American Motors Corporation (AMC) designed the Jeep Cherokee XJ to take on the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and the GMC S-15 Jimmy. Launched in time for the 1984 model year, the Cherokee was much smaller than its predecessor and more efficient thanks to the use of downsized engines. Jeep engineers made sure the Cherokee remained capable off-road and all models could tackle the grueling Rubicon Trail with only minor modifications.
Sold alongside the full-size Grand Wagoneer, the Cherokee quickly became one of the most popular models in Jeep’s history and it boosted parent company AMC’s profits in a time when the automaker needed it most. AMC tried to capitalize on the XJ’s success by offering a more upscale version of it called Wagoneer and a pickup truck dubbed Comanche but neither model was particularly successful and both were short-lived.
The Cherokee’s only major visual update came in time for the 1997 model year when it gained a new front fascia with a flat, body-colored grille, more modern bumpers on both ends, revised tail lamps as well as additional wheel designs and exterior paint colors. Production continued in Toledo, Ohio, until the Cherokee was replaced by the Liberty (known as the Cherokee in select global markets) in 2001.
The Jeep Cherokee was a hit outside of the United States, too. It was sold through Renault dealerships in certain parts of Europe where it was sometimes fitted with a diesel-burning four-cylinder engine. Additionally, the Cherokee became the first American car to be mass-produced in China when AMC formed a joint-venture with Beijing Automotive Group called Beijing Jeep Corporation in 1984. Chinese Cherokee production carried on until 2005, and several home-brewed versions were offered including a noticeably facelifted model and a long-wheelbase version with a raised roof.
While late-model Cherokees tend to hold their value very well, early models are not worth a whole lot and a look at the classifieds in both Europe and in the United States reveals stock, running and driving examples built in the 1980s have essentially hit rock bottom. Will they stay there or will they gradually go back up in value?