In the 1940s and ‘50s, wood-adorned Fords, Chryslers, Packards and even Nashes were all the rage. But perhaps the most iconic and recognizable woodie is the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which had wood on its sides until 1991. I recently heard a story from a Jeep engineer that the Grand Wagoneer’s wood may have been hiding something.
As a former Chrysler employee, I get to hang around with plenty of guys who have worked at Jeep for a long time—old timers, you might call them. They’ve told me all sorts of cool stories, but the one about the Jeep Grand Wagoneer’s wooden trim is among the best.
It’s almost certainly not true, but here it is anyway: the story goes that the Grand Wagoneer’s vinyl trim is actually hiding imperfections in the stampings, because the tooling for the doors and fenders wore out after decades of use.
This could make sense; if you look at the early 1960s Wagoneer in the picture above, the doors and fenders are clearly the same stamping as the late ‘80s model in the topshot. So yeah, those tools were cranking out parts for almost 30 years. It could make sense that decades of wear could take its toll.
But I’m skeptical. Even this early 70s Wagoneer had wood on its sides, clearly for styling purposes.
But okay, that’s not nearly as much wood as the late ‘80s and early ‘90s Grand Wagoneers, you might think. But here’s a 1975 Wagoneer with enormous wood panels, too:
Could the tooling have worn out already by 1975 after only 12 years of production? Perhaps, but if that were the case, then why did Jeep offer models without wood after the mid ‘70s? Here’s a 1983 model without an inch of tree on it:
Perhaps if I looked closer, I’d find some imperfections in those doors. But my J10's panels look okay to me. Or maybe they found a way to hide ripples with paint—I don’t know.
Again, this is just a rumor. But it’s a cool story that would explain why that Jeep—which had been built on the same platform for nearly three decades—kept those giant hunks of vinyl on its side, while the rest of the industry moved on.