A Grand Wagoneer Returns to the Open Road

This is not Dave, but it could be his Jeep. 

My colleague Dave is a pretty cool guy. He 's got a great sense of humor, works in the same industry that I do, and he's good at what he does. He also grew up knowing legendary comedic actor Thomas Lennon before he donned extremely short shorts and chased bad guys in Reno. Dave also has a great hobby...he's really into Jeeps. His 1983 CJ-7 trail rig is a really slick machine that he's done a lot to over the years. He's also active in  the Mid-Illini Jeepers club. I didn't know until recently that he also had another Jeep project that he was slowly working on in his spare time...a 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer that was in dire need of an organ transplant. Dave successfully completed this surgery and drove it to work one sunny day. He invited me over to check out his progress, and I snapped a few pictures of this top-of-the-line grandpappy of the modern-day SUV. 

The Jeep Wagoneer debuted in 1963, and was largely untouched during its nearly 30-year run. 

Dave's Grand Wagoneer was purchased many moons ago and for a while served as a toy. It had a little rust, and a 360 V8 that had 'broken pieces of the bottom end in the oil pan'. A quick auto parts store reman engine swap got him up & running and Dave had fun with the Jeep for a few years.

It eventually turned into a parts donor for his CJ-7 after a few seasons. First the remanufactured 360 was plucked for a replacement motor for his trail rig. The Wagoneer sat with a hollow engine bay and retained its 727 Torqueflite transmission until Dave burned up the trans in his CJ-7. The choice was clear: yank the Wagoneer's trans. (Its still in his CJ-7). Dave eventually grew sad looking at his lifeless Wagoneer in the garage, and decided to do what many resourceful gearheads do: A budget build.

A cast-off AMC 304 V-8 was freshened up and a new Edelbrock Performer carburetor was sourced for the Wagoneer's motivation. The combination would likely yield better economy than the larger 360, which wasn't known for sipping fuel. As for the transmission? Dave learned how to rebuild an automatic by tackling the blown 727 from his CJ-7 and getting it back into shape. After bolting it to the 304 and dropping it between the frame rails, he learned that his months of studying had paid off. The Jeep ran under its own power earlier this summer and his progress hasn't gone unnoticed.

To top off the look, Dave chose to remove the stock front grille treatment and use the original 1963-style trim, headlights and grille. As it turns out, the original front end stamping remains in the later Wagoneer radiator support and header panel, so if an owner wanted to go 'vintage', all they have to do is source the old parts like Dave did and make the swap & weld up a few holes!

Sure, anyone could go to Texas and plop down $30,000 for a restored Wagoneer from these guys, but what fun would that be? Dave did his up the old-fashioned way and put it back together in his garage with spare parts and lots of research. Now that its runs & drives, Dave hopes his family can start to enjoy going to Jeep functions and perhaps take a few cruises here and there. Nice job, Dave!  With the stylish lines, timeless 'woody' trim and legendary off-road capability, this classic Grand Wagoneer will join the thousands of others that'll hold up for another generation of Jeepers. 



  1. Another vintage Wagoneer photo


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