1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Gets Saved from the Crusher, Goes Off-Roading

Now a compact crossover, the Jeep Cherokee started life as a full-size SUV in the 1970s. It all began with the Cherokee SJ, introduced in 1974 as a sporty, two-door alternative to the Wagoneer.
1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle 6 photos
Photo: Poor Boys Garage/YouTube
1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle
The first-generation Cherokee soldiered on until 1983. Jeep offered three different engines and a long list of trim levels, including the Golden Eagle. Available in 1978 ad 1979 only, this version is among the rarest first-gen Cherokees.

The Golden Eagle was just an appearance package, but it enabled the Cherokee to stand out from the pack through a large, gold eagle decal on the hood and matching stripes and wheels. It was the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am of the SUV market.

These Jeeps can cost more than $30,000 today, but most of them will never reach these heights, mostly because they've been left to rust away in junkyards and barns. But seeing this 1979 example being saved from the crusher and put back on the road gives me hope that some Golden Eagles will live on for a few more decades to tell their stories.

The Cherokee you're looking at isn't the cleanest example out there. This SUV has had a rough life and now showcases many battle scars in the form of surface rust, worn-out paint, and an interior that needs a serious makeover. But it definitely doesn't deserve to go to the scrapyard, where the previous owner wanted to send it.

Fortunately, it was picked up by someone who noticed the SUV still had plenty of life left in it, and the Cherokee ended up with YouTube's "Poor Boys Garage" for a refresh. I'm not talking about a full-blown restoration here, just some work under the hood so that the 360-cubic-inch (5.9-liter) V8 comes back to life.

And once the old mill is running again, it provides the Golden Eagle with enough grunt to tackle not only public roads but the unbeaten path too. Yup, this 43-year-old Jeep still has what it takes to conquer the great outdoors and seems more capable than a modern Cherokee. And needless to say, the 360 AMC mill still sounds delicious.

The video below includes a few good minutes of footage showing the Golden Eagle tackling rough terrain in a forest. And I think that's proof enough that it can still run as advertised back in the late 1970s. If you're not into watching others fix cars, hit the 26:00-minute mark for the off-road fun. It's totally worth it.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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