As an owner of a 1991 Grand Wagoneer (commonly nicknamed “Effie” for FE, or Final Edition), it’s been fun to judge the popularity of these iconic wood paneled classics. It appears as though they’ve been increasing in popularity as of late, creating opportunities for collectors who want to preserve and restore these original luxury sport utility vehicles which pre-dated the Range Rover by a decade.
Many people assume the Wagoneer is a 70s vintage vehicle based on the wood panels and the styling. In reality, it was launched in the early 1960s and was built into the 1990s. Introduced under the Willys/Kaiser regime (1963 to 1971) and continuing through the AMC and Chrysler years, it was known as the SJ platform, the longest domestically produced SUV built on the same platform.
The 13 MPG (highway) fuel economy and the rather underwhelming 144 hp rating are this Jeep’s only real liabilities. The Grand Wagoneer has a surprisingly comfortable ride and a basic three-speed automatic transmission that does what it needs to with little fuss.
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The Wagoneer’s basic engines in the latter years were the Chrysler 360 cubic-inch engine which had the distinction of being the last carbureted engine offered in North America. Regardless of which V-8 is under the hood of your Grand Wagoneer, none provides more than just adequate horsepower. However, all are quite long-lived. The chassis is similarly solid and overall durability is legendary.
A unique and convenient feature is the ability to switch into 4WD without having to stop, lock the hubs, or put the car in neutral as was the case with most SUVs of the era. With the Wagoneer, you can be traveling at 60 MPH and switch seamlessly into 4WD.
Minor cosmetic differences were most noticeable in the front grille and rear taillights throughout the Wagoneer’s 28-year tenure. Of course, the powertrain was modified under each manufacturer and Chrysler ended the classic with features including an overhead console, dual power seats, digital compass and — my favorite — the “Final Edition” badge affixed to the dashboard of the last 1991 models.
You’ll find that these SUVs aren’t difficult to maintain, and they really are built like tanks. The sheet metal and engine are heavier, and the chrome is thicker giving your Wagoneer a solid feel and a remarkable resilience.
Market-wise, the Grand Wagoneer is on the rise. While it’s somewhat easy to find Wagoneers that need everything (typically around $4,500) and those in perfect condition (such as very expensive examples of the FE models, which can reach or exceed $90,000), the nice driver-quality ones are getting rather scarce.
As for investment potential, I don’t intend to ever sell mine — my 11-year-old son has already claimed it! And personally, I have so enjoyed the simple joy of driving around town. It is a topic of conversation wherever we go, especially at gas stations where the Wagoneer enjoys its frequent fill-ups.
Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He is also author of the book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, available at Amazon. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) of driving age. Jason is also a certified appraiser and would be more than happy to assist in helping valuate your collection or answer any of your questions about cars. Email him at email@example.com.