CC Capsule: 1983 Jeep Wagoneer Brougham – The Perfect Vintage Ride for a Rock-Ribbed Republican

I like coming upon any Wagoneer in the wild, but the older the better. So I was pretty stoked to find this one which, judging by the grille, was from as early as the late 60s.

Oooh, look, it’s wearing an old license plate, presumably in Indiana’s Antique Year of Manufacture program. But wait, what? What does that plate say?

1983? Nuh uh! That was firmly into AMC’s square-headlight years. Either someone stuck a much earlier grille on this Wagoneer – or they are using the wrong year license plate.

Let me take a sidebar to explain something else significant about this plate and its original owner: s/he was a Republican, and probably a prominent one. The plate number tells the story. Indiana plates all used to begin with the number of the county of issue. That was followed by a single letter (in later years, in populous counties, sometimes two), and finished with a number of up to four digits.

80 is the number of Tipton County, a county of farms and small towns about 30 miles north of Indianapolis. In lightly populated counties like Tipton, well-connected Republicans and Democrats could arrange to have “R” or “D,” as appropriate, be their letter. Very well-connected party members could finagle a low-number plate.  The lower your number, the higher up you were in the party. Back in the day, this plate’s owner was a Tipton County Republican not to be trifled with.

But back to this Wagoneer, badged a Brougham. That identifies it to 1981-83, the three years this package was offered. It added some luxury touches to this rugged utility vehicle: woodgrain interior trim, carpeting, and a power tailgate window. That woodgrain-insert rub strip is also unique to the Brougham. It was one step down from the top-of-the-line Wagoneer Limited, which added even more luxury.

I feel sure this owner simply swapped an earlier grille onto this Wagoneer. I’ll bet any Wagoneer grille swaps right into the mounts; the original 1963 front-end stamping lurks beneath any Wagoneer’s front brightwork. It might not be the only bodywork done on this SJ – do I detect mismatched paint on the rear quarters? But however it got to be this way, it’s great to see this old Wagoneer still doing its job.

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