Weekly Craigslist Hidden Treasure: 1988 Jeep Cherokee (With A Manual!)

Car Culture

Can you spot any blemishes? We couldn't.

The XJ Jeep Cherokee wasn’t perfect. No vehicle is, but the second generation and perhaps most famous Cherokee, built from 1984 until 2001, comes awfully close to perfection from a design and purpose standpoint. That simple exterior design is timeless. It looks good both on and off-road, as these Cherokees frequented mall parking lots and camping sites in equal abundance. And that was the magic of this SUV; it was an all-in-one type of deal. The XJ Cherokee featured unibody construction instead of the then traditional body-on-frame setup, and its compact dimensions ensured it could be a totally usable daily driver.

Problems? There were and still are some, but they’re relatively affordable to fix. There’s also plenty of spare parts out there, which makes sense considering the SUV’s long market life. Although it’s not hard to find an XJ Cherokee for sale that’s in relatively good condition, it can be an even greater obstacle to snag one with a single owner and has a manual transmission. Fortunately, we found one on Craigslist. Call it a hidden treasure. That title isn’t a coincidence. This 1988 Jeep Cherokee that’s up for sale in Los Angeles looks, in a word, perfect. Thanks to having just one owner for the past 30 years, it’s been meticulously well maintained and fully serviced. Even the interior looks, dare we say, kind of new.

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Based on the ad’s photos, we were unable to find any dash cracks, ripped cloth seats, or any other related blemishes. And there’s that gearbox, a five-speed manual. Even in the late 1980s manuals had begun to be phased out slowly but surely for family vehicles, and the XJ Cherokee certainly qualified as one. Heck, even the original Dodge Caravan had a manual option for a limited time. But the Cherokee and Caravan were very different types of vehicles, mechanically speaking. No need to discuss those details.

However, Jeep, which was bought by Chrysler in 1987 from the now defunct American Motors, understood the family-friendly market desire for this new type of vehicle, the SUV. A manual didn’t exactly fit with that description. Automatics were already much more desirable and have become the dominant transmission today. Manuals have been regulated, generally speaking, to niche vehicles. Whoever buys this ’88 Cherokee will enjoy said manual, a 4.0-liter inline-six engine (which looks incredible as well), and just 72,000 miles on the odo. Do the math and that’s an average of only 2,400 miles per year. The price? $14,995, which does sound like give the Cherokee’s age, but its overall condition is immaculate.

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