The introduction of the 1978-1979 Jeep Wagoneer Limited set the sport-utility market on its ear. A spiritual successor to the old Super Wagoneer, the Limited was the most luxurious four-wheeler anyone had ever seen.
The list of standard equipment included in its $10,500 base price would have done a Cadillac proud, including as it did whitewall radial tires; air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; cruise control; AM/FM stereo with a choice of citizen's-band radio or tape player; 360 V-8; automatic transmission; Quadra-Trac; power-operated seats, windows, and locks; and leather trim for the steering wheel, bucket seats, rear seat, console, and door panels -- the first use of leather upholstery in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Exterior features included wood-grain side- and rear-trim panels, styled aluminum wheels, wood-grain-trimmed roof rack, and more. "Now with Wagoneer Limited, you have a Jeep vehicle of unprecedented luxury and distinction," general marketing manager R.J. Gilchrist wrote to dealers several months before Limiteds hit their showrooms.
Early advertising was placed in magazines with affluent readerships. Automotive writers were duly impressed with the Limited; Road & Track called it "The Champagne of 4-wheel-drives." Buyers flocked to it like bees to a flower and there soon was a waiting list.
These were golden years for Jeep, with the factory operating at capacity, waiting lists of buyers, and fat profit margins. (Annual Wagoneer production was in the 20,000-29,000 range from 1976 to 1979.) Then, in 1979, a fuel shortage hit America.
This was actually the second oil-producer embargo of the decade; the first came in late 1973 and lasted until the following spring. Although sales of the Cherokee dropped like a stone, Wagoneer sales held up fairly well. Still, no one knew how long this new crisis would last, so the factory began to make changes to improve Wagoneer fuel economy.
To follow the Jeep Wagoneer story through the 1980s, continue to the next page.
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