1980-1989 Jeep Wagoneer

The 1980-1989 Jeep Wagoneer developed and improved through the decade. New models were developed, and the old ones evolved to provide more desirable function and amenities.

The 1985 Grand Wagoneer incorporated improvements to its suspension and Selec-Trac four-wheel-drive system.
The 1985 Grand Wagoneer featured improvements
to its suspension and Selec-Trac four-wheel-drive.

One step Jeep took in 1980 was to reinstate the 258-cid six with part-time four-wheel drive and a choice of automatic or four-speed manual transmission as an alternative to the standard powertrain of 360 V-8, automatic, and Quadra-Trac. (The optional four-barrel-carb 360- and 401-cid V-8s had already been dropped after 1978.) With the six, the Wagoneer turned in a very respectable 15 mpg in city driving and 19 mpg on the highway.

In 1981, a new Wagoneer Brougham joined the line, slotted in between the base model and the Limited. Brougham included upgraded interior trim, extra insulation, power tailgate window, roof rack, and a host of extra features.

The six-cylinder engine became standard again, with the 175-bhp, 360-cid V-8 optional for all models. The four-speed manual transmission came standard on base Wag­oneers and Broughams, but automatic transmission with full- or part-time four-wheel drive was optional. Quadra-Trac and the automatic were standard on the Limited.

For 1982, a five-speed manual transmission was available, and a new Selec-Trac system replaced Quadra-Trac in April. When road conditions permitted, Selec-Trac allowed for more fuel-efficient rear-drive-only operation at the flick of a switch on the dashboard.

The base Wagoneer was dropped for 1983, leaving a choice of Brougham or Limited models. Manual transmissions were also discontinued. An automatic transmission with Selec-Trac became standard. With the standard six-cylinder engine, the Wagoneer was rated at 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway -- outstanding for a full-size SUV.

The big news at American Motors for 1984 was the introduction of smaller and more fuel-efficient Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer XJ models. But their introduction didn't mean the end of the old Wagoneer.

Like all Wagoneers, the 1989 Jeep Wagoneer could tow trailers that weighed up to 5,000 pounds.
Like all Wagoneers, the 1989 Jeep Wagoneer could
tow trailers that weighed up to 5,000 pounds.

The former Wagoneer Limited returned to showrooms as the Grand Wagoneer. AMC called it the "Big Daddy" of Jeep vehicles. Appearance-­wise it was nearly identical to the old Limited, though new vertical taillamps replaced the horizontal wraparound lamps that been around since the beginning, and the woodgrain side decal was somewhat revised.

The six continued as standard, but the two-barrel 360 V-8 was a very popular option. With standard equipment that included Selec-Trac; automatic; power steering, brakes, windows, and door locks; six-way power seats; dual electric outside mirrors; halogen fog lamps; air conditioning; leather; tilt wheel; quartz digital clock; aluminum wheels; roof rack; and AM/FM stereo with tape player, Grand Wagoneer remained the gold standard of the SUV market.

A full-sized Wagoneer Custom with a shorter list of standard equipment that included air, automatic transmission, AM/FM radio, part-time four-wheel drive, wheel covers, bucket seats, and full carpeting was offered briefly in 1984.

How­­ever, even at a price of only $15,995 -- some $3,300 less than the Grand -- it didn't interest many buyers. Grand Wagoneer was what people were looking for in a full-sized SUV.

To follow the development of Jeep in the early 1990s, see the next page.

For more information about cars, see: