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Monday, June 27, 2016

Johnny Lightning 1981 Jeep Wagoneer



One of the Johnny Lightning castings revived in the 2016 line that is very popular, aside from the VW Super Beetle, is the Jeep Wagoneer.  I've known this casting since it was introduced in the last Forever 64 release and was limited on variations, but most importantly it lacked the well-known wood trim paneling on the sides that most of us thought we would see on this casting.  Well the wait is over and the wood trim is here!




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Running for 28 years the Wagoneer was the first 4-door Jeep SUV and one that was the most luxurious well before the Range Rover name appeared or way before any of our current luxury SUV's were known to exist (the Mercedes G-wagen?  Well it was a rugged 4x4 that was not designed for luxury in the early years).  The Wagoneer first appeared with two and four-door bodystyles and even a Gladiator pickup, but by the 1980's the line was reduced to a four-door model only and was competing for staying rights as the new smaller Cherokee also adorned a Wagoneer trimmed model in the late 1980's.  Still, the iconic Wagoneer was a favorite among many.  The rugged look remained constant over the years with only the rear end receiving most of the changes.  The interior was luxurious and had room to integrate leather, power windows, locks, HVAC, radio, and a large cargo area.  Underneath is all rugged truck frame with front and rear live axles, two-speed transfer case with a knob on a dash to switch modes (instead of the common floor shifter), power steering, 4-speed automatic transmission connected to a 360 CID AMC V8 that produced an estimated 160 hp.  Production finally ended in 1992 to make way for the new Grand Cherokee replacement  The Wagoneer is planning a comeback to the Jeep line sometime in 2018.




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The first release was in white, had no wood trim, a plastic base, and steel wheels with hubcaps.  Nice, but not what most of us were looking for.  In 2013 after the JL Forever 64 demise a few select models were sold as loose vehicles for Tractor Supply, and one of them was the Wagoneer in gold color with the correct multi-spoke wheels in chrome and metal base finally made their debut, but again where's the wood trim?  Finally, the 2016 release brings the missing wood trim and even more details.  The front has square headlights with silver trim details, lower slot grille with signal lights below the grille, silver bumper with black bumper pads, lower chin spoiler, and New Hampshire Limited plates front and rear.  The sides finally get what they deserve with the nicely-done faux wood trim paneling on the sides and a rather light-colored trim on the rear tailgate.  Also added are side marker lights, Wagoneer Limited badges on the front fenders, and 4-wheel drive on the rear fenders.




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The window trim has silver accents, the roof rack is still there along the ribbed roof, and the multi-spoke wheels return, now on smaller tires with white-striped sidewalls.  The back has even more details like the red taillights with silver trim, reverse lamps just below, black bumper pads, silver tailgate handle with Wagoneer, and AMC and Limited badges on the tailgate.  Still, the tailgate does not close in flush and looks rather taller than the rest of the windows.  One of the novelties is the opening rear tailgate to show off the ribbed cargo area and, surprisingly, the inner tailgate panel.  The hood opens to show off the 360 V8 with the black intake hose, air cleaner housing, and engine block, with detailed components along the fenders and front radiator.  The chassis is still metal and shows off the front and rear axles that allow lots of ground clearance, the spare tire, the exhaust, the drivetrain, the transmission, the transfer case, and even the front axle details.




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The interior on all of them never part from the tan color and that's not a bad thing.  The front has bucket seats with a center console that has cupholders.  The 3-spoke steering wheel sits behind three gauges, transmission shifter, and well-placed controls.  A glove box is centered below the radio and above the low HVAC controls in the center of the dashboard, while the door panels are nicely detailed.  The rear bench is a typical bench without headrests of the era and all of this interior details really do bring out the luxury feel of the Wagoneer.  And if that's not enough there's a burgundy-colored version offered as well, but the white tends to show off the wood trim and details more.  Let's hope the Wagoneer continues to get more use in the future, especially with the wood trim paneling.







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Update 9/8/2016: Now included pictures of the 2016 version B in maroon:







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