A 20-year-old marketing student from Mexico who dabbles in car renderings has created an internet sensation. It’s a 1989 Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk; a hot-rodded XJ that never existed, but perhaps should have? You decide.
I’ll begin by saying that this young designer, Abimelec Arellano from Hermosillo Sonora, Mexico did a solid job on these renderings. Folks have been messaging them to me for the last few days, and I can see why. The 1989 Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk—an old-school interpretation of the modern 707 horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk—actually looks like it might have existed.
Something I really like to do is imagine how new, current models would look like if they were launched in the past. Trying to take the essence of a car and changing the whole context it develops itself is so much fun and you can learn a lot about how things worked before.
This time-travelling nonsense brings you this today: the 1989 Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk. Back in ‘89 there were no Hellcats, no launch control and no YouTube videos but people liked silly graphics, stock investments, aviators and videogames were just a thing, and for that and many more reasons I think the spirit of the current Cherokee Trackhawk fits perfectly in the era. Its the perfect ‘80s rocket-wagon. I imagine its powered by the Lil’ Red Express truck powertrain.
Between the quad exhaust, the wide low-profile tires tucked under the fender flares, the wacky wheels, the chin spoiler, the wing, the lowering kit, the body-color exterior plastics and bumpers, and the sweet graphics, the thing definitely sets itself apart from a typical 1989 XJ. That said, though it’s inspired by the modern Trackhawk, this sporty XJ’s graphics and trim all feel appropriate for the era—almost as if Arellano took the soul of the current Trackhawk, and distilled it in a 1989-era auto design language.
The side graphics give off the same vibes as those you’d find on the side of, say, a Jeep Comanche Eliminator or even an old “SJ” Jeep Cherokee Chief. The body-color bits are similar to what you’d find on a Limited-trim XJ, and the front chin spoiler and the lowering kit remind me a bit of the old Jeep Comanche SCCA race cars that dominated the track back in 1987:
The Jeep also sort of reminds me of that lowered XJ that some folks modified a few years back to drive in the Grassroots Motorsports $2,000 Challenge.
Using the Dodge Li’l Red Express’ powertrain seems fun, but if it were me, I’d just keep the 4.0 in there or go with a more modern 360 V8 out of a Ram. The Li’l Red Express’s 360 V8 mated to a three-speed auto may have been a quick combination back in the late 1970s, but by the late 1980s, I think there were better Chrysler-derived options to be had.
I will say that the car (yes, I said “car,” and not “Jeep”) is, at least in some ways, blasphemy. The XJ is a dual solid-axle off-road beast, and thus deserves large sidewalls, tons of wheel travel, heaps of ground clearance, and as much unpainted plastic body protection as possible. A street-oriented XJ isn’t something that I can, in good conscience, get behind, no matter how fun it looks. But that’s the silly Jeep diehard in me talking, so feel free to ignore me.
In any case, I must give props to Arellano, who describes these images as digital renderings made with “3D software and Photoshop,” and who has apparently been photoshopping cars since he was 10 or 11 years old.