Thursday, April 28, 2016

Vortec V8 Swap: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer

The SJ generation Jeep Wagoneer was produced from 1962 through 1991 and holds the unique title of being the world's first luxury 4X4 sport utility vehicle.  Back before the Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen littered prep school drop-off zones, this was the vehicle that wealthy country club cowboys bought for their first wives, and tried to get their second wives to use -- but being twenty years younger, wife 2.0 would normally demand something sportier like a Mercedes SL. Perhaps with a bit of persuading she would drive a Vortec V8 powered Wagoneer?  Find this 1979 Jeep Wagoneer with GM 5.3 Vortec V8 swap here on eBay bidding for $10,001 reserve-not-met with 2 days to go, located in French Settlement, LA.

To this day, you will still find a certain segment of the East coast upper class who keep these things on the road at considerable maintenance cost, but they were nice cars when new.  Times change, and the AMC 360 V8 that would have originally powered this Wagoneer just doesn't offer the power/fuel economy that Tesla drivers expect-- time for an LS swap.

This Wagoneer lost a few cubes when the engine was changed to a small block GenIII 5.3 liter Vortec V8 from some GM product, but the 275ish horsepower should be a significant upgrade.  It is mated to a 4L60E and twin sticked Dana 300 transfer case and Dana 44 rear axle with locker.  TL;DR version-- this thing can now climb hills.

The interior features nice seats, a clean dash, gauges that work, and functioning AC -- it will be very interesting to see what the reserve is on this beast.

 See another giant green machine for sale?


  1. I saw one of these powered by a V12 Ferrari engine at the Harrah's museum in Reno. Looked just great.

    1. Yeah, that was Bill Harrah's personal wheels for a few years.

      Somehow I think the LS motor is probably better suited.

  2. My dad had one of these, just before they started going up in price. I worked for skip barber for a year and the craziest ride i ever had was in that wagoneer. Lived on a steep somewhat twisty road. Backed out of the driveway, and before he even had his foot off the brake to pull forward we start sliding. Ive never seen an entire road glare ice like this. Youd have to know the road to appreciate the lunacy of the ride we took but it involves a audi tt on a side road with the driver waving for us to stop as we slide past. Sawing at the wheel from full lock one way all the way to the other over and over. Mentally planning ensuing crash at the bottom of the steepest part where the road turns, picturing jumping the culvert, going through a fence and stoping in a horse pasture. As long as we left the road straight hopefully we wont roll and we will be ok. It didnt occur to me we would make the turn. But we did. Then coming around the bend sideways we find a new suburban nosed into the ditch blocking half the road. Finally getting to the flat part of the road and one final sharp right and were clear. It was probably about 1/2 a mile slide and at the end dad look at me, hold up the coffee mug thats been in his right hand the whole time and proudly says, "didnt spill a drop."

    1. Sorry for the essay, i just think of that ride everytime i see one of these.


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