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Worth Saving? 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

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For years, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer has confused me. Is it valuable? Is it not? I’ve seen them go for big dollars in restored condition and for relative peanuts as a project. The middle ground on these does not seem to exist, but this 1986 example here on eBay is in need of a savior to ensure it doesn’t fall off the cliff from project-grade to junkyard-bound. The seller has no reserve listed but is asking for an opening bid of $2,500. 

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Very little details are offered as to its true condition. It’s not running and is described as recent barn find. The interior doesn’t look too bad if it’s been laid up for a while, and surfaces like the dash don’t appear to be cracked. These Grand Wagoneers may not look like much compared to modern luxury SUVs, but for a time, this was a high water mark on the U.S. truck landscape if you wanted to travel to the ski lodge in style. 1986 was the first year of a revised interior with some added creature comforts and improved climate control.

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The Grand Wagoneer was considered the gold standard in SUVs. In many ways, it created the market we have today, chock full of large people-movers slathered in leather and chrome from almost every major manufacturer. The 5.9L V8 was the go-to engine for the Grand Wagoneer in its last years under AMC ownership, and parts availability should still be relatively strong for this non-runner. The standard Select-Trac drivetrain received a new Trac-Loc limited slip beginning in 1986; no word of its condition here.

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The body looks fairly solid, though it’s impossible to tell the condition of the floors. Obviously, you need to have the simulated wood grain trim if you’re going to pilot a classic 4×4 like the Grand Wagoneer, but it looks a bit tired on this example. There are plenty of restoration and aftermarket specialists to help with parts-sourcing if you decide to rescue this classic American SUV, but there’s a long ways to go before this one is fetching the big dollars of a turnkey example. Would you use it as intended or make it into a showpiece?


  1. Kincer Dave

    I’m not positive but I think there is a company that buys these up and restores them, then resells for big bucks. I can’t remember where I seen it though.

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  2. Chris

    I just bought this 1988 restored one with 58,000 miles for the wife for our anniversary. I paid the top of the market for it, but it is a museum piece. I was surprised how well it drives. Very smooth quiet ride, far better than any jeep I have been in. My only complaint is no fuel injection. I am going to convert it this summer, it is a very popular upgrade for these. I also added keyless entry with a key fob. It is her daily driver, the mileage is terrible.

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    • MH

      How much did you pay for it? I’ve been looking for a deal on one for years.

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      • Chris

        32k. Guy wanted 35, claimed he had 60k in it with the restoration. He replaced everything even the wheels are NOS and not a mark on them. It is in almost perfect shape. I think the market is heating up on these, my wife has already gotten 2 offers to buy it. I’m the third owner, originally sold in Montana, then moved to San Diego. Power everything, it all works too. The A/C is like an icebox.

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  3. Mike

    My Mom and Dad had a 87 Dad bought it on a whim one day, They went to a local dealer and test drove one, they then went in to the dealership and ordered the one they wanted. This thing had everything in the book on it. It took them almost 6 weeks to get it, and from the first day they took delivery of it for about the first 4 months they owned it, it was at the dealership more then they had it.
    They had to replace the radiator, the water pump, they had to charge to AC, then had to replace the compressor, the 4 wheel drive would not lock in all the time, and to top it off the transmission started to slip with only about 6k on it. After the first year Dad was fed up with it and traded it off on something else. I always joked that he should have bought the one he test drove, but who knows, Dad always said if there is a Lemon out there he would get it.

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  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Got the t-shirts, tattoos, scars…you name it. Having owned double digit numbers of these in various years and configurations (see user name :) ) I can tell you these are both glorious to own and will drive you crazy with their little quirks and needs. If you want one, avoid a sub-$2k one unless you plan on getting very dirty for a while. And if you aren’t capable of turning a wrench…walk away. No, run away because you’ll be broke within a year.

    Ps: this advert’d one is a $500 Jeep btw.

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    • Dan h

      Couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve done my share of wrenching on these for clients over the years. Some can be real basket cases. And just try to pass the California emissions test on the first go around with one of these…good luck.
      Unless you get one that is tight, well documented, low mileage, well serviced and cared for or your a seasoned mechanic that wants to spend edless hours wrenching it, don’t even consider a Grand Wagoneer.

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  5. ccrvtt

    My late father-in-law had one. He lived in northern Michigan and had the regulation snow plow attached. He loved clearing snow from the neighbors’ driveways and just commandeering the thing. My son’s Grand Cherokee appears to be a direct descendent but benefits greatly from the years of development. I like the looks of the Wagoneer but would buy a newer GC.

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  6. Howard A Member

    It’s so expensive to restore these and they’re not exactly rare. Clean ones come up from time to time. Mostly from warmer climates, as these were some of the nicest wagons made, some owners never even used it in the snow, they were that nice of a wagon. Personally, I’d hold out for a nice one. So much easier that way.

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  7. keith

    its worth 500 as a starting point to restore not 2500

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  8. guggie

    I have had several of these and not a lemon , go any place any time , I should know I drove the snowplow and never failed to get to work thru ice and snow ( upstate New York )Towed boats campers and plowed with them , mine were bullet proof . Traded for a Dodge Ramcharger ,another great vehicle also !!

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    • Jk

      I couldn’t agree more, I live in central pa, also owned a 79 , not the prettiest but it didn’t matter , that thing was impossible to get stuck , the heavy snows in 93or 95, don’t quite rem , but the snow was drifted up over the hood, no alleys plowed, shovelled enough to get in , and that thing just walked outa there and down the road without not one wheel breaking loose, I really had my doubts but boy was I surprised, ac everything worked as it should, sun beaten green paint though, no biggy , I called it the tank

      Like 1

    I think the seller shot himself in the foot. Almost every blunder one can do at selling a vehicle is represented here. Don’t do the vehicle (or yourself) any favors by at least airing up the flat tires. Remove it from the weeds. Remove the trash. Park it away from the salvage yard…you get the point.

    However it is ads like this that I take a second look at. When most would write it off at just a glance as a parts car the savvy buyer know a deal. Why pay $30K for one? Show this one some love and it just may love you right back.

    These are a solid vehicle and with a little effort you could end up with a very nice ride here. Figure on common wear items and the normal items you would need to do anyway. The AMC 360 is a great engine. The smoothness comes from the GM turbo. Passenger cars got the Torqueflite transmission. Many upgrades you can do on the cheap. These were really the only original go anywhere high style SUV.

    My favorites though are the 1993-1998 Grand Cherokee ZJ. with AMC’s 4.0 six cylinder. Have had three and all had over 250K miles.As a winter beater none finer.

    After 1998 they turned to junk. Trans and rear ends. The new FIAT Jeeps are currently on several top 10 cars to avoid lists. Ouch!

    Like 0
  10. Jim

    Too expensive to restore,
    I would pull the wood trim, and lift it.

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    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      There’s a reason they’re called J_ust E_mpty E_very P_ocket


      Like 0
  11. Roger

    I have always loved these ( my mom had one for a while when I was a kid ). Maybe I’m just not up on some things, but I just checked out the Wagonmaster.Com website and I was just about floored when I saw their prices on the Grand Wagoner ( between about $50,000 – $70,000!!! )! I have no doubt whatsoever that Wagonmaster IS the go-to if you are looking for a ” As new, factory fresh ” GW, but still – WOW is all I can say on the prices. I did check out their website and itsee really really nice, very informative . One thing I read on there though I might be a little upset about if I were to go and buy a $70k Jeep from them : As with most parts, they say they take the heads off and check them out. Then; while the heads are off, they check and replace the Pistons as necessary. I think if I were going to buy one of these things for $70k that may have up to 70,000 miles on it and is advertised as ” showroom condition ” and what not I might expect to receive a completely rebuilt motor with it. What do yall think in regards to having the motors rebuilt in them as part of the ” restoration ” at that price point ? If I’m off base just like thanks!

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    • Chris

      The Mopar 360 is known for cracks in the heads around the valves. Almost every one of these with any mile on them will have the cracks. That is why they are pulling the heads. There is probably not a need to go deeper in the motor in most cases.

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      • wuzjeepnowsaab

        These are not MoPar engines. They’re AMC blocks and builds…from 304 to 401, all the same small block albeit, the 401 had mor nickel in the casting.

        One of the big misconceptions out there about these…people mistakenly think they’re either MoPar or Ford engines.

        Like 0
  12. Chris

    Yes. Same issue though.

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  13. Larry Cook

    This one is a pass. Too much work to put into this for the money he’s asking. The trick on these is to engine swap the original AMC 360 for a modern fuel-injected GM vortec-series engine (the kind you would find on a 2000-and later model Chevy Tahoe, for example. There’s lots of them on the road and a lot of these vehicles get totaled and the engines come up for sale. With the modern efficiency and weight saving of the vortec engine in a JGW, you’ve got a winner. Plan on $10K to do it right.

    Like 0

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