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End of Article from Automobile Magazine NOVEMBER 2009, AUTOMOBILEMAG.COM

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San Antonio Express Article dated June 14, 2008 on Wagonmaster

Restoring a lost look

Web Posted: 06/13/2008 10:21 PM CDT

By Sean M. Wood

KERRVILLE — All Leon Miller wanted was a Jeep Grand Wagoneer 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 Fred Thompson.

“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 worldwide.

“ 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 of Brooks 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 wanting to 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 bored.

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 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 as SUV.

“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 in Kerrville.

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.”


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Wagonmaster Article in AUTOMOBILE Magazine,
August, 2007, p.35

The WagonmasterLeon Miller

Texas Magazine Wagonmaster Article, page 18, Summer Issue, 2009

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Wagonmaster Article in DIRECTIONS Magazine,
July/August, 2007, p.35

Leon Miller
Jeep Restorer

"Style, class, the look." That's how Leon Miller, the Wagonmaster (, 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 it.
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 work and integrity.

Miller 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."

From an Article by Nancy Weaver july/august directions p.35
Photography by KirkWeddle july/august directions p.35
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Wagonmaster Article in Men's Vogue,

Jan/Feb 2007, pp.86 & 88

Men'sVoguePage86, 2007When 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.



Miller prefers the term "renew" to "restore"; it's truer to the affection he feels for the car. The Grand Wagoneer was effectively America's first luxury SUV, a predecessor to the Cadillac Escalade in price as well as 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 woodies 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 Texas.
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, 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
End of Article about Wagonmaster from MEN'S VOGUE, Jan/Feb 2007 pp. 86-88


Page#2 (Full Page) from LANDS' END... Fall Preview--2006, Catalog--Wagoneers were the Original Tailgate Party Vehicles --"Wagonmaster"

Thanks, 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!

This picture appears on page 30 of the October issue of Southern Living magazine.




October 5, 2006

"...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,
Goetz Leyrer,

*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.

Below Four Pages Were Published In Nov.2006:

End of Article Published In Nov.2006:

The Following Article and Photos by Stuart Cunyus.
Taken from the March, 2005 issue of Kerr County Business Journal, Kerrville, TX.


______________________________By Jim Allen Photography: Jim Allen________________________

Jim Allen is considered one of the foremost authorities on Jeeps. .
You'll find.his most recent book in your favorite book store, under the title "JEEP".
Retro chic
for the big
Jeep SUV?
Who'd have
thought it?

It's been more than 14 years since the final Grand Wagoneer rolled off the Jeep assembly line. A s the last of the "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. It has continued to ride proudly, first with loyal original owners and later with buyers who rediscovered its unique cachet. Soon after Chrysler pulled the plug, an unusual 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

name 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 his belt."
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

specializing 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 altercations, 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 are considered.
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 era they 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
Leon Miller had retired from the cattle and meat- packing business by 1992, when Grand Wagoneers took over his life. He turned experience and success in the beef business into success in the "big-iron" retro-chic business.

measuring 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. In 1993, 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

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54 January 2005 FOUR WHEELER



Article taken from the July 2004 issue of 4X4 BUILDER Magazine
Ever 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 Grand 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 responsible 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 of this comfort was available anywhere else, including the Suburban.

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 something different.
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

1st Annual Grand Wagoneer European Meet
Spangenberg Castle, Germany

Full 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.

The 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.

Klaus owns many American vehicles including a mint 1991 Dark Cordovan Grand Wagoneer which he purchased through Wagonmasters in Texas, USA.

The 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.

Klaus informs us that he has already started planning next year's reunion.  We're confident that this group of European FSJ enthusiasts will continue to grow.

- FSJ Magazine, Issue #13

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