Americans have been able to buy a vehicle called the Cherokee for most of the last half-century, though the size and even manufacturer of Cherokees has varied greatly during that period. Right now, your Jeep dealer can sell you a compact crossover Cherokee based on a Fiat platform and built by Stellantis, and the most iconic Cherokee remains the 1984-2001 XJ, which was designed by American Motors with a great deal of Renault
The 1976 SJ Cherokee was a 3,938-pound behemoth (actually about the same weight as the current Cherokee and its much smaller footprint, but modern vehicles are a lot heavier than their predecessors), with a base price of $5,258. That’s about $26,590 in 2022 dollars, which is remarkably similar to the $28,135 MSRP of the base ’22 Cherokee, but keep in mind that you really
The base engine for the ’76 Cherokee was the good old 258-cubic-inch AMC straight-six, rated at 110 horsepower and 195 pound-feet. If you think that sounds like a formula for an agonizingly slow truck, you’re right. That’s why most ’76 Cherokee buyers opted for one of the three available AMC V8 engines; you could get a 304 (5.0-liter) rated at 150 horsepower, a 360 (5.8-liter) with either 175 or 195 horsepower, or a 401 (6.5-liter) making 235 horses. All three engines look the same at a glance and I didn’t feel up to scraping off decades of engine-block grime to look at casting numbers, so we’ll just say this Jeep
AMC pitched this truck as a rough-and-rugged family hauler, laughably short on luxury by 21st-century truck standards but fairly comfortable compared to the military-style trucks many Americans had bought in earlier decades. It’s cheaper and sportier-looking than its Wagoneer sibling, thanks to the stylish two-door setup, but access to the passenger compartment was more difficult. A four-door version appeared starting in 1977.
This one lived a hard life and there’s not much interior left.
Is there rust? Yes, plenty!
No air conditioning, but at least it has an automatic transmission (the base gearbox was a three-on-the-floor manual) and rear window defogger. By the way, that automatic added 455 bucks (about $2,300 now) and the defogger cost $52 ($262 now). The A/C would have been a cool 480 spondulix
Even though this yard is just south of Denver, I found a fitted Oakland Athletics cap
Unlike later Cherokees (and Grand Cherokees), the SJ was built with huntin’ and fishin’ abilities prioritized over commuting comfort, and these stickers show that this truck spent its share of time in the woods.
Just the thing for driving your daughters cross-country to a campsite full of hunky boys.
A couple of decades later and every mall parking lot would be packed with Cherokee Chiefs.