1977 Jeep Cherokee: Tailgate Rehabilitation

Among the common issues on the full size Cherokee (and Wagoneer) was that the rear window had to roll down to open the tailgate. This design had it’s benefits with a truck like tailgate for sitting on and a giant opening which makes for awesome camping views (plus there’s no overhead hatch to hit your head on like the XJ). The downside is that if something happens to the window mechanism, you can’t open the tailgate.

FSJ Tailgate glory

When I bought my Cherokee, the rear window kind of worked. By kind of, I mean that it would roll down about two inches, I’d get out rock it to the left, and then be able to roll it down the rest of the way. I’m sure you can imagine that as my primary way to load and unload Sprocket that this got old very quickly. I ordered all of the internal parts hoping to only have to disassemble the whole thing once and figured I could handle the more external parts as I desired. In retrospect, I wish I would have just ordered the deluxe tailgate renewal kit from Team Wagoneer considering that I used everything but the lifter bar and its cushion (and I was just lucky, I very well could have needed this and had actually ordered it separately).

This was my first major repair on the Jeep and I was a little bit nervous. I’d tried to read descriptions on the FSJ forums (Full Size Jeep Network and International Full Size Jeep Association). I’d poured over the factory service manual diagram of the tailgate. And finally I realized that unless I just dove in I wasn’t really going to understand it.

Tailgate rebuild: access panel removed

My first order of business was to actually remove the window. I recommend having a garage or at least not being in Colorado during the wettest May ever. Removing the window was actually a lot easier than I’d expected it to be. I took off the carpet on the tailgate and the access panel. I raised the window just enough to get my hand inside and remove the clips from the lifter bar. Next, I worked one of the studs out of the slots in the window lifter and began to search for a friend to help support the window before I removed the other stud and slid the window out. Fortunately for me, Ridgway is a friendly place and I nicely asked a woman out on a walk through the neighborhood to help me for two minutes while I accomplished those things. (Fortunately for her, it only took about one minute.)

Lifter channel in the tailgate

A look at how the studs and clips hold in the window:

Lifter channel and clip

Lifter channel

I inspected the lifter channel (also known sometimes as a lifter bar?) and realized that I didn’t actually need to remove the glass from it. I’d heard that these often rust out; mine was dirty but not rusted so I opted to keep it.

I replaced the tailgate glass side channels which looked like they’d seen better days. In fact, this was all I needed to replace to make the window function. After 38 years of dust working its way into the channels, there were large chunks missing. In fact either the inner or the outer piece (I didn’t really look at it until I’d set it down) of the drivers side channel was entirely missing. Putting in the new channels only took a couple of minutes but the rain started falling before I could get them in so it necessitated this:

Redneck jeep working; beer

I became the heroine of my neighborhood when I had to leave Francis looking like this for a couple of days while I waited for the sun to return:

FSJ with tarp

Eventually, I got tired of waiting for the rain to clear so I informed my friend Bryan that I was coming over to use his garage. This arrangement also helped me to have his help getting the window back in place. (I was petrified of breaking it the entire time it was out of the vehicle. It took a little bit of figuring out how to get the clips back in (I’d bought a new pair in case the ones inside bent or broke on the way out or in…) but I got them in, or so I thought…

Lifter channel clips

I left my friend’s house and headed to the laundromat and was super excited with my working window but suddenly, right as the rain started falling, it wouldn’t roll up. One side just wasn’t going up and it didn’t take very long for me to figure out that one of the clips had fallen off. With thunder rolling in the background, I decided to avail myself of the cover provided by an after-hours bank drive through:

Fixing the FSJ window in a drivethru

Sure enough, that fixed the problem!

I found that with all the driving I do down dirt and gravel roads that I was pulling in a lot of dust. I’d learned that the original weather stripping was body mounted but somewhere along the lines, someone had replaced mine with generic weather stripping. This didn’t take long at all to replace but it had taken me until the end of my roadtrip with Amanda to choke it up and spend the money on a new seal. The seal needs the plastic rivets at the top and doesn’t come with them. I had one still floating around, fortunately, so I was able to size one for the other side.

I also went ahead and replaced the upper slide channel since pretty much everything else was new and didn’t want it to feel left out. Removing the old one was way more of a pain than putting in the new one since it came out in about twenty pieces.

I also purchased a new wiring harness for the rear window that I haven’t finished installing yet—with all of our monsoons, it’s been hard to feel comfortable cutting off my ability to close the window for a day! More on that coming soon (probably once I get to De Beque and have a garage!).

FSJ Cherokee Trim Packages

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you might have realized that I am sort of a Cherokee aficionado. I got my first Cherokee in 2009 which I replaced in 2010 with a 5-speed. After The Little Red Jeep reached the end of its life with me, it was replaced by yet ANOTHER one. Plus, I have my sweet vintage Cherokee. If you hear me talk about my cars, however, you’ll mostly hear things like “XJ” or “FSJ” (or “SJ”). I’ve picked up the Jeep model parlance.

So what’s the deal with all of these different models? Where did they come from? The following is a description of SJ Cherokee trim packages from its inception in 1974 to the end of its run in 1983. Click to jump to a summary table.

Predecessors to the Jeep Cherokee

The Cherokee’s roots begin with the Willy’s Station Wagon produced from 1946 until 1965.

Willy's Jeep Station Wagon

By the mid-1960s, however, Jeep decided to replace the Jeep Station Wagon with the Jeep Wagoneer on the “SJ” platform. This station wagon model was available in both two door and four door models and with or without four wheel drive. After 1967, two wheel drive was discontinued and after 1968 the two door model was also discontinued. The Wagoneer continued to evolve as a family vehicle and remained in production through 1991 as the Grand Wagoneer.

1962 Wagoneer

Introduction of the SJ Cherokee

In 1974, Jeep introduced the Jeep Cherokee using the SJ platform of the Wagoneer. The Cherokee was marketed as a “youthful and sporty” alternative to the family-focused Wagoneer and was meant to keep customers buying Jeeps instead of Ford Broncos or Chevrolet K5 Blazers.

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1974 Jeep Cherokee sales brochureThe 1974 Jeep Cherokee came in two models. The base model had black window moldings and painted bumpers. The “S” model had chrome bumpers, Native American themed striping, aluminum wheels, a roof rack, and “bright” window moldings. Cherokees had drum brakes front and rear however front disk brakes were an option. In 1975, electronic ignition was added to Cherokees and The trim tape on “S” models was changed from the 1974 model year. This new trim was used again for the 1976 model year.

For the 1976 model year, in addition to the base and “S” models, the Cherokee Chief model was added with wider axles and fender flares, a low gloss black tape decal that showed “Cherokee Chief” in the body color.

1976 Cherokee Chief

In the 1977 model year, a 4-door Cherokee was introduced (this means that there were two SJ-platform four-door models as both the Cherokee and Wagoneer had four door variants). A wide track version of the Cherokee “S” was added in addition to the wide track Cherokee Chief. Four door models only came in narrow track versions. A new version of the “S” model trim tape was introduced and used for both 1977 and 1978.

For the 1978 model year few changes were made to the Cherokee line up. The following photo is from the 1978 Jeep sales brochure and it shows the differences between the different models. Clockwise from upper left is a 4-door Cherokee “S”, a wide track 2-door Cherokee “S”, a wide track Cherokee Chief, and a narrow track 2-door Cherokee “S”:

1978 Jeep Cherokees

Front End Changes

In 1979, the Cherokee grill was revised with its most prominent change being to square headlights. The “S” model trim was revised again (for the 4th time) and used in 1979 and 1980. The “S” model continued to be available in 2-door narrow track and 4-door wide or narrow track models while the Cherokee Chief continued as a wide track only model.

1979 Cherokee Chief

A new trim package, the Golden Eagle, was also introduced. The Golden Eagle was a wide-track 2-door model with beige denim seats, a large eagle decal and tape striping on the hood, “Golden Eagle” lettering on the lower doors, “bronze tone” rear quarter windows, a brush guard. and painted gold wheels with a black stripe.

1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle

In 1980, Jeep added two trim packages to the lineup of “S” model, Golden Eagle, and Cherokee Chief: the Limited and the Laredo. The “S” continued to be the only model available with 4-doors and with a choice between wide track and narrow track versions. The Chief and Golden Eagle models were also unchanged from 1979.

The Laredo model was a two door wide track model with special striping (either silver and grey or gold and brown) and badging. It also featured extra sound deadening insulation, extra plush carpeting, a special seating package, and some interior striping to coordinate with the outside. The Limited model was also a two door wide track model that had gold and brown striping on the lower body and on the fender flare. The Limited also had a faux woodgrain finish on the dash, cruise control and other options—in many ways, the Limited resembled a two door version of its cousin the luxurious Wagoneer.

Top: Cherokee Laredo; Bottom: Cherokee Limited

1980 Jeep Cherokee Limited Cherokee Laredo

For 1981, the Laredo package added a four door narrow track option in addition to the existing two door wide track model. The Cherokee Chief became the standard four door trim package while also adding a new body striping scheme option as well as an optional “blackout” grille. (I believe, but have not been able to confirm that the bolder of the two striping schemes was only available on the two-door model). The Limited and Golden Eagle were dropped for 1981. The “S” simply became an unbadged base model.

1981 Cherokee Chief

In 1982, the Cherokee was available as a base model 2-door, 2-door and 4-door Cherokee Chief, and 2-door and 4-door Laredo. All 2-door models were wide track while 4-door models were narrow track.

1982 Cherokee Chief 4-door

End of the SJ Cherokee:

The final year of the SJ Cherokee was 1983. The Pioneer model was added to the lineup in both two- and four-door models. It joined the Chief and Laredo that were each available in two- and four-door models. The base model Cherokee was only available in 2-door models but both wide and narrow track were available.

1983 Cherokee Pioneer:

1983 Cherokee Pioneer
Photo Credit: Dustin Libby

 

Sources:
AllPar.com: The Massive Site for Mopars, Jeep Wagoneer.
FallOut’s CJ-7 Site: Jeep Brochures.
Geepster’s Flicker: 1977 Jeep Sales Brochure1978 Jeep Sales Brochure1980 Jeep Sales Brochure.
Love to Accelerate: Jeep Brochures.
Old Car Brochures: 1981 Cherokee Brochure.

1977 Jeep Cherokee

I’m not quite sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I decided I wanted an “FSJ.” While we were living in Idaho, I briefly owned this green one but it needed a fair amount of work and Forrest and I sold it before I got a chance to even drive it. I never changed my mind about wanting one though and when an opportunity to bring this lovely beast home, I jumped at it.

1977 Jeep Cherokee, Ouray Lookout point

Like all older vehicles, there’s things that need to be fixed, but it drove all the way from Denver to Ridgway (while towing the TJ…) and then yesterday took Dave, Jillian, and I to Telluride and then to Ouray’s Lookout Point like a champ.

1977 Jeep Cherokee S

Sprocket approves of the giant dog sleeping (ahem… cargo…) area:

Sprocket in Cherokee

Sprocket In Cherokee

Since it’s a 1977, it has the sexy round headlights. Jeeps have round headlights.

Jeep Cherokee 1977

This lovely lady needs a name but I’m going to give it sometime to earn one.


 

P.S. Long time reader, Katie won the SKINourishment giveaway. Thank you so much to everyone for entering. If you didn’t win, I still encourage you to head over to SKINourishment and treat yourself today!

Minty Ford

“I bought you a truck.”

When F says something like that, I get suspicious. My husband has an uncanny ability find great deals on vehicles. Often times, they don’t stick around very often and usually “I bought you _______” is really just a joke.

This time, he found a sweet 1977 Ford F250 in a farmer’s barn. It hadn’t been driven for about seven years and was filled with the sweet aroma of mouse urine and a fairly thick layer of dirt and grime. It has some body damage to the passenger side door and fender but otherwise, it’s in pretty good shape. He towed the truck home to await some TLC. We named it Minty. I call her Minty Ford.

1977 Ford F-250

1977 Ford F-250 interior

1977 Ford F-250

Last weekend we set to work on Ms. Minty: we removed the bench seat to be scrubbed and then I cleaned the whole interior. F looked at the carburetor, checked the fluids, and charged the battery.

Finally, it was time to fire it up: it fired! The fuel pump wasn’t working but for $23 dollars we were able to not only replace the pump but also to add an inline fuel filter and an air freshener. The next step is to drain the old gas and then we’ll have a running truck!

It might be a gas guzzler but it also felt really good to get the truck running rather than just taking it in for scrap. Plus, she’s really cute.

1977 Ford F-250

Sprocket in vintage Ford

Ford interior

Ford Interior