Chassis-swapped Wagoneer adds Gen III Hemi power for cheap
Restomod classic 4x4s are a hot commodity. Several companies are getting in on the action by offering a restored, or preserved, body sitting on a new chassis equipped with a modern powertrain. An inspired fabricator in Ohio saw a different path to getting more modern power and performance into a classic 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. This Craigslist posting highlights the basics: a 2006 Dodge Durango gave its chassis and steering column so that the 1979 Jeep could have a rust-free suspension and improved brakes, along with a 335-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, a five-speed automatic transmission, and a two-speed transfer case.
The interior of the Jeep looks to be in pretty good condition, although the Durango/Ram steering column and wheel do stick out. A new leather wrap on the steering wheel rim and maybe some plastic dye or paint to give the gray a matching red tone would go a long way. We found this unique 4×4 thanks to a Barnfinds.com posting, which noted that the Wagoneer appears to have an air-conditioning compressor plumbed up, although the listing doesn’t mention whether it’s functional. Working A/C would make a huge difference in our decision on whether or not this Mopar mashup is a viable road-tripper.
The exterior would be even easier to modify, if you want a more retro aesthetic. The Durango running gear gave the Jeep a decent stance and the difference in wheelbase between the Wagoneer (110 inches) and Durango (119.2 inches) was made up by moving the rear wheel opening even further rearward. That might make the Wagoneer a little less nimble, but the change no doubt reduced the departure angle, which is helpful if this creation ever hits the trail. It would be pretty easy to disguise the new running gear, at least at first glance, with a new set of Jeep Turbine wheels, or perhaps some painted steel wagon wheels.
Modifying the wheel openings wasn’t a simple task, although it’s probably an easier job than shortening the frame, and certainly not as difficult as building a chassis from scratch. The second-generation Durango seems to be a great pick for this kind of swap: The Hemi powertrain and five-speed auto are certainly more powerful and efficient than the ’70s V-8 and Hydra-Matic, and you also enjoy the added safety of modern, ABS brakes and the comfort of independent front suspension.
For $12,000, this sure seems like a good headstart for someone who wants to button up the aesthetics and have a Jeep restomod that’s Mopar through and through.