After buying 22 cars in five months on my recent reality show project, I’ve sold off (or buried) all but three of them. One is my 1995 Dodge Viper, which is nearing completion after its head gasket job, and the other is a 1994 Jeep Wrangler that was transformed into a Jurassic Park Jeep. Despite both of those cars being childhood dreams come true, my favorite "keeper" is by far my 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer … and Jeep was absolutely insane to quit making these. Or were they?
My Jeep is the first year of the Grand Wagoneer, and I actually prefer the older looking Grand Wagoneers to the newer (and more valuable) versions built after Chrysler acquired Jeep in 1987. The interior is where things are mostly different, as my 1984 still has the great looking round gauges that look like they’re from the 1950s, along with a center-mounted, metal-doored glove box — and extra thick shag carpeting. There are lots of other small touches that were lost with the interior face-lift under Chrysler, too, which, in my opinion, introduced way too much cheap looking plastic.
One thing the Grand Wagoneer never lost through these changes was its incredible comfort. The seats are unbelievably comfortable, and the ride quality is somewhere between my Buick Park Avenue and my Rolls Royce Phantom — yeah, that good! Despite being a brick, and having all of its original window seals from 1984, My Wagoneer is still whisper quiet going down the highway. Even more impressive is how well it has held together after nearly 200,000 miles. The service history notes one transmission rebuild, along with plenty of other maintenance, but the engine has never been touched.
By 1991, the Wagoneer platform was ancient, the last American car still using a carbureted V8, but instead of a complete redesign, Chrysler chose to drop the Wagoneer moniker, and the full-size SUV platform, and replace it with the midsize Grand Cherokee. If only they had known the coming demand for large SUVs, the Wagoneer would have never died, but personally, I think Chrysler’s short-sightedness was a good thing. If the Grand Wagoneer had lived on, it would have most certainly been ruined.
In my opinion, Wrangler aside, Jeep never made anything after the mid-1990s that was worth buying. The XJ Cherokee was discontinued in 2001, and replaced with the totally awful Liberty — and the two following Grand Cherokee redesigns were much worse than the previous generation. Then came along the embarrassing Jeep Patriot, which could barely mount a parking curb. It’s safe to say if the Wagoneer had continued, it would have resembled something like the Jeep Commander, which was also mediocre — and the legacy of the Wagoneer name would have been forever tarnished.
Of course, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep have come out of their version of the dark ages in recent years, and their current offerings are really good. When it was announced that the Grand Wagoneer was slated to return on the full-size Ram chassis, I have never been more excited about a new car. Once again, the Grand Wagoneer will be a Land Rover Range Rover competitor — and apparently, it will have a price tag to match. With the legacy of the Wagoneer and pent-up demand after decades, this might actually be a smash hit.
A 6-figure Wagoneer may sound insane, but final year, mint condition examples can command $50,000 or more in today’s market, and the Wagoneer is a renewed status symbol for people wanting the "old money" look. If the new Grand Wagoneer is done right, I can see it taking a huge bite out of extremely successful Range Rover and Lincoln Navigator sales. I would certainly be tempted to buy a new car with faux wood paneling.
As for my Grand Wagoneer, given that it’s a less desirable early example with high miles, it isn’t worth very much. When I first bought it, I had plans to completely restore it, but the "patina" of the rig has grown on me. Since a restoration would cost way more than it would be worth, as well, it would probably be smarter of me to fix the minor rust and enjoy the rig as-is. The only annoying thing about owning one is all the strangers walking up to you offering to buy it.