Introduced in the 1960s, the handsome Wagoneer was a Jeep for people who wanted four wheel drive in a civilized station wagon package. The hardy design soldiered on for thirty years. I loved these as a kid in Nantucket -- such great beach wagons. I located this one in Arizona in 2019. No fake trees were harmed on mine.
1979 was an important year in Wagoneer times: The vehicle's front end was revised and for the first time featured rectangular headlights, which had begun appearing on American cars in 1975 but were still a novel idea on a truck. The pressed metal straight grill that had awkwardly replaced the original handsome "gladiator" front was replaced with stronger, horizontal chrome bars that bumped out in acknowledgement of the hood's distinctive shape. This face would run through the mid-1980s. Perched prominently on the grill is the classic American Motors Corporation (AMC) badge.
Industrial designer Brooks Stevens penned the original Wagoneer, a successor to his Jeep wagon, for the 1963 model year, and the full-sized Jeep (FSJ) model would be in production for three decades -- through corporate ownership by Kaiser, AMC, and Chrysler.
My Wagoneer is a mix of eras. Bench seats, "dog dish" hubcaps, and manual windows, 1960s style. But cruise control, carpeted floors, a tilt steering wheel, a power back window, and AM/FM radio reflect modern times. This Wagoneer also has a V8 engine and a tow package.
This vehicle rides on new tires and has received recent mechanical love. It runs strong and handles well for a vehicle of its age and heft. It is very smooth and confident on the highway. Repainted a few years back in tan and bronze, the Jeep is not perfect -- Jeeps should never be perfect! -- but is turns heads and earns compliments everywhere it goes.
Photo right: For a neighborhood Halloween party, vehicles added interest. The Jeep featured a couple of friendly canines and the theme "Our Neighborhood is Going to the Dogs."
The legendary nameplate is coming back -- soon! Look for the $60,000 Wagoneer and $100,000+ Grand Wagoneer to launch in 2021 as a 2022 model. 30 years after the model wrapped, the name is strong as values of the vintage SUVs have surged.
My hope is that between here and production, this modern large SUV will gain some distinctive styling cues leading back to the classic model. How about those lovely sculpted taillights? Evoking one of the classic grills or the peaked hood? The shape of the back window? Memo to Stellantis -- Jeep Wagoneer fans will hear the call if you get the connection right. Also, how about in the base version offering a bench seat instead of wasting space? A new generation of outdoor sports lovers will thank you.