America’s XJ: 1997 Jeep Cherokee Resto-Mod 2-Door SUV 5-Speed 4x4

  • November 20, 2020
Why We Like It

First used in 1974, the Jeep Cherokee name was initially applied to a companion model to the full-size Wagoneer designed by legendary Brooks Stevens Associates for Kaiser Jeep in 1963. The new compact size Cherokee (XJ) arrived for 1983 and enjoyed great success, continuing after Chrysler’s AMC/Jeep buyout in 1987 with refinements through 2001. For much of the XJ-generation Cherokee’s run, it was America’s most powerful and best-performing sport utility vehicle, with Jeep’s 4.0L inline 6-cyliner engine, eventually dethroned from 1991-1994 by GMC’s wild turbocharged Syclone pickup and Jimmy-based Typhoon. Renowned for their rugged off-road durability and startling on-road prowess, most XJ Cherokees saw high mileage hauling families from the soccer field to remote getaways with ease until they were eventually used up and retired to the great junkyard in the sky. With the wild growth of restoration and modification for many American 4x4 SUV models, it was only a matter of time until the Cherokee - with its relatively compact dimensions, excellent powertrains, and ruggedly handsome styling - would find its day in the sun as a highly popular modern collectible.

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This restored and modified ‘97 Cherokee is an excellent case in point for the popularity and versatile nature of the XJ-series models, described by the seller as having been completely restored with an almost stock-looking custom interior. The engine has been upgraded to a 4.7L stroker from Titan Engines withabout 4k miles on the rebuild, including a performance cam and headers feeding a great-sounding custom dual exhaust system with a new catalytic converter and glasspacks. The braking, cooling, charging, steering systems and suspension were also gone through and updated. A new OEM 5-speed manual transmission and OEM transfer case (both rebuilt by High Gear) plant the Cherokee’s newfound power with the help of a two-inch lift, new HD leaf springs, and brand new 31-inch tires that help you go wherever you should want in both urban and off-road conditions, all with the comfort of a completely new A/C system with all old components replaced. External features include awesome new custom sky blue paint, a custom-fabricated mesh grille, custom full-length power sliding top, custom interior with full hide leather, a custom headliner and dash, added sound deadening material to the floor and wheel wells, bleached washed, and re-dyed carpets, and WeatherTech floor mats at all corners. A custom stereo system with JBL speakers, amplifier, and subwoofer deliver the tunes from a Retro Sound head unit that looks OEM but is actually an aftermarket unit featuring Bluetooth connectivity. As the seller relates, the only known issues is the broken plastic clip to the inside passenger-door handle, and aside from that, they state the Cherokee is fast and ready to drive and enjoy!

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XJ-series Cherokees remain quite popular today, but quality examples are relatively few in number. Of course, condition, mileage, factory options, and quality of modifications (if any) are paramount when considering appropriate market values for a given vehicle. Bring a Trailer’s sale results track a healthy Cherokee population in the market, especially over the past two or three years, with a fairly dense value channel from $5k-$20k, with a handful above that upper level for examples with the Limited or Golden Eagle trim packages. Love or hate our subject vehicle’s color, it features many thoughtful upgrades that should only enhance the already enjoyable and usable character of the basic XJ-series Cherokee. While the seller’s asking price seems just a little rich in relation to the marketplace, remember that it’s just a starting point and the seller seems open to good offers, so with the hard work already done, we’ll consider this one fair market.

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