Visiting Back

Photos by Scot Edge

The seventies were a wild time in the automotive industry. Cars were being manufactured as big as the tiny homes of today. Heck, maybe even twice the size of apartments in some cities. Fuel efficiency needs and government regulations were forcing manufactures to change what they were doing.

There was a need when the eighties rolled around. America needed a vehicle that was sporty. Something they could impress co-workers and neighbors with. Not too big, but something they can swing in to the grocery store with. They needed utility. Families were taking weekend trips to the mountains, doing home improvement projects, and commuting to their job everyday. America needed, no the world needed, a vehicle that could do everything.

Enter in the Jeep Cherokee.

This was it. This is what the world needed. Known by its chassis code, XJ, the Cherokee wasn’t like other SUV’s of the time. It was small, light, and packed a punch. Not to mention the 4x4 capabilities. They also utilized a unibody chassis, which was very unconventional at the time for something that had four wheel drive. Dad could pack the entire family up, with cargo, make it down virtually any trail, and then make it back to work Monday morning. This was the beginning of the modern SUV. They started with the 2.5 inline four cylinder engine. Then regretfully borrowed the less than desirable GM 2.8 v6. Finally they put in the 4.0 inline six cylinder engine. Jeep continued production of the XJ Cherokee in the United States up until 2001, when it was finally replaced by the Jeep Liberty.

A few months back I was in the market for a 4x4. I wanted something I could hit some trails with, go camping in, and drive to work. I looked at some older Toyota's, and a few trucks too. But they were either too high priced or they couldn’t fit the family in. I was America, and I needed a Jeep Cherokee. I found one online, about an hour outside of Columbus, Ohio. A 2000 Classic model with an automatic transmission and 215k miles on the odometer. I was quite skeptical of the shape it would be in, as the pictures didn’t seem very clear on Facebook’s Marketplace. Being in Ohio, rust is a major killer to many automobiles as most of you know.

My girlfriend and I set out on a bright Sunday morning to meet the fellow at a gas station. As we were pulling in, I noticed the Jeep sitting in the parking lot waiting. She looked spectacular from a far. When we got up close and started talking with the owner, you could see some minor rust spots on the bottom of the doors. Plus other dings and scrapes here and there. Not nearly as bad as you would think for a Jeep that has been in Ohio for probably most, if not all of its life. The box shaped body still boasts its original Silverstone Metallic paint. I took a test drive and everything seemed to be in fine working condition. We made a deal and I brought the XJ back to its new home.

Being that the Cherokee is legally old enough to drink, it has its flaws. I mean it has character. The steering is loose, the headliner sags, and the check engine light comes and goes. Hold on, there is more. The air conditioning doesn’t work and the rear hatch trim panel is missing. However, the cruise control does work! Occasionally when it wants. To say this sport utility vehicle belongs in a museum would be taking it a bit too far. But she’s mint, for me anyway.

There is no texting while driving in this machine, as it wanders far too much to take you eyes off the road. Which is a good thing. You feel much more connected, even with the automatic gear box. The inline six produced a mighty 190hp/225lb-ft from factory. We dont need to spend much time on fuel efficiency because, well, neither did Jeep. The low-end torque feels great coming off a dead stop, and the six cylinder engine revs out quite nicely as it barrels down the highway. Did I mention that over the years the engine has equipped itself with a new feature? What I am referring to is its ability to consistently drip off old oil. Which assures that only fresh oil is in the oil pan at all times. I just have to remember to check it every once in a while.

As I mentioned before, the steering is a bit loose. But that is to be expected with the age and type of steering system that is utilized. The quadra-link suspension keeps the unibody Jeep planted safely on the ground. It has been well maintained also, as the Cherokee still rides very smooth over bumps. The four wheel drive still works like it was brand new. Even if you somehow are not able to get out of a hole with the Goodyear Wrangler 30x9.50 tires, the manual shift into 4-low will quickly provide the rest of the grip you will ever need.

The interior has been kept up as well. Minus the sagging headliner and missing rear panel of course. Dark grey cloth covers the comfortable seats, and the power windows now help adjust the climate inside. Even though only the rear speakers work, the factory cd/tape player works tremendously well. Especially when you slap a tape of the finest bluegrass a banjo can play into the deck. What else would you want serenading your ears, as you drive over a gravel mountain road?

Jeep was able to provide a solution to a problem. Which is why they had so much success with the XJ. Add in the fact that it just simply works, and you have a formula for a long lasting vehicle. Owning and driving an older vehicle like this can be a lot of work. Fortunately this one has not been yet. If you are lucky enough to find one that hasn’t been cut up or completely rusted out, you will most definitely get great pleasure driving it. Whether it be taking the family to the lake, or hitting the trails with some friends, you’ll understand what made this such a revolutionary vehicle.




Just another human roaming the earth enjoying nature, art, baseball, and automobiles. Website:

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Scot Edge

Scot Edge

Just another human roaming the earth enjoying nature, art, baseball, and automobiles. Website:

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