Home » The 1996 Jeep Cherokee ‘Chief’ Is The Ultra-Luxurious Jeep Cherokee XJ You Didn’t Know Existed

The 1996 Jeep Cherokee ‘Chief’ Is The Ultra-Luxurious Jeep Cherokee XJ You Didn’t Know Existed

Jeep Cherokee Glava Ts2
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You know how in the 1990s, every family seemed to have a conversion van, complete with a Nintendo 64, TV screen, and enough headroom for a giraffe? Well, during that era, those conversions weren’t limited to just vans. In fact, the beloved Jeep Cherokee XJ also received a “conversion” treatment by an Elkhart, Indiana-based company named Glaval, and the result was the most luxurious Jeep Cherokee XJ of them all. Here’s what you need to know about this magical Jeep.

A reader recently sent me an Elizabethtown, North Carolina Facebook Marketplace listing for a Jeep Cherokee with a tall fiberglass roof. The post’s description reads:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

One of a kind project Jeep. The raised roof was a factory option authorized by Jeep. Only about 100 or so were made, very few still exist. It runs and drives but needs the head gasket replaced. 140000 on the odometer. Ready for questions and offers

Asking just $3000, the listing shows photos of a conversion that looked very similar to the 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee “Excursion” conversion that I wrote about a few years ago. This thing:

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Spencer Strucienski
Screen Shot 2024 02 20 At 2.56.42 Pm
Spencer Strucienski
The Grand Cherokee “Excursion” was built by Mark III Industries out of Ocala, Florida:

Screen Shot 2024 02 20 At 2.57.46 Pm

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While researching my article on this fascinating Jeep Grand Cherokee, I never stumbled upon an XJ conversion, which is why I didn’t realize such a thing existed. But now, thanks to that reader’s email, it has come to my attention that indeed, a Jeep-authorized XJ conversion did indeed exist, but it wasn’t built by Mark III Industries. It was built by Glaval. Have a look:

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Image: Facebook Marketplace
Product photo of 1996 Jeep Cherokee · Sport SUV 4D
Image: Facebook Marketplace
Product photo of 1996 Jeep Cherokee · Sport SUV 4D
Image: Facebook Marketplace
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Image: Facebook Marketplace

I had heard of Glaval a few years ago in Germany, where I met the Chrysler Minivan king of the world, a young German named Tizian. He showed me his white “Cross Country by Glaval”:

Otherwise, I hadn’t heard of the company. In any case, it turns out, Glaval also did XJ conversions in 1996, and the vehicles were called “Cherokee Chief” — an homage to the badass, widebody SJ-platform Jeep Cherokee Chiefs of the 1970s. I even found a brochure for the Glaval Cherokee Chief:

S L1600S L1600 (1)

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The images are a bit grainy, but what I’ve been able to decipher reads:

Leave it to Glaval to put the perfect finishing touches on the legendary Jeep Cherokee. Outside, your eye is captured by the aggressive, Aerodyne hightop roof that makes it clear this is no ordinary Jeep. But a closer look reveals running boards, ground effects, and special [indecipherable] that compliment the rugged good looks of this, the most timeless of all Jeep vehicles. Expect to attract attention and admiration. It just looks that good — but wait until you see what we’ve done inside.

The added clearance provided by the Aerodyne roof makes room for an overhead entertainment including…remote controlled [indecipherable] TV, videotape player and AM/FM…speakers and personal stereo headphones…Rear passengers enjoy extra headroom and storage, abundant wood [indecipherable] …mood lighting…seating angle to better accommodate adult passengers.

OK, trying to decipher that text is becoming too challenging, but the main points are: The Jeep Cherokee Chief received a remote-controlled TV, a VHS player, an AM/FM stereo, a new multi-speaker sound system, headphones, and Nintendo plug-ins (!), plus a bunch of wood accents.

The XJ for sale, though, has very little of that. There’s no TV or VCR, nor are there cutouts in the wood for these — all I see are just storage baskets, a dome light, and a few other electronics. Is it possible that the entire wood panel in the “Aerodyne roof” was replaced? Or could you buy a base-model Glaval Cherokee Chief? (Surely not).

Product photo of 1996 Jeep Cherokee · Sport SUV 4D

The Jeep for sale also sadly longer has that incredible front bumper, though it does still have the strange bespoke grille, special runningboards, and of course that tall roof.

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I couldn’t find a ton of information on this amazing Glaval Cherokee Chief, but I did an Automotive News article that mentions it:

Glaval has been diversifying as conversions of full-sized vans have plunged since 1993. Glaval this year introduced its Cherokee Chief, a converted Jeep Cherokee, its first compact sport-utility conversion.

And here’s a forum post from an owner named K9JEEPSAR. Here’s what they said about their car:

OK SINCE A FEW HAVE ASKED MORE ABOUT THIS JEEP. ALL I CAN TELL YOU IS WHAT I KNOW. GLAVAL IS IN ELKHART, IN. IN 96 THEY DID THESE CONVERSIONS ON THE XJ CLASSIC. IT HAS A TV, VCR AND A RADIO. MOOD LIGHTS. AND WOOD PANELS. I GOT THIS USED IN AUGUSTA, GA. 2 YEARS AGO. I AM THE 3RD OR 4TH OWNER. HERE IS A ARTICLE I FOUND FROM THE NY TIMES. AS YOU CAN READ THEY WERE GOING TO DO THIS CONVERSION ON THE GRAND CHEROKEE. MINE IS A CLASSIC.

K9JEEPSAR even linked an article from decorated auto journalist Dan Neil, who writes about Glaval and the Grand Cherokee (I guess it wasn’t just Mark III converting Grand Cherokees):

While conversions were traditionally done on midsize and full-size vans, the most popular conversion items these days are mini-vans, as well as sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. Virtually no conversion pickups or sport utilities were sold 10 years ago; last year, they accounted for one-third of the sales of conversion vehicles, or about 76,000.

“The van conversion industry has not had any exciting growth in the past 10 years,” said Charles Craig, the chairman and chief executive of the Tiara Motorcoach Corporation, a conversion company in Canton, Ohio. “That’s why converters are looking to diversify.”

This year, the Chrysler Corporation is letting the Glaval Corporation of Elkhart, Ind., convert Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicles, Chrysler’s most popular vehicle. Glaval will raise the roofs of the Grand Cherokees, creating space for a television, a videocassette player, a Nintendo machine, a high-end stereo, indirect lighting, a cabinet and other trimmings of the conversion trade. The converted Grand Cherokees will join the Ford Explorer and the Chevrolet Suburban and Blazer in the ranks of the sport utilities turned limousines.

Personally, I prefer Mark III’s Grand Cherokee, as it feels like a Safari build, with that brush guard, spare tire carrier, and auxiliary lights. The XJ Cherokee, though, feels like a sports-Jeep with a tall roof and luxurious interior.

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Honestly, looking at the whole package — especially those wheels — it’s possible that this would be considered blasphemy by the Jeep gods.

 

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121gwats
121gwats
1 month ago

And Holy Grail wasn’t uttered even once?!

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 month ago

Hightop is cool… that bumper and grille look pretty bad, like an unlicensed generic videogame car.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
1 month ago

I don’t hate it, but the GC Excursion is much better.

Clupea Hangoverus
Clupea Hangoverus
1 month ago

Hate to be negative, but no pics of the rear seat? Probably it has more headroom than kneeroom.

Japanese offroaders had high roof models from the factory in the 80s. Not similar, lower. Not sure what that was about. This reminds me of the Patrol (Safari?). I think there were also Pajero/Montero, Landcruiser 60… Samurai?

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
1 month ago

I believe those all had high roof options from factory, yes. Probably a few others too; the Isuzu Trooper I think had it too?

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
1 month ago

All it needs is some rad graphics to go with those wheels, and you’d have the ideal ’90s vehicle. Head over to Blockbuster before hitting the road trip!

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 month ago

“Mom, I want a Land Rover Discovery!”

Mom: “We have one at home”

*Points to this hideous monstrosity”

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
1 month ago

I remember there was a first gen Dodge Durango that had similar mods. I remember it specifically having dual exhausts and it said Pursuit on the back. However, I cannot find anything on it for the life of me.

Car Guy
Car Guy
1 month ago

Hideous and pointless

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
1 month ago

Frankly, I would slam one to the ground and pretend it was a competitor for the S10 Typhoon or Cyclone. Its already ridiculous. the problem is now that they didn’t take it far enough.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago

Elizabethtown, NC. Not to be confused with Elizabethton, TN.

THT-vowel’ in a word really does not roll off of the tongue.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 month ago

My lord, it must be a cast iron bitch to replace that headliner fabric.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 month ago

I love a high roof 90’s SUV more than most, but this is an abomination.

Church
Church
1 month ago

I always hate the low roof on the Cherokee. It felt like there was only an inch of space above the head and I’m under six feet tall. This would solve that. But is it worth it? Hell no. Agreed with David that the Grand Cherokee Excursion looks way better.

Eugene White
Eugene White
1 month ago

This set off my Montiverdi twanger.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
1 month ago
Reply to  Eugene White

Nothing will ever beat the Safari’s offroad-chic coolness for me. If I had supercar money, I’d get a Monteverdi Safari instead.

Bob Terwilliger
Bob Terwilliger
1 month ago

My mom bought one just like that white one in the brochure and they also had a green one here at my small town Jeep dealer which surprises me seeing how rare they ended up. I was in high school at the time and thought they were much cooler then my friends conversion vans but they were worthless offroad with those running boards and everyone commented how ugly it was. I did like driving it though. I watched Halloween for the first time on the TV/VCR on Halloween while my mom drove us to get hot chocolate on a date with my then girlfriend.

Pacman256
Pacman256
1 month ago

[Indecipherable] is “Paint treatments” for the first one and “color” for the TV one

Last edited 1 month ago by Pacman256
Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago
Reply to  Pacman256

Imagine being in the 1990s and having to specify that it’s a color television.

Last edited 1 month ago by Hangover Grenade
TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
1 month ago

What happened to Trade in Tuesday? Is it over?

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 month ago

Fascinating, but ultimately hideous. Not shocked that it wasn’t popular.

I do miss the days where luxury simply meant “we added a TV”.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 month ago

It wasn’t just the TV, it was all that wood. Wood on the ceiling, wood on the doors, wood everywhere. Conversion vans had this gigantic wood platform on top of the doghouse, complete with cupholders and cubbies.
They also used really tacky, soft, cushy velour upholstery, thicker carpet, and bizzare uplighting. They even put curtains on the windows, just like the ones in grandma’s kitchen.
A lot of Eddie Bauer Exploders got this treatment just before it thankfully went away.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 month ago

Oh sure in a lot of conversion vans it’s wood time, all the time. But this thing seems to be missing out on a lot of the wood you’d expect from something like this.

Conversion vans are both tacky, and fun. This Cherokee with a roof tumor is just poorly executed. It seems to be missing the fun part.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
1 month ago

I love how they just threw a top on it then half ass screwed some wood pieces to random parts of the interior, here and there. “Where do you want this piece?” “I dunno, find a place.”

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
1 month ago
Reply to  Rusty S Trusty

You’ve never seen a centurion conversion ford truck or bronco have you. They were all like that back then, my guess is that’s largely why so few conversion vehicles survive they were just slapped together often with grabbers from home depot and sold at double price.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Geekycop .

Sure but I didn’t want to point out the half assedness in front of the owner. Here we have a comment section filled with enthusiasts that know janky garbage when they see it and appreciate it for what it is.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
1 month ago

Imagine if these conversion companies had the guts to really venture out on new paths when growth was stagnant for 10 years. The mid 90’s was exactly when those low quality body modifications were popular for the import/tuner crowd. Conversion van factories could have quickly pivoted to a tuner line for every Fast and Furious Eclipse, Jetta and Civic that were sprouting all over the car show scene. Of course those buyers were not flush with midlife cash so that plan might not have held water and there would have been danger to manafold.

I drive a boring SUV
I drive a boring SUV
1 month ago

Seeing the picture before reading the article, I thought this was going to be a piece by The Bishop – What if Jeep had designed a Popemobile?

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

If it was the Bishop’s work, it would have looked much better.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago

That is the ugliest vehicle I’ve seen so far in 2024, and that includes a cybertruck two days ago.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago

It’s a little bit like if someone had partially merged a Land Cruiser with a Jeep.
The Excursion looks as if a Land rover Discovery got involved.

Electrified05ViggenFeverDream
Electrified05ViggenFeverDream
1 month ago

Ugh, I understand it’s something you’ve written about before, and that this site focuses on the vehicles first and foremost, but, man, Jeep’s naming schemes will never not feel gross. At best, names like “Grand Wagoneer” and “Pioneer” call back to a genocidal expansionist empire, and at worst, actively continue a legacy of racist ignorance and sterotyping. This is more frustrating when tribes have explicitly asked for Jeep to stop.

Again, I know we’re mostly concerned about the vehicle, but it’s hard for me to reconcile the interesting machine with the current, ongoing harm that is done by names like this. I get that it’s not practical to mention every article, but something I hope this site is aware of and periodically returns to.

lastwraith
lastwraith
1 month ago

Until they retroactively change the names of Jeep vehicles, I’m not sure what you really want from the site here. A callout on every single Jeep article? Seems heavy-handed and possibly water that the Autopian shouldn’t wade into at all IMO. Either that or do a full blown article on horrible car names (in retrospect), there’s certainly plenty of content for that.
As for the meat of the article, man, that thing is just so…… 90s.

Last edited 1 month ago by lastwraith
Electrified05ViggenFeverDream
Electrified05ViggenFeverDream
1 month ago
Reply to  lastwraith

Like I said, I get that wouldn’t be practical, or for that matter, effective. It’s just…it’s so easy in this country to overlook it, to always have that conversation some other time. It’s taken constant agitation for major sports teams to even consider making changes, and as we’ve seen with the recent super bowl, that racism is still alive and well. The unfortunate reality is that if nothing’s said, harm is still being done. It’s not like these are old model names, it’s a current and real issue.

I commented not to chastise DT (who has talked about this), but because it’s something that struck me particularly strongly while reading this article. I think it’s important to acknowledge and reflect on that, and maybe even do something about it someday, whatever that means.

And yeah, the actual vehicle is…boxy. I don’t hate it but wow it does have a visual impact haha.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

See your point. But is it required to be reminded of it each Jeep article?
And what would you propose we do to remedy this? Asking a serious question here. Perhaps a class action lawsuit would get the attention of Jeep, yet I feel that the Native Americans are facing problems and issues that far exceed their possible anger at the names chosen by Jeep.
And despite trying to be politically correct, we can’t change history.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I think the problem as usual is that Jeep uses the name without any kickback to the community it’s taken from. If they really wanted to use it they should work out a deal to license it from the tribes and if they don’t agree to it, then they should change the name.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

Not to fuss here. But I think, (not positive) that the majority of Native tribe names were chosen by the White man, and the other invaders that arrived before them.

Am a small part Native. But not enough to care or get bent over use of tribal names. As a kid I thought it was really a cool way to acknowledge who was here first. Like the Chicago Blackhawks, et all. And where I have lived all the Natives I ever knew were not offended, but rather felt pride. Thanks.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I hear you and I think that’s valid in regards to the names being ‘assigned’. I also think they’re cool names for things, but I don’t think it should be any different from, say, Citroen licensing the Picasso name from the family to use on their MPVs and getting money for it. Again, I don’t think using the names is the issue, but if it belongs to a certain group then using it without proper acknowledgment is less tasteful.

lastwraith
lastwraith
1 month ago

I guess.
One (if not more) of those sports teams was owned by a miserable and stubborn human who just happened to be wealthy, so that had more to do with the name change than any current climate IMO. That same person cleared old-growth trees illegally from his home for a better view and valuation. Besides, companies in general want to make money and for the most part will just do what is needed to alienate the least amount of people. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to change names and sell the same merchandise with different images and names all over again to the same fans. No problems there.

We have some native American blood in the family (pretty far back which I imagine is actually quite common for those of us with a side of the family who’ve been in the US for many generations) but Wagoneer and Pioneer still never registered to me as anything but generic terms to be honest.
A wagoneer is a wagon driver and the Jeep Wagoneer was just a big dumb truckified wagon so it made sense. Pioneer is another quite generic term for an explorer (hey NASA). While maybe Jeep shouldn’t have gone with the western motif at all, it’s hard for me to get too excited about those 2 particular naming examples given how long ago it was and how generic they are.
Obviously Cherokee should disappear now since the tribe doesn’t want that name used, but applying modern naming standards to things from half a century ago makes about as much sense to me as trying to apply modern safety standards. Make the changes now and move on, but someone smarter than me is going to have to figure out how history handles referring to the names retroactively.

Last edited 1 month ago by lastwraith
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  lastwraith

Well put. I don’t find this an issue. But that’s just me.
Really don’t believe that there was any bad intent when many Native names were chosen for Cars or sports teams.

getstoneyII (probably)
getstoneyII (probably)
1 month ago

Wait, what happened at the Super Bowl?

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago
Reply to  lastwraith

MG Midget has entered the chat.

lastwraith
lastwraith
1 month ago

Haha! I’m not touching that one!

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
1 month ago

I own a Jeep Comanche Eliminator, possibly the lest sensitivity named vehicle ever built. That said, I’ve never had anyone comment on it from the angle of, “what a terrible name and that’s so insensitive.”

Mike B
Mike B
1 month ago
Reply to  pizzaman09

I’m aware of the existence of them, but I literally never read like that, lol. I can’t unsee that now, all it needs is a “CUSTER” vanity plate.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 month ago

I think you’re leveling your grievances at the wrong party, so allow me to assist:

https://www.jeep.com/webselfservice/jeep/EmailPage.html

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
1 month ago

I grew up in a time when these things were much more common but i have never quite understood them. So the raised roof is basically to put in a teevee and some lights and extra headroom you can’t use because you can’t stand up in the vehicle? Is that it or does it actually have a useful function?

Loren
Loren
1 month ago
Reply to  Oldhusky

You said “Teevee”…oh never mind.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago

It looks like a jeep with a weird hat and don’t start me on the grill. It looks so tacked together. No cohesion. No wonder most have dissappeared

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