CC Outtake: Jeep Wagoneer and Mitsubishi Precis – Two Oddballs from 1987


Here’s two somewhat unusual and uncommon variants/ re-badges of two once-common and popular cars: the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) and the Hyundai Excel. The Cherokee is of course one of the all-time iconic vehicles in the modern age, (full CC here), worthy of its esteemed place on the top of Mt. Olympus (which it got to under its own mortal four wheel drive). As an ex-Cherokee owner, my CC is of course something of a paean. Anyway, its easy to forget that the Cherokee had a woody brother for the first couple of years, the (un-Grand) Wagoneer.


The little Wagoneer was of course designed to replace its big hulking gas-slurping brother, but like the FWD Ford Probe was supposed to replace the Mustang, the RWD originals endured and long outlived their usurpers. The Wagoneer/Cherokee were designed right at the height of the early eighties energy crisis, but by the time they hit the dealers in 1984, oil prices were in their very long decline. The Grand Wagoneer was given a stay of execution, and soldiered on through 1991. But the little Wagoneer was long gone by then. Ironically, it was designed to have as much or more interior passenger space as the big guy, whose design dated back to 1963. But space and fuel efficiency was not the driving force behind the decision to buy a Grand Wagoneer; pretty much the exact opposite. Meanwhile, the little Wagoneer never found much of a niche.


The Mitsubishi Precis is nothing more than a Hyundai Excel, badged so that Mitsubishi had a rock-bottom entry-level car to sell between 1987 and 1994. In case you’ve forgotten the story from our Dodge Colt/Champ CC, there was a big little reason for Mitsubishi to be selling this car: it shared its engine and many other components with the Dodge Colt/Champ/Mitsubishi Mirage. So really, Mitsubishi was just keeping its old Colt going in the form of the Precis. Convenient for the parts department too.

These Hyundais have a pretty bad rep, from the rough start they had in the US. Hyundai had been building the very crude and simple RWD Pony for years, and the Excel was its first huge step into modern FWD cars. Just like GM and other companies stubbed their toes with a major transition like this, so did Hyundai. They should have waited a couple of years before they jumped into the US market. And while the very first few years of Excels really were pretty shaky, they got better pretty quickly. But Hyundai’s rep was already damaged, and it took some heavy lifting to get it back. And did they ever!