A Look Back at the History of the Jeep Wagoneer

The Jeep Wagoneer had a nearly 30-year run from the 1960s to the 1990s, but the model was discontinued as demand waned. It was considered the first luxury SUV, and it has held a special place in the hearts of Jeep lovers for some time. 

However, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer may once again be coming to a Jeep dealership near you. Dealers will get a chance to preview the 2018 Jeep Grand Wagoneer at Fiat Chrysler's biannual meeting in Las Vegas in August. It's unclear when those details will be released to the public or when the Jeep Grand Wagoneer will be delivered to local dealerships.

We don't know much about the 2018 Jeep Grand Wagoneer yet. Jeep previewed seven new concepts at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab in March, and there was speculation that the Jeep Chief could be the launch point for reviving the Wagoneer. 

We do know that the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer will have three rows of seating to carry seven. Industry insiders speculate that the Wagoneer will share a unibody platform with the new Grand Cherokee and that it will have an all-aluminum or most-aluminum body.

Other than that, we can only guess about the design or the features that the Wagoneer might include. What we can do, however, is take a look back at the previous Wagoneer models to get a better sense of how it has evolved and what direction it might take for the future.

Here's a brief look back at the history of the Jeep Wagoneer:

Jeep Wagoneer SJ

When most people think of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, they think of the SJ models that were produced as both a Jeep Wagoneer and a Jeep Grand Wagoneer. These models were produced between 1963 and 1991. This was one of the first sport-utility vehicles -- long before the term SUV was even coined. 

The Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer were 4x4 vehicles, but they were loaded with luxury features and created with a stylish design. The Wagoneer was originally introduced as a replacement for the Willys Jeep Station Wagon, which was phased out in 1965. The Wagoneer had a full-size body on frame, and it was very similar to the Jeep Gladiator.

Early models of the Wagoneer came with either two doors or four doors. The two-door models had a windowless rear and "barn-style" doors at the rear, sort of like a cargo van. 

The original engine for the Wagoneer was a 3.8-liter six-cylinder that put out 140 horsepower. Independent front suspension was introduced in 1963 as an option, but it was phased out in 1965 since it was not popular. However, the groundbreaking suspension system was later added as a standard feature.

A few engine upgrades were made over the following years and the Wagoneer received a few design tweaks. However, there were few changes until 1971, when AMC took over the Kaiser Jeep Corporation.

Between 1971 and 1987, AMC introduced numerous changes to the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, including the Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive system, power-disc brakes, power adjustable seating, power windows and locks, cruise control, gas-filled shock absorbers, and more. Many of the changes also helped to reduce noise and vibration, creating a smoother ride.

The Wagoneer also received some design updates, such as the wood-grain paneling for which it has become known, new grille and fenders, interior upgrades, and more. Standard features on the last models produced under AMC included adjustable tilt steering wheel, power rear window, tinted windows, premium speakers, leather upholstery, roof rack, 15-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille and fog head lamps.

Chrysler took over from American Motors in 1987 and produced the Wagoneer for its final years. In fact, these final four years were considered by many to be the best for the Wagoneer. Some upgrades included a powerful V8 engine, a new air conditioning compressor that fixed former leak issues, an updated interior console with outside temperature sensors, keyless entry and new paint colors.

Jeep Wagoneer XJ

The Jeep Wagoneer XJ was produced from 1984 to 1991. It was a variation of the Jeep Cherokee XJ, and it was a compact SUV. 

Production began under AMC, and the Wagoneer/Cherokee XJ was the first Jeep with a ladder-boxed chassis on a monocoque unit. It did not have a separate body on a frame. The result was a vehicle that was lightweight yet very strong.

The Wagoneer XJ was sold in two trim levels: The Wagoneer and the Wagoneer Limited. Slight design changes differentiated the Wagoneer from the Cherokee. For example, the Wagoneer had a different grille and had stacked high- and low-beam headlights that were referred to as "spider eyes." The Wagoneer Limited was also distinguished by its vinyl wood paneling and leather seating.

The XJ model was eventually phased out to make room for the new Grand Wagoneer ZJ.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer ZJ

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer ZJ was only produced in 1993 as a special edition of the Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ. It was offered with either a 4.0-liter Inline 6 engine or a 5.2-liter V8 engine. The design featured the trademark wood paneling, leather interior and special badging. 

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer ZJ was considered a special luxury edition, and it was produced in limited numbers. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer ZJ and other Wagoneer models from the final years of its production are now considered collectible models. Some even sell for more than they did when they were brand new.

It may be some time before the new Wagoneer hits a Jeep dealership near you or even before we have preview information about it. However, by deepening our appreciation of the Wagoneer's history, we can better understand what might be in store for its future and can get more excited about this new model. If you can't wait for the new Wagoneer, you might still try your luck at a Jeep dealership to find a previously owned version of one of the final models produced.


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