Steve Magnante Stumbles Upon An Unbelievable Jeep Wagoneer From The Early 1960s

YouTuber and journalist Steve Magnante has spotted an early all-wheel drive version of the Jeep Wagoneer, including its big Hemi under the hood.

SUVs are incredibly popular at the moment. And some of you might wonder how the SUV trend started. Well, it was with the Jeep Wagoneer of the 1960s, like this one that YouTuber and journalist Steve Magnante has stumbled upon. This particular Wagoneer is from 1963 and is the 315th example of the Wagoneer ever made. More on that later, but as Magnante explains, the Wagoneer is the first ever all-wheel drive capable family station wagon. In effect, it is the birth of the SUV.

This 315th Wagoneer has quite clearly seen better days, rusting away in a New England junkyard. But Magnante is still able to go into some great detail behind the Jeep classic. Being the car that gave the SUV, it is historically quite important. Although given the recent influx of SUVs in the world, the Wagoneer also has a lot to answer for!

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One Of The Very First Wagoneers Sold To The Public

Being the 315th Wagoneer, this is also one of the first examples ever sold to the public. So we are very much in the early days of this model. As Magnante explains, the station wagon has the creature comforts of a Ford, Plymouth or Dodge station wagon. But unlike those, it had a truck chassis. This meant it had off-road capabilities, but it was also available with two-wheel drive if you so desired. The base price for this Wagoneer was $3,332 which is some $743 more than the more basic two-wheel drive version.

That extra money was certainly well spent. The Wagoneer was actually built for some time, from 1963 right up to 1991. Not many cars have had a production run of 28 years. The engine here is certainly worthy of note Magnante says, as only a few these Wagoneers had a Hemi under the hood. This one does indeed have a Hemi, the Willis Tornado 236 ci engine. An aluminum cylinder head features the Tornado name, and we can also see a Holley two-barrel carburetor and it makes 140 hp at 4,000 rpm.

A Smaller Bore Versus Stroke Gives High Torque At Low RPM

Steve Magnante 1963 Jeep Wagoneer Hemi Engine
via Steve Magnante YouTube Channel

Something else that is a feature of this Hemi engine is the 215 lb-ft of torque. The Wagoneer makes this at just 1,700 rpm thanks to the undersquare design of the engine. This means that the bore in the engine is smaller than the stroke by around an inch. This makes this a long stroke, low RPM, torque maker of an engine. The engines did have some issues though, with valve problems and water pump cracks blighting them. AMC six-bangers and AMC and Buick V8s would replace them in 1965.

Magnante shows us a copy of a Motor Trend magazine of the time, talking about how “the Jeep becomes a gentleman.” Or in other words, the introduction of the Wagoneer to the Jeep range. The magazine talks about how the Wagoneer is big enough for the whole family, and can comfortably go off-road and provide a comfortable experience on tarmac as well. The magazine also talks about the power and torque of the engine, and that it is great on the highway and off-road as well. Ideal for keeping up with and overtaking traffic.

An Articulating Front Axle Was An Option For The Wagoneer

Steve Magnante 1963 Jeep Wagoneer Motor Trend Magazine
via Steve Magnante YouTube Channel

An articulating beam-axle was also an option for the Wagoneer all-wheel drive. This allowed the differential to swing with curbside half, and the magazine shows some images of this optional axle. This example though of the Wagoneer is the basic leaf spring version of the Jeep wagon. The A-pillar shows us the Willis tag and the VIN number, revealing it as the 315th Wagoneer ever built. This is so early in the production run we are talking around day two or three of the car’s life in the Jeep range.

That alone makes this quite a special Wagoneer. It is probably one of the first Wagoneers sold to the public too with many of the early examples sent to magazines or various other media for review. To see such an early example of the Wagoneer rusting away is actually quite a sad sight.

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The Full-Size Wagon Body Is The Real Beauty Of The Jeep Wagoneer

Steve Magnante 1963 Jeep Wagoneer Side View
via Steve Magnante YouTube Channel

As Magnante says, the full-size Wagon body of the Wagoneer is what makes it so special. It was also designed by Brooks Stevens, who also designed the 1949 Jeep Wagon and pickup truck. As you get into the 1980s Magnante says, the Jeep Grand Wagoneers start to appear and this is under the Chrysler ownership of the Jeep company. These made big profit for Chrysler with luxury features such as their leather interiors. But it all started with this rather austere example of the Wagoneer, now languishing in a New England junkyard.

Source: Steve Magnante YouTube Channel