The original Jeep Cherokee (XJ) launched the small SUV revolution.
Introduced in 1984 as the first true unibody SUV, its versatility, economy, and simplicity made it a best-seller. Its off-road prowess and near indestructibility made it an instant classic among adventurers of all types. With robust solid axles, high and low range four-wheel drive, and bullet-proof engines, Jeep saw fit to keep its design basically unchanged for 17 years.
Jeep made millions of Cherokees all over the world until they replaced it in their lineup with the Liberty in 2001 (Production of an XJ derivative continued in China all the way to 2013!). Our own XJ was originally a Canadian-market car, and we bought it five years ago simply to use as an economical four-wheel-drive vehicle for getting us around in Montana winters.
Over time, it evolved into our platform for exploring the backroads of Montana, Utah, and beyond. Currently, we are developing the XJ into an overland vehicle with an emphasis on reliability and flexibility as it’s still our daily driver. Unlike a lot of Cherokee owners, for now we’ve kept modifications to a minimum.
Our XJ is a minimally-equipped Sport model:
1999 Jeep Cherokee Sport 4-door
- 4.0 L inline six cylinder (AMC-H.O.: 190hp, 235 lb/ft)
- Automatic transmission (AW-4)
- Command-Trac high and low range 4WD, with factory limited-slip rear differential
- Firestone Destination A/T tires, LT235/75/15
- Smittybilt Overlander roof top tent
- Headlight upgrade: H4 bulbs and housings with Putco wiring harness upgrade
- Front seat conversion: Grand Cherokee (WJ) seats
We sold our XJ in July of 2018, in preparation for bigger things to come, but it will always have a special place in our overland life. This box on wheels opened up new possibilities for what the world can show us – long may it run.
2 comments on “The Jeep”
I absolutely love how the XJ looks. I’ve always been a fan of its timeless lines and simple dependability. I was sad to find out it was discontinued when I started looking for Jeeps last year. Though I am very happy with my JK, I still like the idea of owning a XJ for their simplicity. With some good tires, decent shocks and better headlight bulbs it could make a highly dependable daily driver for myself or my girlfriend (she’s a teacher so missing class isn’t really an option.)
I know you are planning on putting in a modest lift and bigger tires. How much bigger do you plan to go. I’d be careful on the stock axels, too big and you could break the axel shafts or bend the Cs in the front. But, you probably already know that and don’t need me to tell you that.
I’ll have apost coming out soon about tires. I am also planning on upsizing, but no lift — well technically no lift, stock springs and maybe a 3/4-inch spacer if the rake gets too extreme.
I know you also mentioned installing a modular storage system. Right now I have giant foot locker in the back of my Jeep that is neither practical or all that fun to get into. I’d love to have some drawers. This looks perfect. A little pricy but perfect. http://www.extremeterrain.com/smittybilt-security-storage-jk-2763.html
I am sure you could build something too. Wood works just fine when its painted black and covered in automotive carpeting.
Best of luck on your build and I am excited to hear about any new adventures you might have.
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Thanks! One of the great draws to the XJ is its simplicity, for sure. We’re on LT235/75/15 Firestone Destination A/T tires right now (which I have found to be an excellent tire, by the way). With a very modest lift, I don’t anticipate going any bigger than 30″ or 31″ rubber. We’re not too interested in rock crawling, just a little more capability over the rough stuff.
And, yes, we’re still rocking the “Rubbermaid Tub” system for our storage. It works ok for what it is, and it’s easy to move around, but leaves a lot to be desired. Digging around in the bottom of bins for stuff does get tiresome.