While many are familiar with the iconic Jeep® Wagoneer (SJ), many aren’t aware that actually launched the Wagoneer with both a two-door and four-door offering in 1963. In 1967, then Jeep parent Kaiser Jeep, ended production of the two-door model, to focus on the more family-oriented four-door offering.
However, it wasn’t long after that competition from General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler would quickly make the Jeep brand rethink its position on the two-door model. Vehicles like the Chevrolet Blazer, GMC Jimmy, and Ford Bronco were quickly becoming ever so popular. Chrysler itself was working on its own two-door full-size SUV lineup with the introduction of the Dodge Ramcharger and Plymouth TrailDuster in 1974. So American Motors Company (AMC) greenlit the return of the two-door Wagoneer, however, this time it would debut with a new name: Cherokee.
The Cherokee was then marketed as the “sporty” two-door variant of the Wagoneer, and the term Sport Utility Vehicle or SUV appeared for the very first time in the 1974 Jeep Cherokee sales brochure. While Wagoneer was focused on being a more upscale offering, Cherokee buyers liked the more back-to-basics equipment list. So in 1977, the Cherokee lineup was expanded to offer a four-door model as well, to run parallel with the Wagoneer.
To keep its lineup fresh, Jeep offered a number of packages to the Cherokee. In 1978, the Cherokee Golden Eagle was born. The Golden Eagle was a special edition appearance package for not just the Cherokee, but the CJ and J-Series pickups as well. The package on the Cherokee included a Mocca Brown and gold exterior with “Golden Eagle” decals, gold steel wheels, and a large winged eagle on the hood.
During the 70s, AMC offered a number of its vehicles with a “Levi’s Edition” interior. The Golden Eagle was no exception, with tan-colored seats with actual brass Levi’s buttons. It was a great cross-promotion with the iconic Levi Strauss & Co. brand that continues to be talked about today, by AMC fans.
Powered by the popular 5.9-liter (360 cubic-inch) AMC V8 engine, this 1978 model features a 2-barrel carb setup. That was enough to push the 360 to 140 horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. of torque, in an age that restricted even the best performance cars. While a 4-speed manual was available, this particular one has the optional 3-speed TH400 automatic transmission from GM.
Underneath, the Cherokee’s 4×4 system allowed the 108.7-inch wheelbase SUV to be a tank off-road. The Golden Eagle models were based on the ever-so-popular Cherokee Chief model which included the Wide Track (or wide-wheel) package, offering growth of 3.3 inches for the body, a front track width of 6 more inches, and a rear track width of 4.5 inches over the standard model.
This Golden Eagle model features the iconic full-time Quadra-Trac® 4×4 system.
The Cherokee Golden Eagle would only be in production for the 1978 to 1979 model year. To diehard SJ fans, they are some of the most fun and adventurous Cherokees ever built. This particular one goes up for auction at the Mecum Harrisburg event on Saturday, July 30th.
To see more or to be able to bid on this amazing Cherokee, you can visit the dedicated Mecum page for the vehicle.
UPDATE: The car ended up taking in $60,000 when it crossed the block. However, it wasn’t enough to meet the reserve.