Street-Spotted: Jeep Grand Wagoneer
We’re now further away in time from the moment the Jeep Grand Wagoneer exited production in 1991, than it was in 1991 from the date when it entered production in 1962. We’ll say that again: The Jeep Grand Wagoneer has been out of production longer at this point in time than how old it was when it left production in June 1991. The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer were in production for 28 years and 7 months, taking the November 1962 to June 1991 start and endpoints, and we’re now 29 years and 3 months past the point that the Grand Wagoneer left production.
Somehow, we’re not sure if this makes us feel even older than the time that someone pointed out that less time had passed between Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’s debut on May 25, 1983, and the debut of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on May 19, 1999, than between the debut of The Phantom Menace in 1999 and the debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Dec. 18, 2015. Let’s just agree that both spans of time should make everyone feel very old.
But in Jeep’s case the span between the year 1962 and the year 1991 feels ages apart, to the point that people from 1991 might seem like time travelers from a sci-fi film to those in 1962. The internet in 1991 was… in its infancy, but if you want to count clunky CompuServe email clients it actually existed. Let’s put it this way: People in 1962 did not have personal computers and had only been to space for the first time the year before, in 1961, whereas in 1991 we already had PCs and some sort of working email system that would certainly look laughably lame today, but functional nonetheless. We don’t really think of 1991 as being that long ago — the Gulf War on CNN was the major TV hit of the year — while 1962 may well have seemed like another century even from the vantage point of 1991. Not everyone even had color TVs in 1962.
But during that 28 year and 7 month span of production time, the Wagoneer not only stayed relevant, but its styling had not really become laughably dated, unlike that of most other vehicles produced in 1962. Perhaps the only other cars that have pulled off this feat were the Porsche 911, which had certainly gone through some changes but remained visually relevant, and the Volvo 140, which remained in production from 1966 through 1993 as the 240. The Wagoneer is one of those rare vehicles whose aesthetic had also gone through some changes but had not really become embarrassingly dated as it got older, unlike the suit styles of TV anchors.
Likewise, does the 1986 Grand Wagoneer in this photo seem embarrassingly dated in 2020, like many other cars from the 1980s?
Some real turkeys were churned out by the Big Three in 1986, and the Grand Wagoneer wasn’t one of them. The scariest thing is that even cars from the early 1990s seem to have aged worse than the 1986 Grand Wagoneer in this photo, viewed from 2020. It’s a vintage look, for sure, but can its design be easily attached to any one particular decade? At the very least it’s hard to pin down: It could plausibly be from the late 1950s… or the late 1980s. Because plenty of cars still had chrome grilles and wooden sides in the 1980s and beyond, if the Buick Roadblaster (Roadmaster) that stayed in production through 1996 is any indication.
As a new Grand Wagoneer concept dawns, it’s still a little hard to pin down just what it was about the classic Wagoneer that made it timeless. Was it the square profile, the woodgrain siding, or the chrome details throughout?
The Wagoneer is one of those vehicles that we could see being in a movie set in the 22nd century, moving around almost silently thanks to an electric drivetrain, like in Gattaca. But it looks could remain frozen in time since 1991, and it could be given a restyled grille with square LED headlights and a different grille to reflect its EV nature, but it could remain largely the same on the outside.
In fact, Jeep could have probably done this exact thing for a 2021 model: Just update the grille, give it an infotainment system but keep the exterior largely the same. We’d expected that people would fight to be the first to buy it.
Speaking of the Grand Wagoneer concept that was revealed this week, will it seem as timeless in 28 years, in the year 2048, or will it be a window into this exact point in time in automotive design?
The vast majority of vehicles, even if you don’t know their exact years, are very much “of their time” when it comes to design — a fate the classic Grand Wagoneer had somehow managed to avoid, we would argue.
Let us know your thoughts on the classic Wagoneer’s design in the comments below.
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