The Jeep Cherokee actually started out as a two-door, sporty version of the popular Jeep Wagoneer. The first version of the Cherokee was known as the “Cherokee Chief” and it hit the streets in 1974. Then in 1977 the “Wagoneer-Cherokee” was introduced as a four-door version of the chief.
As we all know the Wagoneer was a monster of a vehicle and sucked up a good amount of gas to get from point-a to point-z. So, in 1984 the Cherokee became its own line as the world started to make smaller vehicles across the board.
AMC completely overhauled the Cherokee to take it far away from its Wagoneer roots. The first step was to create it on wheel base that was more than 7 inches shorter than the Wagoneer-Cherokee. The new model was also about 21 inches shorter than the earlier versions. The vehicle also weighed about 1,000 pounds less than the previous model.
The smaller wheelbase made it easier to drive in normal driving conditions while the lighter weight helped to decrease the fuel consumption. These two factors made the vehicle a lot more accessible to people who needed a car for fun and for everyday family life.
The Cherokee came in three different trim levels: the base model, the Pioneer and the Chief. The base model was very similar to the Wagoneer with very little in the way of conveniences. The Pioneer was the “luxury” version complete with carpet, additional gauges, a fully-functional center console and even a rear window wiper with washer. The Chief, much like the Wagoneer version, was the sporty edition which came standard with hood striping, white-lettered tires and blacked-out exterior trim.
AMC unloaded an impressive 78,000 Cherokees in the first full year of sales. Much of this was most likely to do with the fact that 4×4 lovers were impressed with the vehicle. One of the reasons they loved the SUV some much was because of the two 4×4 options. Drivers could select the “Command-Trac” or the “Selec-Trac” 4×4 system. The former would allow the owner to choose if they wanted to drive 4×4 or 2×4 while the later was always propelled by 4×4.
For the most part the Cherokee remained the class-leader in full-sized SUVS that traveled by 4×4. The original version of the Cherokee, the XJ, stopped production in 2001 and was replaced in 2008 by what is called the KK Cherokee.