We also felt the brakes could be improved a bit. During the course of our rough-country tests, we ended up on what must have been a wagon trail used by the original Forty-niners. It was about 50 miles long and took us up and down several mountains, through dry washes, and across a couple of stretches where the road disappeared completely. We didn't break any speed records getting through this stretch but we didn't waste any time either, and several times we had to stop to let the brakes cool down before we could continue. We found that they faded rather quickly on the 6O-mph stops during our brake tests. Also, when the brakes got hot they had a tendency to lock up suddenly, and this was accompanied by swerving. Pedal pressures were neither too heavy nor too light with power assist and didn't require any getting used to.

Next to the new engine, the most significant engineering advancement on the test car was the independent front suspension layout. In a way, it resembles the famous Mercedes unit. Basically, it's a single pivot swing axle. but where Mercedes uses a pivot point several inches below the axle's longitudinal axis, Willys' pivots it right on the center line. Mercedes uses the low pivot to keep camber changes at the wheel to a minimum. Because the Willys unit is used at the front, it naturally contains steering knuckles at each end and in normal operation there are no camber changes at the wheel. So in effect, while it's basically a swing axle, the steering knuckles allow it to operate just like a full independent system. The axle is the lower control arm and works with a shorter upper control arm, which is tied into a torsion bar at its inner pivot point.

The Wagoneer is also available with the more conventional rigid front axle and semi-elliptic leaf spring system. Two-wheel-drive models use a tubular axle and leaf spring system or a swing axle with torsion bars. We would definitely recommend the independent layout and feel that its added advantages are worth every penny of the extra cost (approximately $160).

The rear suspension is conventional, with rigid axle and semi-elliptic springs. The springs are four-leaf, with an additional top half-leaf to prevent spring wind-up.

The boulevard ride is surprisingly smooth and not at all choppy. In two-wheel drive, the handling characteristics are quite a bit different from those of 4WD. The car seems to "heel" over suddenly in corners and doesn't feel completely stable. This is, no doubt, caused by the amount of negative caster present in the front wheels - a necessity since directional stability increases with negative Caster in front-wheel-drive vehicles - just the opposite of rear-wheel-drive vehicles. With the front wheels engaged, the Wagoneer corners very well and directional stability is excellent.