Weekly Treasure: Hellcat-Powered 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Car Culture / 4 Comments

Sometimes crazy is the best idea.

The Jeep Wagoneer is a legend. The nameplate is set to return to the Jeep lineup as a new SUV slotted above the Grand Cherokee in the relatively near future. In the meantime, the Grand Wagoneer, internally codenamed SJ, is still celebrated as one of the original SUVs. It also had a long production life, beginning in 1962 until 1991. A vehicle - any vehicle - with a nearly 30-year lifespan is unheard of today. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer was simply ahead of its time.

And because there were few things quite like it back in the early '60s, it was initially marketed as a station wagon. Jeep at the time was owned by the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, which bought Willys a decade prior. Management wanted a new vehicle to compete with the Detroit 3 automakers who themselves were expanding into the 4x4 market. One example was the original Ford Bronco.

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The Grand Wagoneer (just called Wagoneer at the time) was built on the same body-on-frame architecture as the original Jeep Gladiator pickup truck and it offered several drivetrain options and suspension setups. It could also be had as a two- or four-door wagon, while the later was also sold as a panel van, sans rear windows. The first engine offered was a 3.8-liter inline-six with 140 horsepower. It was a fairly bare bones vehicle at the time, but features like air conditioning, rear seat belts, a padded dashboard, and improved braking system arrived within just a couple of model years. New engines were also part of the improvements. Its first V8 was a 5.4-liter sourced from AMC. A more luxurious Super Wagoneer came in 1966, adding a new grille, push-button radio, seven-position tilt steering wheel, power steering and brakes, and a console-shifted automatic transmission.

When AMC bought Kaiser in 1970, it immediately began to further refine the Wagoneer. Issues such as noise, vibration, and a harsh ride were addressed. But it was in 1972 when one of the biggest innovations arrived: the Quadra-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive system.

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By 1974, the two-door body style was dropped and AMC made some design modifications to the SUV's greenhouse. When the SJ-body Jeep Cherokee debuted in 1984, the Wagoneer was rechristened 'Grand Wagoneer'. Despite the fact its design was relatively unchanged since its '62 launch, the Grand Wagoneer remained popular. But all good things come to an end.

Jeep discontinued the Grand Wagoneer after the 1991 model year. The Grand Cherokee hit the market in 1992. Although it's been gone for nearly 30 years, the Grand Wagoneer is still sought after by collectors, some of whom perform interesting modifications.

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One example is this Hellcat-powered 1989 Grand Wagoneer. That's right, it's got a 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat engine stuffed under its hood for a total output of 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque. Only 500 miles have been driven since the engine was installed.

Recently put up for sale on World Wide Auctioneers, this Grand Wagoneer originally came with a 5.9-liter V8 with just 144 hp and 280 lb-ft. A three-speed automatic sent power to the part-time four-wheel-drive system. Interestingly, that gearbox remains, though other necessary modifications including an exhaust manifold sourced from the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The auction took place a few days ago at the Riyadh Auction in Saudi Arabia but there's no confirmation whether it sold.

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