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WAS A NICE SURPRISE TO FIND WAGONMASTER
MENTIONED IN ESQUIRE'S
ON GRAND WAGONEERS...WE APPRECIATED
of AMERICAN PROFILE ARTICLE
End of Article from Automobile Magazine NOVEMBER
Express Article dated June 14,
2008 on Wagonmaster
Restoring a lost look
Web Posted: 06/13/2008 10:21 PM
By Sean M. Wood
KERRVILLE — All
Leon Miller wanted was a Jeep Grand
to drive. Sixteen years later, he's
got his choice of Wagoneers and a
business to boot.
Miller's love of a vehicle that ceased
production nearly 17 years ago has
turned the retired cattleman into
the “Wagonmaster.” That's
the name of Miller's business that
buys low-mileage Jeep Grand Wagoneers
(and a few Jeepster Commandos for
variety), spruces them up and then
sells them around the world.
He's sold more than
1,370 vehicles, shipping them to
Europe, Japan and
the Middle East. His clients include
Tommy Hilfiger and his ex-wife (two
each), singer Alan Jackson and actor/politician
“They love the look,” Miller,
75, said of Wagoneer fans. “People
never tire of that look. It's an
earthy look, a boxy look. It's very,
very well appointed.”
Miller had driven a Wagoneer for
years while tending feedlots, raising
cattle and growing vegetables down
in Eagle Pass. During that time,
he fell in love with the vehicle.
So when he retired, he wanted a new
one, only to find out that Chrysler,
which recently had bought Jeep, no
longer was making them.
Leon Miller has sold
more than 1,350 vehicles -
Jeep Grand Wagoneers
and a few Jeepster Commandos
- to clients worldwide.
Leon Miller has sold
more than 1,350 vehicles - Jeep
Grand Wagoneers and
a few Jeepster Commandos - to clients
I called Detroit when I found out
I couldn't get a '92 or a '93,” he
said. “I told them, ‘These
things are too beautiful for you
to stop making them.'”
Eventually, Miller found his way
to Brooks Stevens, the designer of
the Wagoneer and a number of other
vehicles. He and Stevens struck up
a bit of a relationship, and Stevens
started encouraging Miller to restore
Wagoneers and to sell them to enthusiastic
fans of the vehicle.
Stevens died in 1995,
but his son, Kipp Stevens, chairman
Stevens Inc., wrote, “I can
picture my dad encouraging him.”
Miller didn't want
to do any heavy restoration work.
He calls his projects “renewals.” Miller
buys Wagoneers with no rust and has
a hard and fast rule that they have
no more than 70,000 miles per vehicle.
Miller said he gets
two to three calls a day from people
sell him their Wagoneers. He ends
up buying “one out of every
40 or 50,” he said.
An expert says the Jeep Grand
Wagoneer, which debuted in 1963,
was an SUV before there was such
a term as SUV.
An expert says the Jeep Grand Wagoneer,
which debuted in 1963, was an SUV
before there was such a term as SUV.
On the Web
• Kelly Blue Book
I have to be really particular,” Miller
said. “I don't want to take
on somebody's major problems.”
Miller doesn't want
to spend much more than $10,000
on a renewal project.
He has a staff of five who work on
the Wagoneers. Miller also will do
a few Jeepster Commandos — a
smaller Jeep vehicle — just
to keep his workers from getting
Aside from the renewals, Miller
offers a few extras such as sunroofs,
heated seats, stereo and video systems
and alarms. That work gets contracted
out to other vendors.
What Miller won't
do is customize a Wagoneer with
special paint jobs,
rims or “spinners.” His
only indulgence is the word “Wagonmaster” in
the trim just below the front windows.
“He does good work,” said
Phil Skinner, collectible car editor
for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com.
Skinner said he's seen Miller's work
at collectible auctions in Fredericksburg.
“As far as a collector vehicle,
they hold their own,” he said. “We're
not seeing prices drop on Grand Wagoneers.”
Skinner called the
Wagoneer the “king
of the SUV.” He said it was
an SUV before there was such a term
“It was the longest-running
real SUV,” he said. “It
was the first civilized SUV. They
came out in 1963. International had
the Travelall and Chevy had the Suburban.
The Wagoneer was a rugged, but still
friendly, sport utility.”
He said it was Jeep's station wagon.
It was supplanted in the 1990s with
modern SUVs like the Ford Explorer,
which became the replacement for
the station wagon.
But modern SUVs don't do it for
Wagoneer enthusiasts like Mac Johnson
of Connecticut. He's driving his
third vehicle from Wagonmaster, a
1991 Wagoneer that was built during
the last week of production.
“It's the only kind of car
I've had for 30 years,” Johnson
said. “It's the only kind of
car my kids, who are 25, have known.”
These are license plates from
some of Jeep Grand Wagoneers
that have been restored at Leon
Miller's shop in Kerrville.
These are license plates from some
of Jeep Grand Wagoneers that have
been restored at Leon Miller's shop
The Wagoneer, for Johnson, is a throwback.
It's a retro vehicle that wasn't
built to be retro, like the most
recent Ford Thunderbird or the
latest Dodge Charger.
“I am 59 years old,” he
said. “My generation goes back
to real station wagons. My generation
is not minivans. It is not cup holders.
It is not electric windows going
up. We had real tailgates with real
windows. We were whitewall tires.
We were real chrome bumpers.
“It's just a carry over to
the days when Sperry Top-siders were
made in the USA,” Johnson continued. “You
were able to burn leaves legally.
Gentlemen wore neckties after 6 o'clock
at night. You dressed up to get on
an airplane. It was a generational
thing. It was a way of life. It's
all gone now.”
Article in AUTOMOBILE Magazine,
August, 2007, p.35
an Article by Nancy Weaver july/august
by KirkWeddle july/august directions p.35
to go to the top of page
"Style, class, the look." That's how
Leon Miller, the Wagonmaster (www.wagonmaster.com),
describes what drives his passion for the
jeep Grand Wagoneer." It hit me like a
thunderbolt the first time I saw one in
1979 in an AMC dealership." So Miller bought
What he has done since then is pretty remarkable:
Debugged mechanically and made letter perfect
over 1,350 Jeep vehicles, mostly his beloved
Wagoneers. "I'm probably the number-one
parts customer at Jeep," says Miller,
who enjoys a reputation for meticulous
regularly ships these renewed Jeeps
all over America and to Europe
and Japan, and his most exotic sale to
date has been identical twin Jeepster convertibles
for the twin sons of the Prime Minister
of Kuwait. And he's forever on the hunt
for more vehicles to bring back to life:
"I'm always looking for that next Woody.
The search never quits."
|When Chrysler announced the death of Jeep's
Grand Wagoneer in 1991, a Texas feedlot owner
and meat-packing magnate named Leon Miller contacted
the company to inquire what was going on. Chrysler
patched him through to the vehicle's original
designer, Brooks Stevens. The two commiserated
briefly, and Stevens lamented Lee Iacocca's decision
to concentrate on the smaller, cheaper Jeep Cherokee
because of the threat posed by Ford's more compact
Explorer. Then the designer offered the cattleman
an intriguing suggestion.
" He told me, 'Get you a late-model one and go through every piece of it,'" says
Miller. "'Take it apart and put it back together. Make it like a new
one.' He said he thought there might be a market for it."
Miller followed the advice, selling that first finished product to a curious
neighbor who had watched him labor. In a short time Miller would repeat the
process, then again, and then again and again, until finally, 15 years later—having
bought, restored, and sold more than 1,350 of Stevens's babies—he's
the Grand Wagoneer guru.
prefers the term "renew" to "restore";
it's truer to the affection he feels
for the car. The Grand Wagoneer was effectively
first luxury SUV, a predecessor to the Cadillac Escalade in price as well
style. It had power windows, seats, and locks; thick shag carpet to ensure
a quiet ride; saddle-leather upholstery;
and that faux-wood paneling along its
sides. Its preppy sophistication made it a favorite in Waspy New England
enclaves from New Canaan to Nantucket,
but it fit just as well with the other
headed for Southern California beaches. And it was one more status symbol
for windshield farmers and ranchers showing
off their spreads in the Midwest and
In a sense, it was born a classic, its body style barely changing since its inception.
Brooks Stevens had already created such timeless designs as the front end of
the Harley-Davidson Hydraglide and the Miller High Life logo. When the Willys
Motor Company first commissioned Stevens to create a four-wheel-drive station
wagon in the early sixties, they asked for a look some-where between wagons like
Chevy's Kings-wood and Ford's Country Squire. But Stevens couldn't ignore Jeep's
rugged military heritage (this was to be the World War II stalwart's first nonmilitary-based
vehicle), and he balked at creating another Detroit look-alike. When the first
Wagoneer rolled off the line in 1962, shaped like a shoe box and solid as a Sherman
tank, Stevens made his statement. And even when he introduced his luxury-class
updates in the seventies and eighties, he kept that iconic body, distinctive
as a Coke bottle.
Miller, a soft-voiced, gray-headed man whose front yard is dotted with ornamental
duck decoys, sees his mission as continuing Stevens's vision. He runs Wagonmaster
in a small four-bay garage on a half-acre lot in downtown Kerrville—a handsome
stop in Texas Hill Country near Austin and San Antonio—selling seven to
eight better-than-new Wagoneers a month (95 percent of them sight-unseen from
his Web site, wagonmaster.com) for an average of $25,000 apiece. He takes in
only low-mileage models—no more than 70,000 miles allowed—from all
over the country, and then puts each one through a 250-point checklist. He gives
them new fuel and water pumps, exhaust systems, carburetors, and electrical modules,
and has a stockpile of untouched vintage elements—grills, dashboards, and
the signature paneling. Miller's six employees include three detailers who give
the vehicles a Q-tip-fine cleaning. And though he'll provide a few modern touches
like CD players and heated front seats, he refuses to dress up any Jeep with
mud tires or brush guards. "The trick is to get them as near to original
as possible," he says. "These were rolling pieces of art."
Oddly enough, since Stevens's death in 1995 he has been best remembered for
coining the phrase "planned obsolescence," an endorsement of the marketing
strategy of coaxing the public to buy new goods before the old ones have worn
out. Yet his Grand Wagoneer was irreplaceable and timeless, and there's no better
proof than the mint-condition models on Leon Miller's lot.—JOHN SPONG
of Article about Wagonmaster from MEN'S VOGUE,
Jan/Feb 2007 pp. 86-88
(Full Page) from LANDS' END... Fall Preview--2006,
Catalog--Wagoneers were the Original Tailgate
Party Vehicles --"Wagonmaster"
Morgan Murphy and Southern Living magazine, for
the reminder that a Grand Wagoneer is a grand
way to travel...for families, for dogs, luggage,
and whatever. Just pack it all in your beautiful
wagon, and enjoy the ride!
picture appears on page 30 of the October issue
of Southern Living magazine.
LEYRER, A JOURNALIST FOR THE LARGEST AUTOMOTIVE
MAGAZINE IN GERMANY, "MOTOR PRESSE STUTTGART",
RECENTLY PAID THE WAGONMASTER A LONG ANTICIPATED
IS THE PROUD NEW OWNER OF A BEAUTIFUL WAGONMASTER
GRAND WAGONEER, AND IS WRITING AN ARTICLE ABOUT
WAGONMASTER FOR "MOTOR PRESSE STUTTGART".
THOUGH THE ARTICLE WILL BE IN GERMAN, WE WILL
ASK GOETZ FOR
PERMISSION TO HAVE IT TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
SO WE CAN SHOW IT ON OUR WEBSITE. GOETZ TELLS
QUALITY AMERICAN CLASSIC/COLLECTOR CARS ARE HOT
IN EUROPE!" THANKS AGAIN, GOETZ, FOR A
"...When the car got here I had it to put it through the TUV-inspection
(technischer uberwachungs verein - checks cars every two years) to get the registration.
It went through without any faults found, which is quite remarkable for a car
of this age.
It runs very well and I get a better mileage than I expected. This is of some
importance as we don't live in country of low gas prices as you do. Three dollars
a gallon? We are paying six!!!!"
My best wishes to you and your family,
*Watch for Goetz's article on Grand Wagoneers in the November
issue of "Motor Classic"...the finest magazine for classic cars in
Germany. It will be printed on our Wagonmaster website.
Four Pages Were Published In Nov.2006:
of Article Published In Nov.2006:
Following Article and Photos by
Taken from the March, 2005 issue of Kerr
County Business Journal, Kerrville, TX.
THIS ARTICLE WAS TAKEN FROM THE FOUR WHEELER
MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2005, pp 52 & 54
Allen Photography: Jim
Allen is considered one of the foremost authorities
on Jeeps. .
book in your favorite book store,
for the big
been more than 14 years since the final Grand Wagoneer
rolled off the Jeep assembly line. A s the last of
"Big-Iron" Jeeps, the Wagoneer died not
from lack of sales or popularity, but in the name
of Corporate Average
Fuel Economy and manufacturing convenience. The Grand
Wagoneer should have ridden off into the sunset,
like old cowboys are supposed to do, but it didn't.
continued to ride proudly, first with loyal original
owners and later with buyers who rediscovered its
unique cachet. Soon after Chrysler pulled the plug,
commodity market was spawned and the Grand Wagoneer
began its second life as a beloved American retro classic.
The Grand Wagoneer is often heralded as the prototypical
SUV. That's an accurate portrayal, though it certainly
cannot be said it was the first SUV. The Wagoneer, as it
was known before the
was purloined in 1984 for a new compact SUV, was the
first large production 4x4 to feature comfortable,
truly car like appointments. It
stood out with driving manners that were far more civilized
than those of the average boorish four-wheeler of the
era. The Wagoneer moved steadily upmarket during its
first decade and a version of it eventually became
the first true
luxury SUV. Clearly, the Wagoneer founded a kingdom
that it ruled for many years. Not long after becoming
a production cast-off, Grand Wagoneers became seriously
trendy and exclusive. It's a variation on the old orphan-makes-good
story. The big
question is...why? When compared to the sleek new SUVs
anyone would be forgiven for calling the anachronistic
behemoths that rely upon stone-age technology. If you
ask Leon Miller, though, he'll give you a big smile and
say, "The Grand Wagoneer is the automotive equivalent
of John Wayne in a tux with a six-shooter tucked into
By all reports, this retired Kerrville, Texas cattleman
was the first entrepreneur to spot the possibilities
in finding pristine Grand Wagoneers for hungry buyers.
In 1992, Miller went looking for a replacement Grand
Wagoneer to fill his own garage and found they had been
quietly nixed from the Jeep lineup. This inspired a quest
to find himself the nicest, newest preowned rig in the
country. His successful campaign had him scaring up more
nice ones for friends and neighbors. By the end of the
first year, he had sold 12 and came out of retirement
to form Wagonmaster, a company
click here to go to the
top of page
in pristine, low-mile Grand Wagoneers. Since then,
Wagonmaster has sold 1050 units worldwide
and within the last five years, several other entrepreneurs
have begun to dabble in the same market.
If you ask Miller what attracts buyers to Grand Wagoneers
he cites the "woody" look
as the biggest draw, but customers are also attracted to the great visibility
and the solid feel. With a curb weight of around 4,500 pounds, the Grand
Wagoneer is likely to come out on top in most sheetmetal-to-sheetmetal
but it's actually lighter than a Tahoe or Expedition
and much smaller than a Suburban
or Excursion. Though EPA fuel mileage is abysmal at 11 city, 13 highway,
it's not that much lower than the current range offered
by today's big SUVs, and
understandable when its archaic 360ci, two barrel
carbureted V-8 engine and three-speed automatic
There are more esoteric reasons for the Grand Wagoneer's trip down trendy lane.
For the younger crowd, it's often a case of love at first sight. The solid
lines, roomy interior and muscular chassis of the Grand Wagoneer reflect an
know only from movies or
family albums. For others, it's
a case of love at remembrance. Grand Wagoneers
often find homes with people wanting
to replace one fondly recalled or to finally own something they coveted
before they achieved financial
success. Miller's customers are a good yardstick for
Miller had retired from the cattle
and meat- packing business by 1992,
Grand Wagoneers took over his life.
He turned experience and success
beef business into success in the "big-iron" retro-chic
the phenomenon; they run the gamut of occupations
and lifestyles. The main commonality is being the
ability to afford the $15,000-$20,000 price tag.
An understandable first thought is that the Grand
Wagoneer is strictly a male seasoned citizen's rig,
but the average age of his buyers runs from the late
20s to the early 30s, with a slim majority being
women. As a bloc, the biggest number of Miller's
Grand Wagoneers go to people in professions that
require an artistic eye. Fully a third of his customers
are either architects or interior designers. Some
of them are quite well known, such as world-famous
interior designer Philipe Starke. Realtors account
for another big block. Celebs
have also gone shopping
at Wagonmaster. Current or past customers include
NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart,
actors Mykelti Williamson ("Bubba" in Forrest
Gump) and Michelle Williams, as well as country
crooner Alan Jackson. Wagonmaster rigs have also gone
to movers and shakers in the business world. If you
get run over in the Microsoft parking lot, the odds
are good it will be one of Miller's Wagoneers. Goldman
Sachs financier John W. Rodgers also tools around in
one. Nantucket Island is ready to sink under the weight
of those big ol' Jeeps and the gentrified Connecticut
countryside is crawling with them.
The Grand Wagoneer was well into automotive middle
age when it was put out to pasture by Chrysler execs.
They counted the old fella out, underestimating the
appeal of a well-dressed, still-fit older gentleman.
Jeep tried to plug the culture gap in the lineup by
introducing a Wagoneer version of the Grand Cherokee
ZJ, complete with the woodgrain sides. It didn't fly.
If you're expecting John Wayne and his "Big-Iron" six-shooter,
Pierce Brosnan with a Walther PPK just won't do. By
the look of things, the Grand Wagoneer's middle-age
crisis may last long enough to have a midlife crisis
of its own.
Dept. FW, 105 Camp Meeting Rd., Kerrville, TX 78028, 830/896-6850
the July 2004 issue of 4X4
wonder how this whole SUV thing got started?
For years there were none, and now there seems
to be two in every driveway. Well, way back
in 1963, Jeep introduced the Wagoneer, and
the line included the Grand Wagoneer.
This is a typical refurbished
Wagoneer. The wheels are production and
the tires are new. Brakes are new and the
vehicle is serviced from stem to stern.
The detailing is flawless, and a full-time
trimmer ensures that the leather seats
are factory fresh.
Leon Miller is the individual
for all this---a man who followed his dream.
Production ended in 1991, which is
a mighty long stretch for a production run for any
vehicle, which may have been the demise of the Wagoneer.
The Grand Wagoneers had class, though—four-wheel
drive, V-8, A/C, PS, PB, automatic, leather seats
and seating for six. The list goes on, and we’re
sure you can see the similarity. But this was 1963, and unless
you were in a Jeep dealership, none
anywhere else, including
Although Jeep doesn’t build them, their run is not over, as Leon Miller
of Kerrville, Texas, has a passion for Wagoneers. He buys those with low mileage
and no rust, and with the help of six full-time employees, he brings them back
to life. They do well, and he’s now sold nearly a thousand of them. Singer
Alan Jackson has one; a guy in Germany has two. There’s
another couple in Belgium, and a New York stockbroker has one
because he wanted
If you fit into this category and have a hankering for one of
these old trend-setting “SUVs,” contact
Miller at 830/896-6850 or www.wagonmaster.com.
Annual Grand Wagoneer European Meet
Size Jeep enthusiasts can be found all over the
world. Thanks to domestic restoration businesses,
Europeans can purchase fully refinished Grand
Wagoneers and have them shipped overseas. The
quest for a uniquely capable vehicle knows no
borders and we are happy to report that Full
Size Jeep enthusiasts exist around the world.
first meeting of European Grand Wagoneer owners
was held late summer 2003 at the historic Spangenberg
Castle in Germany. Sadly, of the more than twenty
who had intended to come, five managed to attend.
According to the organizer, Klaus Schmitz, the
event was a success nonetheless.
owns many American vehicles including a mint
1991 Dark Cordovan Grand Wagoneer which he purchased
through Wagonmasters in Texas, USA.
participants arrived from several areas in Germany
and Holland. The oldest model was a 1970 Wagoneer,
and the youngest a 1991 Grand Wagoneer. Three
1988 models completed it. Two of the trucks are
Wagonmaster renewals (the Champagne 1988 model
from Joerg Meyer of Hamburg and the 1991 Dark
Cordovan model from Klaus himself). They
both had bought their trucks from Wagonmasters
last summer and later became acquainted. Joerg
uses his truck as a daily driver, whereas Klaus
limits his driving to fine weather cruising.
informs us that he has already started planning
next year's reunion. We're confident that
this group of European FSJ enthusiasts will continue
FSJ Magazine, Issue #13