The XJ Cherokee is a true classic. I paid homage to it and its French influence here. And there’s still a healthy number around. But the two-door version is becoming a bit rare, especially the early years, like this one, which dates to the 1984 – 1987 era thanks to its 2.8 V6 badge (the wheels are from a later version). Given that we owned a 1985 Cherokee for 15 years, seeing one of these does bring back the memories.
Of course, we had a four-door, given our two little kids. Thanks to that extra set of doors, as well as its ruggedly-cute looks and all-round goodness, the Cherokee was a huge hit, especially so in West LA were we lived. They were the hot new car de jour in those years, the first major break-through SUV. Given that AMC first used the term ‘crossover’ in reference to the Cherokee in 1987 or so, perhaps it really is the mother of the genre. Which is ironic, because it was also highly off-road capable, and continues to be in demand for that role.
This one has the optional Chevy 2.8 60 degree V6, as also used in its own S-10 Blazer. It was hardly a powerhouse what with its 110-115 hp. Ours seemed particularly feeble; at about 100k miles or so, I took a closer look at the throttle linkage and realized that it had never been properly adjusted from the factory and didn’t open the throttle all the way. I reset it, and suddenly unleased an extra 15-20 hp or so! It’s nice to have a car suddenly feel peppier in its old age, but I would have preferred to have it be that way from the beginning, especially considering how expensive that little sucker was (over $35k adjusted), and the interest rate on the loan was like 14%. I remember the monthly payment being well over $400, which is about a thousand bucks today. That hurt.
Today’s cars are so much cheaper based on their features and most of all the low interest rates.
Ours was a Pioneer like this one, which started at about $10k, but but it was “loaded”, meaning all the basic comfort and convenience items one takes for granted on the most basic stripper nowadays.
That’s what ours looked like, except it was brown on the inside too. Leather? Fat chance. We did have the automatic, which was the rugged Chrysler Torqueflite. Hows that for an oddball combo: a Chevy V6 backed by a Torqueflite. Good old AMC. Ours had the full-time Quadratrac AWD system, which could be switched in and out of 4WD at any speed. Unfortunately, one time I really needed it getting to a ski resort, it wouldn’t switch into 4WD. Had to turn around and buy chains in the next town back! Turns out a little cotter pin in the vacuum-operated switch had fallen out; coulda’ fixed it with a piece of wire.
There were a few other annoying and niggling issues, but except for the transfer case going out, the basics were rugged, and it lasted 15 years and 180k miles. The Chevy V6 gave no trouble, except for needing a new (expensive) carb. And I had folks eager to snap it our of my hands when I put it up for sale.
I was going to talk a bout the two door version, but as I said, it was rare, from the get-go. I’m sure AMC was caught off-guard at the lop-sided proportion of four doors to two doors. But I’m sure they were mighty glad they offered a four-door, unlike Ford and Chevy. It took Chevy close to decade to finally cobble up a four door S-10 Blazer, by which time it was dead meat, or a Deadly Sin, in other words. Ford got the message and built an even more family-friendly if not off-road friendly four door, the Explorer. Which brings up a scary reality: we’ve never done a proper Ford Explorer CC! Better shoot one quick, before they all explode.