In 1962, Kaiser introduced the Grand Wagoneer as a replacement for the Willys Jeep Station Wagon. 10 years later, AMC was announcing the introduction of Quadra-Trac 4WD. Almost 30 years ago to the day, on June 21st, 1991, the last Jeep Grand Wagoneer rolled off Chrysler’s Toledo, Ohio, assembly line.
If you count the 1993-only ZJ, the Grand Wagoneer existed for 30 years.
Aside from the 1993-only ZJ, the Grand Wagoneer was more or less the same truck underneath for the better part of 30 years. And because they were still makin’ ‘em the way they used to make ‘em back in those days, enough of them have survived to be highly sought-after collectibles.
If you haven’t priced a Grand Wagoneer recently, let’s just say they’re selling in the US$80-$120,000 range. So when I’m checking out what folks are up to in the Crankshaft Culture Facebook group and see someone say he’s working on a Grand Wagoneer, I have to ask about it. As expected…
It’s an amazing machine!
[tgp] Introductions: We’re all about the respect and recognizing the people behind the amazing machines we feature. Can I get your real name? Maybe where you live and what you do for a living?
[ss] My name is Scott Schoenfelder and I am the New Product Development Engineer for a company called RalliTEK. I get to design products to make your Subaru more off-road capable and also I get to test the products too!
[tgp] Tell me a little bit about your Jeep. Year, model, options, etc. What makes it special?
[ss] Casper is a 1986 Grand Wagoneer with the 360 engine, TF727 trans Dana 44 front axle, and the AMC 20 rear axle. What makes it special is that my wife has wanted one for a long time and we get to work on it together.
On Grand Wagoneers
[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As a Grand Wagoneer owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them?
[ss] Personally, I didn’t think too much of them before we bought ours. The wood grain is awesome, but the electrics in it are definitely dated and difficult to work with at times. I’ve grown to love the looks and the character that it has and it will definitely make a great family adventure vehicle in the end.
So far, what I do not love about it in general is the lack of aftermarket support. I’m used to the C10 world as far as parts go and you can literally order an entire truck from a magazine. Not true with the Grand Wagoneer at all.
[tgp] Grand Wagoneers are incredibly rare and appreciating like mad for a decade or more. Most of the time, when you see one like yours, it’s for sale for north of US$60,000. You found yours for quite a bit less than that. Were you looking for one of these trucks, specifically, or what?
[ss] We were looking for one for my wife to eventually drive the kiddos around in and do some light wheeling in. Our budget was pretty low so we were mostly just browsing every once in a while until we found ours. We picked it up for under $1,000 as a non-running project and drug it home.
It needs a ton of work but so far we have gotten it running again, replaced all the brakes, packed the front wheel bearings and added a small lift that I picked up for free. We both got to drive it on the release day of the new 2022 Grand Wagoneer. Nothing like a little motivation to get it driving again. It does need a motor, unfortunately, but I sourced a replacement 360 from a friend that will go in this summer.
[tgp] What’s the ownership experience been like so far? How easy is it to work on? To source parts? Does the “Jeep Tax” still apply? (Maybe consider this the Wagoneer vs. Other Jeeps vs. Other 4WD SUVs question?)
[ss] There is definitely a Grand Wagoneer tax on parts and a lot of the “hard parts” are challenging to come by, but we have been lucky with some good used replacement parts. Working on it for me isn’t any different than my YJ or other 4×4 I’ve had so far.
The Jeep Wagoneer Community
[tgp] How’s the Jeep Wagoneer community doing these days? There are TONS of places to go for Wrangler tech and community—#jeepwave, #wayalife—but where do the Wagoneer owners hang out?
[ss] I have joined quite a few full size Jeep pages on Facebook and the other members seem to be really into helping others out. I feel that the community has the feeling of we are all in it together when it comes to the silly quirks, part ordering, and general modifications, so it has been a real good experience.
I’ve gotten a lot of help from the members of the Full Size Jeep (FSJ) Enthusiasts page and I’ve also joined the Full Size Jeep LS Swap page too—maybe a little look into the future of Casper. (wink) I’ve also seen a plethora of information over on www.ifsja.org as well.
[tgp] What’s the best source of information on these trucks? If I wanted to dive deep and really learn all there is to know about Jeep Grand Wagoneers, where’s the first place you’d point me (and why)?
[ss] I would point you towards www.ifsja.org, as there are countless threads on everything FSJ and so many helpful members to steer you in the right direction.
This Gearhead Life
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
[ss] Honestly, I see so much hate and disrespect from the automotive community that a lot of people are discouraged to show their build off. I have seen super clean builds get torn apart because someone else thought they should have done it differently and the owner looked so discouraged. I would love to see us come together and, while maybe what we are looking at isn’t our cup of tea, we respect the work and the effort that they put into it to get it to that point.
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[ss] Like most, my dad has made a huge influence on me being the car nut that I am today, and my good friend, Sean, showed me how to hone my skills.
Sean and I have spent hours in the garage together, whether it’s working on swapping full M3 drivetrain into a 3-series wagon, Coyote-swapping his and a client’s F100, LS-swapping my old ‘66 C10, working on our wheelers, or just having a good time turning wrenches. Sean has shown me that spending an extra couple minutes on the aesthetics will go a mile when the customer picks the car up or you are talking to others about your build.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Scott. Keep us posted on the project.
I really like what Scott says up there about respecting others’ builds. We’ve all heard it before and we’ve all got “just a couple exceptions” to that rule. But here’s a scary thought—What if the people we disrespect like that stop playing with cars altogether? Once enough people decide it’s not worth the hassle and they don’t need cars anymore, we’ll become ghosts, ourselves.
So let’s be friendly! Like Casper, here. Just because it seems like the only people getting into Grand Wagoneers these days are writing six-figure checks for them doesn’t mean you can’t still find one in need of a good home—you just gotta be willing to do your homework and go the distance.
It’s a lot like the Grand Wagoneer, really. These old trucks have nothing to prove at this point. They just show up and look awesome. The feel-good vibes they bring when you spot those classic lines that take you back to summers on Lake Potowotominimac with the Ripleys and Craigs do all the talking.
And everybody wants a piece of that.