By on December 14, 2015

17 - 1983 Jeep Chrokee in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Because we still see them all over the roads today, the still-in-production (in China) XJ Cherokee is the best-known Jeep Cherokee. However, AMC made a two-door version of the original SJ Wagoneer, called it the Cherokee, and built it for the 1974 through 1983 model years (just to confuse things, a four-door SJ Cherokee was added to the mix a few years into production).

We saw an XJ Cherokee Junkyard Find a couple of weeks ago, and here’s a final-year-of-production SJ from the same Denver self-service yard.
08 - 1983 Jeep Chrokee in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

You wouldn’t be wise to drive this big ol’ four-wheel-drive truck, with its primitive early-1960s suspension and 170-horse engine, at speeds exceeding 85 mph, but these Malaise Era 85 mph speedometers still irritate me when I see them. 154,887 miles on this truck, with its unusual-for-the-era six-digit odometer.

02 - 1983 Jeep Chrokee in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This truck has some nice custom fighting (or kissing) eagles etched on the side glass.

10 - 1983 Jeep Chrokee in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

If you like an interior with every possible shade of brown, this is your truck.

20 - 1983 Jeep Chrokee in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

There’s no serious body rot, but this CB antenna mount didn’t do the finish any favors.

27 - 1983 Jeep Chrokee in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Let’s try to imagine this truck when it was shiny and new… and about to be replaced by a much smaller and more modern successor.

The claim of 20 highway mpg in the ’80 Cherokee seems, well, optimistic. Still the “We wrote the book on four-wheel-drive” line is a winner.

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20 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Jeep Cherokee...”


  • avatar
    tonyola

    Did someone just stick a Wagoneer grille onto this Cherokee? The part that surprises me is that you can see the original 1963 front tombstone-grille sheetmetal peeking out from behind the grille.

  • avatar
    Occam

    I’ve always thought of the SJ Cherokee as the predecessor to the Grand Cherokee.

    In 1984 and earlier, you had the Cherokee and Wagoneer.

    In 1985, the Cherokee and Wagoneer split into two sizes: The small ones (S10-Blazer-sized trucklets) were the Cherokee and Wagoneer, and the large size got a “Grand” modifier (albeit without a Grand Cherokee)

    In 1993, the ZJ replaced the SJ, still bearing the Grand Wagoneer name, and the Cherokee name came back on the larger model, this time with the “Grand” modifier.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I really hate the unleaded fuel only wording on the filler. Surely that could have been done more artfully. Other than that, I love charming old multi-brown and brougham Jeep/AMC things.

    Look at the picture of the red one. Have you ever seen a more sturdy looking item with four wheels? I like how the running lamps are integrated into the (obviously added later) trim below the grille.

  • avatar
    wantahertzdonut

    I love how the font for “Cherokee” never seemed to change.

    I grew up skiing in western NY and the lots were full of these and Grand Wagoneers. Then one day they all changed into Suburbans. These have grown on me in recent years but I have no room for a second truck.

  • avatar
    mason

    I remember driving 150+ miles across Wyoming in a late 70’s Wagoneer in 2nd gear because Drive went up in smoke half way through the trip home. We had 3 big coolers full of fresh moose meat in the back, it was a Saturday afternoon and everything was closed for the weekend so dad made the decision to keep driving until either we made it home or the trans gave up the ghost. We made it home, but that felt like the longest car ride home I’ve ever been on.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Back when Jeep made something other than the trademark model you could be proud to own.
    That interior looks a hell of a lot nicer than the status quo today.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    They made a version of this (whose name escapes me) that had a screaming chicken on the hood a Trans Am would be proud of. In a dark red, with the bird, related side trim and white letter tires on spoked wheels, they were damned impressive looking machines. Particularly when plowing through white snow. In 1978, these were the only vehicles an AMC dealer could make a decent profit selling. Remember the line-up? Gremlin, Pacer, Concord and Matador? I had the misfortune of closing the store that was where Powell’s Books is located in 1979. As I went through the books, I noticed they sold their last 1978 Matador, with an invoice of around $7000 for $4400. Brand new. There had been an automobile agency there since 1913. With those numbers, even repeat business and the Jeep franchise couldn’t save them. I always admire these trucks when I see one in the wild.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    That would be the Golden Eagle Edition featured here over 3 years ago

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-find-1979-jeep-cherokee-golden-eagle/

  • avatar
    pdieten

    They made these all the way up to ’83? Now I want one.

  • avatar
    Chets Jalopy

    It looks so pathetic in the top picture. It’s like someone knocked its friggin glasses loose.

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    I had one of these as my first car. A 1978 in 1998, it was still shiny. Made me very popular around school but that’s also where someone hit it and it was totaled. After that I got a Dodge Shadow and was never cool again.
    With “texas” tires it was worthless in the snow or mud. It had no low range but did have a center locker of sorts.
    They were cobbled together; AMC engine, Ford carb, GM TH350, Dana axles, and so on.
    It’d do 75, more probably, but at those speeds you could actually watch the fuel gauge drop down.
    If you put at least 12 kids in one the inside front wheel will chirp during turns.

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