Category Archives: Kaiser

Jeep transcends its parentage

Chrome dome

Chrome dome

When the Jeep Wagoneer was introduced in 1963 the words “luxury” and “SUV” had not yet been commonly juxtaposed.  In fact, nobody called vehicles with off road capabilities SUVs.  They were, for the most part, just called “Jeeps.” Seven years after Wagoneer’s debut Land Rover introduced its Range Rover and it was just a matter of a few decades before everybody — Porsche, Cadillac, Mercedes, etc. — got into the act.  SUVs wearing Bentley, Maserati and even Rolls Royce badges are in the offing but let’s revisit “ground zero.”   Here’s a super clean Wagoneer Limited that’s one of the very last produced. That parking ticket doesn’t sully its thoroughbred look but rather imparts a sense of horsey hauteur.  That’s a tiny red, white and blue American Motors corporate logo on the grill.

Top of the line

Top of the rectilinear line

www.wagoneerworld.com

The Wagoneer, styled by industrial designer Brooks Stevens, was launched when Jeep was part of Kaiser Industries.  Jeep, in fact, was the only surviving automotive division of Kaiser, the company which had the foresight to have gobbled up Willys, the company that had introduced the civilian Jeep (CJ) almost directly after VJ Day.  The Wagoneer was meant to replace Willys’ Jeep Station Wagon (catchy model name, eh?) which soldiered on for another two years. Wagoneer continued in production until 1991 though the brand and its assets changed hands many more times.  AMC bought out Kaiser, Renault bought AMC, Chrysler bought Jeep and, thereafter, Daimler (Mercedes Benz) acquired Chrysler. Daimler unloaded Chrysler which then went bankrupt and has  now reemerged as a unit of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).  This means that the vehicular icon of America’s efforts in World War II was, at one time or another, under French, German and Italian control, though FCA is, technically, based in the Netherlands.  Go figure.

It's got a case of the Willys

It’s got a case of the Willys

The Jeep Station Wagon, seen here in a shot contributed by Feral Cars Field Scout Andrew Keeler, was the first all-steel station wagon though the the car had vestigial hints of timber in its embossed body panels, much in the style of Tudor tract houses.

Wood is good

Wood is good

This AMC-era Briarwood was a variant of the Jeep Cherokee which had actually been designed and initially produced under Renault’s aegis, continuing through the Chrysler and DaimlerChrysler reigns.  The Wagoneer was its “big brother” until replaced by the Grand Cherokee in 1992.

Live/work

Live/work

Wagoneer shared much with a two door variation, confusingly named Cherokee but unrelated to the later one, and was the donor vehicle for the Gladiator pick-up, the production of which continued for 26 years. We found a very early one bearing a camper on its bed one foggy day. Looks like somebody’s into “roughing it” on wheels.

Identity crisis Jeepster

Identity crisis Jeepster

We also encountered two latter day Jeep products and this seems as good an opportunity as any to share.  That contraption, in ‘Renegade Plum’ paint and wearing a most un-Jeep like nose, is a ’72 Jeepster Commando.  These were introduced back in ’66 to compete with the likes of International’s Scout and Ford’s (pre-OJ) Bronco.

Going Commando

Going Commando

We much prefer the look of this earlier Jeepster Commando which is more true to its military heritage. This black beauty, vintage ’68, is a contractor’s everyday work truck: not much luxury but lots of utility.  Its steering wheel center (below) gives some indication of a labor intensive life.

Dirt at work

Dirt at work

We close with a shot of a much less pampered Wagoneer than our opener.  It’s only a few years older but far less pristine. It still has a lots of rugged presence, accentuated by a standup hood ornament we find silly but marketers apparently felt it denoted luxury, as if the fake wood siding weren’t enough.

Grand illusion

Paint your Wagoneer

Upright citizien

Upright citizen

One last look at that quite perfect  and very snazzy Wagoneer Limited. Note: AMC/Jeep badge on the left.

Back atcha

Back atcha

As you would expect, there are experts out there who cater to those who fetishize these brilliantly enduring machines.  The top dog in the field is Kerrville, Texas-based Leon Miller a/k/a “The Wagonmaster.” He buys, restores and sells Wagoneers and has lots of virtually perfect ones on offer if you have the itch.  Check out www.wagonmaster.com to view the current inventory, priced between $45,000 – $58,000.  Certainly not cheap but, as noted, they don’t make them anymore.  And, wouldn’t you know it?  Leon has some competition some 300 miles away in Richardson, TX, the home of www.wagoneerworld.com.

If time travel is your thing, go back to 1966 and watch this Wagoneer TV spot filmed “down the shore” in Avalon, NJ.

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A couple of Jeep shots

Off the reservation

Horny oldster

Most folks don’t give Jeep a second thought in terms of vintage examples but we think this two- door Cherokee is an oldie but a goodie.  The model was developed by Renault (!) which partnered/controlled/owned American Motors from the late 1970’s until it sold to Chrysler in ’87.  AMC, by the way,  had bought Jeep from Kaiser in 1970;  Kaiser had merged with Jeep’s Willys-Overland parent in 1953.  Yes, there WILL be a quiz.

This one recalls Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” wherein the former Mrs. Turner explains she likes things “nice and rough.” That mini steer horn hood ornament and the door dent seem to fill the “rough” bill.  It’s difficult to determine model years of these since these were offered from 1984 – 2001 with few changes differentiating one from another.  We noted that the tail light lenses (see detail) are marked ’83XJ’  — 83 being the year and XJ the internal code for this model.  Maybe they made the lenses in advance?

Pre-need part?

Pre-need part?

Let’s go back a decade for an ancestor that was styled by Brooks Stevens, the Wisconsin-based industrial designer, when Jeep was Kaiser-owned.  The idea that a utility vehicle — the term ‘sport’ wasn’t yet in play — could have some creature comforts was revolutionary when it was introduced in the ’63 model year.  Advance 11 years and you have this splendid “nice and easy” specimen parked on a yuppified street in Berkeley, CA.

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 10.44.12 PM

These two vehicles are at the root of the SUV revolution but don’t blame the good folks at Willys-Kaiser-AMC-Renault-Chrysler for what ensued after they were created.   Today, shopping center parking lots are crammed full of all-wheel drive behemoths, stuffed with leather seats and flat screens in the back to keep the kids occupied.  This kind of unintended use of purpose-built vehicles like these wasn’t really part of the plan. As when fraternity brothers discover a dead body the day after the big kegger, things just seem to have gotten out of hand over the past 50 years.

Kaiser touted Wagoneer’s overhead valve motor back in this early commercial.

Cherokee was an instant sensation with the off road set as touted here.

They want a whopping $54,000 for this low mileage ’91 Grand Wagoneer and we just don’t see the “utility” in that.  Click and gasp.

 

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Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted.

 

 

Jeep housing

Jeep Gladiator

A rugged home away from home, this rare Kaiser-built Jeep pickup, circa ’67, is equipped with 4-wheel drive and, more importantly, a studio apartment in back.

Apparently, these were sold in Germany.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:    info (at) feralcars (dot)com                                                                                                                   Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted