The 1970s-era Jeep Cherokee wide-track is the most beautiful SUV of all time. It’s not just I who think that, it’s seasoned automotive designers around the world. So it’s no surprise to see that Jeep’s design team — led by Jeep-nut Mark Allen — got its hands on one, and built it into a custom Easter Jeep Safari concept. Specifically, the team turned it into a hybrid. Let’s have a look.
Many of you are aware that I own a 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle that I’ve done very little with in the past five years (see above). Luckily, Jeep has actually turned its Craigslist acquisition into something functional and cool. Here’s how it started out a few years back:
The body looks solid in those old images, but the vehicle clearly needs lots of work; the lack of front fascia and bumper tell me this thing probably wasn’t close to driving when Jeep picked it up.
The team digitized the SJ and started making some changes (Random thought: I want this CAD file):
Among the changes are a revised face with high-clearance fenders, a thinner roof top panel made of carbon fiber, nicely integrated rock rails, deleted and cut out rear side windows (now the rear opening conforms with the original stamping; my colleague Jason always thought the small oval window in the big stamped section was a bit odd), and heavy body modifications to fit this old SJ-platform Cherokee onto a 2022 Jeep Wrangler 4xe frame.
Yes, this old Cherokee body is powered by Wrangler 4xe bits, including a 2.0-liter “Hurricane” turbocharged inline-four in a plug-in hybrid configuration. There’s a 4:1 transfer case and 37-inch tires wrapped around “slotted mag” wheels, and inside, the seats are low-buckets that appear to be based on modern Wrangler JL cushions. The rear seats are gone, replaced by a full-size spare and a roll cage.
It’s an awesome concept. Would I rather have a throaty V8 in it instead of a tiny 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid? Definitely, but it’s 2023, and electric is hot. I myself want to convert my Golden Eagle into an EV, which is why I want Jeep’s CAD file — for packaging planning purposes.
I’m not totally in love with how those flares come to an abrupt end up front (on the original, the flares merge into a bulge behind the front bumper), and I think the modern bumper just doesn’t quite fit with the old-school bodywork as well as my stock aluminum one or the three-piece one that would have been standard on a 1978.
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Still, it’s an automaker restomodding classic cars for our enjoyment. It’s not lost on me each year that Jeep probably has to spend loads of money doing this, and that it’s probably not the easiest thing to justify in the context of constantly-tightening budgets.
I’m pumped to drive this thing next week in Moab.
All Images: Jeep
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Every time I look at SJs, it makes me a little sad just how far Jeep missed the mark with the new Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer. I think it really comes down to bland body work that makes it look like a generic large SUV.
The Range Rover is the perfect benchmark. It may have evolved in tech, aero and features; but you can look at a 2023 next to a 1970 and see a clear lineage.
“The 1970s-era Jeep Cherokee wide-track is the most beautiful SUV of all time.”
I prefer a classic Defender 110.
If they stick the I6 Hurricane instead of the I4, would it gain the Tracy approval? I mean I6 will be much smoother.
The world needs more 2 door vehicles. Period. While I loved my old 2 door XJ…. Consider the advantages:
Larger front doors. Easier for folk who are or have to transport “senior” adults.
if you are driving solo. Easy acces to the back seat. For your suit jacket, briefcase,ect. Yes, that had value to me. AND my dad back in the day (loved his 2 door Buick Electra 225)
2 door vehicles look cooler. And that’s what folks want down the road.
As restomods go, I love it. I always imagine the classic Jeeps to be heavy and underpowered, so any work to improve that, even as a hybrid, feels like a step forward. I agree that the front bumper doesn’t fit (couldn’t they have done anything with that?) and I’m not 100% on the interior. Can’t wait to hear how it performs!
David, are you sure you want to back to CAD like your days at Chrysler?
I think it looks like the bee’s knees. I hope they have it on display at Moab next week!
big wheels are dumb. keep it closer to stock.
I am not any kind of Jeep aficionado, so I like all the other mods that people more knowledgeable than me are upset about, but those wheels and tyres look stoopid.
They are big to go off road, it’s built to get a bit of crawling in, Moab is a serious place.
I don’t like it at all. Why take a cool and now getting pretty hard to find Jeep Cherokee wide-track and turn it into an open air rig? Go get a Wrangler and be 1,000 lbs. lighter.I’m all for EVs and hybrids, but not for this. A classic Cherokee deserves classic power and that is a built 401 mated to a fresh Quadratrac.
Worse, they put a modern Wrangler dashboard in it.
Even worse, it’s full of jeep parts
I have said for… oh… about 5 years… to sell all your other jeeps and focus on this one. It’s rare AF and super, super, super cool. I almost never see them and when I do I get excited, and they’re worth serious coin in good shape. IMHO converting it to EV would be like ice skating uphill; big tires and the aero of a brick = shit range, unless you add a ton of capacity (weight) which hurts everything else. I think instead a modern(ish) swap would be the way to go. Pick and choose the trans/axles/transfer cases, but maybe a pentastar V6? I’m a big fan of that motor, would probably have more torque/power than the factory engine and weigh less while getting way better MPG.
IMHO you should build this to be THE david tracy mobile. Thing is so cool. Nothing else you own is this cool.
As nice as the Golden Eagle is, I think the J10 is cooler. Bench seat, manual transmission, long bed, straight six, stamped tailgate, manual locking hubs, nicer grille — it’s my true love.
I see J10s more often than golden eagles tho. I can count the # of times I’ve seen Golden Eagles on one hand.
That last teaser line is a real nail-biter.
Are you driving the J10 to Moab?
(This post has been edited, just to savor the consummate enjoyment of finally having a functioning ‘edit’ function. It is appreciated!)
You must have some connections at Jeep to get the CAD files, right? That would be super useful, no matter how you end up modifying it. Dropping the body onto a modern platform like the Wrangler 4xe is a great idea. I agree with the bumper comments. If I were doing this, I would find a way to keep the rear seat. I’m jealous that you’ll get to see this in person.
Interesting in light of this:
And especially this comment: “TheHairyNug
5 days ago
The real successor to the Cherokee is the 4 door Wrangler”
“which is why I want Jeep’s CAD file — for packaging planning purposes.”
And not to, you know, take it to a print shop to get it printed on the largest plotter known to man and then use it as actual wallpaper?
You could put it in your Autopian office and call it a business expense. 🙂
I want the CAD file so I can shrink it down to 1:10 scale, 3D print it, and put it on an RC truck chassis.
This is also a good idea. A pic of the RC truck in front of a nearly 1:1 paper version would be excellent.
(sarc) I want the CAD file so I can scale it up and 3D print a concrete house this shape. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, full basement with walkout under the front end, barn doors in the rear for the garage, this could be fun…
Really like the look. It is confident-even tough-without being angry. The color and graphics really harken back to the time.
I would drive the hell out of that.
IT is a pretty SUV, and I am torn, it definitely looks SEMA worthy, but I am not sure how trail worthy it really is. I would like to see how bad it rubs those tires or blows them out with no bead locks, and of course the pretty body work lacks rub rails. wonder what else it is missing to truly be used offroad, guess we will see. I am more interested in the Magneto with axles and a transmission behind the electric motor. it will be interesting to see how that works together in a V notch.
They should make and sell these.
Considering we’re creeping up on a two-decade supply of JKU’s and JLU’s, I sort of wonder what the appetite would be for full SJ kit bodies to put on a Wrangler chassis, that even if the lack of aero and skinny pillars that couldn’t pass a rollover test if you installed an anti-gravity device in the thing would make it infeasible for normal production, that there’d be demand for this sort of conversion in the aftermarket.
So this will be part of Jeep’s showcase this vehicle next week during Moab Jeep week? I can’t wait to check this out in person.
Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, correct.
Those bumpers really do detract from the whole retro vibe. It would have looked better with the original chrome bumpers, or some modern steel design.
Just happy to see real bumpers. I personally like it although I see your point.