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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Johnny Lightning 1997 Jeep Cherokee



One of the two finest castings of the last years of Johnny Lightning are truck castings:  The 1993 Ford F-150 Lightning (which i'll profile sometime later) and the 1997 Jeep Cherokee.  The Jeep started out with the updated 1997 model, then took a nod toward the off-road enthusiasts with the custom front and rear bumpers, fender flares, and large knobby tires.  After several releases this Jeep had quite a run, and now I have another version to join the fray.  Keep in mind that I passed on a few other variations: the common dirty red and military green versions and the dark green that was a Tractor Supply special (and now gone thanks to last month's clearance event).



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1997 saw the first update for the Cherokee which has been in production since 1984.  The front has a rounded grille with 7-slots, the rear taillights are new, the rear liftgate is now steel instead of fiberglass, and the dashboard is more modern with dual airbags and easy-to-reach controls.  This extended the XJ model until 2002 when the Liberty replaced it.  The JL version is nicely done with the detailed grille, recessed headlights, and custom front bumper that, along with the rear bumper, allow good approach and departure angles.  Most models have the bumper and winch, but the first version (in silver) has a tubular bar that hovers over the winch.  The blocky exterior nicely patterns the unique Cherokee look with detailed door handles and those flared out fender flares with detailed bolt supports.  Again, on the first version the left front fender has mounting holes for the snorkel (which can be visible on other models without the snorkel).  The rear has the detailed taillights, rear wiper, and the hooks on the bumper.







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On most models the roof rack contains the full-size spare tire (which would be a chore to remove this rather large tire on the actual vehicle).  The wheels are the cool 8-dot racing ones with large knobby tires to really claw into the earth for traction; some models have chrome hubs while others are blacked-out.  The base shows off live axles front and rear with coil springs at the front and leaf springs at the rear.  The drivetrain components are well laid-out, and only the Tractor Supply dark green version received a metal base.  The hood is a chore to open up as you have to use a razor blade to crack the flush-mounted hood up to open with finger.  Once open, the 4.0L AMC-based I-6 with perfect details from the engine block to the air filter box and intake hose.  The 4.0 I-6 is a powerful engine that produces 190 hp. and 225 Ib-ft. of torque through a 4-speed automatic and a 2-speed part-time transfer case to two or four wheels.




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Inside is even more pleasant with the front having detailed door panels, front bucket seats, center console with T-shaped shifter handle for transmission and L-shaped handle for the 4WD transfer case next to it, proper 2-spoke steering wheel, and a dashboard that has all the right layout of the air vents, controls, gauges detailed into the dashboard.  The rear seat is rather plain with no headrest or pattern details, but does the job nonetheless, oh and look at the cargo area that is rather roomy thanks to relocating the spare tire to the roof!  My personal favorite is the silver version with all the bells and whistles (and was a popular version at first), then followed by two different recolors in red, white, and army green with less gear on them, then to the most cleanest and refined Cherokee in tan with beige interior and chrome wheels.  The dark rose colored Jeep is the latest offering for me, while the red Paramedic version is rather neat with badges even on the rear quarter windows and a painted rear bumper in black.




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If there is one Johnny Lightning worth getting in the past few years, it is this fantastic Jeep Cherokee that is loaded with so much details that it still impresses me two years later!


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