1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Dont ask me why I bought this wood slab sided Rhino. I can’t even remember where I bought it from. I do remember how I got rid of it. One word “fire”. My 1989 AMC Jeep Grand Wagoneer came from the factory with the trusty but thirsty 360 V8 engine. White with the cheesy wood grain on the side it bellowed everything bad about the American car industry in the 1970s-1980s. The Jeep portion was good stuff,Engine,transmission,4×4 etc were all robust.
Anything that was AMC(AMC stands for (A)All (M)Mistakes(C)Combined) would almost everyday self destruct. Still these Grand Wagoneers had the distinction of being the longest running single platform used by a USA car maker. Produced with various engines from 1963-1991 it was considered the first luxury SUV. Jeep-Willys introduced the Jeep Wagoneer to the public in early 1962. It would re-write the 4×4 segment.Engines would range from 230-258 six cylinders to 327-350 V8s borrowed from other suppliers in early models..
The later models used the AMC designed 360/401 V8s..While other 4x4s were spartan at best these vehicles offered something new in a 4×4 vehicle..comfort. This would force GM,Dodge and Ford to re-think how they made 4×4 vehicles. In some strange way Chevys Blazer and Fords Bronco would of never came into production if the Wagoneer was never produced. In 1970 AMC gobbled up Jeep and started to change the direction of the company. 1984 Jeep was going to bring out the mid-size Cherokee. With that Jeeps plan was to move the Wagoneer upmarket.
Thus the Wagoneer would become the Grand Wagoneer. Kind of like an American Range Rover. The Chrysler years(1987-1991)..saw upgrades in quality control and fit and finish(yeah sure). Despite having its own V8s Chrysler decided to use the AMC designed 360-V8 till the end of production. Many Grand Wagoneer collectors view these years 1987-1991 as the best of the breed. The last Grand Wagoneer rolled off the line on June 21st 1991 ending an era of full frame straight axle American 4X4s. In a strange twist of fate they remain highly collectable. My 1989 white Grand Wagoneer was going to be my winter vehicle. I had visions of plowing thru the deepest snow and rivers. Too many Jeep comercials from 1980s dancing in my head. Its wheezing emissions laden power plant could pull down a house but had all the MPG of the Space Shuttle. Every knob fell off the dash. The heater core would burst melting my shoe to the rubber mat one winter day. The tail gate glass would make a heart stopping thunk every time you lower it. The engine compartment had more rubber hoses and connection than a cruise ship. Still it had a strange charm. Kind of like Mrs Brady goes to boot camp. The poorly fitting leather interior was accented by the contact paper wood grain on the sides of the body. More creaks and rattles than a haunted house it would go just about anyplace you pointed it. From the first day I bought it I could smell a small gasoline vapor smell. As hard as I tried could never locate the problem. We(me and my bonehead friends) figured that it was a small fuel leak that was evaporating on the heat of a manifold or something. Come on gas dripping on a smoldering manifold. What could go wrong?
One hot summer day as I approached my pot hole filled driveway I hit a large crater. What ever connection that was slightly loose(causing the fuel smell) came flying off. This caused more fuel to spill out than the Exxon Valdez. As smoke bellowed into the cabin I drove as long as I could till the flames started to poke out from under the hood(real smart to keep it running and drving!!) I opened the hood causing a scene from the movie Backdraft. I ran for my hose about 100 feet away. I say 100 feet bacause all I had was a 75 feet of hose. As I ran like Bruce Jenner with the flowing hose I stopped more than 25 feet short of the target. Shooting the water into the air hardly reached the Towering Inferno that was happening. Still I managed to put out the fire. For some strange reason all the AMC stuff melted..Things like bad wiring,emissions hoses,cheap fake wood pieces and AMC badges. The things that survived..Engine,transmision,4×4 stuff..you know the true Jeep junk. I ended up discarding the chared remains and selling it to a freind who uses it as a plow truck till this day. Funny how the AMC junk flamed to a crisp and the Jeep stuff survivied. I wonder If God drives a Jeep.. and the Devil drives AMC products..