The 1963 Wagoneer was the...
The 1963 Wagoneer was the first of the modern sport utility vehicles. It pioneered a whole new market segment: Skiers and outdoorsman loved it.
The Willys Motors division of Kaiser Industries introduced its new vehicle in November 1962 as a 1963 model. Wagoneer was noticeably larger and much more family-oriented than the old Willys wagon. The new Jeep also displayed a number of innovations and groundbreaking new ideas. It offered both two- and four-door models, providing a range of choices previously unseen in SUVs. It was, said Willys, "the first station wagon to offer passenger-car styling in combination with the advantages of four-wheel-drive traction." Engineering boss Dan Hammond wanted the doors to open 90 degrees. His mother was an invalid, so he realized how important ease of entry and exit was. Although the public responded enthusiastically to the entire Wagoneer lineup, they were almost passionate about the four-door versions. It was the most exciting innovation since the original Willys wagon.
Window areas on the Wagoneer were unusually large, giving an airy, spacious feel to the passenger compartment. Also, Wagoneer's interior trim was almost posh compared to other SUVs, which back then resembled construction vehicles.
Standard equipment on four-wheel-drive Wagoneers was a 2,500-pound-capacity front axle and 3,000-pound rear axle. Standard tires were 7.10x15s - tiny by today's standards but considered a pretty good all-around tire back then.
Unlike the glorified construction...
Unlike the glorified construction vehicles from its competitors, the Wagoneer was designed from the ground up as a four-wheel-drive sport utility wagon.
Innovations abounded. Wagoneer was the first production four-wheel-drive wagon to offer a smooth-riding, optional independent front suspension. Much more significant, however, was Wagoneer's optional automatic transmission (made by Borg-Warner), the first ever offered on a family sport utility wagon. The automatic opened up the SUV market to hundreds of thousands of drivers who wouldn't or couldn't drive a manual gearbox. Wagoneer also offered Selector Drive Lights on four-wheel-drive models to let drivers know at a glance which drive range they were in.
Another innovation was the all-new overhead-cam six-cylinder engine, which debuted in the 1962 Jeep pickups and wagons. It was the only U.S.-built overhead-cam engine in production back then and was designed for heavy-duty performance with maximum efficiency. Amazingly robust for its size, the hardy Jeep Tornado-OHC six produced 140 hp (and that was net horsepower, not gross) with excellent fuel economy. In fact, tests showed Jeep's Tornado-OHC engine had the lowest specific fuel consumption of all production gasoline engines on the market; however, Wagoneer was relatively trim: curb weight on the four-wheel-drive Wagoneer was 3,701 pounds. For the first two and a half years, the OHC six was the only engine available.
The new Jeep offered both two- and four-wheel-drive models. The two-wheelers could even be ordered with an optional overdrive transmission for smoother highway running and improved fuel economy. In addition, a panel-truck version was produced; however, the panel wagon is considered a commercial truck model, separate from the Wagoneer. In catalogs, it was listed with the Gladiator trucks, which shared sheetmetal and much of their underpinnings with the Wagoneer.
Wagoneer instantly became the new style leader among truck-based wagons. Why not? Compared to its competitors, the handsome new Jeep was trim and athletic. Although Wagoneer's 110-inch wheelbase was nearly 1/2 foot longer than the old wagon's and its overall length more than 7 inches longer, it remained an easy-handling, efficient-size family vehicle. "Some competing designs sketched out by Brooks Stevens had separate front fenders like the old Willys wagon," recalls Jack Wildman, "but (Design Chief) Jim Anger went for a modern design, incorporating the front fenders into the body."