Home » Someone Is Offering Me The Perfect Jeep Cherokee XJ Two-Door Manual But I Don’t Know If I Can Buy It

Someone Is Offering Me The Perfect Jeep Cherokee XJ Two-Door Manual But I Don’t Know If I Can Buy It

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The Jeep Cherokee XJ is arguably the best all-around Jeep of all time; its versatility is a big part of the reason why it has garnered such a cult following since its debut for the 1984 model year. Of the 2.8 million-ish XJs built up to 2001, there’s one combination that has always been considered the most desirable: two-door, five-speed, 4×4, green-on-tan. Somehow I have just been offered an XJ specced exactly like this, and I’d been an absolute fool to turn it down. But I’m conflicted; here’s why.

I could quite easily convince you, and myself, that this Jeep Cherokee XJ in the picture is the greatest one ever built. It’s a two-door, which most people think looks nicer than the four-door (it’s technically a shooting brake), it’s green like all Jeeps since WWII should be, it has a tan interior which matches best with the green paint, it has the wonderful AX-15 five-speed manual, it’s got four-wheel drive, and under the hood is the beloved 4.0-liter straight six. On top of that, this Jeep has the best axles you could get: The beefy Chrysler 8.25 in the rear and the capable Dana 30 up front. Because this is a post-1994(ish), the clutch slave cylinder is external meaning it’s easy to replace (doesn’t require dropping the transmission), and because it’s post-1995(ish) the rear Chrysler 8.25 axle has 29 splines instead of 27.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

In other words, from a powertrain and drivetrain standpoint, this is the best Jeep XJ money can buy. (Okay, you XJ nerds out there will point out that some XJs came with Dana 44s, but those are basically hens’ teeth. Also, 2000 and 2001s came with NV3550 manuals, which were a bit stronger than the AX-15s, but those also had low-pinion front axles, cylinder head problems, coil-on-plug ignition and other less than ideal bits that I won’t get into).

Some folks may prefer the 1997 and up post-refresh XJs, but I prefer the older, boxier look of this 1996. Plus, the 1997+ Cherokees have fuel pumps and filters that are not serviceable without dropping the tank, and that’s a big liability in my view.

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Anyway, the point is that this green Jeep is absolute perfection. It’s been owned by just one family, based in Virginia, and the current owner, Alex, wants to sell it to me. I am genuinely honored.

Alex, who is roughly my age (I’m 30),  is going through school, building a family, and doing all the grownup things that I’m not doing, so naturally, he figured he doesn’t have time to deal with his old XJ and I do. He reached out to me offering me his family’s beloved machine, figuring I’d take good care of it.  We haven’t discussed pricing, but I get the impression that it will be a manageable figure.

Left rear three-quarter view of the green Cherokee

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Sitting on a three-inch lift and 31-inch tires, the Jeep is modified tastefully. No fender flares have been removed, no metal has been cut. This two-door XJ still looks like the Jeep gods intend it to:The right side of the green Cherokee

“It was my brother’s first car. Bought it new in ’96 from Williamsburg Jeep Dodge,” Alex told me about his Jeep. “He took it to college and then my dad traded him for his Wrangler…I kinda took it over, tinkered with it and stuff, and I’m kind of between ‘Do I want to restore it or is it better off going to someone who is going to appreciate it?'” Alex told me over the phone.

He gave me a bit more in on the Jeep’s condition. “If you want it to be show quality, you gotta repaint it…the clear coat is pulling up on the hood a little bit…and roof.” He said he replaced the Jeep’s injectors when he noticed the vehicle running rough, but the Jeep still doesn’t quite run right. It has a new crankshaft position sensor, and yet: “After a heat soak it would run like crap, but when you’d first start it up it would run great.”

With only 134,010, it’s a fairly low-mileage, beautiful Jeep. Though to be fair, it’s got some rust issues — nothing major, but definitely some rocker and floor holes:

A bubbling rocker on the green Cherokee

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A little bit of rocker panel rust on the green Jeep Cherokee

 

Here’s a walkaround video from Alex showing the rust and the interior, which is a little rough, too. The seats and carpets need some repair:

Getting this thing running properly and mending the minor rust could result in The Ultimate XJ — a beautiful green two-door. But for me to take that on, I’d have to sell my first Jeep — my O.G. The one that started it all back when I was a 19 year-old college student:

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David's first Jeep Cherokee back when it was in surprisingly good condition

Right now, it’s sitting in my backyard, its rear left tire flat and sunken into the ground. The cylinder head is cracked, the radiator is filled with sludge, and the rear differential is toast. It needs some serious help; for me to even think about taking on this beautiful two-door while trying to mend my own XJ — and the one I almost just sold to a nice lady the other day — would be delusional.

David's burgundy Jeep Cherokee as it sits today

So that leads me to the question: Would you sell your first car for a nicer version of it? This green two-door is truly the grail, but can I sell my burgundy bestie? Or do I just keep both somehow?

Images from Alex or David Tracy

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Zach Gilbert
Zach Gilbert
1 year ago

The green Jeep is cool looking, but I am a sucker for the 4-door. I have been trying to find a 1994 Jeep Cherokee Sport 4-Door like Jack Carter has on the TV Show Eureka, and they are tough to find.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

The first car I ever bought was a Triumph TR6. Rusty as hell, missing the floors and the thermostat. Learned how to really wrench on that car, loved it, drove it everywhere, fixed it again when I got there. Then, on a perfect sunny driving day, on the way home, the fuel line worked it’s way off the front carb and started dumping gas all over the exhaust manifold. It was over.

I was devastated. It was like Nana died all over again.

But in the end, it was a necessary thing. I never would have gotten rid of that car on my own, and since then I’ve been lucky enough to have worked my way through some great cars and gone great places in them. I met a girl with an MGB and never looked back.

It’s time David. Let it go. Fix new things. Learn about new vehicles, solve new mechanical puzzles. Find a girl with a MGB and get going.

Idiotking
Idiotking
1 year ago

I had this same Jeep, identical specs up to the manual transmission. It was great…up until we had our daughter. If it had four doors, it would still be sitting in our driveway and probably wind up being her first car. But the gymnastics of leaning in to the car seat on the back bench was too much for our lower backs to tolerate.

Lava5.0
Lava5.0
1 year ago

David, here’s the truth pill. The only thing holding your first jeep together are the memories. I understand the love, I really do. I still have my first car .. but…. Here’s the thing. Even if you manage to complete the marathon wrench-fest to get that thing back on the road, I guarantee there’s at least another 10 things that still need fixing. It’s time to let it go. Strip it of usable parts so the legacy lives on and send it to the yard. Fix the black one and enjoy it. Don’t buy the green one. You know rust. If you can see it, there 3x as much you can’t see. Good luck. I know it’s hard.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
1 year ago

I’m probably the wrong person to ask, since I’m still driving my first Jeep (see user name) and have added two new ones to the fleet. I am concerned about the burgundy XJ. I know I’ve spent far more on my ZJ than it’s worth, but if it wasn’t that Jeep it would be another…I just really like these vehicles. At least I know the complete service history of this one…plus, it’s still an enjoyable drive. The burgundy XJ seems to hold similar value, except it sits as a monument. It deserves a bit of attention to really decide if it can be returned to good working order.

The green XJ looks awesome! The current owner has reached out to you because — as you’ve made clear through countless articles — you do care about these Jeeps, and see them as more than just appliances that get people from point A to point B. That being said, it sounds like it needs work beyond cosmetic issues; if you don’t have the time now to address that, I’m worried that it risks joining the burgundy XJ.

cmcolfax
cmcolfax
1 year ago
Reply to  PlatinumZJ

I’ve had TWO Platinum Silver ZJ’s.
A 98 4.0 and a 98 5.9 Limited.
Gawdayum I loved that Niner.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

“Though to be fair, it’s got some rust issues”

Ah, there it is

James Colangelo
James Colangelo
1 year ago

I would sell the red one as parts (it’s horrible) as-is, and also sell the one that just blew its motor as-is, take that money and flip it into the green one. You clean out your yard, get rid of projects you know you’ll never get to, and you have a good running and driving XJ. While you’re doing minor body work / paint to the green one, you can mess w/the Golden Eagle or the little blue rust bucket you insisted on buying for a “winter beater” that sat in your driveway all winter. lol

Good luck David!

Andy Hoodward
Andy Hoodward
1 year ago

You have so much you can’t focus appropriately on any of them, to their detriment.

New rule for DT: For every 1 in – 2 go out.

Thin the herd, man, it’s much more enjoyable to follow you to the finish of a project than to watch you wallow around from shitbox-problem to shitbox-problem.

Ian Steinheimer
Ian Steinheimer
1 year ago

I think you have to buy it. Good two doors are becoming more and more scarce.

James McDonald
James McDonald
1 year ago

So that leads me to the question: Would you sell your first car for a nicer version of it? This green two-door is truly the grail, but can I sell my burgundy bestie? Or do I just keep both somehow?

You’re David Jeep’n Tracy. Of course you buy it and then age it like fine wine in your backyard jeep cellar.

J Edgar
J Edgar
1 year ago

As someone with a similar obsession (Saab C900’s), I understand your dilemma. It’s hard to pass on a car that you’ve always wanted, and they always seem to turn up when you’ve sworn that you’re not going to buy another one. My main rule is that only one can be in less than great running condition at a time. I can’t juggle projects well and never finish anything if I have too many irons in the fire. I also have a rule that only one car can be parked outside at any given time, so when the barn and garage are full, something has to go before I get another project. Yet, as I type this, it all reminds me of late stage alcoholics who start making up a bunch of rules for their drinking in order to convince themselves that there isn’t a problem. At the end of the day, my cars bring me a lot of satisfaction and I *usually* break even or make a little scratch when I decide to let one go, so it isn’t the worst addiction I can imagine, but there is a fine line between obsession and passion and you seldom know when that line has been crossed. Anyway, that’s the best looking Jeep I’ve ever seen you get excited about, so buy that thing, but maybe get rid of another one if you do.

R W
R W
1 year ago

My wife had one of these as her first car. hundreds of thousands of miles when she got it, holes in the floor, all that great Jeep stuff. She drove it until the wheels almost fell off, then handed it down to a cousin. It survived until crashed. She’s still nostalgic; I’ll buy her a shiny one, someday.

Jeff Gillio
Jeff Gillio
1 year ago

David,

I think unless you are actually going to repair the burgundy one you should let it go and get the green one. It fully understand sentimental value, but as I write this I have a garage full of my parent’s crap that I kept for sentimental reasons. Over time I have slowly been parting with things I realize I will never use and should go to someone who will. Holding on to a vehicle and letting it slowly rot because it has sentimental value is really just letting a vehicle rot. There may be someone out there with more time, money, and passion (maybe not passion) than you who can and will get your burgundy one running. You can certainly repair the green one and have a sweet Jeep that makes both you and Alex happy with your respective decisions.

Matt Smith
Matt Smith
1 year ago

Buy it and unload your other xj’s. I owned a 94 2-door manual XJ throughout high school and college. Wish I never sold it.

The most simple and best reason to own a 2 door is just cruising with your arm resting on the door with the window down. The 4-doors are so short that its not comfortable to do that. Try it out and you’ll be sold.

Parsko
Parsko
1 year ago

You keep suggesting you will, but you have not made a decision of whether you want to have a “normal amount of cars”, or not. What you have is a museum of cars, most of which don’t run. Having more than one non-running car over 30 years old is simply NOT normal.

Believe us, we love this SAGA, but make a decision and let us watch it play out. But, what you’re doing now is just getting ridiculous. 🙂

Keep David Tracying David Tracy.

OH, and buy the green holy grail. Easy answer.

Endusone
Endusone
1 year ago

I thought I would keep my first car forever, but rust and other issues said otherwise. It was very hard to get rid of it but in the long run it was much better to let it go. It would have been an anchor I had to drag around. It’s time to move on to something better and cooler.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

If I still had the car, no as my grandfather gave it to me. However after throwing a rod and blowing up the motor I ended up giving to family in Ohio. Last I knew it was farm truck.

The question is what is the price of the like yours vs the price to fix? How attached are you to your Jeep? At this point is not about money but what it means to you. It would be fixed because you want to, not a flip. Using the truck as an example, if I had it in any sort of usable shape, I would spend a ridiculous amount of money to fix it. Way more than it would be worth.

The other reason I ask the price I am trying to convince my wife that the only way to back off on my expensive Fish Keeping hobby is buy another car. I know it won’t work but I can try.

Angry Dorito
Angry Dorito
1 year ago

“Would you sell your first car for a nicer example of it?”

Yes. Absolutely. In a heartbeat. (Mostly because the reason I had to let it go was because it had reached the end of its serviceable life) However! I’d keep at least one part of the former to attach to the latter. Y’know for remembrance.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
1 year ago

If you don’t, I could use a second 2 door 5 speed 4×4. I’d even keep this one stock!

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 year ago

Yeah, being responsible is hard, even though this is a perfect Jeep that is really hard to pass up. And it’s not too far from where I lived so if you needed it to have a temporary home until you can pick it up/prep it for an impossible drive home… I’m there for ya.

Phil Morgan
Phil Morgan
1 year ago

man that is nice, I wouldn’t feel bad getting rid of some non runners in order to bring this thing home.

Chris Trapp
Chris Trapp
1 year ago

David:
Temptations like this are easy to pass on when you have a set of ground rules. Between my wife and I, we own six cars. Here are the rules I’ve had set in place regarding any new acquisitions.

1. Be able to buy the new car in cash.
2. All other cars in the fleet are running, drivable, and need no major work. Worthy of taking on a weekend trip out of town.
3. Have a suitable place to store the new vehicle.

Do I store a car at a friend’s summer home’s garage? Maybe…Did I put a storage lift in my parent’s garage to stash another? Absolutely! Figure out a set of rules that will keep the city of Troy off your back but keep your addiction satisfied and you will sleep easy at night.

4WheelBrive
4WheelBrive
1 year ago

David: What you need are “stash houses.” Your loyal readers in the Detroit metro area should volunteer to host one of your project vehicles each. You can travel between them wrenching and writing updates on your progress.

Addendum:
Every host has the right to evict your car with a weeks notice.

Ihatecarsbutworkonthem
Ihatecarsbutworkonthem
1 year ago

You deserve something nice, well you had something nice in the form of that Lexus.

Time to treat yo self.

Get the goddamn Jeep and be happy.

There is no H in Doug
There is no H in Doug
1 year ago

David, you know how much I love the green and tan combination (although finding trim pieces for tan interiors in junkyards is difficult), and it’s a great spec, so get it. As for the maroon one, please do what I was trying to convince you to do last year: convert it to an EV. Maybe ask Uncle Rich and his crew for recommendations. There are enough people out there who would love to be able to do this conversion economically (myself included), and if there’s someone who could find a cheap way to do it, it’s you. I am being 100% selfish here in this request as I would use your detailed documentation of the process and try to replicate it in England. The fact that the maroon XJ is an automatic (like mine) is even more appealing as most people convert manuals. Please consider it!

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