Just Add Wood Paneling – The Jeep Grand Wagoneer

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.

Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars (available now on Amazon)

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 jason@gdherring.com.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

More Posts

classic car storage

Classic Car Storage

How do you store a classic car? As with anything of value, carefully. If you’re like me, you’ve put a lot of resources into your collection, including money, attention and time. Classic cars are special, and while you can certainly use these guidelines in storing any car, these are my non-negotiable storage requirements for my personal collection.

comic book brubaker

(Comic) Collecting for Love

I’ve come across two works that have changed my perspective, and not just a little. The first is an HBO documentary about collecting modern art. Called “The Price of Everything,” it’s truly worth watching whether you’re a collector or not.

How Tom Peters Took the Corvette from Famous to Infamous!

The Classic Car Corner is thrilled to welcome Mr. Tom Peters! This fun and engaging show with the former Chief of Design for GM and designer of the C6, C7 and the latest C8 Corvette is not to be missed. Tune in and earn how Tom was inspired by the Corvette in his youth, how the evolution of the C6, C7 and C8 Corvette creations unfolded, and much more. Join us for a fascinating conversation with a national treasure of classic auto design!

Investing in Oriental Rugs – the Upside

When you buy a handmade rug from an original rug weaving country, you know you’re going to be able to enjoy it all your life. Your children are going to enjoy it. When you need to downsize in retirement, you may give the rug to a member of your family, your children, or your grandchildren and what they have will be worth a lot more than what you originally paid for it. That increase in value only comes from rugs made in original weaving countries.

Training Kids for Success with Danny Pohl

Classic Car Corner welcomes back Danny Pohl! We talk automotive vocational programs. We discuss the need for skilled trades, the benefits learning these trades provide, and how parents and kids can learn more about to be part of these programs in their areas. Listen in!