the original owner, a lady who commuted about 50 miles a day. It had Quadratrac, 5.2 (aka a 318) and had around 80k on the clock when I got it. She changed all the fluids fairly regularly, never offroaded or towed with it, and it was very nice. I only had one problem in the 2 years I owned it, and it was some sort of sensor in the throttle body. It was a pretty easy repair, saved myself about 300 bucks doing it myself. When I split up with my ex wife, I let her keep it against my better judgement ( I kept the ’79 CJ-5). I still think that the generation after this, the WJ was the best version of the Grand Cherokee. I find myself drawn to the newest one, but I just have a problem with the price vs reliability factor.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Did anyone else get a RoboCop vibe from the JGC intro vid? I expected police marked ’87 Tauruses to come flying out of nowhere.

  • avatar
    blackEldo

    Would love to see a Grand Cherokee TSi junkyard find. Anyone else a fan of the blue trim/pinstriping?

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Yes, This was a sport or touring model. They had the TSI only machined aluminum 5 spoke wheels and perforated Euro style upholstery. Many of the Eagle models such as the Vision also used the TSi trim moniker.

      There was also a base version Grand Cherokee offered in 92-94. It was a Larado without the black cladding and just black mid-door trim.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        A few more early year Grand Cherokee oddities: 1993 only (?) manual transmission option with the 4.0L. Also, I think that first year of Grand Cherokee had the excellent AW4 Aisin automatic transmission used in the XJ Cherokee coupled with the 4.0L before they switched to the more trouble prone 42H.

      • 0 avatar
        blackEldo

        I knew it was lifted from Eagle, I guess to help better coordinate the brands as they shared a lot of former AMC dealerships.

        For some reason I think the base Grand Cherokee you mention was called the SE, though I could be wrong.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          According to Wikipedia the base model in 92-93 was just that then in 94 they renamed it SE. The manual was dropped after 94 due to low demand. The Grand Wagoneer had the faux wood trim and the plusher interior.

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