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If you would like information on restoration or on my products, I will gladly share my experience with you. My mother tongue is French, but I also speak some English.


807 Airport Access Road, Unit D
Traverse City, MI, 49686
United States

Jeep Cherokee Chief Store is a small Swiss company founded by a passionate Chrysler Jeep Cherokee Gladiator and Wagoneer which aims to rebuild and market spare parts extremely rare and not found for a quality restoration.

On The Road Again: 9 Jeep Wagoneer Restoration Tips To Get Your Classic Truck Up And Running

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Brooks Stevens designed the original Jeep Wagoneer SJ in 1962 as a replacement for Willys' utility wagons. It surpassed expectations. No other 4X4 featured automatic transmission and independent suspension at the time. 

Later, Jeep changed the name to Grand Wagoneer in 1984.

On The Road Again: 9 Jeep Wagoneer Restoration Tips To Get Your Classic Truck Up And Running

Frossard Dominique

9 Jeep Wagoneer Restoration Tips To Get Your Classic Truck Running

Are you restoring a classic full-size Jeep truck? From buying bumper nerfs to replacing doorsteps, here are some Jeep Wagoneer restoration tips for you.

Keyword(s): Jeep Wagoneer restoration


The Jeep Wagoneer is best known for its "Woody" model. Often the Woody appears in beach scenes, surfboards leaning against the fender. Wouldn't it be great to bring back that kind of classic beauty?

The Wagoneer is the classic SUV. It was designed to take on intense terrain while keeping its passengers comfy. Restoring one to its former glory isn't an easy task. 

This is why I've put together a simple guide. Let's get started on your Jeep Wagoneer restoration.

A Short History of the Jeep Wagoneer

Long before soccer moms drove around in heavy, overly jacked-up SUVs, there was the Jeep Wagoneer. The Wagoneer was the first luxury SUV.

SUVs were originally war-time vehicles. During WWII the U.S. government needed a lightweight four-wheel-drive troop transport vehicle. Bantam Motors' design won out. 

Their company wasn't financially viable and Ford and Willys-Overland teamed up to build Bantam's design. This eventually became the "Jeep." After the war, Willys-Overland continued to produce jeeps and eventually became Kaiser Jeep. 

Brooks Stevens designed the original Jeep Wagoneer SJ in 1962 as a replacement for Willys' utility wagons. It surpassed expectations. No other 4X4 featured automatic transmission and independent suspension at the time. 

Later, Jeep changed the name to Grand Wagoneer in 1984. They had designed a downsized version and wanted to distinguish between the smaller Wagoneer and the full-size version.

Image from @mrwagoneer

Image from @mrwagoneer

1. Have An Honest Budget for Your Jeep Wagoneer Restoration

We're not trying to discourage anyone from restoring their Jeep Wagoneer, but you need to understand that it's not cheap. The repairs can run into five digits. You'll often spend more on the restoration than the vehicle itself.

For example, when I restored my Jeep Cherokee Chief. The parts alone cost me $8,200. Purchasing the vehicle for restoration cost $6,500. Add on top of that paint and the cost of importing or transporting the vehicle and you're looking at the price of a low-end newer vehicle. 

Think about how much you can afford to drop now. If you start thinking in terms of years instead of months, there's a good chance your Wagoneer will sit in your garage unfinished forever. 

This decision will guide the rest of the process. Will you have someone you know help you or enlist a professional mechanic? What parts will you focus on? Having a budget starts you off on the right foot.

2. Find Your "Baby"

Of course, if you want a real fixer-upper, you can probably head to your local junkyard and "rescue" an abused Wagoneer. I wouldn't recommend this. 

You might save money when buying the original. However, you will spend more in parts and paint. Most of the parts in a junked Wagoneer will be useless.

I'd find a partially restored or at least a well-cared for classic. This will cut down the amount of work you have to do in order to finish the job. 

It's easy to find partially restored Jeeps. Plenty of people overestimate how much time and money it will cost to restore a Jeep. Search online used car forums, craigslist, and local used car dealerships. 

When you're buying a Wagoneer, you really want to find a rust-free one. The biggest problem with the Wagoneer's design is the door frame. They leak like a sieve. 

No matter how nice your find is, it probably had some leakage down into the floorboards. It really depends on whether the previous owner kept up with the rust or not.

3. Set Aside Time and Don't Rush

Image from @mrwagoneer

Image from @mrwagoneer

This project will take you longer than you think. If you work a full-time job, it will take even longer. 

It took me three years to restore the Jeep Cherokee Chief. I spent approximately 450 hours. That's about 30 minutes to an hour every few days.

How long do you think it will take you? Take your initial time estimate, double it, then multiply that number by three. This will give you some breathing room.

You'll need some breathing room. You'll get arms deep into your Wagoneer thinking you'll be moving along at a clip when something comes apart in your hands. If you didn't give yourself breathing room, you'll get discouraged.


4. Don't Get Stuck on "Original Parts"

Almost every junkyard has a Jeep Wagoneer. They are fairly common. And you can find replacement parts in old junked Wagoneers. This will cut down on cost.

But you'll quickly find that old engine parts generally aren't viable. If it's been junked, it probably was never cared for in the first place. 

Cosmetic parts like chrome and plastics might still be perfectly fine. To keep cost down, harvest as many of these parts as possible.

Now that you've exhausted the junkyard option, you're going to need new parts or reproduction parts. The original manufacturers aren't producing the original parts anymore. This is why you shouldn't get caught up on finding actually original parts.

When there's a market, there's a way. And thankfully, restoring full-size Jeeps is a popular hobby. You can find companies like ours that make reproduction parts. 

You'll actually find that the reproduction parts are more rugged and longer lasting than the original parts. Material production technology has improved since the 60s and the reproduction parts will keep your restored vehicle running longer.

If no company makes the parts you're looking for, you can always have something custom fabricated.


5. Practice on a Daily Driver First

You might not want the Jeep Wagoneer to be your first restoration. Find a daily driver or a classic junker you don't care so much about to restore first.

This way you can mess up and not cost yourself a full Wagoneer. Some of the best money you'll spend is right here in this phase. Especially if you've never done this before.


6. Remove The Interior, Trim And All

You need to understand where the structural problems are from the beginning. The best way to do that is to remove the entire interior, including the trim. This helps you spot trouble areas now instead of when you're almost done with the renovation. 

Take out all the parts, label them, and bag them up. This will help you remember how the parts go back together once you need to put them in.

Throw out the parts that you're going to replace. If you don't do this, you'll end up frustrated searching through useless junk.

Inspect the Car for Rust

Once you've done this, inspect the Jeep for rust. One of the most common areas you'll find rust is under the carpet in the footwells. 

The Wagoneer comes with drain plugs under the carpet in the footwells. The problem isn't there specifically, but just behind the drain. There are floor steel and channels underneath. Between those two layers is where you'll find the most rust, especially under the AC vents. 

There is a drain line up in the AC unit that can get clogged and overflow onto the floor. This is another source of condensation apart from the leaky door frame

Image from @mrwagoneer

Image from @mrwagoneer


7. Inspect the Engine

Depending on how well taken care of your Jeep is, you may not need to do much to the engine. If the engine is running well enough, you might just need to repaint various parts and wax the inside of the engine box. 

If the engine is dirty, you might want to consider power washing the block. This means you'll probably strip some of the paint, but don't worry because you'll be putting a fresh coat of paint on it later.

One part of the car you'll like have to get rebuilt is the carburetor. It's better to rebuild a carburetor than to replace it.

Jeep built the carburetor specifically for this vehicle specifications. It works perfectly with the transmission and engine block. 

You could rebuild the carburetor yourself if you have the expertise. If you don't, I'd recommend having a professional rebuild your carburetor.


8. Avoid Jeep Ignition Woes

Get rid of the original problematic ignition box and put in a distributor instead. Do this especially if you have an AMC 401 motor. 

This is one place you certainly have to steer away from stock. If you use the original ignition system, it will certainly fail. The 401 likes a lot of timing and the AGI distributor will ensure that you don't have to mess with it ever again. 

Image from @mrwagoneer

Image from @mrwagoneer


9. Be familiar with the technical specifications.

It is important to know the technical specifications of your jeep, engines, transmissions, axles, this helps when you are going to buy spare parts. The model is the year will not be enough, as many have been transformed or specially equipped.

The wagons have been assembled with many types of transmissions since 1964-91, 2 or 4-wheel drive, three or four types of 6-cylinder in-line engines, V8 360ci and even a v8 401ci, not to mention the many transfer cases and multi-axle AMC or Dana multipes.

More details here in Jeepfamilly.cherokee-fr unfortunately in french but very complete or in IFSJA blog.


Bonus: Use Jeep Restored Jeep Wagoneer Bumper Nerfs/Stripes For Best Look

Like I said before, you're going to have a hard time finding some parts for your Jeep Wagoneer restoration project. One part I realized nobody manufactures anymore is the bumper nerf from the 84-91 line.

This is the small plastic stripe girding the chrome on either end of each bumper. We reproduced them to the exact specifications of the original car. 

If you're looking for this hard to find part, select your kit now. With this final touch, your restored Jeep Grand Wagoneer will look like it just drove off the lot.