Seeking a sporty addition to its SUV lineup in the wake of Chevrolet’s successful Blazer, Jeep repackaged its enduring Wagoneer to create the Cherokee for 1974. Forty-five years later, they’re blazing hot.
Jeep was already offering two-door versions of its timeless, Brooks Stevens-designed Wagoneer, but the Cherokee differentiated itself with smaller side windows, giving it a wider C-pillar and managing to create a different look that was more in line with the International Scout. Beginning in 1976, two-door models could also be ordered with the Cherokee Chief package, which included fender flares and wide-track axles for an even more athletic stance.
Similar to the K5 Blazer, SJ Cherokees have been incredibly popular, and heavy insurance-quoting activity has helped them earn a Hagerty Vehicle Rating of 89, placing them among the hottest collector vehicles currently on the market.
The Hagerty Vehicle Rating uses data from auction sale results, insurance quoting activity, and the number of new policies purchased in order to rank vehicle popularity compared to the overall collector car market. A vehicle that’s keeping with the overall market will score a rating of 50. Those that are doing better, and are thus considered more popular, will score higher.
Despite carrying two fewer doors, the full-size Jeep Cherokee used the same wheelbase and had the same overall length as the four-door Wagoneer. It was virtually the same formula Jeep used when the downsized XJ Cherokee was built in both two- and four-door variants.
In 1977, Jeep offered a four-door version of the Cherokee, which was virtually identical to the Wagoneer, blurring the lines between the two models even further.
Like almost all classic 4x4 SUVs, full-size Cherokees have been increasingly popular and have seen their values increase in recent years. Perennial demand for the more upscale Wagoneer, considered the must-have family wagon for suburbanites in the ’80s and early ’90s, raised Cherokee values nearly as high as the Wagoneer in 2018, but the Wagoneer has risen recently in response. Comparable Cherokees in #3 (Good) condition are valued more than 30-percent less than similar Wagoneers, although the price difference narrows by half for examples in #2 (Excellent) condition.
With the same mechanicals and the same optional powerplants—for several years the Cherokee was available with the inline-six while it was dropped from the Wagoneer—the Cherokee has more variety than the Wagoneer but lacks some of the luxury. Unless you’re set on wood paneling, the Cherokee has all of the capability and more, often at a cheaper price.