Rare Rides: Be a Pioneer in a Jeep Cherokee From 1985

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides be a pioneer in a jeep cherokee from 1985

Today’s Rare Ride is an early example of the Cherokee, built while AMC was still alive and well-ish. And it just so happens to be the same color and trim as the Comanche pickup featured here recently.

And it’s just about factory fresh.

AMC started work on its new compact SUV in the late Seventies, when a group of engineers (some from Renault) started sketching an all-new Jeep as successor to the full-size Cherokee the company already produced. The Euro-American collaboration proceeded to the mock-up stage, with clay bodies based on the extant SJ Cherokee/Wagoneer. AMC assigned Dick Teague to finish off the Cherokee’s looks, and also told him to work up a four-door version. While the project was ongoing, AMC heard about the two-door S-10 Blazer coming from GM and wanted to one-up The General.

The design was the first unibody 4×4 vehicle outside of military use and meant the XJ was much more modern than the body-on-frame SJ it replaced. The new Jeep was 31 inches shorter, six inches narrower, and weighed 1,200 fewer pounds. Though it was much smaller, the interior size was 90 percent of the SJ’s due to the packaging efficiencies of unibody construction. It was also more capable off-road with greater wheel articulation, and a newly designed Quadra-Link suspension which reduced the tendency to roll over.

Upon introduction for the model year 1984, the XJ Cherokee was an instant domestic sales success. It also found sales success in other countries and was the first Jeep officially exported to the European market. Part of its appeal abroad was down to more fuel-efficient engines than typically found in American SUVs. The base engine was a 2.5-liter inline-four from AMC, along with the 2.8-liter V6 from the S-10 early on. The largest engine on offer was the proven 4.0-liter I6 from AMC. Two different diesels were offered, a 2.1 from Renault, and a 2.5 from VM Motori, though neither found favor in the American market.

Worth a mention is the extended production of the XJ Cherokee abroad. Though Jeep wrapped up the XJ in 2001 domestically, it lived on at three brands in China, all of which produced their own version. Shuanghuan made their XJ through 1997, Beijing Jeep through 2005, and BAW kept one in production through 2014. Cherokee was also produced until the early 2000s in Argentina, Egypt, and Venezuela.

AMC produced the Cherokee until 1987 when Chrysler took the helm, and eventually, production was finished under Daimler Chrysler. The XJ’s official successor in the model year 2002 was the Liberty, which was more friendly on the road, but less friendly off it and never captured the global appeal of its older brother. The magic was sort of gone.

Today’s Rare Ride is a lower-middle Pioneer trim from 1985, with a festive tweedy interior in red and off-white. Looking almost new, it’s seen just under 48,000 miles in 35 years. Equipped with an automatic and the 2.5-liter engine, this Jeep’s yours for $12,500.

[Images: seller]

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  • Mdoore Mdoore on Dec 17, 2020

    I once owned an 88 pioneer Olympic edition. Fun vehicle and bullet proof. I have photos of it airborne flying off of a pond embankment one weekend messing around at a friends farm. I was always intrigued by the smorgasbord of parts from different manufacturers that made this vehicle. This Jeep had over the top off-road capability that way surpassed the requirements of it's target marketing demographic that purchased this type of vehicle back in the day.

  • Gedrven Gedrven on Dec 21, 2020

    "First 4x4 outside of military use." Not so. While various early Soviet 4x4 vehicles can justifiably be excluded, the GAZ-72 (based on the M20 "Victory") was actually available, if rather expensive, for civilians. With over 4600 produced between 1955 and 1958, it can't quite be called an obscure one-off, either. With two solid axles, a 2-speed transfer case, and ground clearance comparable to an unmodified Cherokee, it was a proper 4x4 as well (unlike something like a Jensen FF, which also predates the Cherokee by some decades).

  • SCE to AUX Probably couldn't afford it - happens all the time.
  • MaintenanceCosts An ugly-a$s Challenger with poor equipment choices and an ugly Dealership Default color combination, not even a manual to redeem it, still no sale.
  • Cha65689852 To drive a car, you need human intelligence, not artificial intelligence.Unfortunately, these days even human brains are turning into mush thanks to addiction to smartphones and social media.
  • Mike1041 A nasty uncomfortable little car. Test drove in 2019 in a search for a single car that would appease two drivers. The compromise was not much better but at least it had decent rear vision and cargo capacity. The 2019 Honda HRV simply was too unforgiving and we ditched after 4 years. Enter the 23 HRV and we have a comfy size.
  • SCE to AUX I wonder who really cares about this. "Slave labor" is a useful term for the agendas of both right and left."UAW Wants Auto Industry to Stop Using Slave Labor"... but what will the UAW actually do if nothing changes?With unrelenting downward pressure on costs in every industry - coupled with labor shortages - expect to see more of this.Perhaps it's my fault when I choose the $259 cell phone over the $299 model, or the cheaper parts at RockAuto, or the lower-priced jacket at the store.Do I care about an ethical supply chain? Not really, I just want the product to work - and that's how most consumers are. We'd rather not know.Perhaps the 1990s notion of conflict-free, blood-free, ethically-sourced diamonds will find its way into the auto industry. That would be a good thing.