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5-Speed Survivor: 1983 Jeep Cherokee Chief

Old-school square body SUVs continue to be among the hottest collector vehicles on the market right now, and it’s almost too late to get in cheaply if you’re looking for a mint example. Plenty of rough trucks are still out there and likely worthwhile investments if not rusty, but examples like this clean 1983 Jeep Cherokee Chief are the ones to buy if you luck into a barn or garage find driven by the proverbial little old lady. This one even has the desirable manual transmission and its original graphics and stripes intact. Find it here on eBay with a classified listing price of $39,995.

Yes, that’s an eye-watering number, especially since it wasn’t that long ago you could buy one of these in average condition for under $5,000. But the world has caught on to the versatility of classic SUVs as a vehicle that will be equally as appreciated at Home Depot as it will be at a local Cars & Coffee. And check out the proportions – those awesome fender flared and deep-dish wagon wheels make for a look that’s hard to beat, and there’s nothing in today’s marketplace that comes close to emitting this kind of cool. Throw in the chrome roof rack, decal kit, and two-door body and it’s not even close (unless you’re a new Bronco fan).

The five-speed manual paired to the AMC inline-six is a wonderful combination and one that won’t let you down anytime soon. This is a color combo I don’t often see – most Cherokees of this vintage seem to be tan or saddle in color – but red with black/gray is hard to go wrong with. Personally, I’m amazed to see no mention of the interior being redone as it looks too good to be true. The seller notes the Cherokee spent most of its life in California before retiring to Arizona, so it’s basically lived in two of the best places for a vintage truck to reside. And obviously, its one owner was never inclined to take this trail-rated 4×4 off the pavement.

The high level of detail continues under the hood, where the Jeep looks like new, from the hoses to the inner fenders. The listing doesn’t note any recent mechanical work, but it does state that the seller promised the previous owner they would bring the Jeep back to its “original glory” when they decided not to bring their rig with them to the tropics upon retirement. So, did it need any work besides a detailing? It doesn’t seem likely, as it’s hard to fake originality like the kind that’s on display here. If you know of where one of these vintage square bodies is hiding in preserved condition, buy it now before the dealer gets it.


  1. alphasud Member

    It’s a good looking rig and not many in this body style have survived. I think these are handsome rigs IHMO I think these capture the rugged look better than the Bronco models. I think the asking price is really strong and I think BaT is driving the market and it doesn’t take long to do a search to see what cars can bring. If this was to find it’s way to that auction site the asking number would be more realistic.

    Like 5
  2. Raymond Smith

    It looks to have had a second battery added. I wonder what the thought was there? I can’t see it having a high electrical demand. It supposedly has always been in a warm climate. I’m sure somebody has a good idea.

    Like 1
  3. Mitchell Gildea Member

    Five speed with the straight six is probably a lot of fun

    Like 5
  4. CJinSD

    I’ve gone as far as checking Jeep specialist parts sites, and I can’t find any evidence that the Borg Warner T-5 went into the SJ. Has anyone ever seen an SJ that was a five speed instead of a four speed other than Bill Harrah’s second Jerrari?

    Like 3
    • That AMC guy

      Interesting question. A quick search turned up a 1983 full-line Jeep sales brochure for sale with photos of the pages. If you enlarge one of the pages you can just make out that under “Transmission” it is stated that a optional 5-speed floor shift is available with the six-cylinder engine:

      Like 6
      • CJinSD

        Nice find. Thank you. Maybe this Jeep really is worth forty grand. It can’t have been a common configuration, and I sure hope the parts for the 5-speed CJ7 are compatible.

        Like 2
      • That AMC guy

        I expect it’s probably the same transmission. AMC used the same components from its parts bin on their various vehicles whenever possible. Looking at the dashboard you can see in this Cherokee that AMC was apparently using up their stock of cheapo Hornet/Gremlin instruments. These hadn’t been used in their passenger cars since the Concord replaced the Hornet in 1978. Waste not, want not!

        Like 2

    The seats have been redone as they should look like the door panels. 40K is quite a reach however, this has been for sale a loooooong time.

  6. JMB#7

    Not the same beast, but I had a 1988 Cherokee Laredo with the 4.0 liter and 5 speed. Much more fun than my other Cherokees & Grand (4.0 liter automatics).
    To top it off, fuel economy is night and day between the 5 speed and the automatics. I always like the Jeep 6 cylinder engines. Then I rebuilt one and now I love them. Yes they will last a long time, but a freshly built one is smooth and very responsive. This body style is probably my favorite of all.

    Like 2
  7. K. R. V. Member

    I owned a Scout II, I bought as a new leftover, it was a 1973, I bought “new” in 1976! From an International Heavy Truck Dealership, that had ordered it for a clients son, that never picked it up. ? I know kinda strange but the dealer was right next door to my family’s Trucking Company and I got an amazing deal! But it was nothing special, the only Four Options were Automatic, AM Radio, One Speed Transfer Case 4×4 System, with the same 258 ci straight six! I paid only $6,800! With only 890miles! Seems they used it time to time chasing parts. That Scout II ran fine, but was slow and gutless, especially on the beach in sand, at times it would just bog down, not move or spin the tires and I would have to ask friends to get out an push, now it I had a 5 speed, that might not have been the case. I kept that till the summer of 78, then found a Scout II TERRA Select Edition with a 345/4 brl,4×4, 3:51 Posi HD 727, 2 speed transfer case!

    Like 2

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