Now that the Jeep Wagoneer is back for 2022, the original SJ iteration that soldiered on from 1963 to 1991, has seen its already solid collectible status climb even higher. And while its prolonged service means there are quite a few iterations around, none of these were rebranded in the form of the original 1979 Dodge Durango. Of course, that’s because Dodge never introduced such a thing, but things are different in the virtual realm, where this rendering proposes this sort of corporate expansion for the SUV.
Nowadays, we take luxury SUVs for granted, but the OG Wagoneer is arguably the vehicle that deserves the most credit for the rise of the segment. Throughout its 29-year career, this remained mostly unchanged as far as the body went, with its 4WD, its four doors and the increasing number of amenities ensuring that the only real danger to sales came from the various oil crises.
However, it went through no less than three eras as its maker was being transferred from one owner to another. So, while this started out as a Kaiser Jeep in 1963, it became an American Motors Corporation (AMC) product when the latter acquired Jeep in 1970 and was handed over to Chrysler in 1987 as the latter took over AMC.
That AMC stage was crucial to the Wagoneer, as the company completely revamped the engine range, introducing its 360ci (5.9L) and later its 401 ci (6.6L) V8s, as well as the Quadra-Trac full-time 4WD that rid drivers of the manually-operated transfer case hassle. And, in an attempt to deal with the financial issues plaguing it at the time, Chrysler never upgraded the Wagoneer to its more modern fuel-injected V8s after taking over, with the carburetted AMC motors being maintained.
The 1979 Dodge Durango OG
There are several reasons for which Dodge never attempted to badge-engineer the Wagoneer back in the day, starting with the fact that it offered its own full-sized SUV, the Ramcharger. Offered between 1974 and 2001, the Ramcharger was based on a shortened incarnation of the Dodge D-Series/Ram pickup truck chassis. However, as its Ford Bronco and its Chevy K5 Blazer rivals, this came in two-door form. And while a two-door version of the SJ Wagoneer marked the introduction of the first Cherokee (1974-1983), this is another story for another time.
Besides, the Durango name was stayed with Ford between 1979 and 1972, with the Blue Oval using this for a little-known coupe utility truck based on the Fox platform (here’s a rendering portraying a Durango-ed Fox Body Mustang, by the way). And while we’re here, we’ll also mention that Chevrolet featured a Durango trim level for the S-10 truck in the mid-80s, well before adopted the moniker for its mid-size SUV in 1997—this morphed into the full-size offering for the 2003 second iteration, which passed the torch to the current, Hellcat-wielding Durango in 2010.
Nevertheless, this stunning 3D work brings the SJ Wagoneer to the Dodge realm, turning it into the original Durango. And digital artist Abimelec Arelano (aka abimelecdesign), who sits behind the pixel transformation, did quite a bit more than swapping some logos.
The pixel master redesigned the front end, linking the ’79 Durango to the Ram range via the front grille. This makeover had the intended effect of communicating the interior of the model, which, according to the brand core values, would’ve offered a no-frills approach for buyers that wished to steer clear of Jeep’s more upscale features and matching pricing.
However, the Ram front fascia also seems to have had an indirect result, as the vehicle now resembles the fictional Canyonero SUV from The Simpsons—you can find a short clip on this Detroit motoring parody at the bottom of the story, courtesy of YouTuber Hoy.
“The RAM front gives this an absolutely uncanny resemblance to the Canyonero on the Simpsons show, which was totally unintentional,” Abimelex explains in the Instagram post below.
At the other end, of the vehicle, we find a third row of seats, so this bad boy can provide seating for up to seven people. And you can take a peek at the cabin, with its dazzling red finish, in the gallery below.
Chrysler 360 and 440 V8s for the 1979 Dodge Durango
Behind the said fascia, the artist reversed Chrysler’s decision to keep the AMC V8s, fitting the Durango with the latter’s 360 ci and 440 ci (7.2L) units. Now, even though the latter was retired in 1978 and the former saw its output decreasing due to the strict emission regulations imposed in the Malaise Era (largely ranging from 1973 to 1983), there were still ways to deliver reasonable muscle.
For one, Dodge’s infamous 1978-1979 Li’l Red Express took advantage of the fact that it was a truck and not a car, thus skipping the catalytic converters for its initial year, while featuring other performance parts such as a four-barrel carburetor and a police-spec intake manifold. So, instead of delivering 160 hp like a regular Malaise-era 360, this motor made 225 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
It would seem that the 3D wizard, prefers the pre-Quadra-Trac manually-selectable transfer case and manual-locking hubs that allowed one to disconnect the front wheels.
The idea here is to offer an SUV that sports old-school off-roading credentials rather than simply sticking to asphalt transportations needs, an approach that overlanding fans will probably appreciate.
To top it all off in his usual way, the artist even whipped up a sales brochure for the ’79 Dodge Durango, financing options included.
Let’s talk RPM (real project in the making) Potential, shall we?
We’re not quite sure somebody would like to be this specific when using a classic Wagoneer for a real-world build, unless they aimed to bring this stunning rendering to life, of course. And that’s why we’ll stick to 4/10.
However, with the abundance of OG Wagoneers and Cherokees, you never know when a wacky project of the sort, such as this 880 hp 5.7L HEMI-swapped 1975 Cherokee, can surprise you at Cars and Coffee or even at the drag strip.
PS: If you’ve been keeping an eye on the rendering realm, you’ve probably noticed that off-roading builds like this one are trending, so expect to see more CGI terrain tamers in the future.