This week Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne said in passing that they plan to resurrect the Grand Wagoneer in 2013, I’m not sure I can wait that long.
In my world this is BIG news, HUGE news, earth shattering, stop the presses, HOLY crap news.
And not because the best band I ever played in was named for the venerable vehicle. No, this is big news because I proudly owned two Wagoneers. I’ve wanted to have another since we last departed company when I left her saggin-ass at the scrap yard to rust into oblivion.
I’ve had an eye for anachronisms since my youth. I don’t know how it happened (probably a product of a youth spent in the basement at my dad’s workbench with a chunk of wood and chisel, safe no, fun yes) but I’ve always been fond of old crap. Wagoneers are essentially old crap.
In the time of the Wagoneer the Jeep brand was owned by AMC, perhaps the worst car company ever. In the 30 odd years the Wagoneer was produced AMC took a powerful, useful, Kaiser design and managed to bastardize it in every tiny way possible and yet somehow leve the aesthetic of the thing alone, which is why most of us anachronistic idiots find them so appealing.
Wagoneers are a cult, and are worn like a badge of honor. A way for our members to say to the world, we don’t care that you are moving forward, we like things the old way, and we are sticking to it. My car has wood on it, SO THERE! (even if it just a sticker of faux wood grain)
Like old hand planes, bamboo rods, wooden boats, mandolins, banjos, dobros, scotch, whatever, its all outdated, but we don’t care.
Granted, a 360 cubic inch engine with 125 base horse power from the factory is like the fat guy taking last place at the eating contest. It just doesn’t make sense but there it is. In plain sight, dripping with sad irony, and unapologetically impractical, but there she sits.
My first love was a Navy Blue 1987 model year. I paid some dumb-ass $250 cash for it. He was asking $750 but had let a bag of spilled dog food get moldy in the back so it harbored a distinctly foul odor. Who else did he have lined up to buy the poor old thing? We cleaned her up, put a new headliner and a new distributor in it. She ran well for a few years. She started running rough and spitting and sputtering, so I swapped out the original carb for a nice 550 CFM Holley. After that she ran strong as an ox, and with gusto. Her back springs sagged a bit, and body rolled a little when we turned sharp. The steering wheel had some play in it, and throttle was more like an on-off switch than a progressive linkage. But hey, go, stop, what more do you want. Once on the interstate, going about 70 miles an hour which was like putting a quarter in the hotel bed, she just crapped out a muffler, right there. That muffler skated along side of us for a bit and then kicked up some dust on the shoulder as if to wave by as it settled in to take its place along side the roadkill. Without the muffler, her voice was a little louder but we kept right on going like nothing happened.
Then one day when my wife was driving her, she got rear ended in a bad way. The insurance man said it didn’t look good, totaled was the word he used. So I took the check and ran out and paid asking price for a replacement. Bad idea. Six months later the new (older 1984) one threw a rod. It sat in my back yard so long that I got a ticket from the city for having an “inoperable vehicle.” We towed her over to special place in the country where she can live out her days in peace as she donates her usable parts to more serviceable vehicles and sends her iron oxide back to the earth in microscopic deposits.
On that note I decided to upgrade to a “modern style” vehicle, a 1999 Cherokee. You can’t fit a washer and dryer in the back, at the same time, like you could in the Saggin Wagon. It doesn’t get much attention in the way of waving, smiling or thumbs up department like we did in the Shaggin Wagon. It doesn’t get 8 MPG, like the old Woody. It doesn’t smell like moldy dog food on rainy days like the Wag did. It doesn’t ride like you’re in bed. It doesn’t have the feel of a broken-in old catcher’s mitt, and it never will. It will never be half the vehicle that my old Grand Wagoneers were.
But it’ll do, until 2013, when my membership into the cult of FSJ is renewed!
Long live the Wagoneer! The best and worst vehicle ever.