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While the Jeep Grand Wagoneer is not the first sport utility vehicle (SUV), it was a groundbreaking vehicle in that added luxury features to a 4x4 wagon, a template that would serve as a model to the legions of SUVs that followed it.
The Jeep Grand Wagoneer wasn't the first vehicle to be marketed with the term “Sport Utility,” but nevertheless, this 4x4 luxury wagon that first appeared in 1963 probably was indeed the first vehicle worthy of the name. While other vehicles did combine some features of a truck with features of a traditional car, the Jeep Wagoneer was the first to include luxury features that made the Jeep Wagoneer appropriate and popular for everyday use by the typical driver.
By the early 90s, the Grand Wagoneer had one of the longest and richest histories of any vehicle, with about 30 years of production on the same SJ platform. Part of the Grand Wagoneer's legacy is thought to owe itself to the loyalty of its owners, who continued to buy new Grand Wagoneers when their old ones wore out.
Some variation of the Wagoneer appeared each year until 1970, when the American Motors Corporation (AMC), took over the Kaiser Jeep Corporation and upgraded and updated the Wagoneer, which had seen few big changes over the years. The Jeep Wagoneer remained part of AMC's line up, with various changes, until 1984, when its FSJ trim became the Grand Wagoneer, with the Wagoneer nameplate now being applied to a smaller, more efficient vehicle using the XJ unibody platform as opposed to the old Wagoneer's body on frame SJ platform. Even after ownership transferred to Chrysler, Jeep continued to pump out Grand Wagoneer until 1993.
The latest edition of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer was a four-door SUV that featured a 5.2-liter, V-8 engine linked to a four-speed automatic transmission. This all-wheel drive vehicle's engine could deliver 220 horsepower and 285 lb-ft of torque. It's maximum towing capacity was 5000 lbs. and its maximum payload was 1150 lbs. Standard features on the 1993 Jeep Grand Wagoneer included tinted glass, wood interior trim, leather steering wheel trim, power leather front seats, power steering, locks and windows, a roof rack, keyless entry, air conditioning, premium audio, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a four-wheel anti-lock braking system.
The first Jeep Wagoneer was created by Willys-Overland Motors, a subsidiary of the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, as a response to other major auto manufacturers intruding on the 4x4 market. The full-size body on frame design of the Jeep Wagoneer was based on the Jeep Gladiator pickup. These first Wagoneers could be had as two door, two door panel truck or four door models. The original Wagoneers featured a 3.8-liter, six-cylinder engine which cranked out 140 horsepower. Seat belts were an option on the 1963 model, while air conditioning was installed in 1964. In 1965, Wagoneer owners could upgrade to a 5.4-liter, V-8 engine offering 250 horses. In 1966 came the vehicle that many believe changed the way full-size wagons were thought of and paved the way for the SUVs of today. The Super Wagoneer not only had an even more powerful V-8 engine that delivered 270 horsepower, it also had an array of standard conveniences that are commonplace today but may have seen extravagant at the time, including multi position tilt steering, power tailgate, brakes and steering, radio and air conditioning. In 1967, rear wheel drive versions of the Wagoneer were discontinued, the two door models followed in 1968. From 1968 to 1971, Wagoneers featured a 5.7-liter, V-8 engine. This engine produced only 230 horsepower but did provide 340 lb-ft of torque.
The 1970s models of the Jeep Wagoneer represented AMC's acquiring of the brand. AMC added many improvements to the Wagoneer, including reducing wind noise and vibration. In 1971, the Wagoneer received a new engine yet again, a 5.9-liter V-8. A 6.6-liter engine was also available. In 1973, the QuadraTrac all-wheel drive system was introduced. In 1983, the SelecTrac 3-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive became standard. In 1981, several models of Wagoneer were offered, with the top of the line model known as the Limited. The Limited Wagoneer included QuadraTrac, automatic transmission, power front seats, windows and door locks, cruise control, and other luxury features.
In 1984, the Wagoneer name was repurposed for a smaller and more efficient SUV, one based on the unibody XJ platform. From then on, the Jeep Wagoneer FSJ became known as the Grand Wagoneer. When Chrysler purchased AMC in 1987, it continued to put out the Grand Wagoneer, and in fact, Chrysler's Grand Wagoneers were considered some of the best of the line. Chrysler stopped producing the traditional Grand Wagoneer in the early 90s, replacing it with the smaller Grand Wagoneer ZJ in 1993.