Needed to replace my Ford Focus so I got a 1998 Jeep Cherokee, again!

People tend to respond quite enthusiastically to this big & rugged-looking SUV. I’m getting a lot of thumbs ups.

BHPian Jeroen recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I bought another car! As it is we are fortunate to have six cars; Mercedes W123, Jaguar XJR, Alfa Romeo Spider, Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta and some German company tin-can. I will be formally retiring in the not so distant future. Which means handing in the company car. Also, we have decided to do away with the Focus. I suggested to my wife to do away with her Fiesta and she could have my Focus. But she likes her little Fiesta. Also, my Focus is an automatic and she likes her manual Fiesta. Or as she calls it; I can really give it some stick. I have driven behind her on numerous occasions and I have various labels for her driving technique, but “giving it some stick” is not one of them. But we will down two cars in a little while. So time to get another one!

Anyway, I have owned a long list of cars. My list of cars I would like to own is even longer. Both new and old/classic. I must admit that there are few new cars I like these days. Porsche Panamera, Renault Alpine A110, the odd Aston Martin. Those are really special cars. But unless I win a lottery I don’t see myself buying a new one. So back to old cars.

Again, the list is long, so I had to narrow it down. I also like to cycle. So a car in which I can just throw in my bicycle in the back would be great. I don’t like my bicycle on one of these roof racks. Or worse, one of the bicycle racks pivoting on the hitch!

I have always had a soft spot for the Toyota Land Cruiser. The problem is they are quite rare and very expensive. But there are two other cars that I have always liked; The Jeep Cherokee and the Range Rover Sport. Second hand with say 300K kilometres on the clock, they tend to be sort of affordable. Although second-hand prices of the Cherokee, in particular, have been rising over the last couple of years.

I have already owned a Jeep Cherokee. We had one when we lived in Kansas City – a 1998 XJ Sport. Great car, I always enjoyed driving it. And I have been keeping an eye on the second-hand ads for a while now.

But I really like the Range Rover Sport too. But there are some problems with it. Mostly image and unfortunately it is not good. In the UK, they are known as Chelsea Tractors. They tend to be owned and driven solely by the wives of overpaid football players. The kind that writes a full column in the daily rag about her breaking a nail.

Here in the Netherlands, we call them PC Hooft Traktors. PC Hooft is the most luxurious and expensive shopping street in Amsterdam. Go figure who shops there. Even so, a friend of mine has one. Like me, he also has a BMW 5 series. Now and then we compare notes; no one will let you out of your drive or let you merge if you drive a BMW. That is well known. You have to basically push the car into the traffic, or you are stuck forever. And when you do, you are known as an aggressive BMW driver. They will take images and videos of this antisocial behaviour and you and your Rangie will find yourself on TikTok, Twitter and Youtube with a billion thumbs down.

But according to my friend, owning a Range Rover Sport is a much worse experience. People absolutely loath the owners. They have keyed his car and thrown trash on it. He will get the finger from every other motorist on the road even when he drivers perfectly calm and correct. People pursuing a green agenda will go ballistic when you tell them you own a Range Rover. They will spit on your car. Once my friend found his car smeared with excrement. I know, very pathetic. But still.

And, of course, the worst is: whenever he stops at a petrol station (which you do a lot with these cars, and you’re there for a long time filling up this mammoth-sized petrol tank too), some punter will walk up to him and ask him:

Do you know the difference between a Range Rover and a hedgehog? (If you don’t just google it). As you can imagine, the joke begins to wear thin very quickly.

So I decided to get myself a proper Jeep Cherokee again!

And here it is:

And it still fits my bicycle!

I looked at quite a few Cherokees over the last few months. A decent one with about 250-300K on the clock will cost you anywhere between Euro 12-22,000. Which is quite a bit of money for this sort of car!

I eventually found this one. A private sale. A young family had owned it for four years. It was their family car. They really liked it. But they were getting something a bit newer and more fuel-efficient. I went to see it on a very wet, rainy and windy Sunday. I have a rule. Never, ever buy a wet car. It is impossible to see the paint properly, you won’t go underneath it, because the ground is wet.

This is a 1998 car, that was imported into the Netherlands in 2002. As Jeeps go, it has very few of the options. In order to be legal here in the Netherlands, they had to bolt on a rear fog light. They put a cheap switch on the dashboard, rather than get a proper Jeep fog light switch.

Even so, we took it for a test drive. It drove well, with no rattles, no peculiar noises, it tracked and braked well, steered well. All the buttons and switches worked. The owner showed me some WhatsApp messages from his mechanic on recent work carried out.

Long story short, I bought it on the spot for Euro 5000. It had been more than 20, maybe 30 years at least, since I bought a car myself from a private person. The owners did not have much experience either. But we googled a bit. The owner was missing some of the registration papers, so we fixed that online in 30 seconds flat. Then we transferred the car, online, in my name, another 30 seconds and I paid them online, maybe 20 seconds. All on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Very easy these days.

I agreed to pick it up the next day. Drove home and got the insurance arranged online too. Next day, I took the train back to them, they picked me up from the station, drove to their home, I got the keys, a Haynes manual and off I went. I filled up the tank right away and drove home.

The next day, spanner mate Peter and professional car valuer extraordinair happened to be in the neighbourhood. We had a good far more detailed look, took some bits of. Peter put the replacement value at Euro 8500. The original online insurance was a third party only. Once I had the value from Peter I rang up my regular classic car insurer. One small problem; my garage is full. The Jeep will have to live on the drive. However, on these classic and young timer policies, they require you to park your cars in a garage overnight whilst at home. Luckily, the Jeep did have a proper alarm. I pointed out that there have only been two attempted break-ins during the five years we live here. And the Jeep won’t be visible from the dike at all. So they were happy to insure it for me, parked outside!

During the next couple of days, I did some general cleaning and checked various things. Boy, this car was dirty. And there was plenty of evidence of kids in the back seat. I took out a bucket load of M&Ms, lollypop sticks, Lego bricks, cookies, and peanuts from underneath the back seat!

I came to this initial list of stuff I would fix on my new Jeep:

  • Driver door was sagging: Known problem on these Jeeps.
  • Replace all the rubber components on the stabiliser bars front and rear.
  • Replace everything on the front and rear brakes, and double-check metal brake lines.
  • Indicator not working properly.
  • Give the car a full service and tune-up, flush and replace all liquids (the Jeep has two differentials, an automatic box, a transfer box and hydraulic steering. and cooling liquid. That is a lot of liquids).
  • Various bits of rust needed to be worked on.

The one, the big headache was the AC. The owner had told me that the AC was not working. His mechanic had disabled it because they thought it was leaking coolant into the cabin. Which means a leaking AC evaporator. But he could not tell me how his mechanic had disabled it. The problem with replacing an AC Evap on many cars, and certainly on my Cherokee, is that the dashboard needs to come out. It is a humungous job! I used this argument to knock down the price, of course, but still.

All in all, I was and still am very pleased with my Jeep. I have worked my way through my list and I will present an update of these various jobs I did, including ripping out the dashboard to get at the AC Evap.

This Jeep is identical to the one we owned in Kansas City. That too, was a 1998 XJ Sport. Different colour and different wheels.

This is an image taken at the car dealer where I bought it from. This image was taken when we went to pick it up, you can see my Jaguar in the back as well.

Here’s another image. This is during a holiday in the Rocky Mountains. All three kids came along. All five of us and our suitcases piled into the Jeep and we drove some 3500 miles in 10 days. This image was taken at about 10-11.000 feet. The Jeep did great!

A lot of people will comment on the size. It is not really a huge car, but it does have road presence. Funnily enough, it is actually shorter and narrower than the Ford Focus! Just taller.

These Jeeps were made with different engines, including an asthmatic diesel. The only version you want is the inline, 6-cylinder 4.0 liter. It cranks out only 160 BHP or thereabouts! It is a huge lump of an engine. It is almost unbelievable the Jeep engineers managed to get so little power out of it!

But this car is what a Jeep should be: Extremely reliable, very simple to work on, virtually indestructible.

You need to be in a relaxed state of mind when you drive this car. It is not particularly fast. The steering is typical American. Many people will think the steering has a lot of play, but that is not true. It’s just how these things handle. But I absolutely love it. This is why I happily do away with my Ford and BMW. This Jeep puts a smile on my face every time I drive it. A trip to the supermarket or the garden centre is a true joy!

People tend to respond quite enthusiastically to a Jeep Cherokee. It is a rugged unusual design, it looks big, but without being overwhelming. I am getting a lot of thumbs up from a lot of people! Also, we live in a very rural part of the Netherlands. All narrow and small roads, twisting along rivers, on dikes etc. Dutch farmers on their tractors are a constant factor here. And Dutch farmers on tractors claim road superiority over all other road users. I think they believe they have the moral high ground as they work 24/7 to feed the nation. So all those losers in their cars need to let them and their tractors go first! When you do, whether they have the right of way, or you just let them politely pass, a Dutch farmer will not acknowledge you. He will just tear through you.

However, in my Jeep, I get noticed and I even get the occasional hands up! The other day, I got waved over by a farmer on his tractor. His hitch got stuck and could me and my Jeep help him get his trailer back to the farm.

So my standing in the village has improved considerably. We live here in the bibble belt. On Sunday, twice the church car park fills with 150 cars of the congregation. Every single one of them is black, of course.

Whereas they approve of me buying a cheap Jeep, the fact that is dark metallic blue is considered to be a bit frivolous. But then again, we are considered import here from the big city.

Spoiler alert; the list of things to do, grew considerably as I dug in. Well, more exploded!

A week after I bought the car, the first parts started to arrive:

Many such piles would follow. Stay tuned!

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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