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4-Speed 4×4: 1981 Jeep Cherokee

Fargo seems like a fitting location for this 1981 Jeep Cherokee, a proper 4×4 with a 4-speed manual transmission. Known for its sparse landscapes and unrelenting winters (pretty sure our own Scotty G. has had a few photo assignments there), a roughneck Cherokee is a perfect weapon for surviving winter and long expanses of highway. Find this rough-but-ready Cherokee here on craigslist for just $2,500 (and go here if the ad disappears). 

The body sports the best type of untouched exterior, with no significant rot holes, a good amount of faded original paint, and just enough wear and tear to make you unconcerned about parking and driving it wherever you feel. The glass, bumpers and lenses all look perfectly serviceable as-is, and the seller notes that he “…has the rear window with track,” which I’m assuming means it needs to be installed. Even the gas cap has good luster.

While it’s no short shifter, it’s nice to see a shift knob that’s close at hand to the driver’s position. The seller notes that you “…can even drive this beauty home,” which one would assume means it drives straight and true with no overheating or significant leakage. Then again, this era of Cherokee was known for being quite robust, but I’m surprised to see that quality includes the interior in this example, which looks quite sound. The backseat looks relative unused and the front seats show minor wear.

Mechanically, this Cherokee is set up with a 360 and locking front hubs. Though the engine matches the exterior’s cosmetic condition, Jeeps aren’t exactly known for being trailer queens below the $5,000 price threshold. While the seller will throw in a replacement grill to fix the damaged side, we’d like some more details on its mechanical history before a cross-country drive – but the price is right enough for at least making the call. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Fred H. for the find.


  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Ha, ohhhh yaaa, I lived there for eight years while I was going to NDSU, Jeff, right through the legendary blizzard and flood of ’96/’97. This Jeep would have been much better than a 1991 Dodge Spirit was during those winters.

    Like 6
    • Pa Tina

      You betcha! My oldest boy graduated from UND. Went to a few games at The Ralph during his time there. Weather reports would talk about “life-threatening” wind chills.

      Like 3
  2. jdjonesdr

    Gone in a New York minute.

    Like 2
    • Pa Tina

      Or in a North Dakota summer.

      Like 0
  3. XMA0891

    Owned an ’81 J-10 for almost 25 years – These are truly great trucks!! The only thing they can’t do is pass a gas station and not rot. I did not realize a two-door FSJ was still available in ’81. Mileage and rot-issues aside, why won’t America build stuff like this any more? Great find!

    Like 2
  4. angryjonny

    Had a 78 and an 81, and I regret ever losing them.

    Like 0
  5. BOP_GUY BOP Guy Member

    Dang it, it already sold !! This would have been a great project. Amazingly good shape for where it’s coming from. When I saw it had a 4 speed stick, I immediately assumed it had the straight 6. A 360 with a stick—AWESOME!! My only Jeep over the years was a 78 Wagoneer with the 360 and automatic, purchased in the late 80’s. Great for living in Sacramento, CA, with the mountains so close by, camping, fishing, off roading, and pulling my boat. Pulled a U-haul with her as I moved down to San Diego for work. Wanted a fun convertible down there, and sold her. Got a great deal on an 86 Bertone X1/9, and enjoyed that for a couple years. I miss both of them! I would’ve scooped up this Cherokee in a heartbeat if I’d known sooner. My mistake for not checking out this email yesterday. Congrats to the new owner!

    Like 1

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