Wade Smith and His 1965 Gladiator J-3000

Wade Smith and His 1965 Gladiator J-3000

wade-smithWade is a true born and bred British Columbian having spent his entire life on the West Coast of Canada. He saw his first Jeep at the age of 12 and it was love at first sight. When he was 18 he bought his first jeep. Wade’s never been without one since, owning six over the last thirty years. He also loves their rich history and enjoys the many jeep friends he’s made along the way.

Next year Wade will celebrate his 50th birthday. When his good friend Bill Reiss invited him on this trip he thought it very fitting that he could celebrate his 50th year along with the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway and a group of likeminded Jeepers. Alaska is a state that he’s always wanted to visit. He notes that there are two U.S. states that border British Columbia — Alaska and Washington State. To get the privilege to travel with of like minded passionate people from Alaska, through Canada, to Alaska is a dream come true for him!

When he’s not playing with his jeeps or working at his job in the transportation industry, Wade dabbles in songwriting and cabinet making. He has two children, two dogs, and one wife …. A very understanding one.

Below is Wade’s 1981 Wagoneer station wagon, a beautiful example of the model:


For the Alaska trip, Wade purchased a 1965 J-3000 Gladiator. Willys Motors introduced the Gladiator truck in 1962 and the Wagoneer station wagon in 1963. Together, the models marked Willy Motors’ shift away from the utility market toward a more upscale demographic. Both lines had more powerful engines and more comfort.

One website the specializes in these vehicles is the International Full Size Jeep Association: http://www.ifsja.org/forums/vb/. The Gladiators, Wagoneers, and similar models are considered “Full Size Jeeps” by enthusiasts, hence the name of the website. Wikipedia has information on both Wagoneers and Gladiators.


In 1963, Willys Motors changed its named to Kaiser Jeep and added two brand new models to the jeep line up: The Wagoneer station wagon and the Gladiator truck. Both vehicles were upscaled models of their predecessors, adding luxury to the utilitarian vehicles.

The Wagoneer was particularly well-received. Auto reviewer Tom McCahill used it for several months, deciding that of all the vehicles filling his front yard, if he had to choose one to keep, it would be the Wagoneer. The Gladiator and Wagoneer were the first two Jeep vehicles that could handle the demands of freeway driving (capable of handling well at 90mph), while still being able to tackle difficult offroad demands.

In 1971, the Gladiator name was dropped in favor of simply the Jeep pickup. When Chrysler bought Jeep in 1987, the Jeep pickup competed with it’s Dodge truck brand. So, it was not surprise that In 1992 Chrysler ceased production of the Jeep pickup.

The Wagoneer, meanwhile, rather than undermined by a different brand, was undermined by the success of it’s smaller cousin, the Jeep Cherokee. Production on the Wagoneer was halted in 1991, while production on the Wagoneer continues through 2017. However, Fiat has suggested they will bring back a seven-seat Grand Wagoneer as a competitor to the Cadillac Escalade and similar models. So, we may not have heard the last from the Wagoneer brand.



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