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.
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