COAL: 1987 Jeep Cherokee Laredo – What If…

Jeep 1

You may have noticed in my past COALs that I had a propensity to learn things the hard way and make less than stellar decisions when purchasing vehicles. That trend would end with this Jeep. While I somehow have no pictures to prove it, I did buy a decent; problem-free vehicle and didn’t do anything to mess it up. This was the first time I undertook a rigorous and patient car search and picked a winner. It had everything I wanted; 2 door, 4.0 litre engine, 5 speed tranny and of course 4wd. It’s too bad I couldn’t keep it, I would sell it within 8 months.



Jeep 2.

Not mine, but I had the same interior.

My search for this Jeep had been thorough but it did not take very long. It will come as no surprise that the one I bought was the only 2 door I looked at, there just weren’t many around. It just so happened to have everything else I wanted too. I had test drove a few 4 doors both with the 2.5 and the 4.0; stick and automatic, as well as a Comanche. What a revelation these vehicles were in relation to what I had owned before. Firm but not jarring ride, smooth power and all around solid feel. My inner AMC geek was also delighted that this was the final year for AMC built Jeeps and featured it’s last great engineering achievement; the 4.0 litre straight six. I bought AMC’s Greatest Hit!

Jeep 3

It’s funny that I bought a 2 door Cherokee when the fact that they also came as 4 doors is what really made them successful. I was 19, why would I want a 4 door? Sure, I had friends to haul around but I wouldn’t be the one crawling back there. The wheelbase was the same regardless of the amount of doors so I could still take advantage of the practicality of folding down to seats to haul stuff in the cargo area.

Jeep 4

The 4.0 litre engine blew me away. I couldn’t believe it was related to that droning turd of a 6 banger that was in my old Gremlin. I could easily spin the tires, this thing was probably the fastest vehicle I had driven at the time. That probably says more about the other vehicles I had driven but you get the point. Add a 5 speed with well matched gearing and it was a recipe for fun.

As you might expect, I made use of it’s off road capabilities whenever the opportunity presented itself. The first non-urban, off-roading adventure happened out at a cabin some friends and I rented in the summer. I made a point of searching out some back roads to see what the Jeep could do. I had (okay, still have) a bad habit of wanting to fully explore to the end of the road even when it’s become clear that the road has become an ATV trail. Despite the protests of my friends, I stubbornly pushed on until the forest encroached so bad that the radio antenna got ripped off. Oh well, it was an easy fix. All in all, I was very impressed with it’s off road performance. We managed to get some air a few times, and I felt for the first time the exhilaration of looking up at the sky through the windshield before cresting a steep hill.

Jeep 5

Driving this Jeep it was hard not to think of what could have been had Renault not sold it’s interests in AMC to Chrysler in 1987. I know this will re-hash the endless what-ifs concerning the demise of AMC, but this Jeep was an all around great vehicle in an emerging market. It had a brand new motor that would be produced for another 19 years, and it’s 4 cylinder stablemate was durable and economical. The Comanche had just been introduced the prior year and the new Wrangler had just come out. Also, the ZJ Grand Cherokee where being worked on to replace the ancient SJ Wagoneer and Renault had promised a new minivan and sport coupe for the North American market.

As a farewell kick to the junk, AMC actually showed a profit for the last quarter of 1986 and likely would have for ’87 had a report been prepared. I suspect they likely would have screwed it up some other way, as they had in the past (see exhibit AB and C) but it would have been interesting to see. At least they had a fighting chance with the rising popularity of SUVs. Would you buy a 2016 Eagle Sportabout CUV?

Jeep 7

So why did I bring up this what-if scenario? It seems a fitting analogy to where I was in life when I decided to sell my Jeep. Having just finished high school I was working in a warehouse making okay money, while figuring out what to make of myself. Initially I wasn’t interested in any more school but the drudgery of my boring warehouse job soon wore on me. Even racing around in forklifts got boring. I saw the older guys around me and didn’t want to become them. It became apparent that if I was to find more rewarding and meaningful employment I would have to seek further education.

Jeep 10

image via

Despite having little idea what to take, I enrolled in the local University and put the Jeep up for sale. It took about a month to sell and I lost about $500 over what I bought it for, but I had money just in time to pay my tuition. While I was sad to see it go, I knew it was for the best. I went back to work schlepping pizzas part time to further finance school, so I needed something more beatable. What if I had kept the Jeep and continued working at the warehouse? Who cares, it didn’t happen so it doesn’t matter.