1974 Jeep Cherokee 258 CID L6 1BBL from North America


Better know your brake modulating technique down pat


Rust everywhere.

Flimsy wiring.

Right engine mount broke and busted the oil filter.

General Comments:

Won this 2-door wagon at an auction and drove it home. Fixed up the wiring mess, battery bracket & cables, full tune and routine maintenance.

Mine was the 2-dr part-time 4x4 with everything manual non-powered, including 4-wheel drum brakes.

L6 ran smooth and started well in the cold. I figured out from reading books that the stock tune-up specs were whack due to illogical emission dogmas of the time. I deleted the timing retard and exhaust choke(!). This is a low-compression engine and I was able to increase base timing to ~15° BTDC without starter jamming or hot pre-ignition ping, running on low octane of course. Kept the "hot" Autolite plugs that it came with. After that it became fun to drive and accelerated with undelayed pep while averaging ~16 MPG (that's great for FSJ). Flawless off-idle torque.

3-speed manual was fun too because it had coarse-cut gears and could be upshifted without the clutch smooth as butter. No grinding through the synchronisers, just let off the pedal and put it in the next gear at the exactly correct RPM pitch. No tachometer either.

Front locking hubs were stiff as Warn hubs usually are and required pliers to turn. 4x4 worked OK with a lot of slop in the transfer case.

It got stuck ridiculously easily in snow due to open differentials. Compared to a Suburban, which never can be stuck in shallow snow, the Cherokee was the opposite. It could get stuck between 2 hard-pack bumps on an otherwise flat road, spinning 1 front and 1 rear wheel.

This Jeep came with a home-made spring-over lift with stock steering knuckes. They didn't weld the perches perfectly in line with each other. This combination made the leaf springs touch the track rod on compression. I hacked it by greasing the contact area well and being mindful to steer before the axle articulation obstacles. As an added bonus, I didn't need any jackstands to do maintenance underneath. Front driveshaft vibrated of course.

Heater, window cranks, cheap aftermarket radio, and tailgate all worked. Window cranks were actually the easiest and fastest on this model vs. 25+ other vehicles that I owned; it was probably the best-designed part on this Jeep.

Glove box door was finicky. I left it shut and used a center console between the seats. I lubed all the pedals a few times so they wouldn't squeak. Body was rusty throughout as standard on FSJ.

Went out to the snowy hills with a friend and ended up sliding downhill and into a deep snow bank. Buried in the snow careening ~40° with 1 rear wheel in the air, no driving out of that. Took 1 pull with a Suburban to get it out.

I didn't know it at the time, but that adventure broke the right engine mount at the bolt holes. I didn't know such a thing was possible. I found out some time later when a take-off motion tilted the engine enough to bust the oil filter located in the immediate vicinity of the engine mount (on the later 4L re-design they mounted it on a 90° adapter to move it away). The first noise that became apparent was the valve lifters ticking.

The oil soaked absolutely everything under the hood! I parked it and came back in the daytime to bolt together 1 remaining set of engine-mount holes with extra washers, installed new oil filter and oil, drove away. Don't remember if I did anything else to reinforce that mount, maybe heavy-duty band clamps.

In conclusion, it was a typical awesome FSJ. If you have a shop to rebuild it then you'll have fun with it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 19th May, 2020

23rd May 2020, 08:07

"emission dogmas"?

23rd May 2020, 21:59

Certainly remember a lot of details on a vehicle that was gotten rid of over 25 years ago and only driven 3000 miles in 20 years of ownership...

24th May 2020, 03:34

Neat review.

The emission regulations of the mid-70s were aggressive. Hence the lack of spark advance. Leaning out the fuel/air mixture and adding EGR didn't help. Glad to hear that you found relief from the madness :)

And good to hear that you have a system for the upshifts with the 3-speed manual that has coarse-cut gears that works well, but I gotta ask, how do the downshifts go? I usually ground gears when downshifting from 2nd to 1st gear on vehicles with manual transmissions with non-synchro 1st gears unless I came to a complete stop before shifting.

And glad you caught the oil leak before it has fatal consequences :)