Vintage Jeep Wagoneer

Vintage Jeep Wagoneer and Cherokee

Online Classic World

Impressive they are, the Jeep Wagoneer and the related Cherokee, but by European standards, they still keep their dimensions somewhat within bounds. At a time when the old world still associated off-road vehicles with spartan transport, the Americans already came up with a concept that we would later describe as SUV. So you actually still look surprisingly hip in this generation of tough classics.

Icons of the US auto industry

With a history that ran from 1963 to 1991, the Jeep Wagoneer of the primordial generation, the SJ, has a gigantic history. Primal versions from the first ten builds are hardly found in the wild, especially in Europe, which is why in this story we pick up the thread on 1973, shortly before the luxury SUV was joined by the somewhat simpler and sometimes sportier dressed Cherokee. This acquisition would later prove to outlive it by a wide margin.

Many facelifts, technical updates and changes marked the production period and played into the model's durability. Thanks to a life cycle of 28 years alone, these estate vintage cars from Jeep can rank among the icons of the American car industry, and then they created their own market segment too.

Vintage Jeep Cherokee

Incredibly versatile

Still operating under the Kaiser banner, Jeep knew in the late 1950s that it would not be able to lean on the seminal CJ forever, even if the mother of all off-road vehicles underwent updates from time to time. Besides, it is always dangerous to bet on one horse, which is why it was looking to broaden its horizons. Incidentally, Jeep did have a Station Wagon in the range, but that was nothing more than a closed and extended version of the model that originated in the Willy's Overland.

Consumers were becoming more spoilt and spartan vehicles would not make it in the long run. Of course, the added value of a Jeep school in its off-road capabilities, so a new model was not allowed to fail on that front. With the 1963 Wagoneer, a station wagon emerged with ample ground clearance, the option of four-wheel drive and enough structural potential to tow heavy trailers in addition. It provided an unprecedentedly versatile package, which had discovered a gap in the market. The model caught on well and soon became a welcome guest in hunting and among fishermen, to name just a few of the legion of user groups.

Jeep Wagoneer - sideview

Selec-Trac, Quadra-Trac

Skipping the first ten model years, as mentioned, we make a jump to 1973, when Jeep was already under AMC (American Motors Corporation) for a while. Incidentally, it had already appealed to this concern earlier for the supply of certain engines and by now only blocks of this origin could be offered to customers. That year, it limited itself to a 5.9 V8, but simultaneously with the arrival of the Cherokee in 1974, it rounded down the powertrain range to a 4.2 six-cylinder and a 6.6 V8. Transmissions counted three gears, in both manual and automatic capacities.

Only in the early 1980s did Jeep introduce four- and five-speed manual transmissions. Depending on the version, Selec-Trac or Quadra-Trac controlled the four wheels, the difference being that the latter did so permanently. They kept the choice in body shapes simple: the Cherokee existed with and without rear doors, the Wagoneer invariably had four doors and then they distinguished the Pick-up, which, incidentally, we consider less relevant in this story.

Luxury versions of the Jeep Cherokee and Wageneer
There were plenty of options to dress up the Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer. Options ranged from a Trailer Towing Package and a snow plow to air conditioning, cruise control and a power window in the tailgate. Furthermore, buyers could opt for luxurious and beautifully dressed versions, such as the Chief, Pioneer and Golden Eagle on the Cherokee and the Limited on the Wagoneer.

From 1983, the latter model had to do the honours on its own. From now on, Jeep hung the Grand Wagoneer label on it, as the Cherokee shrank considerably in the transformation it experienced. Three years later, they drove the cars further apart by scrapping the six-cylinder engine in the 'heavy boy', leaving only the 5.9. By 1980, the 6.6 had already gone, following the second energy crisis. The year 1991 was to be the last for the Grand Wagoneer, with the decades more modern Grand Cherokee approaching.

Vintage Wagoneer - rear view

Buying a vintage Jeep Cherokee or Wagoneer?

Things are looking up for the Cherokee and Wagoneer in the world of classics. The intransigence they exude, the solid and hard-wearing engineering, the practical interior with the fold-down rear seats and the comparatively comfortable handling score points, and in the process, owners take the particularly high fuel consumption for granted, partly because the engines show a willingness to run on LPG. The six-cylinder struggles hard in these behemoths, so rather opt for a V8.

Infallible these cars are not: those who mistreat them by driving them ferociously will sooner or later get the bill. Cruising and never going to extremes is the motto. Furthermore, maintenance listens pretty closely. A freshly imported car from the States can have unpleasant surprises, because they have different ideas about preserving the technical components than here.

Furthermore, be prepared for the risk of serious rusting, because these Jeeps were hardly protected against it at the factory. Preferably invest in a healthy specimen, then you will save yourself a lot of trouble and its value will be retained, unlike a modern SUV. Another advantage: with these forsized 4x4s, you won't meet disapproving looks, but thumbs up.

Vintage Jeep engine