Home » Battle Of The Big Jeeps: 1970 Wagoneer vs 1979 Wagoneer

Battle Of The Big Jeeps: 1970 Wagoneer vs 1979 Wagoneer

Sbsd 11 16 2023
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Welcome to another fun-filled edition of Shitbox Showdown! Today, we’re looking at two examples of the same car. I found them within minutes of each other, and they each fill in gaps in each other’s shortcomings. So we’re going to do the traditional either/or vote, but I’m also going to add in the rarely-seen “Both” option.

But before we get to those, let’s see which melee weapon you chose yesterday. I had a feeling I knew which one was going to win, by virtue of it being both cheaper and in better condition, and I was right. The potential cigarette smell in the Buick put a lot of you off, and it would put me off too. That Buick was my second choice for yesterday, actually; I was going to feature a really nice Cutlass Ciera wagon, but it was for sale at a buy-here-pay-here lot, and they did that stupid thing where they add a banner with their phone number to every image. So Smokey the Buick got the nod… and lost.

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It’s one of the many pitfalls I face each and every day to bring you the finest in crappy old cars. Often, I find a car I really want to feature, but it has one or two bad photos, or twenty photos but all close-ups, or nothing but iPhone screen shots. Honestly, after doing this job, I could teach a class in how not to take photos for a classified ad.

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All right; let’s talk Jeeps. After World War II, civilian Jeeps were more or less the same as military ones, meaning tough, rough, and mostly bare steel. But with competition from International and others making more comfortable and car-like vehicles, a more civilized Jeep was needed. Enter the Wagoneer. This big four-door wagon had a long lifespan, lasting from 1963 all the way until 1991 – that’s three owners of the Jeep name. Today we have one from the Kaiser era, and one from the AMC years. Let’s check them out.

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1970 Jeep Wagoneer – $2,600

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Engine/drivetrain: 350 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Eagle Creek, OR

Odometer reading: 100,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs, but not roadworthy

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One of my favorite things about writing this column is that I get to learn stuff I never knew about all sorts of cars. For example, I had no idea that the first Jeep Wagoneers were available with independent front suspension and an overhead-cam inline six. Sophisticated stuff for 1963. Both options were gone by the time this Wagoneer was built in 1970, likely due to cost reasons. This one has a simple solid axle on leaf springs, like the Jeep CJ, and a Buick-built 350 cubic inch V8. I assumed the Buick engine was just a case of “let’s throw in whatever’s lying around to get this thing running,” but no; it came that way from the factory.

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This one runs fine, and the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission shifts fine, and you can drive it around a little. But it’s not what you’d call roadworthy – it has a new alternator but no belt for it, and the cooling system is empty, probably after some other recent work. There is also the small matter of the driver’s seat, or rather, the lack of one. Or any interior at all, for that matter.

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That’s not all that’s missing: the grille, headlights, taillights, and tailgate are also gone. And I think we have to assume that gone means gone; the seller makes no mention of any of that stuff being included. The bare interior lets you see the rust damage; it isn’t bad, but it does need some work on the floors.

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But apart from the floors, this doesn’t look like a rustbucket. It looks like it could be saved, if you could find the missing parts. It already runs and moves under its own power, so that’s a good first step.

1979 Jeep Wagoneer – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 360 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, full-time 4WD

Location: Tillamook, OR

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Odometer reading: 144,000 miles

Runs/drives? Nope, had an engine fire

And speaking of those missing parts, look at what we have here: a complete but rusty 1979 Wagoneer. This one has the classic fake woodgrain sides, a saddle-tan interior, and all its exterior trim. It also has David’s favorite engine – the nearly-useless AMC 360 V8, backed by a Chrysler Torqueflite automatic and a full-time 4WD Quadra-Trac transfer case. David’s hatred of this engine is vindicated in this case – it has suffered an engine fire. The seller has started trying to fix it; it looks like the carburetor is new, and the seller says they have a new wiring harness for it, but no longer has time to work on it.

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Apart from the obvious engine damage, this Jeep has some pretty serious rust damage; the rocker panels are shot, the fenderwells are rusting through, and there’s the fire damage to the hood, of course. With the corners and rocker panels as bad as they are, I can only imagine what the floors are like.

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The interior isn’t perfect, but it is there. AMC interiors were always sort of cheap and flimsy, but comfortable. This one is missing a window crank – they all seem to be – and has some tears in the driver’s seat, but otherwise looks all right.

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You could continue the work the seller has started, and bring this Wagoneer back to life, probably without too much trouble. But it will still be rusty. I think the right call here might be to buy both, and transfer parts over to the ’70 shell with the good-running Buick engine. I think there are enough parts here between these two to make one pretty good Wagoneer. It won’t be a showpiece, but it could be a good-running, decent-looking truck for a lot less than the insane asking prices that clean Wagoneers are commanding these days.

Or, you could take the ’70 and turn it into an off-road beast, or tackle the rust and the engine work on the ’79 and try to flip it for some outrageous price. The choice is yours.

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Fuzz
Fuzz
3 months ago

Nah dude, I’m out. One shitty Jeep is bad enough, why would you want two? You aren’t going to make one good Jeep, you’ll just have two shitty Jeeps.

David Tracy
David Tracy
3 months ago

This is so ridiculous.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
3 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Holy shit. If even David thinks this is a bridge too far for a Jeep…

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
3 months ago

Comment of the Decade: we have reached the end of DT’s unwavering patience when it comes to Jeeps. What a time to be alive…

Data
Data
3 months ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

What hath the BMW i3 and dying Leaf wrought?

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago

He’s just trying to throw people off the scent, so he can go buy them.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I am interpreting this as “This is so ridiculous. Of COURSE you buy them both! Then you tear them both apart where they are still recognizable, but undriveable. Leave them in that condition for several years until you are presented with a looming deadline to take them on a cross-country road trip to an off-road event, whereupon you sacrifice yourself, body and soul, to get them just operable enough to convince yourself and another unsuspecting person(s) that risk to life and limb is reasonable. Content doesn’t generate itself, after all!!”

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

YES! That’s the REAL David Tracy!

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Proof David has gone Hollywood.

Or did you mean “this such a ridiculous deal on the wagoneer.”

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
3 months ago

I’d take the ’79, put a modern diesel engine and try to fix some rust. Then flip it for a profit.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

My dad had a ’78 Wagoneer that had a 4 cylinder Isuzu turbo diesel swapped in. It was done by a local diesel mechanic, and it was great for several years. It had to have a 2-3″ body lift for the hood to close, but was otherwise fairly stock.

He, his brother, and 3 men from church were in it on a fishing trip when the right rear wheel bearing seized. It spit the axel out and sat down the brake backing plate. The white-hot seized bearing fired out into the grass, starting a fire.

This was before cell phone, so he walked to a phone booth, called my aunt, and had her bring a trailer with their Suburban.

He only had enough change and energy for a short call to Mom. So this is, verbatim, what he said to the answering machine: “Hey honey. We had an accident with the Jeep. The fire is out, and everyone is okay. Janet is coming to get us. See you after while.” Click.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Ok, then maybe not an Isuzu engine…
On a different topic, a fucking hero, your dad. A sinthesis beast!

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

I dunno, it had a top speed of maybe 80mph (eventually), but it would get better than 25mpg on the highway!

The engine was never the problem.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Yes, but I thought maybe some mixtures are doomed?
In any case, those numbers are perfectly good for a Wagoneer of any vintage.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
3 months ago

Remember those Cubans who kept 1950’s American cars running for decades on whatever parts they could find? Those guys ran AMC in the 1970s.

A friend of mine had one of these Wagoneers in the family. It was getting older and things started to fail and that’s when the AMC parts nightmare started. AMC would buy parts from whoever would give them credit, so for 3 months they would use a (for example) GM alternator, then switch to Ford for 6 months, then to some long since bankrupt supplier for the rest of the model year. We quickly learned to never buy a part from the autoparts store without taking the old one in to compare.

KENNETH M LEE
KENNETH M LEE
3 months ago

Both, but not to make 2 out of 1. Do the Bodywork to the 79. Turn the 70 into a strictly offroad weapon. Then use the 79 as the tow rig for the 70

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
3 months ago

Voted “both” as well, though I’d probably try to sell off the Limited’s interior separately; I dig the older Wagoneer’s low-fi dash, and would probably try to find ways to key off that.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
3 months ago

Pre-smog body so you can put whatever engine you want in it?
V8 that is a Buick and not the sub-par AMC mill?
Buletproof TH400?

You gotta go for the 1970, even without the interior, it will probably be less of a headache. They made the damn car for 30 years with (relatively) minimal changes…

You should be able to source enough of an interior to get what you want out of it.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
3 months ago

Days we want to vote both, and we don’t get it. Days we don’t even want to vote and we get a both option. Tsk Tsk Tsk.

Watching from the sidelines on this one. No thanks.

Scott Ashley
Scott Ashley
3 months ago

Not biting today I had to do a double take to make sure the title hadn’t changed from Shitbox Showdown to Boneyard Showdown because that is where these both belong

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
3 months ago

To hell with originality. I’m taking the 70 and sourcing a Volvo XC interior for seats, just painting the dash and adding the bare minimum of gauges from whatever the junkyard holds. Add a Carplay/Android auto double-din head unit, and one of those quilted leather drop-in floor coverings from Alibaba.

Clark B
Clark B
3 months ago

Both seems like a reasonable choice here. You’d need a donor car to rebuild the 1970 anyway, and the 1979 isn’t a terrible price given all the parts you could pull off it. $5,100 all told to have most of a Wagoneer without a ton of rust isn’t a bad deal. I’ve seen rough-but-running ones listed for more than that.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago

Like others, I’ll take both.

JDE
JDE
3 months ago

I would haggle running rust pile down a bit. and maybe take both. I think it might be better to say not to both though in the end.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
3 months ago

nice driver seat on the 70 😛

ChefCJ
ChefCJ
3 months ago

Can I just take the one David Tracy doesn’t pick? Guaranteed to have the least problems that way

Millermatic
Millermatic
3 months ago

I chose “both”… but admittedly with far too little knowledge. How much of that ’79 interior will fit in the ’70?

JDE
JDE
3 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

probably all of it

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Pretty much. The chassis was virtually unchanged from ’63-’91, so while you may not be able to mix and match parts of parts, about everything on that ’79 will fit on the ’70.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago

I appreciate the option for both. This is the way.

It’s interesting: the grandpa-mobile clearly had a non-trivial engine fire, but the hood on the ’70 (which does not appear to be original) also shows evidence of a smaller engine fire. In the shots where the hood is up, we can see the carbon/smoke residue and the paint on the underside is blistered/cracked.

Maybe the old alternator caught fire. 🙂

Buzz
Buzz
3 months ago

It’s cruel to include a “both” option on these piles but not a “neither.” At least after I light my $2500 on fire, I’ll only have a few ashes to clean up.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
3 months ago
Reply to  Buzz

I need a 4th option, hookers and cocaine. That’s where my money would go.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
3 months ago

With the 3 choices given, you still missed an important one. Neither! I wouldn’t touch either of these with the proverbial 10′ pole. Far too much work for the supposed gains.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
3 months ago

Both is the only sensible answer here. One runs, the other is mostly complete but rusty. A lot easier to transfer the interior and trim from one to the other. Then sell what’s left to some dreamer. Or keep it for the parts if you have the space.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

I chose just the ’70. The ’79 seems more rust than useful bits.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
3 months ago

Hard choice but I took both. Maybe able to make on functional car out of them.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
3 months ago

I’m going with both here. Two Wagoneers with enough parts to make one good one for 5k-ish seems like a good deal to me

George CoStanza
George CoStanza
3 months ago

Paging David Tracy to the white courtesy phone…

Tough choice, but I like the ventilated driver’s seat on the first jeep.

Brooks Fancher
Brooks Fancher
3 months ago

Gonna need both of them to have one good working Jeep.

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