Junkyard Find: 2001 Jeep Cherokee Classic 4x4

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The XJ Cherokee was born out of the French government's bailout of American Motors and made its debut as a 1984 model. It was so successful that it stayed in production in essentially its original form through three corporations and into the following century. Today's Junkyard Find is one of the very last XJ Cherokees ever made, found in a Wyoming car graveyard last week.

junkyard find 2001 jeep cherokee classic 4x4

Along with the Renault technology that made the design and production of the Alliance, Encore, and Eagle Premier possible, American Motors also got François Castaing, the brilliant Renault engineer who became the mastermind behind the XJ Cherokee.

The result was a unibody truck that weighed 1,200 fewer pounds than its body-on-frame SJ Cherokee predecessor, a hulking military-style brute, while providing nearly as much interior space.

The XJ looked like a tough truck, suitable for hairy-chested outdoorsmen, but it drove more like a car and got impressive gas mileage as part of the bargain. It may not have been quite as good for extreme off-road use as the SJ, but it handled real-world snow and mud competently.

The XJ Cherokee put the hammer down on the truckification of the American road; the 1991 Ford Explorer and 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee finished the cultural shift that brought us to where we are today.

The Grand Cherokee was supposed to be the XJ Cherokee's replacement, but buyers kept driving XJs out of Jeep showrooms and so Chrysler and, later, DaimlerChrysler kept building them.

2001 was the final model year for the XJ Cherokee in the New World, making this truck of the very last examples sold here. In China, however, XJ production continued all the way through 2014 (and maybe later).

The XJ Cherokee came with an impressive variety of engines during its long production run, including the often-mistaken-for-an- Iron-Duke AMC 2.5-liter four-cylinder, a couple of diesels, and even the 2.8-liter GM 60° V6.

Most XJs got a 4.0-liter version of the good old AMC straight-six, a sturdy pushrod engine dating back to the 1960s, and that's what's in this truck. The rust stains in the engine compartment suggest a catastrophic overheating event, maybe a blown head gasket.

The 4.0 in this truck was rated at 190 horsepower and 225 pound-feet.

Plenty of rear-wheel-drive XJs were sold, but this one has the most common configuration: four-wheel-drive, automatic transmission, 4.0 engine.

The electronic odometer means I couldn't learn the final mileage. I've found some discarded XJs with very high final odometer readings, though most I see traversed between 150,000 and 200,000 miles during their lives.

The body and interior looked pretty decent, even after a life in the rough climates of Colorado and Wyoming. Some costly mechanical failure likely doomed this truck.

There's something of an XJ Cherokee glut in this region, so these trucks aren't worth quite as much here as they would be in the Midwest or West Coast. Still, I'm a bit surprised by the number of nice examples still showing up in Front Range boneyards.

Climbs a 30 percent grade, laughs at an 80 percent chance of snow, gives you 100 percent freedom.

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3 of 54 comments
  • William Piper William Piper on Aug 22, 2023

    By far the most popular vehicle in my High School’s parking lot, circa 2006. Could really haul a lot of gear.

    • Jeff Jeff on Aug 22, 2023

      I do remember this was a vehicle you literally saw everywhere a few decades ago which is worthy of a Murilee Junkyard Find. I wonder how many of these got traded during Cash For Clunkers. I remember many of the Ford Explorers and older Crown Victorias along with Grand Marquis got traded in during that time.

  • JamesGarfield JamesGarfield 7 days ago

    Carson D,

    Re Your friend's Cherokee with mysterious engine management issues:

    If still applicable, have him swap out the Crankshaft, Camshaft, and Throttle Body Position Sensors with new good OEM parts (no after-market). AND check the +5v VSen power supply coming out of the ECU, to make sure that supply is clean and stable.

    Had a lot of 'fun' chasing that one down on my own Cherokee.

  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines. https://www.drive.com.au/reviews/2023-ineos-grenadier-review/
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.
  • Inside Looking Out Chinese will take over EV market and Tesla will become the richest and largest car company in the world. Forget about Japanese.