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Mint Condition Islander: 1989 Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler today still bears some resemblance to its forebears, but much has been lost in the translation. The modern Wrangler is just big – it’s long enough in four-door and Rubicon form to make parallel parking a challenge. The classic Jeep formula always seemed centered around a shorter wheelbase and venerable inline-six power courtesy of the 4.0L or 4.2L, whereas today the engine choices are much more focused on fuel economy rather than ample off-road torque. The special editions are also a step backwards, in my opinion, as there’s nothing in the Jeep lineup at present that captures sun and fun as perfectly as this 1980 Jeep Wrangler Islander edition listed here on craigslist in Chicago.

The upgrades were purely cosmetic, which normally is the bane of my existence but for some reason, the Islander kit just seemed extremely well done. It has a lot to do with those graphics running down the edges of the doors. In my opinion, the artist actually captured perfectly the essence of owning a go-anywhere off-roader parked at the beach with a couple of surfboards on the roof. I don’t have any hard data, but I’m guessing Islander edition Jeeps sold extremely well in places like Florida and Southern California. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find one in anything resembling the condition that this one is in, what with its gorgeous paint and perfectly preserved Islander graphics.

In general, it’s getting harder to find clean YJs of any specification, let alone a rare Islander model. The YJ was simply too cheap for too long, and also too capable off-road for your average enthusiast to ignore. It’s the downside to certain vehicles perpetually being cheap: they get abused, treated like there’s no tomorrow, and in the case of a Jeep, the interiors are usually trashed because you can just hose them out. It’s a shame, really, but not surprising considering how most owners buy them for their off-road prowess. In the case of this Islander edition, it has clearly been given the white-glove treatment since new and never used for mudding or crashing through a bog.

The engine bay is as mint as it gets, but what I’m most struck by is how vibrant the paint still is. It’s almost wet in appearance, which is usually typical of a recent respray but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. When it comes to Islander editions, a premium price may be justified given how few are left and fewer still in this sort of showroom condition. The Wrangler has always been an enthusiast’s favorite but never exactly cherished like some future collectible; with examples like this coming to market, perhaps that sentiment is changing. Would you spend real money for a preserved YJ like this?


  1. Howard A Member

    “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”,,what’s this? It’s already removed, aka, sold, but let’s talk anyway, why not? No price, but I can say, an “Islander” very similar to this, only white, was for sale near me, it had a slight lift, 42K, said stored inside and looked it, had a $15g price tag. Sat for about 2 weeks and was gone, so the appeal is certainly there. It’s a long known fact, specially themed vehicles always usually push undecided buyers over the edge, or used to. This Jeep was relisted on Ebay with an asking price of $16,800, I thought the one by me was overpriced, naturally, but it seems this is the going price for these. It’s a nice one, I’ll say that, makes mine look pretty shabby, but for a $12,000 dollar savings, I did okay. While I like my Jeep, even though it sits, the “lipstick on a pig” saying has been over used, but this pretty much sums it up. It’s still a YJ.

    Like 5
  2. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Craigslist listing was removed. No price listed??

    Like 4
  3. 1959Buickman

    Looks nearly identical to the one that sold on ebay for 20k, might be the same one. Interesting write up on ebay by the seller.

    Like 2
  4. Rw

    Bought a 91 Islander a few years back,same color ,my buddy ask where I got that Ken & Barbie Jeep,it was O-D green within a week, still have it,91 was first year for 4.0 HO.

    Like 4
    • Sunsport

      That color is Pacific Blue and was not available in 1991. You might have had Navajo Turquoise but not the same unless someone did a complete color change.

      Like 1
    • Bick Banter

      Haha! I bet it looked like a teenage girl’s high school graduation gift. I see why you changed the color. Anyway, as cute as they are, these are very rough contraptions and feel very small and slow in traffic, especially if you’re used to modern cars. A friend of mine has one of this generation. So I recommend driving one first to make sure you’ll be comfortable with it before taking the plunge.

      Like 1
  5. Erik Puskar

    LOVE THIS and wish they still made the WRANGLER as spartan as these were!

    Like 3
  6. Sunsport

    In response to the author, it likely is a repaint. The decal package is an aftermarket copy of the original which is close, but there are some differences in the stripe dimensions and placement and the sun decal is more round vs the original is a little more oval.

    I have no doubt it always was an Islander, but that would seem to explain the new looking paint.

    Like 2
  7. Rw

    Hey ther Sunspot my blue Barbie YJ had metallic wasn’t going into little details

  8. Trevor

    I had an 88 Laredo back in the day in high school 1996-ish it was an automatic also with air conditioning the automatic is not very desirable with a 4.0L the passing gear is controlled by linkage that hooks to the carburetor not a good set up also the purge canister and PCV valve are troublesome, I was having transmission trouble and it turns out I ended up cracking the flex plate somehow?????

  9. NHDave

    Considering how many non-original changes have been made to this 67K mile (or, is it 66K miles, as the seller indicates both?) ‘89 Wrangler, the seller’s arrogant in-your-face listing is even more off-putting. Both front and rear bumpers are aftermarket replacements, as are the front seat covers, center console, the carb and air cleaner, and the wheels are from a later Jeep model. The hood prop rod likely is the original factory blue paint. And, gotta wonder what that cover-it-all-in-black-paint undercarriage treatment is masking. If this was a true unmolested, unmodified ‘89 Wrangler, MAYBE the seller would be entitled to be that arrogant. It’s not, and he’s not.

    Like 7
  10. Rw

    Trevor your 88 Laredo didn’t have a 4.0, either 4.2 or 4 cyl.

    Like 2
  11. Bunky

    “Jeeps are typically 6 cylinders”. News to me and all the GIs who drove them. I have a ‘94 YJ with a 2.5 four cylinder. Adequate on trails and not bad on hills. Fun around town. If you’re looking for a freeway cruiser a real Jeep is not for you. It’s a Jeep thing. You wouldn’t understand.

  12. Phipps

    I had a 1990 YJ 2.5l 4cyl. Islander and removed the graphics at the time. Is kinda funny now that would be collectible.

    This one definitely has aftermarket wheels instead of the steels but is rare to see one in this shape. I always liked the YJ angled rear part of the cage too.

    • Sunsport

      Yup, anyone with a clean original one minus the graphics would want to put them back on in a hurry now – much like some of the other special edition YJs like Rio Grande, JP, Olympic Editions, etc., they command a premium over regular YJs in today’s market – at least in clean stock/close to stock form.

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