No Reserve: 92K-Mile 1981 Jeep Cherokee Chief

Nowadays, we’re used to seeing classic Jeep Wagoneers sell at dizzying prices, particularly those beautiful Grand Wagoneers with simulated wood grain applique.  However, if you’re like me and not too keen on paying through the nose for an aristocratic-looking SUV with faux wood panels, then perhaps the less common but more rugged-looking AMC Cherokee Chief from the same era would meet your satisfaction?  This 1981 Cherokee Chief with only 92,325 miles is available at auction here on eBay at no reserve.  Bidding is currently at a temptingly low $4,065 with the sale ending very soon.  The Jeep is available for local pick-up in O’Fallon, Missouri.

The Cherokee model was first introduced in 1974 and was basically a two-door version of the Wagoneer.  Beginning in 1977, a four-door Cherokee was offered.  Interestingly and according to Jeep legend, the term “sport utility vehicle” was coined by AMC in its 1974 Cherokee sales literature.  I decided to do a little research on this claim and without too much effort, came across a copy of the 1974 Cherokee brochure thanks to a 2018  New York Times article posted online.  Sure enough, the term is used in the ad’s very first sentence!  According to the seller of this Cherokee, it’s a true survivor that’s been garage-stored.  Everything is completely original but there is some rust on the body which, according to the seller, should be expected.  After all, it is a Jeep.

Honestly, I really wasn’t too excited about this Cherokee until I started looking through photos of the interior.  The owner describes it as “immaculate” and while that might be exaggerating a little, it sure is nice.  The dash really does look to be in near perfect condition, and so do the rear seats.  The front seats, however, show some slight staining and there are some tears in the carpeting below the driver seat.  As a traditionalist, I could do without the DIY console and aftermarket stereo, as well as the corny 8-ball shift knob.  But that’s simply my taste and preference.  If I were to drive a Cherokee like this down the road, I’d do my best to make it feel like it did back in 1981, and that includes the music playing on the radio.  Hey, what’s wrong with listening to Rick Springfield on a crackling old AM/FM stereo?  It’s all about the experience!

In addition to exterior graphics, the Chief trim package included upgrades to interior decor and power steering.  In 1981, AMC offered the choice of its super reliable straight-6 or various V8 motors to power the Cherokee.  This Chief’s original 4.2 liter 6-cylinder is mated to a 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlight 727 automatic transmission.  According to the seller, there are no fluid leaks or known mechanical issues.  Although it looks like some hoses and perhaps the radiator has been replaced, the seller makes no mention of repairs or maintenance having been performed.  The Jeep is reported to run and drive well with 4-wheel drive also working as it should.  A closer, in-person look is certainly needed to see how bad the rust issues are and what condition the frame is in.  Judging by the photos and relying on the information provided by the seller, this seems like a great opportunity to grab a classic, original, strong running SUV at a decent price.  What do you think?


WANTED 1984 -1985 Ford EXP Ideally rust free, solid running car w/ man. trans. Prefer ’84, ’85 Turbo model. Or 86 Contact

WANTED 1960 to 1980 International Scout 4×4 Contact

WANTED 1983-1986 Pontiac Grand Prix Looking for (White) preferably Grand Prix – Bucket Seats – Console – Maroon interior – Original Contact

WANTED 1959 Volkswagen Beetle Left & right tail light assemblies complete only. Contact

WANTED 1958 – 1964 Chevrolet Impala Convertible project Contact

Submit Your Want Ad


  1. Bob C.

    I don’t see it getting much better mileage than a 360 v8. The six would have to work extra hard hauling this big heavy thing around, especially with an automatic.

    Like 2
    • CJinSD

      I just looked at a late ’70s Car and Driver test of a 258/auto Cherokee. They saw 11 to 13 miles per gallon combined with a 21.2 second quarter mile at 63.2 mph. They also suspected that the 360 V8 would have delivered better performance without a fuel consumption penalty.

      Like 1
      • Michael Leyshon Member

        Fuel economy and performance is of utmost importance to today’s ’81 SUV buyer. The above figures will weigh heavily on ones decision to proceed with a purchase (Just for a laugh guy’s ! Good information, shows interest ! appreciated )

        Nice write up, miss these as part of the Ohio roadscape…

        Like 4
      • Jay B Staff

        Thanks, Michael!

  2. Superdessucke

    What’s up, Chief!

    Like 2

    OK another fake like the PC Javelin. Chero Chiefs we wide tracks and did not come in 4-door trim with the Chief decal package or the deluxe interior. This is an “S” model which is basic.
    Someone added the decals and switched the interior from a real Chief. I have owned several of these and have a 79 Golden Eagle that I’m restoring.

    The 258 six is a torque monster and you won’t miss anything as the 360 stock is not any great improvement over the 6 If it were a stick.

    Like 6
  4. Jasper

    Unusual as four door Chief. If you bought one you got kinda gypped out of the wide wheels and flares. I bet a 360 would barely crack 10mpg. In ‘80 or so, Jeep took all kinds of diet measures to reduce weight and improve mileage. These 258s were more common than you might think.

    I for one always thought the Grand Wagoneers with the full wood siding were a little cheesy. If I was picking and choosing, mine would be a 74-78 in dark red with the thin wood strip and factory slot mags.

  5. MIchael
  6. Garrett

    Sold for less than $4200. I think that is one of the best bargains I have seen in a while.

    Like 4

    Cool find but as I said I’ve never seen one or heard of one in my 4o yrs in the hobby. If they were made they are ultra rare.

    Like 1
    • Michael V. Abate

      Most definitely made. somewhat rare. I have seen many in person. It is unfortunate they never made a wide track 4 Door chief. There was a super chief prototype, it was 4 door widetrack.

      Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.