Junkyard Find: 2001 Jeep Cherokee Classic 4x4
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.
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 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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