The 1983 Jeep Cherokee was the very last body-on-frame Cherokee, giving way to the unibody XJ model that was objectively better in nearly every way. Still, there’s one area where the “SJ” Cherokee trounces its successor: styling. And you can bet that’s a big reason why this 1983 Jeep Cherokee Laredo sold yesterday for over 50 large.
The vehicle you see here is essentially the same model as my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle. Aside from the bumpers, grille, paint, mirrors, and some trim, the vehicles share the exact same body, frame, and even engine.
That motor is a 5.9-liter AMC V8, a huge but anemic powertrain that wastes much of what little power it makes going though the three-speed automatic transmission to which it is bolted. In this case, the transmission is a Chrysler TorqueFlite 727 versus my Golden Eagle’s Hydra-Matic TH400, and the transfer case is a selectable “Selec-Trac” system and mine has a full-time 4×4 “Quadra-Trac” unit. But by and large, the two vehicles are the same.
Though this 66,000-mile machine machine has only 22,000 fewer miles than mine, this one is much, much prettier. Little surprise it’s worth a heck of a lot more. (I paid only two grand for mine.) Frankly, the one here, sold on Bring a Trailer, looks mint, and I strongly prefer its Muscle Grille over my Pig-Nose. I mean, good lord, look at the paint! Look at the rear fender flares, which are notorious for rusting… they’re perfect.
What impresses me just as much as the paint and the shape of the sheetmetal is the interior. Just gander at the “Nutmeg” carpeting, dash, and low-back seats:
If I had to bet, I’d say this has got to be the only last-model-year SJ Cherokee left in mint condition. It’s that rarity, the vehicle’s records, and the fact that this thing is a true piece of mint-condition artwork that give this SJ its value.
I will admit, though, that even I’m a bit surprised this SUV sold for as much as it did. I figured the reason why the platform-mate Grand Wagoneer keeps commanding such high prices is because of its fun vinyl wood panels, its prominence in pop culture, and its luxurious interior. This Cherokee has none of those, and yet it still sold for over $50 large.
She’s going to where she belongs. New England Sea Shore.
She will live the same pampered garage Queen life she’s led from day one. No salt, always garaged. Light duty casual use. But no supermarket parking . Suddenly my wife thinks she wants to drive it. My sister wants to bring home to Nantucket. Not happening.
The point is that this thing won’t just sit in the garage all of its life. It’ll actually see “light casual use,” which is what this Jeep deserves—to get out on the road and inspire new generations of car lovers, but also to keep its minty-ness intact.