By on August 14, 2012

Back when I wrote the Automotive Survivors series (Part I and Part II), I specified that I was only considering cars built for 20 or more years, and I included boldface text stating NO TRUCKS! NO TRUCKS! Naturally, I got barraged with weeks of hate mail from the Land Rover Jihad (because Land Rovers were being slapped together out of mud and sticks by Celtic tribesman circa 600 BC and thus my cars-only restriction was fatwa-worthy), but that was nothing next to what I heard from the Wagoneer Jihad. Legendary industrial designer Brooks Stevens drew up the original SJ platform-based Wagoneer for Willys-Overland in the year 1905 (OK, the early 1960s), and Kaiser-Jeep, AMC, and Chrysler kept building great big SJ Cherokees and Grand Cherokees until the sun collapsed and became a red giant (OK, until 1991). That meant that Chrysler was building AMC 360s in addition to Franco-Swedish PRV V6s into the 1990s. And, just as you could buy Super 8 movie film at ordinary stores until the early 1990s, so could you buy Jeep SJs with Simu-Wood™ plastic woodie siding. Here’s an example I found last week in a Denver self-serve yard.
Would you believe that this truck was built only 23 years ago?
The “wood” trim looks fairly convincing from 100 feet away. Up close, not so much.
These things rode like early-60s trucks, and they drank gas like early-60s trucks. Still, they were competent and generally reliable machines, and there was no reason for anybody to stop building them as long as customers craved the SJ.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

56 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer...”


  • avatar
    fintail jim

    Careful with the attitude, Murilee. :-) These things have a strong following for a reason. By your own admission they were in production for 183 years (o.k. 18 years) and there must be a reason for that. If nothing else they possess panache. Can one say that about a Ford Expedition or, especially, a Toyota Sequoia?

    Are you familiar with Wagonmaster in Kerrville, Texas.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, I like old Jeeps. I just like to poke sharp sticks at the various Single Interest Jihadis, plus it’s funny that Detroit sticks with such aged designs for so long (e.g., Iron Duke engine, Omnirizon).

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “it’s funny that Detroit sticks with such aged designs for so long”

        Profit-centers to offset their other boondoggles I imagine. I maintain it was products such as Panther, Ranger, and Econoline which got Ford through the last fifteen years or so… esp if you consider the expensive failures/one offs such as the ‘New’ Thunderbird, Cougar FWD, Marauder, Freestar, Blackwood/MK F150, Aviator and other lower production single use platforms as LS and Continental (ok LS and S-Type shared but still).

        Personally I applaud them for it, I prefer an ‘old’ proven platform to constant new products on short production cycles fraught with change every three to four years as Toyonda or similar have usually done. I studied engineering, I know what it entails… seen plenty of fail in my time, give me what works.

      • 0 avatar
        markholli

        It’s definitely not just a Detroit thing to stick with old designs forever:

        Land Rover Defender: 29 years old (and counting)
        Mercedes G-Wagon: 33 years old (and counting)

        And the scariest thing is that you can get that 33 year-old G-Wagon with a 600 HP V12.

  • avatar

    I still want one. A brown one with the dark red interior and round gauges. Aaron Reeves is putting together a motor mount kit to allow a 4BT swap. I’m gonna so do that.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    If you want to see a lot of these still operating in daily driver service, head up to Nantucket Island off of the coast of MA; there are a surprising number of these still doing their thing. (This one looks like it still has some salvageable body parts.)

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      These had quite a run as the old money/WASP/preppy family car of choice. Nothing better to tailgate at the Harvard/Yale game circa 1989.

    • 0 avatar
      hifi

      You’ll see these all over the Hamptons, along with LR Defenders. Most of them are in really great shape still. I almost picked one up last summer. But the driver’s side power window was stuck open for months, and the interior was completely destroyed. I’m not up for a project car right now. But it would be fun to have one of these.

  • avatar
    ckgs

    What’s up with the flash based video ads that play automatically, including audio! Not a good move, this makes TTAC a “no” at the office (I don’t think my colleagues are interested in Lysol). So much for having this site on my ad block white list.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Wow, this one is identical to one I saw at a used car dealership in PA circa 2000, which was in fantastic shape. Wonder what killed it; it really doesn’t appear to have been in too bad a condition prior to being junked. And just like Murilee mentions, Wagoneers do have a following, so I would think it would have made more financial sense to have sold this one used rather than to a salvage yard.

    Anyhow, they may be inefficient, outdated, whatever, but I would love to own one, especially a loaded 1968 with the still very chromey interior, like the one shown here:

    http://www.fourwheeler.com/featuredvehicles/129_1103_jeep_the_first_70_years_part_2/photo_18.html

  • avatar
    dswilly

    I think these were the only vehicle to use fake wood that looked right. On another note, anyone ever heard of the gas cap theft ring that targeted these things? I knew several people that owned them that said they would frequently find the gas cap missing. So they were either falling off (quite possible) or being stolen.

  • avatar
    dundurrbay

    Skylar White, Walts wife on Breaking Bad drives one of these. In the show, the interior actually looks fairly luxurious for the time. I’d imagine that they were the ultimate gas hogs, however.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      That show has the most interesting vehicle choices per character… her Grand Wagoneer, Walt’s Aztec, Jesse’s pimped out Monte and later the small Toyota 4wd, Gus’ Volvo wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        dundurrbay

        Haha, I love the show. Very intuitive. Walt’s getting a little crazy this season though.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Don’t spoil it for me I have yet to download the 5th season, although the last four or so episodes last season were epic :)

        You have to remember though Dundurrbay, the show opened with Walt effectively as a dead man (from severe cancer), and he’s always been a dead man walking. Just a question of how he goes out…

      • 0 avatar
        cfclark

        @dundurrbay: A “little” crazy?

        The vehicle choices were not accidental, of course. [Season 5 vehicle content omitted to avoid spoilage.] Gus’s Volvo was supposed to symbolize his outward respectability and extreme caution. It’s Walt’s lack of caution that’s going to get him killed, probably. (I’m just wondering whether he kills Skylar or she kills him by the end of the series.)

        I like these dinosaurs, and if I didn’t have a 60-mile roundtrip commute, I’d consider one, if I could find one.

      • 0 avatar
        Instant_Karma

        Every character’s car seems to fit their personalities rather well too. Saul’s FWD Caddy, Hank’s Nitro, Even Badger’s beige Fiero and Skinny Pete’s old Montego.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      11 city, 11 highway in my experience. But it was all worth it when you got off road.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I remember seeing one on a lot back in 1991, the very last of them, AMC 360 etc. before the all-new for 92 Grand Cherokee/Wagoneer came out and the sticker said 11city/13hwy. Still a great vehicle if you can live with the low MPG. I always liked the size, bigger than a mid-size Cherokee/S-10/Explorer but smaller than a Surburban. The Tahoe was not out yet. Quite popular with the horsey set before they graduated to Range Rovers.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        My Land Cruiser has an all new for 1993 DOHC inline 6 in it and that’s about all it gets…maybe 12 hwy. I think these are begging for an LS3 swap with a modern auto perhaps more than any vehicle out there.

    • 0 avatar
      roger628

      Skyler is a vile c__t!. Hate her guts. If I was Walter I would be talking to Mike about arranging a little brake failure type accident on that Wagoneer!

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    I’m sure this story is apocryphal, but I once heard about a guy in the late 80s who bought one of these brand new, and took it to a gas station where someone complimented him on doing such a beautiful restoration.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Wonderful remembrances of the one my in-laws gave us, a very well cared for 1990. I could live with the 12mpg, as it was only used when we actually had to go off-road. Like my wife’s real estate business during the housing bubble.

    Unfortunately, my in-laws lived in Bangor, ME. Fourteen years of salted roads finally cut loose in the warmth of Virginia, and within three years the body rot had gotten too difficult for me to keep up with. By then my wife’s health problems had put the kibosh on the real estate business, so it got sold to a gentleman who cut the top off while leaving the door sills intact as a summer car.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    I loved these as a kid, still do. They sure don’t build them like this anymore.

    As for the Breaking Bad reference, I still think it’s ironic that Walter drives an AZTEK!?!?! and Skylar drives an SJ.

    It seems the writers have some animosity toward Azteks as the car continuously gets the shit beat out of it. Considering the Aztek is widely considered as Generation Why’s ‘Edsel’, this makes sense; and adds even more to the show…

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      Writers have some animosity toward the Acura ZDX too, which to my eye is a design masterpiece and the most interesting designed car to come along in a LONG time. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    • 0 avatar
      jgcaulder

      The Aztec is the most misunderstood vehicle of the last decade and has paved the way for similar, albeit, better looking crossover SUV’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Agreed. Without the Aztec, we wouldn’t have had the Buick Rendevous!

        Truth be told, we seriously looked at the Aztec when it came out and were impressed by its versatility w/o being a hard-core SUV, but while a van underneath, it didn’t LOOK like a van.

        We weren’t in the market for anything at that time in early 2001…

        The Rendevous was a much cleaner design and to me, quite attractive.

      • 0 avatar
        GoesLikeStink

        My Dad, born and raised in Kenosha where the police drove SJs for 20 years, bought a new Aztek and loves it. He lives in Kansas now. He is putting brush gards on it now to protect it from any more deer damage.

  • avatar
    justinx

    Jeep did continue to build a Grand Wagoneer on the ZJ body. So the woodys did live on to the mid 90’s.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    One of my all time favorite vehicles viewed from afar because I have never sat in or driven one. I think JEEP redoing a retro themed modern version of the Grand Wagoneer (with the plood siding as an option) would be very successful and certainly more interesting than what they offer today.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I don’t remember these riding badly at all. I do remember them getting glowing reviews for their ride and handling balance. The rich people that bought them may have been silly, but they weren’t jostled or troubled by bad handling traits.

  • avatar
    DownEaster

    There is a man in Trexas that buys these, restores them, and sells them. http://www.wagonmaster.com/ Some go for quite a bit of money. Chrysler and AMC continued to build these because of the demographics and the people that bought them in the 1980s and early 1990s. The people who bought them were had the highest incomes of all the people who bought Chrysler products in the late 1980s. The tooling was long since paid for and they still used the AMC V-8 up to the end. They have quite a following today. I guess they were kind of an American Range Rover in prestige and still look good. Nice looking vehicles still with classic lines. Too bad to see this one go. Not a bad run of a body style for almost 30 years and through three different companies Chrysler, AMC, and Kaiser.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    I really love how they figured out how to put square headlights into a round headlight hole and you can remove the grill and put the original 60s front end on any of them ever built.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    This car seems a bit too new to be in a junkyard. I regularly see Ford and Chevy trucks from the late ’50s and early ’60s puttering around unrestored.

  • avatar
    markholli

    Grand Wagoneers will always remind me of two things:

    1) The movie “What About Bob?”…classic show. Inline with what others on this post have been saying, it was the family car of the well-to-do Dr. Leo Marvin and the movie takes place in, you guessed it, New England.

    2) Growing up I had a neighbor, two houses down, who had a beautiful house on a perfectly manicured yard, and in the Garage he had an absolutely immaculate mid-80’s Grand Wagoneer parked next to an equally pristine Lincoln Mark V. Every weekend he would pull them out and clean and polish them.

    His grown son, who still lived at home, followed in his Dad’s Jeep n’ Coupe footsteps. He had a 1993 Grand Cherokee and a 1992 Lexus SC400 Coupe.

    Every one of these cars was loved and cared for in a manner I haven’t seen matched since. When the old man passed away, his son sold the Jeep and Lincoln, and later that year his own Jeep and SC400. I would love to track any one of those cars down now and buy them. Damned if they didn’t get sold off before I even had my license.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “… until the sun collapsed and became a red giant ”

    I don’t think that’s how the life cycle of a star works.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    When my brother was still a construction company executive in Fairbanks, I helped him buy a new one of these rigs for use as the family car. That would have been in 1986. I found out what vehicles several local dealers here in western WA had; the one he chose was from a dealer who was knowledgeable about selling vehicles to Alaska residents.

    He bought a white on tan Grand Wagoneer with the wood stuff, and it gave him good service; when he sold it the interior was pretty much trashed by his tribe of Australian shepherds. In spite of the Fairbanks winter service I never saw any body rust on it.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    At one point in the 1980s, American Motors discovered via market research that Grand Wagoneer buyers had the highest median household incomes of any domestic brand car buyers. This was the American Land Rover in every sense of the term, even looking at movies and TV shows from the 80s and early 90s, any time they wanted to depict a well-to-do WASP family vacationing at the country house, they invariably arrived there in a Grand Wagoneer.

    Of course, it was that research that deluded Chrysler into thinking that could sell Jeep buyers domestic passenger cars to go along with their domestic light trucks, only to discover that Eagle really couldn’t accomplish the objective of luring people out of their BMWs and Audis with a bunch of rebadged Mitsubishis and Renaults.

  • avatar
    AJ

    The first Jeep I drove was a Wagoneer when I was 14 around a ranch. It was awesome. I’ve had an interest in the SJs since then… wishing I had been old enough back then to buy one new. It must have been cool driving one home from a dealer. Sad to see this one in it’s condition.

  • avatar
    mccall52

    Let’s not forget, this is also the official car of the John Hughes movie of the same year, ‘The Great Outdoors’, along with the Mercedes 560SEL.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      When you figure out who in the world the target audience was for that movie, let me know, because the content wasn’t suitable for kids and for adults it was rather disconnected and humorless.

      It could have been a much better movie, but the focus was lost somewhere – perhaps it’s in that Jeep!

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I’ll go with ten-year-old boy, since I remember being entertained by it. “Blow it out your ass!” was used incessantly by my friends and I for a couple of days. Then, we saw it on television a year or so later and it was revived in the form of the edited-for-TV version – “Blow it out your kazoo!” – with the final word being said in a completely different tone than the rest of the sentence, as in the movie edit.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Because the content wasn’t suitable for kids and for adults it was rather disconnected and humorless.”

    That pretty much describes every John Hughes movie that doesn’t have “National Lampoon” in the title.
    _____________________________
    The Grand Wagoneer was also prominently involved in the George Lucas classic “Howard the Duck”.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    These had a far better ride than the blue LC you published before. And were far more luxurious too.

    To me it’s a shame to see it there. Seems to be in fairly decent shape. But the 360 has to go. LSx FTW.

    Next stop… a Kmart-grade toaster.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I have a soft spot for these. A 1980 Grand Wagoneer was the first vehicle I ever drove, and it provided a lot of enjoyment through my first three years of driving. It was a lot of fun on a snowy day back when almost nobody else even had 4WD. In fact, it was one of the fastest vehicles on the road for city driving throughout the long winter! It also had no problem carrying five guys plus their hockey equipment. That one was a bit of a beater though. The Quadra-Trac ’78 Grand Wagoneer my mother drove through much of my childhood was in great condition, and it seemed to have a really nice interior.

    Since I had so little experience with other vehicles at that point, I can’t say much about how well they drove or handled. The leaf-springs seemed much better for my purposes than the mushy suspensions that many vehicles had. The 360 felt pretty strong for the time. I’ll just say that I had absolutely no complaints about the source of a new level of freedom.

  • avatar
    DownEaster

    it would be interesting to take one of these and drop in either a Jeep 4.0 litre 6 cylinder or a later Chrysler V-6 such as the Pentastar. The 4.0 litre had more horsepower (190hp) than the 360 V-8 (160 hp). Some interesting possibilities to hot rod here.

    • 0 avatar
      fintail jim

      I don’t know the last model year it was offered but some Wagoneers were available with the AMC in-line 6. I’ve had two Cherokees and two Comanches with that same engine. Granted those vehicles are somewhat lighter than the SJ Wagoneer but the 4.0 liter six seems to have plenty of horsepower (and torque) for daily driving. I don’t know how fit it would be for towing though. With the right equipment (and the 360 cu. in. V8) Grand Wagoneers were rated to tow up to 5,000 lbs.

      There was also a delete option for the “wood grain” on the Grand Wagoneer. It is rare but I’ve seen a couple. Pre-“Grand” Wagoneers without woodgrain or a simple woodgrain “spear” along the beltline were more common.

      I was told the woodgrain was employed to keep the brush from scratching the paint when ranchers drove in their pastures. Eh, maybe. Also, fake woodgrain does not necessarily confer “panache.” Perhaps the earlier post was being facetious. To make my argument I cite those few PT Crusiers and Vega station wagons that were so afflicted. But woodgrain on large American station wagons is de rigueur.

      By the way, Ralph Lauren, that icon of east coast WASP-dom, has reportedly purchased at least two Grand Wagoneers from Leon Miller (the Wagonmaster in Kerrville, Texas). The web site was given in an earlier post but understand this: Miller doesn’t restore derelict vehicles. He buys low-mileage (70,000 or less) well cared for Grand Wagoneers, replaces tires, hoses, batteries, etc. and gives them a thorough detailing.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The Wagoneer debuted in 1963. The sheet metal remained the same for the entire run of 28 yrs. The Grand wag package started in 1984 Before that they were LTD Broughams.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I had a bunch of friends whose parents had them. Some were crude strippers and a couple were loaded. Most of these people worked at Jeep, or had family that did, so it made sense. They rusted pretty quickly, but one hung around, having been rustproofed for over 20 years. It was a stripper with an AM radio and an auto and that was it.

  • avatar
    and003

    If I could, I’d buy this Wagoneer, upgrade the suspension and install a 3G Hemi for more power. :)


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States