Vintage Jeep SJ Cherokees Are White-Hot Collector SUVs

Full-size Jeep Cherokees are white-hot in the collector market right now. At least that’s what our friends at Hagerty Insurance tell us. Why do they know? Because they insure classic and collector vehicles. Once new policies start rolling into their offices, they can track the volume. They also see the cost of the vehicles and how much they are insured for. So what’s the story with full-size Cherokees?

It’s been 45 years since the full-size Cherokee debuted. The body style had been around for years, but with the addition of the bolder front end and modified top in 1974 and then, soon after, with flares and wide-track axles, the Cherokee initiated an enduring love affair with off-road enthusiasts. The wider 1976 models were dubbed “Cherokee Chief.” 

SJ Cherokees have not always been popular

1978 Jeep SJ Cherokee | FCA
1978 Jeep SJ Cherokee | FCA

SJ Cherokees have not always been popular. Into the 1990s and beyond its slightly crude body stampings and uneven assembly brought a certain dismissal of the Jeep SUVs. But in time as the Cherokee has aged it has taken on charm and collectibility that has ramped up to now. Especially since new Jeeps are so popular, there is a certain bump that naturally goes with that situation. It’s the same thing that has driven up values for first-gen Broncos.

Based on the four-door Jeep Wagoneer the Cherokee utilized many of the Wagoner’s body stampings as well as its chassis and drivetrain. That’s why the wheelbases and overall lengths are the same for both. It had been built since 1963 but was changed in 1968 to differentiate it from the Wagoneer which used the same top.

Full-size Cherokees are hitting all-time highs with collectors

The Wagoneer has been a very popular SUV for years, and collector demand has helped to force the Cherokee’s values up as well. Now that Cherokees have hit all-time highs the Wagoneer is being pushed up further in price and collectibility. “Comparable Cherokees in #3 (Good) condition are valued more than 30% less than similar Wagoneers, although the price difference narrows by half for examples in #2 (Excellent) condition,” says Hagerty.

With so many similarities between the Cherokee and Wagoneer, it puts the Cherokee in a position to be a better value. Cherokees tend to be optioned less than Wagoneers, and also don’t come with the optional fake wood grain which some may find preferable. Generally, the Cherokees have more variety with engines and drive packages. 

1978 Jeep SJ Cherokee | FCA
1978 Jeep SJ Cherokee | FCA

When the gas crunch arrived Jeep found it advantageous to create a smaller Cherokee which debuted in 1984. The SJ Cherokee was dropped after the 1983 model run and the SJ Wagoneer was renamed Grand Wagoneer to avoid confusion with the now new and smaller Wagoneer and Cherokee. It was made until 1991.

The 1991 “Final Edition” SJ Grand Wagoneers

The 1991 models were built with a “Final Edition” badge on the dash, making it one of the most collectible of all the full-size SJ Grand Wagoneers. 

Prices are all over the place depending on condition and options, but nice ones are hitting mid-five figures. That trend should continue into the foreseeable future.