1997 Jeep Wrangler Sport Rating: 8 / 10
Power (hp):
Torque (lb-ft):
Convertible, SUV

This is a true 4WD - Hi and Lo transfer case. Not an AWD today’s manufacturers are trying to pass off as an off-road vehicle. A manual drivetrain selector allows engagement of 2WD (rear), 4Hi and 4Lo.

This truck makes no assumptions. It knows what it is and will not apologize. It’s a Jeep. When people say the word, THIS is what they mean. This is a purpose built off-road machine. The Sport has the legendary 4.0L I6 engine designed by AMC. This is a TJ wrangler, arguably the last ‘real’ wrangler as it was primarily designed by AMC and updated by Chrysler. Newer Wranglers were redesigned and more road friendly, nothing wrong with that. Just not what this car is.

It’s loud. It’s hot in summer and cold in winter as the carpet is removed from mine (common). It has drain holes in the floor! It’s bouncy. Two live axles and a large travel stock suspension make this SUV jump around over pot holes and road imperfections. You sit eye level with pickups making it feel larger than it is. Professional car reviews ding this as unrefined and harsh. They missed the point. This car climbs hills, fords rivers, crawls through mud, and traverses rocks.

This is the easiest car I’ve worked on. Basic tools can fix every problem. MPG? 14.5. Doesn’t matter how you drive that’s what you get. It’s dependable. Unstoppable. Point it and go. It will not go anywhere fast, but it goes anywhere.

Buying tips: these are aging rigs. And Jeep tax is a thing. 200k miles? Good deal. Listen for rod knock and loss of oil pressure at idle when engine is HOT (highway driving). These suvs love the snow but rust like it’s a game. These are a true body on chassis. The box frame rusts from inside out just in front of the rear wheel well, many enthusiast add drains here to help avoid that problem. Look for a solid frame, they can be fixed but at great expense. Pinion seals leak, u joints freeze, does the transmission shift smooth? Reverse is not synchro’d for the uninitiated: bump first or second before quickly going to reverse.

This car is a blast to drive, the aftermarket is seemingly endless. Expect to pay $6-10,000 for a ‘clean’ one unless you are stupid lucky.

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