The 1980s and 1990s "XJ" Jeep Cherokee has seen a resurgence in popularity recently, as older SUVs have gained in value and many shoppers have started searching for clean, untouched examples as fun bits of SUV nostalgia. I recently encountered one of the cleanest old Cherokee models I’ve ever seen — and it was also one of the most stripped-down, base-model examples, probably in existence.
I saw this Cherokee on Nantucket Island, off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, which is a veritable playground for old SUVs due to both the wealthy nature of many of the residents and the rutted, dirt construction of many island roads. This Cherokee was parked in a driveway in the off-season, likely not to be woken up until the summer, and it carried Georgia license plates from Glynn County — home to much of Georgia’s coastal islands.
Walking up to the Cherokee revealed some great details, like the fact that it has no window tint, steel wheels and an extremely basic interior that doesn’t even include a factory radio. This produced my favorite detail: this Cherokee has no radio, so Jeep doesn’t bother installing an antenna. But they still leave a hole in the fender where the antenna should go, because making a fender without the antenna hole would simply cost more. So if don’t opt for the radio in your Cherokee, you have a factory-made hole in your front fender.
Another amazing feature of this ultra-base model Cherokee was the passenger side mirror — and specifically the fact that there wasn’t one. Passenger mirrors weren’t required in vehicles until the late 1980s, so this early 1980s Cherokee wasn’t required to have one — and, since it’s an ultra-base model without even a radio, it doesn’t. It’s worth noting this Cherokee does have a few non-base model features: an automatic transmission, desirable 4-wheel drive and a blue-and-red pinstripe. I assumed the pinstripe meant this Cherokee hailed from the U.S. Postal Service, but since it’s a left-hand drive example, that might be unlikely.
Later I went home and ran the Carfax report on this Cherokee, and it revealed a few interesting details. For one, it’s a 1984 model, meaning it comes from the car’s very first model year. The Carfax report shows that it was sold new in January 1984 in Rochester, New York, meaning it may be one of the very earliest "XJ" Cherokee models. It seems the current owner has had it since at least 2001 — and while it’s registered in Sea Island, Georgia, it spends its life on Nantucket, as that’s where all services are. As of the last service in 2017, it had just 64,904 miles on the odometer.
And so, this is a pretty special Cherokee: an original model year example with no options, just sitting in a driveway waiting for summer so it can be used again. It was a thrill just to see it.