Curbside Classics: Two Oddballs From 1987: Jeep Wagoneer And Mitsubishi Precis

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
curbside classics two oddballs from 1987 jeep wagoneer and mitsubishi precis

The visit to the yard of the Saab 99 owner was…stimulating, and…out of the ordinary. And a brief tour of his house furthered that impression; and the pirate ship in the front yard cemented it. So when I found my way to the curb, and saw two pretty ordinary looking cars sitting there (his tenants’, I assume), I felt I had returned to a more conventional plane. But then I realized: these are both oddballs too! Must be something about this neighborhood.

Well, lets just say they were the unusual variants and re-badges of two very common and popular cars: the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) and the Hyundai Excel. The Cherokee is of course one of the all-time iconic vehicles in the modern age, and a full CC (hopefully) worthy of its esteemed place on the top of Mt. Olympus (which it got to under its own mortal four wheel drive) is forthcoming. As an ex-Cherokee owner, it could well be an ode of possibly interminable length. Anyway, its easy to forget that the Cherokee had a woody brother for the first couple of years, the (un-Grand) Wagoneer.

The little Wagoneer was designed to replace its big hulking gas-slurping brother, but like the FWD Ford Probe was supposed to replace the Mustang, the RWD originals endured and long outlived their usurpers. The Wagoneer/Cherokee were designed right at the height of the early eighties energy crisis, but by the time they hit the dealers in 1984, oil prices were in their very long decline. The Grand Wagoneer was given a stay of execution, and soldiered on through 1991. But the little Wagoneer was long gone by then. Ironically, it was designed to have as much or more interior passenger space as the big guy, whose design dated back to 1963. But space and fuel efficiency was not the driving force behind the decision to buy a Grand Wagoneer; pretty much the exact opposite. Meanwhile, the little Wagoneer never found its niche.

The Mitsubishi Precis is nothing more than a Hyundai Excel, badged so that Mitsu had a rock-bottom entry-level car to sell between 1987 and 1994. In case you’ve forgotten the story from the recent Dodge Colt/Champ CC, there was a big little reason for Mitsubishi to be selling this car: it shared its engine and many other components with the Dodge Colt/Champ/Mitsubishi Mirage. So really, Mitsubishi was just keeping its old Colt going in the form of the Precis. Convenient for the parts department too.

These Hyundais have a pretty bad rep, from the rough start they had in the US. We’ll do a full Excel CC sometime, but lets just say it was somewhat understandable. Hyundai had been building the very crude and simple RWD Pony for years, and the Excel was its first huge step into modern FWD cars. Just like GM and other companies stubbed their toes with a major transition like this, so did Hyundai. They should have waited a couple of years before they jumped into the US market. And while the very first few years of Excels really were pretty shaky, they got better pretty quickly. But Hyundai’s rep was already damaged, and it took some heavy lifting to get it back. And did they ever!

A final note as we say goodbye to this unusual quadruple CC property. Lest you think I’m trying to perpetuate the stereotype that all, or even much of Eugene looks like this, just take a look at the house right next door in the last shot. It couldn’t be more different and conventional: the yard is all neatly cut grass, and there’s a clean Ford F-150 in the driveway. The two faces of Eugene co-existing side by side; in harmony, I assume.

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4 of 18 comments
  • AJ AJ on Jan 17, 2010

    A year ago I was looking around to buy a third Jeep, specifically an XJ Cherokee. If a guy wants to turn one into an off-road toy, there are plenty to pick from to rebuild. However for more street driver use, I'd only buy a '99 through '01, and never ever an '87. I regret to this day that I didn't buy a '99 back in the day when I was considering it.

  • Nick Nick on Jan 17, 2010

    It must be damp there. Even the road is mossy.

    • See 1 previous
    • Shaker Shaker on Jan 18, 2010

      "A rolling car gathers no moss... on the street... next to where it would normally be parked..." Channeling Stephan Wright. So, this house is the last on a dead-end street?

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...