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Jeep Wagoneer

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Jeep Wagoneer

Jeep WagoneerFour wheel drive, off road capability, lot's of passenger and cargo room inside, and the cache of driving a vehicle that is a direct descendant of the Army Jeeps of yore, the Jeep Wagoneer brings back great memories of family vacations and secluded picnics in forests or on a remote strip of beach. And nothing, but nothing, made in America at the time could get you to those special places like your Jeep Wagoneer.

The Jeep Wagoneer created the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) category and had a production run of 28 years on the same platform, the longest in US automotive history for a vehicle other than a truck or a van. It was characterized by a boxy shape and, for most models, faux wood paneling on the sides. A long way from the original Army Jeeps, the Wagoneer offered comfortable four wheel drive cruising in a luxurious environment. It is the first Jeep product to offer independent front suspension, an automatic transmission, and power steering. These are things we take for granted in today's SUV's but they were unheard of until Jeep included them in the Wagoneers substantial list of comfort and convenience options. The Jeep Wagoneer debuted a full seven years before Land Rover introduced the Range Rover to the luxury four wheel drive market.

The earliest models, beginning with the launch in 1963, were produced by Willys, which was in turn owned by Kaiser Jeep. It had body on frame construction and was very large, even for that epoch of American automotive history. It was powered by a 230 cubic inch six cylinder engine putting out a rather lazy 140 horsepower. It wasn't fast, but it was very fuel efficient in its day. In 1965, output jumped to 250 horsepower from a 327 cubic inch V8. This newfound gift of performance even further distanced the Wagoneer from the Army Jeeps that preceded it. Two years later, in 1967, a 5.7 liter Buick V8, putting out just 230 horsepower, replaced the Chevy block. This engine was tuned for maximum torque, giving the Wagoneer much more grunt for hauling cargo or for towing your boat to and from is dockage.

In 1970, American Motors acquired the brand and introduced a new X-coded model in a special Golden Lime (a color none of the Army Jeeps would have been seen in) with special wood grain panels. It had a unique suite of convenience and power options to celebrate the new ownership of the Jeep brand. The package cost $1,000, which at the time represented a significant upgrade. A larger 6.6 liter engine was offered as an option and a Quadra Track full time four wheel drive system was introduced. Finally, in 1974, the Wagoneer name was replaced by Cherokee, a branding that is still carried on today.

The evolution from the rudimentary Army Jeeps to the Jeep Wagoneers is quite remarkable. You can find these vehicles, often very well preserved, advertised in the back of automotive buff publications, on eBay, and at collector car auctions around the country.

 
 
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