The VK Cherokee was / is a great flying plane, and was actually my introduction to the old "Novice Class" AMA pattern back in 1976. Dad built it complete w/ silkspan & dope, we powered it with a K&B .61 and I practiced my butt off 'till I was ready for the first local contest. Flew that for the season while we built our first "official" pattern ship, a Dirty Birdy, followed up by a UFO. I whacked Dad's Cherokee one day when I "borrowed" it for a fun fly, did the famous "Oh, my batteries will be OK for just ONE more quick flight" and watched it spread itself out over the length of the runway. Fortunately Dad forgave me..... a few years later.
The big changes to make would be to cut the dihedral in half (at least), and make sure to reinforce the vertical fin where it attaches through the fuse top, especially if you go heavy with the sanding block back there to make it round. Some differential throw in the ailerons will make it roll a bit smoother & reduce the tendency to "corkscrew" in a roll, but you'll still need rudder & elevator correction during them. The breakaway plates on the motor worked well & were pretty common back then, just use lockwashers on them & sink the blind nuts in good on the maple rails. I don't recall any downthrust being in it, but it may have been there. The right thrust can be changed easily using the breakaway plates. We've powered them with anything from the K&B .61 thru Webra Speed's, OS, & Rossi's, any of them will fly it fine.
Retracts would be a good addition & should be pretty easy to add. The last one Dad built a few years ago, he added a cockpit floor, pilot, side window, curtains, etc. Yes, it was STILL silkspan & dope finish.
For what it's worth there are probably better basic pattern planes that would be easier & quicker to build (Kaos, etc.) but the Cherokee is *really* a pretty bird. Enjoy it!