Jeep Grand Wagoneer Returns in 2019: The Best From 1961-1991

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The Automotive News Future Product spotlight on Jeep has a Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer scheudled for 2019.

“The Wagoneer family will share a platform with the current Ram 1500, but it will push the upper boundaries of SUV luxury when it appears in mid-2019 after the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan is retooled,” says the trade publication. “The three-row Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be body-on-frame to compete closely with the GMC Yukon Denali and Chevrolet Suburban and will share a platform with the Ram 1500 pickup.”

The original Jeep Wagoneer existed from 1963 to 1991 and paved the way for every luxury SUV that followed. Here’s a look at what the best Wagoneers looked like in those years:

Jeep Wagoneer - 19631963

The Wagoneer arrived in 1963, as the replacement for the stalwart Jeep Station Wagon, just as “Jeep” finally became a brand name. The original Wagoneer hit the trails when Willys Motors transformed into the Kaiser Jeep Corporation. The new Wagoneer was powered by a, single overhead cam, “Tornado” inline six-cylinder engine.

Seat belts were optional on the original Wagoneer. A compass was not. It was standard on every Wagoneer sold that year. As an option, buyers could select an independent front suspension on four-wheel drive models. (Yes, two-wheel drive Wagoneers were part of the product mix until 1967.) Two-door Wagoneers variants were available until 1971, and then a separate, two-door Cherokee model arrived in 1974.

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Jeep Wagoneer - 1966 Super Wagoneer1966

In late 1965 and 1966, the Wagoneer started to go uptown with the “Super Wagoneer.” It featured a 270 hp version of the AMC V8, fitted with a four-barrel carburetor. It also included what amounted to “luxury” features at the time: a push-button radio, seven-position tilt steering wheel, courtesy lights, air conditioning, a power tailgate, power brakes, power steering, and a console-shifted TH400 automatic transmission.

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Jeep Wagoneer - 19691968

For the 1968 model year, the Wagoneer’s AMC-sourced V-8 engine gave way to a Buick V-8 that Jeep branded as “Dauntless.” It had less horsepower than the AMC V-8, but better torque. The Buick V-8 lasted through the 1970 model year.

Jeep Wagoneer - 1414x1970-1971

There’s some speculation that Jeep built “1414X” Wagoneers in 1969, but if they existed, they’re rare. Certainly in 1970, the 1414X-coded Wagoneers were called the “Custom Wagoneer” and featured an anodized aluminum spear running along the side. In 1971, the Custom was renamed the Special. That was the first year that woodgrain was part of the Wagoneer package. The Special had a sticker price of $6,114. As a price comparison, a 1971 Cadillac Sedan De Ville was $6,264.

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Jeep Wagoneer - 19731973

The 1973 model year brought Jeep’s innovative “Quadra-Trac” four-wheel drive system. Quadra-Trac was a chain-driven transfer case that used a differential to shift torque between front and rear automatically, which allowed drivers to enjoy the benefits of four-wheel drive without manually shifting the transfer case or locking the front wheel hubs. The system could also be locked front-and-rear with a switch that used engine vacuum.

Jeep Wagoneer - 1975 full wood1975

The Wagoneer moved upmarket again in 1975, with the Limited trim. This is the year that the Wagoneer got the full “woodgrain” (read: shelf paper) treatment that it would be associated with forever.  The Limited included Quadra-Trac as an option, power disk brakes, air conditioning, power-adjustable bucket seats, power door locks, power windows, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, leather upholstery, plush carpeting, an AM/FM/CB radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rack, forged aluminum wheels, and “woodgrain” trim on the body sides.

Jeep Wagoneer - 19831983

Aside from minor styling changes, the Wagoneer wouldn’t change much until its last year, 1987. For 1983, the Wagoneer Limited got the new Select-Trac four-wheel drive system. Instead of a manually-shifted transfer case, Select-Trac moved the four-wheel drive transfer case selector to a switch on the dash that activated a spline clutch built into the front axle assembly.

In 1984, the old “Brougham” trim became the Grand Wagoneer.

Jeep Wagoneer - 19901987 – 1991

The last major change for the Jeep Wagoneer came in 1987, after AMC was gobbled up by Chrysler. For the 25th anniversary of the Wagoneer’s launch, the SUVs got an engine upgrade to the 360 cu in V-8 engine and self-sealing Michelin “Tru Seal” tires.

By the end of the line, the Grand Wagoneer was hardly a blip on Chrysler’s radar. The last year — 1991 — Jeep sold a grand total of 1,560 Grand Wagoneers. Contrast that to the 1991 model year of the XJ Cherokee: the year the Grand Wagoneer bowed out, the Jeep sold 130,770 XJ Cherokees. Two years later, Jeep introduced the ZJ Grand Cherokee and sold 250,143 units the first year out of the gate. By 1998, more than 1.6 million ZJ Grand Cherokees were on the road.

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Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at