The legendary Jeep Cherokee XJ was sold in the U.S. between model years 1984 and 2001, but in China, production continued into the late 2000s under a joint venture company formed between AMC and BAIC initially called Beijing-Jeep (XJ production continued into the 2010s after the joint venture ended). Now one of the XJs built by Beijing-jeep is in danger of being crushed, and we must save it.
One of my missions in life is to help preserve the waning population of awesome old Jeeps, usually by fixing ones that are on their deathbeds. But this 1998 Beijing-Jeep Cherokee XJ City Special isn’t at risk of being crushed due to mechanical or structural troubles, it’s actually suffering from legal and logistical issues.
Its current owner, Tycho, has moved to the Netherlands, but the Jeep remains in China, and selling it is apparently not easy.
“The problem: I cannot sell it to anyone in China, because under Chinese law it is too old to be sold. And even if I could, nobody would want it, because of the emissions problem,” the email to my coworker Jason Torchinsky (and forward to me) reads.
“I can still legally drive it, but a new buyer won’t be able to register it. If I leave the car in China, it will be crushed sooner or later, and I don’t want that to happen, because I love my Jeep,” he continues.
This leaves Tycho with two options. He could either take it to Holland or he could give it to a museum. Taking it to Holland, Tycho fears, will mean high maintenance costs. “I don’t have a budget for that,” he admits. As for the museum option, Tycho says he’s willing to give it for free to an actual Jeep museum “as long as they take care for my Jeep very well.”
The second option is a bit problematic, because—as I have pointed out before—the world lacks a proper Jeep museum, and that’s a damn shame. I have an idea to fix this, but that will take time—for today, though, I’ve got to figure out how to save this XJ from the crusher.
“It has to get out of China, or this piece of Jeep history will be gone forever,” his email reads—a line that really hit me hard, especially since Tycho made it clear the lengths he’s willing to go to preserve his beloved machine, writing:
My offer: I’ll make sure it is in perfect shape, I can even change the red leather seats back to the original gray cloth, and I might be able to find the original radio (I still got the manual for it). After that, I am willing to give it away, as long as I know it is safe forever.”
So it seems that Tycho wants to give away this Jeep in exchange for a lifetime of safety. Though I myself would love to own this Jeep, I’m not sure I have the resources to keep it safely stored for many years (and also, I spoke with a lawyer who’s well-versed in import law, and he told me the Jeep won’t get around the 25 year import rule). I could ship it to Windsor, Canada, which is only 25 miles from me, and just visit it on weekends? It could be my Jeep mistress.
Alternatively, I could move back to my birthplace, and the land where my parents live, Bavaria. I could drive around in a sweet Chinese XJ, eating butter pretzels on my way to the Alps—man that’d be nice. But what about my other Jeeps? My awesome Cherokee Golden Eagle? My manual four-wheel drive XJ with vent windows? My J10 pickup? My first Jeep? I need to snap out of it—I can’t move just to own this Jeep.
Though damn if it isn’t tempting. That green paint and the “City Special” decal, along with those lovely silver steel wheels—it all just makes me weak at the knees.
This vehicle is only rear-wheel drive, which isn’t optimal, but considering how beautiful this unibody rectangular prism is, I don’t think it should be hammered off road anyway. Under the hood of this “BJ7250" Cherokee is a 2.5-liter engine, which appears to be the same as the four-cylinder AMC engine found in mid-1980s XJs. And while that little iron-block isn’t particularly powerful, it’s also stout, and mated to a five-speed manual, which I bet is fun.
One way or another, I need to help Tycho get this incredible piece of Jeep history as far away from the scrapper as possible, so I’ll be looking through my rolodex of Jeep contacts to see what I can do. I must help ensure that someone takes in this poor refugee Jeep, and according to Tycho, it needs to happen before September 23. Ideally, if I’m being totally honest, I want that someone to be me, though I’m not sure how I can pull that off.