1963 Jeep Wagoneer’s first test

With On September 3, 2021, the Jeep Wagoneer debuted, we thought we would revisit our first test from 1963 of the very first Jeep Wagoneer. Enjoy.

Willys has long built strict, almost completely functional vehicles of the utility type, and adds a whole new dimension to the line with Kaiser-Jeep’s new 1963 Jeep Wagoneer. To date, most four-wheel drive enthusiasts (of whom there are thousands) have faced the problem of needing two cars in the garage: a daily driver and an off-road vehicle. Jeep and other 4×4 vehicles are best for tools over costly or over unknown deserts – but for the most part they are either too slow or too narrow and uncomfortable for highway cruising. In most cases, real four-wheeled avicionados drag their rigs to the point where the modern highway stops and the real hinterland begins. With the new Jeep Wagoneer in the garage, the other car is no longer necessary – this is a vehicle that is equally at home everywhere.

The MotorTrend test Wagoneer was loaded with almost everything on offer: power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, independent front suspension, radio and heater, plus a host of smaller accessories. Another small but important accessory was the Warn hub installed on the front wheels. These made it possible for us, by a simple rotation of the wrist, to cut out the front wheels in two-wheel drive. This means less resistance, therefore better mileage, and less wear.

We were positively impressed by the newly introduced Tornado-230 inline-six engine. This is the only single-overhead cam (OHC) engine manufactured in America at this time, and if Kaiser-Jeep succeeds, other manufacturers may follow suit. This I-6 has an aluminum head, 8.5-to-1 compression ratio, two-tube carburetor and 3.8-liter displacement. Horsepower is very conservatively rated at 140 [SAE gross] at 4,000 rpm. The relatively long stroke-to-bore ratio gives the torque peak at a fairly low speed per minute (210 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm), which means that this engine will really tense up and pull when running hard and slow. Out on the highway, the high top speed for horsepower means that Wagoneer can keep up with the traffic and still have a lot left to pass. The power flow is even, and even though this is an OHC engine, its operation is very quiet.

The three-speed automatic transmission, manufactured by Borg-Warner, is connected to the front and rear axles by a gearbox with an interval. Models with three-speed manual transmission are equipped with a double-range gearbox (high and low). Two-wheel drive models are available with a three-speed manual transmission. Our test car had the standard (for automatic) 3.73-to-1 axle ratio. Wagons with manual transmission have 4.09 rear axle gears.

The acceleration is quite lively for a vehicle of this type. It stands very well in comparison with most passenger cars in its size. A top speed of 90 mph (true, not specified) was reached on the test track at Riverside Raceway. The standing quarter mile took 20.5 seconds, with a speed of 68 mph. Acceleration runs with a standing start of 0-30, 0-45 and 0-60 mph took 4.6, 8.8 and 16.1 seconds. We did not use forced shifts during any of the acceleration tests, but let the transmission do its own work. Maximum speeds at shift points were 31 mph (4,000 rpm) in the first and 51 mph (3,800 rpm) in the second.

Jeep currently sells all this model that it can produce and even has a fairly large number of backorders. As a result, we could not keep Wagoneer for as long as we wanted (it was already sold), so our fuel consumption figures are not as complete as they used to be. We were able to determine that normal city and highway driving gives numbers in the range of 14 to 18 mpg, and goes as high as 21 or 22 mpg for steady, legal limit for highway crossing. In tough backcountry, with all four wheels pulling, the range drops to 10 to 14 mpg. With a 20-liter fuel tank, this gives a range of anywhere from 200 to just over 400 miles to a tank with petrol – ordinary class, that is.

One of the few complaints we had with the car is centered on the fuel tank. It is a long, narrow tank that is embedded between the rear drive shaft and the frame rail on the curb. This in itself is good, because it is out of the way and well protected. But out of necessity, the filling tube, which is located on the driver’s side, is extremely long and almost horizontal – and because of this, it seems to take an eternity to fill the tank. The owners have to make sure that the station guards really fill the tank, as most of them have a tendency to assume that the tank is full when gas starts to bubble out on the ground – and this happens all the time when the Wagoner’s tank fills up.

While we are on the downside, we will mention the compass that comes as standard equipment on all Wagoneers. This can be a very useful accessory in a vehicle like this, and although it was accurate (as close as we could tell), it was designed in such a way that it made it inconvenient during night driving. The compass light is inside the unit and not shielded at all. As a result, the light in the driver’s eyes lights up, a perfect reflection of the compass is thrown up on the windscreen, and because the light is behind the compass steering wheel, the steering wheel is not illuminated and cannot be read from the driver’s seat.

We also felt that the brakes could be improved a bit. During the course of our tough tests, we ended up on what must have been a wagon track used by the original forties. It was about 50 miles long and took us up and down several mountains, through dry washes and over a couple of stretches where the road disappeared completely. We did not break any speed records to get through this stretch, but we did not waste any time either, and several times we had to stop to let the brakes cool down before we could continue. On the sidewalk, we discovered that they faded quite quickly at the 0-60 mph stop during our brake tests. When the brakes got hot, they also had a tendency to suddenly lock, and this was accompanied by them turning. The pedal pressures were neither too heavy nor too light with power assist and no one needed to get used to it.

In addition to the new engine, the most significant technical advancement on the test car was the independent front suspension. In a way, it is similar to the famous Mercedes-Benz unit. Basically, it’s a pivot shaft with simple rotation, but where Mercedes uses a pivot point several inches below the longitudinal axis of the axle, Jeep pivots it right on the center line; Mercedes uses the low pivot to keep camber changes at the steering wheel to a minimum. Since the Jeep unit is used at the front, it naturally contains guide knuckles at each end and during normal operation there are no camber changes at the steering wheel. So in fact, even though it’s basically a pivot shaft, the steering knuckles let it work just like a completely independent system. The shaft is the lower control arm and works with a shorter upper control arm, which is tied in a torsion bar at its inner pivot point.

Wagoneer is also available with the more conventional rigid front axle and semi-elliptical leaf spring system. Two-wheel drive models use a tubular shaft and leaf spring system or a swivel shaft with torsion bars. We would definitely recommend the independent layout and consider that its added benefits are worth every penny of the extra cost (approximately $ 160).

The rear suspension is conventional, with rigid axle and semi-elliptical springs. The springs are four-leafed, with an extra upper half-leaf to prevent the spring from winding.

The boulevard ride is surprisingly smooth and not at all choppy. In two-wheel drive, the driving characteristics are quite different from those of four-wheel drive. The car suddenly seems to “hack” into curves and does not feel completely stable. This is undoubtedly caused by the amount of negative wheels present in the front wheels – a necessity as the directional stability increases with negative wheels in front-wheel drive vehicles – just the opposite of rear-wheel drive vehicles. With the front wheels engaged in four-wheel drive, the Wagoneer turns very well and the directional stability is excellent.

Roughly speaking, the independent suspension really comes into its own. Traction is significantly improved, and it is almost impossible to get the vehicle in a position where one of the front wheels is off the ground. With differentials with limited sliding front and rear, Wagoneer could continue to pull even with one or more wheels from the ground – but attempts as we did, we could not get it in this position. With a straight front axle, it is a fairly common phenomenon in rough land. We maneuvered through a lot of exceptionally rough distances that would have tore off our teeth if it had not been for the front suspension.

To check the traction, we took the Wagoneer where the ground was loose and sandy and went as far as we could in two-wheel drive. When it got stuck, we engaged the front wheels and Wagoneer continued immediately. The only time we ever lost traction completely was on a really steep slope (no road) where the ground was covered with loose slate.

That we could go almost anywhere was not so surprising, because this is what you should expect with 4WD. What surprised us was that we could do it with an automatic gearbox. The transfer bag is operated by shifting a simple, two-position floor-mounted lever. This can be achieved regardless of whether the car is moving or stationary. A light, mounted under the dashboard and just above the lever, indicates when 4WD is engaged.

A lot of quality has been built into these vehicles, and like their military ancestors, they look like they were built to last and last. The interiors are made in tasteful colors and materials that contradict the car’s purpose. Six passengers of good size can be transported in full comfort, with plenty of hip, head and legroom available for everyone. There is also plenty of cargo space, which can be expanded by folding down the rear seat.

All controls and instruments are within easy reach of the driver, and seat adjustment is sufficient to satisfy everyone. The view all around is excellent, almost completely free. There is also plenty of work space in the engine compartment for service.

After the rest of the industry, Kaiser-Jeep offers extended lubrication periods. Under normal operating conditions, chassis points require service every 30,000 miles with oil change intervals of 6,000 miles.

To complete the versatile character of the Wagoneer, the options include power take-offs (on 4WD models) for front-mounted snow plows and winches.

Jeeps OHC Inline-Six

1 — Exhaust valve
2 — Exhaust valve guide
3 — Valve control seal
4 — Valve spring
5 — Spring guide for exhaust valve
6 — Rocker arm
7 — Rocker Arm Stud
8 — Rocker Arm Ball
9 — Bounce Guide
10 — Camshaft
11 — Cam Bearing Support Deck
12 — Intake rocker arm
13 — Rocker arm protection
14 — Lubricating pipes
15 — Valve Spring Guide
16 — Valve spring
17 — Valve control seal
18 — Intake Valve Guide
19 — Intake valve
20 Intake manifold
21 — Cylinder head
22 — Cylinder head gasket
23 — Piston
24— Crank
25 — Front engine plate
26 — Oil pump
27 — Spiral gear for oil pump
28 — Gears for oil pump
29 — Oil pan
30 — Crankshaft
31 — Frame chain cover
32 — Seal for cam chain cover
33 — Distributor
34 — Cylinder block
35 — Exhaust manifold

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