Grand Wagoneer vs Unlimited... Need advice

twmattox

Legacy Registered User
City
Arcadia
State
IN
#1
This is a bit lengthy; but, I am in need of some unbiased advice about my daily driver...

So, I have found one of 3 vehicles I would even consider getting rid of my '88 GW for; an '04 Wrangler Unlimited... I am just looking for advice one way or the other. I have debated this for a few days and am no closer to a decision than before. Below are some random thoughts that may help you give me advice...

I have had an '88 Grand Wagoneer for 8-years. About 3-weeks after I bought it, the timing chain cover cracked, pumped all the coolant into the oil, and seized the engine. It sat for 6-years. About 2-years ago, I rebuilt the engine. At the time, I replaced nearly all the bolt-on items (dizzy, alternator, starter, EGR, all the CTOs, rebuilt the carb, new radiator, new clutch fan, etc). I have always had issues with fuel delivery on this rig. It took me a while but I found that the fuel sock had a plastic rib that had worked loose and was blocking the fuel line intermittently. Replaced the sock and all seemed great for about a year. Starting last July, it has been giving me symptoms like Vapor Lock / fuel starvation. At this point I have tried all new rubber lines, new fuel filter, new mechanical fuel pump, and carburetor rebuild. Each time I try something it seems to work for 3-4 weeks and then I am right back to problems. I am putting on an electrical fuel pump today and will be checking the fuel sock just to be sure it has not clogged or something. Regardless, my wife has lost all faith in the vehicle (to be honest, she lost faith in it 8-years ago). But, it has hit a point where I am getting nervous driving it too. I am always worried I may not make it home...

The GW is in GREAT shape. There is some minor surface rust under the rubber at the rear windows; but, other than that there is ZERO rust on this rig. Everything works, even the A/C, on it (with the exception of the fog lights I believe they just need a new relay and the cruise control doesn't seem to work). I can say that it has been given a complete brake job (from the power booster / master cylinder to drums/rotors). New axle u-joints and front bearings. MSD6A / Blaster 3 ignition system. The front driver seat is a bit rough but I have a new skin in the garage. There are a few major things I still need to do:
  • I have a decent oil leak at the oil pump (pretty sure it is a seal related to the mid-plate)
  • Have some seeping at the transmission cooler lines...think it could use new o-rings and maybe the band adjusted (the one inside the pan has been adjusted)
  • Have some seeping at the valve cover and oil cover, planning on using Great Stuff on them
  • Should grease the speedometer cables
  • Want to replace the two stage power valve with a single stage
  • The headliner is odd (the cardboard is dented above the drivers head) and the rear fabric needs replaced
  • Should replace the drive shaft U-joints
  • The oil and temperature gauges are off a bit (temp reads about 20* too high and oil reads about 10# too low) I have verified with mechanical gauges
  • Would be a good idea if I replace the fuel tank vent hoses I just don't want to drop the tank
  • Would like to remove the whole interior, coat with Rust Bullet, sound deadner
  • Remove rear windows and coat the surface rust with Rust Bullet
  • 2-inch add-a-leaf
  • I have gears for a re-gear

On the flip side, the Unlimited is fully functional. To make it optimal I would look into a small lift and other misc upgrades (fender flares etc). The downside is that I would need an auto loan. I own the GW outright...
 

CJeep

Scrambled
LIFETIME
CJ-8.com Member
City
Easton
State
CT
#2
My 2 pennies -

Either Get a Howell or junkyard TBI - should solve the fuel problems (or narrow them down to the tank or lines).

Take your time fixing the other stuff as needed.

I love Waggys - wish I had one
 

Polarfire

Jeep Aficionado
LIFETIME
CJ-8.com Member
City
Columbia
State
MO
#3
Hard decision.

Having recently gone from a newer vehicle ('05 Toyota Tacoma) to an old Jeep ('84 J10) as a daily driver I have some first-hand experience. The Unlimited will always be a more reliable vehicle. It has better build quality all the way around, everything is less maintaince and more or less worry free. The GW on the other hand will always have some issues. It will never be as reliable as a vehicle built this century. That being said, the GW has the "cool" factor that the unlimited will never have (at least not for a long time). You never truly know a vehilce until you've driven it everyday all year round and there is a bond there. Once a vehilce becomes a second or third car it is never the same as when you lived with it as a primary vehicle day in and day out. Back on point, I like driving my J10. It, like you GW, has it's issues. I sold the Toyota out of necessity so I could get rid of the car payment so I could save more for the upcoming wedding. The J10 works for me as my daily driver for now but as soon as the wedding is over I will be on the hunt for a newer truck (Dodge Power Wagon :fingerscrossed:). I just need more room, more power, more capacity, more convenience than this old truck can give every day. Plus, once I have kids to tote around I need the reliability a newer vehilce affords. It really boils down to your daily needs. Long post, I hope my ramblings helped a little.
 

Scott_P

Legacy Registered User
CJ-8.com Member
City
Benzonia
State
MI
#4
You should sell the Waggy to me and go for the Unlimited! Seriously though, (I am interested in your waggy if you decide to sell it...) its hard to compare the 2 vehicles.

The Unlimited likely is going to be more fuel efficient, lower maintenance, handle better (comparing both in stock forms), and the fun factor may be higher in some cases...the GW maybe more utilitarian, pull trailers better, etc.

It really all comes down to you and how you plan to use them.
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
City
Dexter
State
MI
#5
Is this why you tried to message me the other day? ;)

This really is apples to oranges in so many ways and I agree with Scott, it's how you plan to use it.

Rather than talk about the two vehicles and their differences, which I think you know all about and then some, I'll ask you some questions.

Do you care that there's limited (very limited for anyone other than kids) back seat access in the LJ? It's not practical to think that any adult is getting back there with any regularity.

Do you mind less cargo space? This might tie to the last question, because there would be MORE cargo space in the LJ with the rear seat folded forward than the GW with the rear seat up, if you never plan to use the rear seat in the LJ. (though you could lay down the GW rear seat too).

Is the LJ soft or hard top? Soft top rear cargo access is limited with the rear window zipped up. Most stuff is fine, but if you get into the back a lot with larger items fairly often, you'll start hating the soft top. Hard top is easy and no issues.

Will your wife care about the increased road noise? Will you be taking long trips? Especially with the soft top, the LJ will be a lot louder going down the road. Kate puts up with it, but we'd never take it on a long trip over her JK.

Finally, do you really want a loan on a used vehicle? There's a lot to be said for no car payments. I was going to say to go for it given the issues you've had with the GW until you mentioned the loan.
 

BigwoolyD

Legacy Registered User
City
Athens
State
AL
#6
Regardless, my wife has lost all faith in the vehicle (to be honest, she lost faith in it 8-years ago). But, it has hit a point where I am getting nervous driving it too. I am always worried I may not make it home..."

I've found that once you have lost faith in the reliability of a vehicle it is very hard to get it back and this goes 10 times for the wife. But do you really want a car payment and being required to carry full coverage insurance while paying off the loan?
 

twmattox

Legacy Registered User
City
Arcadia
State
IN
#7
Thanks... You guys are hitting on all the reasons this is a tough decision. Honestly, my vehicle is mainly a get to work and get home kind of vehicle. All our "family" trips are taken in my wife's '04 Grand Cherokee. That said, I would love having a vehicle I am confident enough in that I could take longer trips. I know that the GW has the ability. I drove it from Tampa FL to Indy when we bought it. But, right now I have lost faith in the vehicle...

I have heard it equated to swimming in the ocean. Once you are bitten by a shark, you never swim carefree again. I think that is the place I am with the GW. Every time I go somewhere I always have this nagging feeling I won't make it home.
 

mwqpd11

Scrambler Junkie
LIFETIME
CJ-8.com Member
City
Coopersburg
State
PA
#8
Own Both!!!

I always had an older vehicle and now I'm getting older.

Go with the Unlimited. Has FI, more reliable, and hopefully less problems in the long run.

I have an 05 Unlimited Rubicon and love it.
 

Randyzzz

Blown Budget
LIFETIME
CJ-8.com Member
SOA Member
City
Redmond
State
OR
#9
Eric brought up some good points, all of which should be considered.

A big question to me would be- Is there an emotional attachment to the GW? If there is, consider the amount of the LJ loan, and imagine what you could do to the Waggy with that $$.

If not, and the idea of losing rear seat access with the LJ doesn't bother you, (along with all the other stuff Eric mentioned), the LJ is probably what you'll lean towards. I've done both, I'm a Waggy guy now.
 
City
Hammonton
State
NJ
#10
I've never had a Wagoneer, but I've had cars that needed constant attention, and that can get old real fast, especially if you're not the only one depending on it. I'm on my second Unlimited, having bought the first one new in April, 2004, and I might buy a third when I'm done with this one. It already has more miles than my Scrambler. Aside from a failed battery, they've never left me stranded, but I have dealt with more than my share of suspension issues. Track bar bushings, sway bar links breaking, broken shock bar pins, etc. If that 2004 has done much travelling, those things may have already been sorted out.
As mentioned, you'll be losing plenty of space going from the Waggy to an Unlimited, but my two boys have grown up in the backseat of the Wranglers and we've never found it to be inconvenient. Heck, I recently considered upgrading to a Tacoma crew cab, and I damn near had a mutiny on my hands. Even the wife came out against giving up the Wrangler.
I don't know how much the payment would impact you, but I would measure that against the peace of mind the newer vehicle might offer.
 
Last edited:

twmattox

Legacy Registered User
City
Arcadia
State
IN
#11
See, the original plan was to have the GW and Scrambler up and running at the same time. Then, if one was being temperamental I would be able to drive the other. However, the Scrambler tub is absolutely shot and right now I don't have the time or money to get her repaired.

I have known that the GW would require a decent bit of TLC to make her fully reliable. After all, she is 23 years old and was nearly bone stock when I got her 8 years ago. I have slowly been picking away at things. However, this whole fuel delivery issue has finally stepped on my wife's last nerve.

I thought I had it figured out again last night. Wife was reluctantly supportive. Drove it to the gas station to fill up. Nearly didn't make it home...because the automatic choke decided not to work (figures that the ONLY item I didn't replace on the carb rebuild had now decided to fail). It is those small simple things that are now adding up.
 

twmattox

Legacy Registered User
City
Arcadia
State
IN
#12
Well, the decision has been made. In the interest of family happiness, employment, and the underlying feeling that it would take me two lifetimes to complete all the projects I have lined up in front of me...I am getting the Unlimited.

All that said, I think (I am afraid to write this) I may have figured out my issue with the GW. It appears (knock on wood) to have been a combination of three issues.
1) When I rebuilt the carburetor I replaced all the items I thought needed it...the choke pull off, float (with a brass one). The one item I neglected (largely because I couldn't find the correct replacement) was the automatic choke thermostat. My choke was not opening correctly. To compensate I miss read the symptom and had the choke pull off opening too much. Which messed with the choke plate adjustments. In short, my entire choke system was messed up.

2) My gas was apparently stolen. On a Monday I filled up. On a Wednesday I ran dry. I have always gone at least a week on a fill up. To make matters worse, the action apparently broke my fuel gauge. I was reading a bit over half a tank (which is where it should have been). I now it was low on fuel. 21 gallon tank, 5 gallons at the shop, and I had to put in 16 to fill it up.

3) While in the shop, they apparently connected the EGR. When I rebuilt the engine, we put in the EGR. It was functional, but did not have any of the meetering washers. So, we just left it unhooked and adjusted the timing to compensate. I had ordered a new EGR...but had not yet bolted it on. So, with the old EGR operating without a washer in it...I was pushing too much exhaust through the system.

Tonight I corrected the choke issue (I hope) and disconnected the EGR and drove all over town...
 

twmattox

Legacy Registered User
City
Arcadia
State
IN
#14
As much as I hate to say it.... I need to sell the GW. I have loved this vehicle. And, ultimately, think it could be very reliable. But, I also know that the next time it needs a battery, brakes, tires, or anything else, it would not bode well. My wife has made it abundantly clear that she does NOT like this vehicle. Honestly, I think it all stems from the first time it broke down. It was 8 years ago and we had owned the vehicle for 3 weeks. I noticed that the radiator cap was loose so I put a new one on. Wife, new baby, and I all drove to my families house (about 25 miles away). 15 miles from home, the rig pumped all the coolant into the oil, seized the engine, and she told me then that she had lost ALL faith in that vehicle. Wouldn't even talk about a new engine...I had to get her something different (this was originally her vehicle).

Now, every time ANYTHING goes wrong with it, she reminds me how much she hates it. I always try to explain that it is 23 years old and things just need replaced. Regardless, it never ends well for that Jeep. And, when you add in that I have a Scrambler that is in drastic need of repair... She just doesn't understand why I don't sell both of them and get one single NEW vehicle that WORKS...

Woah... Sorry for that. Who do I make the check out to for that therapy session?:rotfl:
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
City
Dexter
State
MI
#15
I need a GW. :evil:

You went up a number of notches for me in that you got your wife to get a GW as HER vehicle, that's awesome, but it sounds like you made the only choice here. If you'd explained all of that about her feelings on it in that level of detail up front, I'd have said the LJ hands-down. There's nothing worth causing issues between your wife and you like that. There were a lot more GWs made than Scramblers and I personally think it's easier to find them than Scramblers in ok shape, so you can find one later if it works out for you.
 

Manhattan

Legacy Registered User
City
Atlanta
State
GA
#16
You made the right decision. I miss my GW ("Bushwood") but it fell down on a lot of key criteria - a lot of which has been mentioned. But one of the biggest factors was safety. The GWs are big and heavy, but they are NOT safe trucks. Ever seen one roll? All that glass, those tiny A, B, C pillars - poof! Flat to the tops of the doors. Not pretty. Rear seat passengers have NO neck and spine support. A small tap and you're drinking driving a chair with a straw. Granted, there are hidden nuts for the 3-point belts Jeep never installed... but still no headrests. Once my kids were out of the child seats (with the integrated back/neck support) Bushwood had to go.

You'll love that Unlimited!
 

twmattox

Legacy Registered User
City
Arcadia
State
IN
#17
Yeah, I didn't realize the level of "dis-like" she had for the vehicle until very very recently. :banghead:

I know it is just a vehicle. But, it is one of my top 5 all time favorite vehicles and it will make me sad to get rid of it. Not sure what it says about me, but all 5 of my most favorite vehicles are AMCs... And interestingly enough, most of them have "new" counterparts. Similar to how they are coming out with new versions of the Charger, Challenger, Mustang etc that all are reminiscent of the originals.

My top 5 in order:

81-86 Scrambler (new counterpart Unlimited)
88-91 Grand Wagoneer (new counterpart Commander)
71-74 Javelin
81-83 Eagle SX-4
??? CJ-6

Honorable mentions go to:

70s Cherokee Chief
76-83 Honcho
71-72 Commando
1950's Dodge Power Wagon
early 80's Dodge Power Wagon Macho Package
47-55 Chevy Truck
60-66 Chevy Truck step side
67-72 Chevy C-10
67-72 Jimmy or Blazer K-10
71-80 Scout II
 

twmattox

Legacy Registered User
City
Arcadia
State
IN
#19
Hey, I may need a favor from someone who lives in Cincy... You have time in the next day or so to do me a small favor??? The Unlimited I have been looking at is in Lebanon. Unfortunately, the way things are looking, I can't drive it before I buy it. So, I need someone to take a quick look at it for me...
 

Cincyjeeprs

CJ-8 Member
CJ-8.com Member
City
Cincinnati
State
Oh
#20
Hey, I may need a favor from someone who lives in Cincy... You have time in the next day or so to do me a small favor??? The Unlimited I have been looking at is in Lebanon. Unfortunately, the way things are looking, I can't drive it before I buy it. So, I need someone to take a quick look at it for me...
Sure. I am game. But, I must warn you, I have never seen a Jeep I didn't think was worth buying.

Tomorrow is the end of the crappy weather. Wednesday looks much better. Although, I would have to do it in the evening when it will be dark out.

Want to PM me with details?
 
Top