29 July 2007
Before there was an Escalade, a Navigator, or even a Range Rover, there was the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, created in somewhat less Grand form by Kaiser-Jeep in 1963 and perpetuated for twenty-eight years with relatively few mechanical changes, a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that Jeep changed hands twice during that period.
The Grand Wagoneer was dropped by Chrysler in 1991. A couple of years later, a Texas feedlot operator named Leon Miller, who had owned a series of them, called the company on the phone and complained. They put him through to Brooks Stevens, the original designer of the Wagoneer, who said something to this effect:
"You could bring these things back, redoing them and selling them. There's a market out there. People ask me all the time, 'Why did you quit making them?'"
Miller thought this wasn't a half-bad idea, and he rebuilt an old Wagoneer for himself. Then another, for a neighbor. In a year's time, he'd restored a dozen of them.
By contemporary standards, the Grand Wagoneer is, well, old: even in 1991 it still had solid axles at both ends, a pushrod V8 with a two-barrel carb, and a three-speed automatic. But it had its virtues: world-class rock-hopping ability, reasonable size barely fifteen feet long, and weight just upwards of two tons and the ability to tow 5000 lb. Besides, it's a woody, and who doesn't love a woody?
Today Miller has rebuilt over 1200 of these trucks to better-than-new condition. I picked one at random from his current inventory: it's an '88 with a shade over 20,000 miles in Dover Grey with a Burgundy interior. The list of refurbishments is considerable, and the price, $31,000, reflects that high level of work: this is not some used car, after all. (Active military get $500 off.) And if you'd like some more recent amenities, they can add CD players, satellite radio, sunroofs, and rear-seat entertainment systems.
I'm not really a Jeep person, but this was always my favorite of the line, and the fact that you can buy one today for about the price of some lesser SUV impresses me greatly.Posted at 9:43 AM to Driver's Seat , Entirely Too Cool