Jeep Wagoneer

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Jeep Wagoneer 1974 Specifications

 1963 - 1991
5900cc / 360 cu in
195 bhp @ 4400 rpm
3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
94 mph
Number Built:
4 star
Jeep Wagoneer 1974 Specifications
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


If we asked you to name the first luxury 4 x 4, and your answer was the Range-Rover, you would be wrong. Long before came the Jeep Wagoneer, based on the Jeep SJ platform and debuting seven years (24 years in the United States) before Land Rover's Range-Rover. And this at a time when Four-wheel-drive vehicles were traditionally stark, no-nonsense utilitarian type machines. The Jeep of World War 2, for all its other virtues, offered little in the way of ride, comfort, handling or sophisticated engineering.

Twenty years after the war and things had changed little - no one would have predicted the changes that were about to take place in 4wd vehicles in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The idea of these type of vehicles being fitted with automatic transmissions, air-conditioning, disc brakes, radial tyres and fulltime 4-wheel drive would have been laughed at.

The Willys and Kaiser Wagoneer

Conceived in the early 1960s while Willys-Overland Motors was owned by Kaiser Jeep Corporation, the Wagoneer (marketed as a station wagon, the term "SUV" was not used until many years later) replaced the original Willys Jeep Station Wagon, which dated to 1946. With competition from the "Big Three" advancing on Jeep's four-wheel-drive market, Willys management decided that a new and more advanced vehicle was needed.

The new 1963 Wagoneer, like its long-lived predecessor (which would, in fact, be sold alongside its replacement in the U.S. until 1965), was designed by industrial designer Brooks Stevens. Willys' engineering staff, under the direction of A.C. Sampietro, handled the technical development. The cost of development was around US$20 million.

The original Wagoneer was a full-size, body-on-frame vehicle which shared its architecture with the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck. It was originally available in two and four-door body styles, with the two-door also available as a panel truck with windowless sides behind the doors and double "barn doors" in the rear instead of the usual tailgate and roll-down rear window.

Early Wagoneers were powered by Willys' then new "Tornado" SOHC 230 cu in (3.8 litre) six-cylinder engine, which had debuted in 1962 as an option for Jeep's older-style station wagons. The engine developed 140 hp (104 kW) and was noted for being quite fuel-efficient for its day. However, the engine was not without its problems; cooling issues were fairly common. And, in higher-altitude locales, "pinging" was a problem, leading the company to introduce a lower-compression version of the Tornado that developed 133 hp (99 kW) for 1964.

In early 1963, Willys Motors changed its name to Kaiser Jeep Corporation. This was to associate Jeep in the public consciousness with Kaiser's family of companies, said company president Steven Girard. Seat belts were optional. There were few other changes for 1964, except for the option of factory-installed air-conditioning. Late-year 1965 Wagoneers and Gladiator pickup trucks were available with the 250 hp (186 kW) 327 cu in (5.4 L) AMC V8 engine, which proved to be a popular option. Additionally, the Tornado engine was replaced by American Motors' 232 cu in (3.8 litre) OHV inline six. According to the automotive press this engine was smooth, powerful, reliable and easily maintained.

The 1966 model year also saw the introduction of the more luxurious Super Wagoneer, initially with a higher-performance 270 hp (201 kW) version of the AMC V8, fitted with a four-barrel carburetor. With comfort and convenience features not found on other vehicles of its type at the time - e.g. push-button radio, seven-position tilt steering wheel, ceiling courtesy lights, air-conditioning, power tailgate, power brakes, power steering, and console-shifted TH400 automatic transmission – the Super Wagoneer is now widely regarded as the precursor of today's luxury SUVs. Production of the Super Wagoneer ended in 1969. Brakes were 11 inch drums.

Two-wheel drive models, which the four-wheel-drives had outsold from the beginning, were discontinued after the 1967 model year, and at the end of 1968 the slow-selling two-door versions were also discontinued. For 1968 through 1971 Wagoneers were powered by Buick’s 350 cu in (5.7 L) 230 hp (172 kW) Dauntless V8. The Buick made less horsepower than the previous AMC V8 (230 hp vs. 250), but more torque at lower rpm (350 foot-pounds force (470 N·m) at 2400 rpm vs. 340 ft·lbf (460 N·m) at 2600), and it had 5 main bearings instead of the AMC’s 4.
After the 1971 model year, Wagoneers were exclusively AMC powered.

American Motors Corporation

In early 1970 American Motors Corporation (AMC) acquired Kaiser Jeep Corporation and set about refining and upgrading the range. AMC also improved manufacturing efficiency and lowered costs by incorporating shared components such as engines. Reducing noise, vibration, and harshness improved the Wagoneer driving experience. The 1971 model year included a special "X-coded" model finished in Golden Lime with unique wood-grain side panels, numerous convenience features and power assists, that was priced $1,000 more than the deluxe "Custom" model. After 1971, the outsourced Buick 350 was replaced by the 360 cu in (5.9 litre) AMC V8, and later the 401 cu in (6.6 litre) was made available.

The Jeep Wagoneer was actually mid-sized by U.S. standards - it wasn’t as big and didn’t have the carrying capacity of the Chevrolet Suburban or International Travelall; but it wasn't as small and didn't have the same off-pavement agility as the "real" Jeep, the CJ-5, or the Toyota Land Cruiser; but taken as a mid-range compromise between these extremes it was arguably the best of the lot. And it was very good, enjoying one of the longest production runs in U.S. automotive history, being beaten only by the Dodge Ram Van, in production for 32 years between 1971 and 2000), and the Ford C-Series truck, which had a 33-year run from 1957 to 1990.

Compared with offerings from International Harvester and Land Rover - which were producing utilitarian work-oriented vehicles that were quite spartan and truck-like on the inside - the Wagoneer was the first true luxury 4x4. It was also one of the last few vehicles sold in the United States (and the final SUV) whose engine still used a carburetor for fuel delivery, well after most other vehicles had switched to fuel injection. In overall length and width it was similar in dimensions to such vehicles as the Mercedes 230, Volvo 145 or BMW 3.0, though it was of course taller than any of these. It was relatively efficient in its use of space, offering seating for six people plus a practical amount of luggage space to the rear. To make room for more gear when there were fewer people, the rear seat folded up against the front to give a flat cargo area over 5 ft long.

With the 1974 model the Wagoneer became Jeep's all-out luxury model, being offered only with a reasonably complete list of equipment. There was no longer a 6-cylinder engine for the Wagoneer, for instance, nor a manual transmission; these items were reserved for a new 2-door wagon called the Cherokee. The Wagoneer was the top of the Jeep line. The basic engine for the Wagoneer was a 2-barrel 360-cu-in. 5.9-litre V8; it, like all Jeep engines of the era, was built by the parent corporation American Motors. In addition, a 4-barrel 360 and a 4-barrel 401 V8 were on the option list. The automatic transmission was standard and this was General Motors' Turbo Hydra-Matic, generally regarded as the best in the business.


One of the characteristics that put the Wagoneer ahead of its competition was its fulltime 4-wheel-drive system. Fulltime 4wd was one of the mechanical advancements that had been standing in the wings for many years. Before it came into use the typical 4WD would run in 2-wheel drive when on a hard-surfaced road and was then shifted manually into 4-wheel drive when marginal traction conditions were encountered. Many still use this type of system, but the switch is automated. The fulltime system used by Jeep, called "Quadra-Trac," was built by Warner Gear. This used a chain-driven transfer case that distributed power to the front and rear drive-shafts. What made Quadra-Trac different from other fulltime 4wd systems being offered at the time was a limited-slip differential in the transfer case that operated between the two drive-shafts. This meant that a front or rear wheel could lose traction and yet the other set of wheels would continue to deliver power to the road.

The other fulltime available in the U.S. at the time was built by Chrysler's New Process Division; it, though also chain-driven, had an open differential between the drive-shafts. This meant that the loss of traction at any one wheel (assuming there was not a limited-slip differential in the axles) resulted in a loss of tractive force at all wheels. In both systems there was a lockout device by which the centre differential could be disengaged, thereby giving the constant drive to both front and rear drive-shafts as in the conventional part-time 4wd system. Quadra-Trac, though superior to the New Process system, was not what could be called a sophisticated system in comparison to the much more complicated and expensive Ferguson Formula 4wd developed in England and used on the Jensen FF and FF Capri from around the same era. The Quadra-Trac system did not have built-in sensing devices that precluded wheel slip, as did the Ferguson; nor did it incorporate an anti-skid braking device. It was, however, reasonably inexpensive, coming to less than $150 more than the 2-speed, conventional Dana 20 transfer case it replaced.

With this 1974 model Wagoneer there were front disc brakes, a Dana 44 front axle and Saginaw variable-ratio power steering. All these were welcome additions since previous Wagoneers were not very good at stopping, had an awkwardly long turning circle and the worst sort of no-feel power steering. With these improvements the Wagoneer was finally able to stop in a reasonable distance, with negligible brake fade, while the turning circle was reduced to about 38 ft (instead of 44) and the power steering came a lot closer to approximating reality. The suspension of the Wagoneer was typical American 4wd practice for the time; that is, it had live axles, leaf springs and tube-type shocks at both front and rear. Though admittedly crude, there was really nothing wrong with leaf springs on a 4WD: they could, when properly engineered, do a satisfactory job if you were willing to accept the limitations inherent in their use.

The difficulties arose when you also wanted a low-profile appearance and a low centre of gravity for handling – and these are not really a requirement off-road. Jeep did a better job than most manufacturers in this regard, but since the front axle had to run underneath the engine there was a built-in limitation that was hard to avoid. The gyroscopic effect of wheels spinning on the ends of a steered solid axle was made almost unnoticeable by the use of power steering but it was nevertheless true that the Wagoneer was never going to challenge a sports car in the handling stakes. The most serious shortcoming in the Wagoneer's suspension (once the basic limitations were accepted) was its lack of front-end suspension travel. In this area Chevrolet had done a better job with its 4wd Blazer and pickups, although the performance of these vehicles was compromised by too little suspension damping in the standard versions and by a considerably higher centre of gravity as well as a higher profile.

As for optional equipment, the Wagoneer had just about everything then available on a U.S. manufactured car. There was a top notch air-conditioning system (though it was yet to be integrated into the dashboard), optional bucket seats with centre armrest, AM/FM radio, tinted glass, electrically operated tailgate window, forged aluminium wheels, roof rack, rear spoiler, wood-grained vinyl trim strip down the side and so on. Driving such a vehicle as the Wagoneer was different from a typical sedan or station wagon of comparable dimensions. Getting inside, you immediately became aware that you were sitting high up, a position that most drivers quickly learned to like judging by the numbers of soft-roaders on the roads today. Of course the attraction of the added height was the commanding view of the road.

The Wagoneer’s steering wheel was small when compared even to U.S. sedans from the early 1970s, and the steering column had an optional tilt-adjust feature that made it reasonably easy to find a comfortable driving position. In normal driving there was no clue that the Wagoneer had fulltime 4-wheel drive. Pushed toward the limit, however, it did offer increased traction; and after becoming familiar with this the driver could lay into the throttle to a degree that would have the typical rear-wheel-drive car putting itself off the far side of the road. In ultimate cornering power, there was a marked superiority that could be demonstrated by the Quadra-Trac fulltime 4wd system.

But as good as the Quadra-Trac system was, on the highway the Wagoneer was no Mercedes. In spite of its compact size it did not feel nimble, though in expert hands it could be made to cover even winding mountain roads at surprisingly high speed. It did not do this with grace or aplomb, however, the crude suspension and high centre of gravity discouraging anything of that sort. But the Wagoneer never pretended to have been designed for autobahn touring. It just happened that most owners used them that way – and rarely if ever ventured off road. For those that did leave the bitumen, the off-road ride was as good as can be expected given the limitations of the suspension.

The wheelbase was sufficiently long to avoid the tiresome fore-and-aft pitching common to too many 4wd machines, the suspension damping was good, the power steering made it easy to avoid the worst irregularities of the surface. In fact, the biggest complaint from road testers of the time seemed to be the amount of time the front axle spent in contact with the centre stop underneath the engine – although in doing so it was causing no harm to the vehicle. Although the Wagoneer hardly classified as an economy wagon in either purchase price (over $7000 in 1974) or fuel consumption (roughly 12 mpg), it was still a remarkably satisfactory compromise for the driver who wanted both acceptable paved-road performance and the ability to follow just about any trail that beckoned.

The 2 Door Wagoneer

It was also in 1974 that AMC resurrected the two-door Wagoneer as the Cherokee. This replaced the Jeepster Commando, whose sales had not met expectations despite an extensive 1972 revamp. The Cherokee appealed to a younger market than the Wagoneer, which was regarded more as a family SUV. There were few styling changes during this time. However after introducing the Cherokee, AMC began to move the Wagoneer upmarket that brought high demand from a new market segment. The Limited, more luxuriously equipped than the earlier Super Wagoneer, offered Quadra-Trac, power disk brakes, air-conditioning, power-adjustable bucket seats, power door locks, power windows, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, leather upholstery, plush carpeting, AM/FM/CB radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rack, forged aluminum wheels, and “wood grain” trim on the body sides.

The 2-barrel, 360 cu in (5.9 litre) AMC V8 engine was standard with a 4-barrel, 401 cu in (6.6 litre) available at extra cost. Even though the US$10,500 suggested retail price was in luxury Cadillac territory,[citation needed] the Limited’s high-level specification attracted buyers and sales were strong with a total of 28,871 Wagoneers produced in 1978, and 27,437 in 1979. With the V8s the primary choice among Wagoneer buyers, the 258 cu in (4.2 litre) six-cylinder engine was dropped in the 1970s, only to return as an option when Jeep sales – particularly of the high-volume Cherokee – were hit by the 1979 fuel crisis. (The Wagoneer continued to sell relatively well after production dropped to 10,481 in 1980, but increased to 13,741 in 1981, 18,709 in 1982, and 18,478 in 1983.) When reintroduced, the engine came with manual transmission as standard equipment, but in 1983 automatic transmission with “Selec-Trac” four-wheel drive became standard.

With this combination the Wagoneer achieved EPA fuel-consumption estimates of 18 mpg-US (13 L/100 km; 22 mpg-imp) city and 25 mpg-US (9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg-imp) highway – outstanding for a full-size SUV.[10] This allowed the company to advertise good fuel mileage, although the more powerful 360 V8 remained popular with certain buyers despite its greater thirst for fuel. In 1981, the Wagoneer line was expanded to three models. The Custom Wagoneer was the basic model, yet it included a 4-speed transmission, free-wheeling hubs, power steering and power front disc brakes, as well as passenger area carpeting. A new Brougham model added an upgraded interior trim that included woodgrain for the instrument cluster and horn cover, floor mats, power tailgate window, as well as the "Convenience" and "Light" Packages.

The Brougham's exterior included a thin side body scuff moulding with a narrow woodgrain insert, roof rack, as well as bright door and quarter window frames, and a lower tailgate moulding. The Limited Wagoneer was the top-of-the line with standard Quadra-Trac, automatic transmission, air-conditioning, tinted glass, power windows and door locks, cruise control, AM/FM stereo radio, extra quiet insulation, power six-way driver and passenger bucket seats with center armrest, upgraded door panels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, extra thick carpeting, and retractable cargo cover. The basic "Custom" model was eliminated for 1983, and a new Select-Trac system became standard equipment. A dash-mounted control allowed the driver to change between two- and four-wheel drive. The switch activated a vacuum-activated spline clutch that was built into the front axle assembly. The 1984 saw consolidation with the end of the Brougham model, while the Limited became the Grand Wagoneer. Thus, starting in 1984, only one fully equipped version was available, and this would remain until the end of the Grand Wagoneer production under Chrysler. Production reached 20,019 in 1984 with just one version available.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer

An improved handling package was introduced in 1985 that incorporated a revised front sway bar, gas filled shock absorbers, and lower friction rear springs. A total of 17,814 Grand Wagoneers were built for 1985. Starting in the 1986 model year, the Grand Wagoneer received a new four part front grille and a stand-up hood ornament. An updated audio system became a standard feature and a power sunroof installed by the now defunct American Sunroof Company, became a factory option. However, the most significant change was the installation of a fully revamped interior including a new dashpad, new instrumentation, new door panel design, a decorative tailgate "cap", shorter nap cut-pile carpeting, more modern headliner and visors, new leather seat cover designs and front seats that now featured adjustable headrests. Changes were made to the instrument panel that now featured square gauges, featured woodgrain overlays and contained an improved climate control system.

A new two spoke steering wheel also included new stalks for the lights and wiper/washer controls on the column. The Select-Trac driveline gained a new Trac-Lok limited slip differential to send power to the wheel with the best traction. There were 17,254 Grand Wagoneers built in 1986. The last model year developed under AMC, 1987, was also the 25th anniversary of the Wagoneer design. Standard equipment included the 360 cu in (5.9 litre) V8 engine and self-sealing Michelin "Tru Seal" P235/75R 15 radial tires. The sound system included a new AM/FM electronically tuned stereo with Dolby cassette and four Jensen speakers. The exterior featured revised woodgrained sides in English Walnut with new nameplates and V8 badges. On the inside were new tan or cordovan trims that replaced the honey and garnet colors, while the interior assist pulls on the door panels were removed. A combined 14,265 units were built by AMC and Chrysler for 1987.

XJ Wagoneer/Cherokee

The Wagoneer and Cherokee names were applied to the new, much-smaller and more fuel-efficient unibody XJ platform in 1984, but high demand prompted the company to keep the old SJ-body Wagoneer in production. The full-sized Wagoneer Limited was renamed the Grand Wagoneer. The XJ Wagoneer and Cherokee were basically identical, except that the Wagoneer had vertically stacked low and high beam headights with front turn signals moved behind the grille, and the woodgrain side panels of SJ tradition. In mid-1984, Jeep introduced a less expensive version of the Grand Wagoneer named the Wagoneer Custom without the simulated woodgrain exterior. Wheels were steel with hubcaps, and standard equipment was pared down. It had part-time four-wheel drive. Despite its lower price (US$15,995, about $3,000 less than the "Grand"), sales were poor. The Grand Wagoneer remained "the gold standard of the SUV market" and it would continue in one version using the old SJ-body "for 1985 and beyond".

Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Chrysler bought out American Motors on March 2, 1987. Despite its advancing age the Grand Wagoneer remained popular. Chrysler largely left it untouched over its few years overseeing Grand Wagoneer production from the final setup under AMC's watch, and even continued to build the Grand Wagoneer with the carbureted AMC V8 instead of its own (and, arguably, more modern) fuel-injected V8s. Year-to-year changes were minimal. At the time of Chrysler's purchase, customer demand for the Grand Wagoneers continued to be steady, and it was a very profitable model generating approximately five to six thousand dollars on each unit. The 1987-1991 model years "are considered the best of the breed" due to a number of upgrades. These include upgraded wood siding and modernized aluminum wheels that lost their gold colored inlays in favor of gunmetal grey metallic. All exterior colors were now applied in a two stage base/clearcoat system.

Finally, a number of further improvements were made for the 1989-1991 model year series including a quality replacement for the earlier, leak-prone air-conditioning compressor, the addition of the visually identifiable rear wiper assembly, as well as a general improvement in fit and finish. An interior overhead console, taken from Chrysler's popular minivans, was also added. This functional console featured much brighter map lights, an outside temperature sensor and compass, and an infrared remote-controlled key-less entry system. The last model years also featured new paint colors. These "new" colors included the rare Hunter Green metallic that was only available in the 1991 model year and is the paint color of the 91 Grand Wagoneer in the Chrysler museum, as well as the color of the very last Grand Wagoneer ever made, which was a significant part of the historic collection at the National Automobile museum.

The Last Wagoneer

The very last Grand Wagoneer ever produced rolled off of Chrysler's Toledo assembly line on June 21, 1991, as documented in official correspondence between the general manager of Chrysler's Jeep division with the National Automobile Museum, where this very special Jeep was displayed until 2004 before being purchased by a private collector. This Hunter Green metallic with Dark Sand tan leather Jeep's status as the official "last Grand Wagoneer" can also be verified by the fact that it bears the last (highest) Vehicle Identification Number (serial number) in the series. It was used for several Jeep and Chrysler promotional events in the second half of 1991 culminating in an honorary parade in Reno, Nevada, on November 14 of that year, that commemorated the Chrysler corporation's transfer to the museum collection. Larry Baker, general manager of the Jeep/Eagle Division of Chrysler Corporation observed "Jeep celebrates its 50th anniversary in 1991 and the Grand Wagoneer has been the flagship of the Jeep brand for much of that history".
Jeep Wagoneer
Jeep Wagoneer

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Jeep - The Toughest Word on Four Wheels (USA Edition)
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