The anniversary passed this week with no fanfare and no commemoration, but as Jeep enthusiasts wait for their favorite brand to reveal the next Jeep Liberty (KK) and for Chrysler Group LLC to announce its plans for its Toledo Assembly complex, they can marvel at the continued popularity of a vehicle that last rolled off a Toledo assembly line 10 years ago.
On June 22, 2001, a shiny black four-door Jeep Cherokee — number 2,884,172 — exited the Toledo Jeep Parkway plant, ending a production run for one of the most popular SUVs ever that lasted three weeks short of 18 years, and outliving two corporate owners.
And 10 years later, the Jeep Cherokee, or “XJ” as it is also known, is still sought by off-road enthusiasts who fell in love with its light weight, ruggedness, dependable powertrain, and overall utility.
Born in late 1978, the XJ was the product of the former American Motors Corp., which was planning a compact SUV that was 21 inches shorter, six inches narrower, and 1,000 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the Grand Wagoneer, to compete with the Ford Bronco II and the Chevy S-10 Blazer, the only compact SUVs available at the time with four doors and two four-wheel-drive systems.
The Cherokee’s run ended in 2001 as it was replaced by the Jeep Liberty (KJ), being built at the newly constructed Jeep factory. Though there were many differences between the two vehicles, the KJ Liberty adopted the Cherokee name internationally.
Norm Layton, a Jeep enthusiast from Corona, Calif., and a former member of the brand’s Customer Advisory Board, said the XJ was an “emotional” vehicle among those who loved to go off-road, and those who found themselves attracted to its boxy design.
“They were customizable. It was a Jeeper’s Jeep,” Mr. Layton said. “It probably wasn’t ever intended to [be built for 18 years], but it was just one of those one-in-a-million home runs.”
The trusty XJ is strongly sought after in Australia as a serious 4WD build project as older examples become cheaper with age. They make a great platform to build up into a hard core off roader or tourer.
Introduced into Australia in 1994 they became one of the best sellers in the market at the time with ground breaking performance and value for money. One of the first in the Australian market with ABS and Air Bags and packaged to the trusty 4.0L six they took the market by storm selling over 10,000 vehicles in 1996 and are still seen in large numbers on Aussie roads now.
source Jeep Australia & Toledo Blade