Yesterday I drove over 500 miles to take a peek at a 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle and a 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer—both of which Jalopnik reader Tammy offered me as a package deal for $3,400. Somehow I resisted buying them on the spot, so now I come to you—my dear readers—for advice.
At first glance, anyone who looks at the picture above will probably say “buy it immediately.” And indeed, when I first saw the photos of this sexy wide-track SJ, I thought for sure I’d be forking over some cash when I actually saw the beast in the flesh. But somehow, for the first time in years, I decided to think before buying a Jeep.
On Sunday morning, after removing the wobbly driveshaft from my junkyard-bound Jeep Cherokee, picking up my friend Brandon, and heading 260 miles towards Dayton, Ohio, I arrived at Tammy’s amazing house built on enough acres to house at least ten Jeep junkyards.
Sitting in front of the detached garage was a Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, and not far away, wedged between a trailer and some bushes, sat a Grand Wagoneer. The Cherokee’s hood was open, as Tammy’s husband Rodney had just squirted the carb with some starting fluid and jumped the battery. He hopped into the driver’s seat, and cranked the engine. The AMC 360 roared:
So it runs and it also drives (the engine stalls, though); that’s great. But getting a vehicle running and driving isn’t really the difficult part of a project; what’s hard is getting the thing to look good, and with this Golden Eagle—a vehicle that deserves to be restored to maximum sexiness—that task could potentially put me into the poor-house. Can I give this Jeep the love it deserves? I wonder.
To be sure, the SJ is a stunner from a distance. But up close, it becomes clear that the paint needs to be redone if I want this to be a “nice” Jeep. The clear coat is gone, and there’s surface rust on the roof. Plus, there are some dents in the body, the grille has a crack right down the middle, and the interior needs quite a bit of attention.
Here’s the cracked grille:
The Golden Eagle graphic on the lower doors has lines running down it, as if the paint from the Jeep had somehow dribbled over time:
Here’s some algae on the rear fender:
More algae on the other side:
The underbody is fairly clean, but there is some surface rust, and the exhaust needs work:
There’s a dent on the rear driver’s side quarter panel:
A bit of trim is missing from the back of the rear pillar:
On the other side, where there is trim on the rear pillar, there’s a ding:
There’s something wrong with the fitment of the front fender down at the rocker panel:
The steering wheel looks heavily worn, and the seats have a tear or two in them:
The carpet and the seat belt buckles aren’t great:
The headliner has these strange sheetmetal strips screwed to the roof via what look like self-tapping screws:
As for the Grand Wagoneer, it, too, looks great from a distance. Just gander at this beautiful Garnet-Metallic Woodie:
The vinyl looks awesome, but what doesn’t look so hot are those rockers and the rear quarter panels, which have succumbed to rust as is normal with SJ Jeeps in the salt belt:
Not to mention the driver’s side floorboards. There’s not much left:
After Tammy and Rodney showed us the Jeeps (and also their amazing 1967 Ford Fairlane convertible, Tammy’s sub-20,000-mile Mazdaspeed MX-5 (which is also for sale!) and lots of old Rally equipment Tammy and her late husband had acquired after being active in the rally community for years, I asked Tammy if I could take a bunch of photos to show to some friends before I made my decision. She told me that was no problem at all.
I have one friend in particular who’s an expert on all things SJ (he used to work at the old AMC headquarters on Plymouth Road in Detroit after it became “Jeep Truck Engineering.” He’s having a gander at my pictures, and we’ll discuss if I should pick this Cherokee Golden Eag up, or if maybe it’s not right for me.
Also complicating the matter is that it seems Rodney and Tammy are most interested in selling the Cherokee Golden Eagle and Grand Wagoneer as a package, rather than separating them. As I have my own rusty Grand Wagoneer (admittedly, Tammy’s is in better shape), if I do buy something, I’d prefer to just take the Golden Eagle.
Another factor in my thought-process is the fact that I already have two SJ projects, an awesome J10 that I haven’t put nearly enough time into, and of course, my $800 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which has been getting lots of love lately, since I’m taking it to Moab, Utah in March on an off-road expedition.
All the work I’m doing on my Grand Wagoneer would translate over to the Golden Eagle, since they’re basically the same vehicle. And boy would that two-door SJ make for a fun summer cruiser.
If I’m totally honest, part of me wants to stop this whole “thinking” thing and just go for it like I always do. The other part of me—a part that didn’t exist just three days ago—wants to make a sound, logical decision. Hmm...
Correction: This article originally stated “ex-husband” instead of “late husband.” I regret the error.