The SJ series Jeep Cherokee is a full-size SUV that was produced from 1974 through 1983 by Jeep. It was based on the Wagoneer that was originally designed by Brooks Stevens in 1963. 

  • Manufacturer: American Motors
  • Production: 1974 - 1983
  • Engines: 258 cu inch (4.2L) AMC I6, 360 cu inch (5.9L) AMC V8 2-barrel & 4-barrel, 401 cu inch (6.6L) AMC V8 4-barrel.
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual and 3-speed automatic
  • Wheelbase: 108.7 inches
  • Length: 186.4 inches
  • Width: 74.8 inches
  • Height: 66.4 inches
  • Curb Weight: 4,514 pounds
  • Successor: Jeep Cherokee (XJ)


The Cherokee was a redesigned reintroduction of a two-door body style, with a single fixed rear side window with an optional flip-out section. Previously, a two-door version had been available in the Jeep Wagoneer line from 1963 to 1967, although this had the same pillar and window configuration as the four-door Wagoneer. 

The Cherokee was marketed as the "sporty" two-door variant of Jeep's station wagon. The term "Sport Utility Vehicle" appears for the first time in the 1974 Cherokee sales brochure. A four-door was not added to the lineup until 1977.  

Jeep Cherokee (SJ) Continued

Additional History

The initial, 1974 Cherokees were only available in the standard "narrow track" configuration as base models (Model 16), or top-of-the-line S models (Model 17). Later, the trim levels of the Cherokee included the S (Sport; 1974—), Chief (1976–1983), Golden Eagle (1978–1979), Golden Hawk, and Laredo (1980–1983). Golden Eagle and Golden Hawk were graphics packages; the Laredo was more of an upholstery package. For the final year only, in 1983 a new “Pioneer” package was standard on the four-door and optional on the two-door. Cherokee Chief and Laredo packages were still available, but only on wide-wheel two-door models.

Engine choices consisted of AMC I6 or V8 powerplants. When it was equipped with the net 215 hp (160 kW; 218 PS) 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 engine, it would outrun other 4x4s in its class, and, with 3.07:1 highway gearing, could reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) (early models had 120 mph speedometers). A range of AMC engines were offered: the 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS) 258 cu in (4.2 L) inline six-cylinder, a 175 hp (130 kW; 177 PS) 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 with two-barrel carburetor, a 195 hp (145 kW; 198 PS) four-barrel 360, the 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8, and even a Zeitgeist/Peugeot turbo diesel, albeit very rare. The durable 401 had a forged crankshaft and forged connecting rods, in addition to the high nickel content block of the other AMC V8s. The 401 was discontinued at the end of 1978. After acquiring AMC in 1987, Chrysler kept the 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 in production until 1991 for the Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

The SJ Cherokee - along with the Wagoneer and J-Truck - continues to hold the record for the largest engine ever offered in a Jeep, with the 401's displacement surpassing that of even the SRT-8 Grand Cherokee's 392 cu in (6.4 L) Hemi.

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