Vigilante’s restomod Cherokee blends the best of new-digital and old-analog

Vigilante/IBP Media

Vigilante Customs is located about 50 miles from Austin, deep in the Texas Hill Country, in the tiny locale of Johnson City. It was the home of Lyndon Johnson, our 36th U.S. President, but contrary to popular belief, wasn’t named for him, and it may seem an unlikely spot for a lively auto restoration business.

Jeep restoration is Vigilante’s focus, and the firm primarily deals with the Jeep Cherokee (1974–1983), Jeep Wagoneer (1964–1991) and Jeep J-truck (1964–1983). Indeed, the “restoration” part of the business is quite serious. “Our rule: As much as possible, each element is either replaced with New Old Stock, remanufactured from scratch or completely restored,” says Daniel van Doveren, who founded Vigilante along with his wife, Rachel.

The latest Jeep project from Vigilante: a custom 1977 Cherokee S restomod. While thoroughly modern inside, the Cherokee S looks—amazingly—like a period piece from Jeep history.

1977 Cherokee S rear three quarter
Vigilante/IBP Media

“Vigilante strives to not affect the soul of each vehicle’s original design, and our new 1977 Cherokee is another pristine example of this. Our team goes to extreme lengths to ensure our customers are getting an authentic Jeep driving experience. While we do provide high-level modifications and improvements to make these vehicles suitable for modern driving conditions, we ensure our customers still feel like they’re getting behind the wheel of an iconic ’70s-era Jeep,” said Rachel van Doveren.

This Cherokee S “is special for many reasons, but none more than the fact that it looks near-original to how it did in the 1970’s. The client requested minimal technology inside of the actual Cherokee body, so we kept this as close to possible to the original 1977 design,” she said.

Nonetheless, it’s all up to date under the hood, where there’s a crate 392 Hemi SRT-8 engine mated to a Bowler Performance 4L80E automatic transmission. Stopping power is improved with Baer six-piston disc brakes. The front axle is a Dana 44, with a Dana 60 in back, along with Eibach coil springs and adjustable Fox Racing shock absorbers to replace the original leaf spring suspension. There’s an Advance Adapter Atlas II transfer case. The Cherokee rides on 17×9-inch Vigilante wheels machined out of billet aluminum. Seats are leather.

1977 Cherokee S engine bay
Vigilante/IBP Media

If all that sounds more “mod” than “resto,” it is, until you look inside the cabin. The client specified a minimal use of modern electronics visible to the eye. Designed to mirror the 1977 Cherokee’s original analog design, Vigilante integrated hand-crank windows and manual locks. Even the Cherokee’s digital gauges and clock are blended in to look as close to original as possible. Three-point belts, however, were added for safety.

The original outside mirrors were known for rattling and shaking, so Vigilante created mirrors built from CNC-milled aluminum to make sure they stayed steady. The exterior is painted Midnight Blue, and replacing the period’s wood grain paneling that adorned a lot of Wagoneers is a Glacier White stripe.

None of this comes cheap, of course: All Vigilante builds start at $295,000. There are definitely flashier ways to spend that kind of cash, but for the consummate Jeep fanatic these restomods might be the classiest.




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    My bad – I mistook the last portion as an inserted ad!
    That’s said, definitely overpriced imho for that level of quality relative to other builders.

    I like the modifications but that is just so ridiculously priced. On par for restomods I guess.

    Absolutely wonderful vehicle. $295K is way out of my range, but this is what I would drive if I had huge cash reserves. It just looks so cool, with modern mechanicals.

    Love what they’re doing, love the looks but not the price. Guess I’ll stick with my 35 y.o. WD21’s.

    I started to build a Grand Wagoneer as a camper tow vehicle. They were originally rated to tow 5K with the 360, 7.5K with the 401. Doing most of the work myself, I’d have had $20-25K in it (probably more like $25-30K), Would have used a Toyota 5.7L drivetrain, probably all the axles and such. More likely would have modified the truck frame to fit the GC body to. I could get a decent GC for $5K or less… that needed an engine and interior work, but mostly sound, just “well worn”. Another $10K or so for a decent running Tundra with 100-150K on it. $15K just to get good started. In the end I decided I’m really not that in love with the old GC and I got a used Expedition for less.

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