Sale of the Week

Is this $154,000 Grand Wagoneer peak market insanity?

by Andrew Newton
15 January 2022 3 min read
Image
. Photo by Mecum Auctions

For ten days each January, Kissimmee, Florida plays host to the world’s largest collector car auction, and it’s quite the experience. Mecum Auctions sets up shop both outside under tents and packed inside the buildings at Osceola Heritage Park, where glistening rows of cars and trucks extend as far as the eye can see – literally. For the well-heeled collector, there’s acres of top-shelf American muscle and modern exotics on offer; for the rest of us, there are cheap projects, entry-level classics, and a smidge of everything in between. It’s truly one of those “something for everyone” kind of auctions.

This year’s sale is no different, but it’s nigh-on impossible to ignore the absolute tear the collector car market is on at the moment, and it’s on full display in Kissimmee. Although we’ve lately described some of the stranger public sales with phrases like “strong money,” “big price,” and “well, that’s just crazy,” one Mecum sale this week really had us scratching our necks and shaking our heads in shock. Someone just dropped a bank-busting $154,000 on a 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer; for reference, that’s more than enough bucks to buy you a brand-new, loaded-out 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, with enough cash left over to buy a decent boat to tow behind your new SUV. This little hobby of ours is rarely rational, but come on.

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Sorry, but an old Grand Wagoneer is a bulky, underpowered, inefficient, and potentially unreliable way to get around. And for anybody on the hunt for a plush and stylish SUV, there is a huge list of better alternatives that is, of course, constantly growing. And yet, Jeep’s woodgrain wonder from the ’80s is more desirable than ever, with median condition #2 (Excellent) values for 1984-1991 Grand Wagoneers up 98 percent over the past five years. Exceptional examples approach–and apparently now surpass–six figures at auction. As cynical as we might be, there are some somewhat logical reasons for that.

While America's love of comfy, high-dollar 4x4s is a relatively recent craze, its roots go all the way back to Jeep's original Wagoneer in 1963. That big bruiser didn't change much over its almost 30-year production run, but most consider the 1984-1991 Grand Wagoneer to be the apex of the breed, thanks to their rich mix of amenities, power, and utility.

As the O.G. Grand Wagoneer essentially kicked-off the luxury SUV segment, Jeep's smooth-riding luxe sled was something of a status symbol in its day; parking one of these woodies next to your Cape Cod colonial meant ponying up the inflation-adjusted equivalent of around $60,000 when new. What really wins the Grand Wagoneer the most admiration, though, is its appearance. Refined from Brooks Stevens' original 1960s design, the Grand Wagoneer was and is like nothing else on the road, and time has only made both its shape and woodgrain panels cooler. That last bit may just be my opinion, but buyers apparently agree with me. The average quoted value of these Jeeps on Hagerty's insurance side of the business is up 51 percent over the last five years, and the number of quotes is up 24 percent over the same period.

As vintage trucks like the Grand Wagoneer become increasingly expensive, we're now at the point where not it's not just pampered, low-mile, original-condition examples that earn the valuable prize. They're worth enough these days that people are sinking serious comprehensive restoration-level money into them. This $154,000 Wagoneer is a perfect case in point. Shiny and fresh, it boasts a two-year nut-and-bolt restoration, and that's just not something we usually associate with an '86 Jeep.

Even taking all of that into consideration, 154 big ones doesn't just defy established mores, it's a big middle finger to logic. That number is twice the condition #1 (Concours, or best-in-the-world) value for a 1986 Grand Wagoneer in the Hagerty Price Guide (which was updated this month), and this example is neither all that rare nor is it uniquely clean. But, at least two people in the room at Kissimmee didn't need logic–they needed this Jeep. One bidder on the ground in Kissimmee this week told me that "people here have cash, and they're bound and determined to leave it here."

Perhaps we need no more explanation than that.

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Comments

  • Rick L. says:

    To each their own. I guess someone really loves it for sentimental reasons, not sure it will ever appreciate much from that number, but who knows. Maybe, just maybe this will be in bull market by Hagerty in the future. Great that we all have different tastes and love for ALL kinds of vehicles. Most important thing, insure it with Hagerty (for stated value) and DRIVE it.

  • Joe C. says:

    That’s crazy, I bought a new 1983 Jeep Cherokee Laredo. I wish I would have kept it, oh well hindsight. It was a 2 door and I think I paid around $14K for it. It was the last year of the full size Cherokee models and made by AMC. To be honest, the build quality wasn’t that great IMO. It had a 360ci that was a dog. The heater defroster and a/c blower motor went out in the dead of winter as did the electric tailgate window in the down position after a few years. The radiator needed replacement also after about 4 years. The paint quality wasn’t the best either so I had it repainted when it was 4 or 5 years old. I did like it though but I can’t believe what they’re going for these days.

  • DT says:

    Hollywood Hype??? I think so. Please follow that Jeep Wagoneer to see if it really sold.

  • Scott K says:

    I owned a duplicate of this truck, but a 1990 model, for about ten years. It was grossly underpowered (140hp from 360 cubic inches – how?), had a neanderthal suspension (transverse leaf spring in front – help!), but the beloved appearance always drew admirers. I’d attempt to explain what a terrible vehicle it was, and people would dismiss me as an ungrateful killjoy. So I learned to just smile and say “Thanks.” Sold it for $900 with about 80,000 on the clock and rust in all four rockers. Never looked back. Never missed it. My Cayenne GTS serves that same need now with about ten times the driving satisfaction.

  • Larry D says:

    Was that sold along about the time of day when the “adult drinks” kicked in?

  • OldFordMan says:

    In the 90’s and early 2000’s I would see these behind a dealer’s building or dirty on the back row of the lot. They were junk and you could buy one for $ 400-500 bucks. And that was over-paying.

  • Denise Clumpner says:

    I personally do not understand the craze for these vehicles, but that is ok. I respect the preservation of them, but it isn’t where I would put my money.

  • Ken Sousa says:

    I bought a ’95 Bronco XLT about four years ago for $5,000, which I deemed to be a pretty fair price. The truck was and is in pristine condition and looks like it just rolled out of the showroom. I love it. I recently noticed that Broncos like mine are easily selling in the $15,000 range. And how could ANY Jeep Wagoneer be worth $154,000? I watched the broadcast of the Mecum Auction and kept being astounded at the hammer prices of most of the cars involved. Are people crazy?

  • Wilkin Jim says:

    Bought a pair (bookends) a blue one and a green one in 1991. Kept them for about 5 years. They were constant grief. Ate power door actuators and tailgate window hardware. The green one caught on fire at the pollution control sensors. We loved them both dearly while in our garage.

  • Jim Repp says:

    Nostalgia? IDK. But I am a Jeep collector – and these kinds of sales ruin it for normal folks like me [us] … Then the thieves start stealing them. UGH. I love the SJ platform, but this is kinda crazy money imho. Oh well. I guess this is a drop in the bucket to some. NOT me ! lol

  • eighthtry says:

    I’m still looking for some throwaway money.

  • Sharon Overall says:

    It really did sell as stated. It belonged to a friend of mine. He paid two very talented young men to restore it. Lots of love went into restoring it to the pristine condition which made it so beautiful and appealing to those with the money to own it.

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