So, you're considering a Jeep FSJ restoration, maybe a multipurpose, family-oriented vehicle? While the quintessential off-pavement build is a 2-door, full-size Cherokee from the AMC/Jeep era, the Wagoneer finds begin with the 1968 models. The first Buick 350 V-8 offering, loaded with accessories and power option content, epitomized the true "luxury class" Wagoneer.
In fairness, we could push that date back to the AMC 327 Vigilante V-8 models of the mid-'sixties, certainly the groundbreaking Super Wagoneer. Despite the truck-based ranching culture of Carson Valley, I remember Super Wagoneers on the showroom floor at C.O.D. Garage, Minden, Nevada, when I was a high school student.
The Super Wagoneer looked impressive at the Carson Valley Country Club parking lot in those years...Paradoxical that this advanced design, luxurious 4WD vehicle sold alongside F-head four-cylinder CJ-5 and CJ-6 models in 1965! The last, traditional Willys-style Pickup and Station Wagon had recently rolled off the assembly line, replaced by the modern Gladiator J-trucks and Wagoneer. If you know Jeep technology, the Willys era models could trace their design origins to the 1941 Model MB. By contrast, the Wagoneer led the industry in new 4WD technology. Imagine the Jeep Corporation assembly lines and drawing boards of the 1962-65 era!
AMC's acquisition of Jeep Corporation took the Wagoneer to the next level, eventually evolving into the Grand Wagoneer. This cult classic has been a regular movie star, appearing in motion pictures from its inception. The Grand Wagoneer became the middle- to upper-middle class icon of American 4WD transportation, popular in Hollywood's depiction of suburban and upscale country life...Pay attention to the movies and television, count the number of Grand Wagoneer stars and props!
That brings me to one of our family's favorite vehicles. Just prior to the unsettled shift in American culture to a post-9/11 mindset, we stumbled onto our 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Dark blue, wood-trimmed and glistening in the morning sunlight at a Carson City supermarket parking lot, the 4x4 sported a "For Sale" sign with phone number. I combed the Jeep topside and bottom, confirming that the vehicle was a truly original, well-maintained J-model. It took two minutes to decide that a phone call was warranted, and by that afternoon, we were the happy owners at a purchase price of $6200.
A two-owner, documented Jeep Grand Wagoneer, the vehicle ran and handled flawlessly. With it came the famous ride quality with the factory sway bar and compliant spring rates. Donna immediately seized on the vehicle's agility, a bona fide J-truck chassis with a wide wheel track for stability, a shortened wheelbase, all adding up to a superb ride:
Some dimensions—1987 Grand Wagoneer overall length is 186.4 inches, width 74.8 inches, wheelbase of 108.7 inches. 37.1 inches of front headroom, 36.8 inches of rear headroom, 40.5 inches of front legroom and 37 inches of rear legroom. Curb weight around 6,200 pounds—hefty!
Your wife, like Donna, would be enchanted with the Grand Wagoneer. Step on the gas, the 360 V-8 and 727 Torqueflite respond immediately. Brakes are larger power disc/drum, 1/2-ton J-truck grade, outstanding stopping power. Wide, Dana 44 axles front and rear, open knuckle front with 5-degrees positive caster for a tight turning radius and ease of parking. Solid, easy entry and exit from the four doors, a tailgate with power window, generous leather upholstered seats, power everything for the era, what's not to like?
Behind the scenes, I did the PM (preventive maintenance) on this Grand. AMC made sure there were inherent weaknesses and quirks, like the embrittlement-prone nylon window lift tracks, touchy tailgate window mechanism and the vacuum shifting mechanism for the 229 transfer case.
While Donna enjoyed the driving time, I kept the AMC issues at bay: changing the oil pump gears to a high volume kit (timing cover/oil pump housing was still functional, most unusual); rolled in new rod and main bearings while changing out the leaking rear main seal; restored the tired emission controls, changed the A/C system over to R134a (system virtually 'spit out ice cubes' following the recharge, amazing York compressor!); rebuilt the 2150 series Motorcraft carburetor.
My "blueprint" rebuild of the 2150 and careful adjustment of its altitude device produced extraordinary results! This engine started like an EFI motor, accelerated likewise, and performed flawlessly year 'round, even with sub-freezing starts when parked in winter. The fundamental simplicity of the 2100/2150 Motorcraft carburetor is a joy, and if you simply remember to depress the accelerator to set the choke and provide a small shot of fuel to the cold engine, this wonderful carburetor and the conventional Motorcraft distributor perform much like EFI. The Grand Wagoneer retained Motorcraft 2150 carburetion and a conventional distributor though the last, 1991 model built.
I watched the front track bar frame attachment point carefully, as many Grand Wagoneers have broken these brackets loose, but our '87 stayed intact. The A727 transmission and even the 229 transfer case worked flawlessly—well past the century mark on the odometer.
When we purchased a new 2002 Liberty, our mistaken notion was that the era of the Grand Wagoneer had passed. We imagined that consistent 14-15 highway mpg was no longer sustainable at "foreign oil" fuel prices, and we talked ourselves into selling the Grand Wagoneer...What a mistake.
I tolerated the Liberty and its best-ever 19 mpg for two years, lamenting the whole time about the loss of the 'Grand. Donna was a bit kinder about the Liberty than I was, although she wasn't the one to change spark plugs on the 3.7L V-6—using a piece of fuel hose to carefully hold and work the new plugs into their out of reach spark plug positions—and start them into the soft, aluminum cylinder head spark plug threads...Curious about the fuel hose trick? Post the question, I'll reply!
When asked about her favorite vehicle, Donna still responds promptly, "My favorite car ever was the Grand Wagoneer..." Funny that she still insists it was a "car". Motorheads know the Jeep Grand Wagoneer as the most rugged SUV truck ever built...That's the mystique of the Jeep FSJ models, especially the now classic Grand Wagoneer...