Past Present & Future
Jeep has been hinting that it will offer a pickup truck in the future, but right now it is all the automaker can do to keep up with production of the extremely popular JK Wrangler. It has been over 25 years since Jeep offered the Comanche, the last Jeep pickup you could purchase new off the showroom floor. However, if you are not patient enough to wait for a new Jeep truck (rumors say it will arrive in 2015-2016) you still have a few options.
Jeep has made plenty of pickups in the past. Want something a little more modern? The aftermarket has stepped up to fill the void, offering conversions for the TJ and JK Wranglers. Some of these conversions are what we consider “true” pickups with a separate cab and bed, while others simply use a half-cab and bulkhead. Read on to find the perfect Jeep truck for your needs.
Production Jeep Trucks
The Willys pickup is the original Jeep truck, and it used much of the same drivetrain components as the CJ-2A, such as the T-90 three-speed transmission and the Dana 18 transfer case. Up to 1950 the Willys had a somewhat flat grille, like most Jeeps. The ’50-’52 Willys had a distinctive V-nose grille with five horizontal chrome bars. The grille bars were reduced to three on ’53-and-later Willys pickups and wagons.
Years Produced: 1947-1965
Total Production: 200,000
Engines Offered: 134ci Go-Devil I-4, 134ci Hurricane I-4, 226ci Super Hurricane I-6, 230ci Tornado I-6
Wheelbase (in): 118
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 80
What to Look for: Depends on whether you are looking to do a restoration or a trail rig. The more complete the truck, the less money you need. But remember these are about 50-year-old trucks, so rust can be an issue, as can frame strength, top speed, and lack of luxury amenities.
What to Avoid: Prior to 1950 a 2WD Willys pickup was available, so don’t automatically assume that the truck you are interested in is 4WD.
The Jeepster designation was first used in the late 1940s, but 4WD Jeepsters were not introduced until 1966. Most 4WD came with full hard tops designated as wagons, but half-cab pickups with an enclosed top and bulkhead were also available. Early (’66-’71) Jeepsters use a traditional Jeep grille, while later Jeepster Commandos look more like an International Scout. The longer, wider front end was necessary to fit the AMC inline-six and V-8 under the hood.
Years Produced: 1966-1973
Total Production: 77,575
Engines Offered: 134ci Hurricane I-4, 225ci Dauntless V-6, 232ci AMC I-6, 258ci AMC I-6, 304ci AMC V-8
Wheelbase (in): 101 (’66-’71), 104 (’72-’73)
True Pickup?: No
Bed Length (in): 58
What to Look for: The Hurst models are rare and command a premium. Otherwise, the Dauntless V-6 with TH400 transmission, Dana 20 transfer case, and flanged Dana 44 in the back is a good combination.
What to Avoid: Look for rust, particularly along the rocker panels.
There is no mistaking a Forward Control for anything else. Their cab-over design was based on heavy-duty trucks of the era in a smaller, more maneuverable package. Like the original civilian Jeeps, FCs were designed as utility vehicles and marketed to farmers, ranchers, and municipalities. The FC-150 was derived from the CJ-5, while the FC-170 was developed off the Willys pickup platform. Moving the cab forward offers far more storage space than a traditional CJ, though.
Years Produced: 1956-1964
Total Production: 31,056
Engines Offered: 134ci Hurricane I-4, 226ci Super Hurricane I-6
Wheelbase (in): 81 (FC-150), 103 (FC-170)
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 78 (short), 108 (long)
What to Look for: FC tow trucks and fire engines are rare and come with unique accessories that make them worth more than the standard FC. Dualie FC-170s have bigger axles and 4-speed transmissions. Some military version came with diesel engines and 4-door cabs.
What to Avoid: ’57 to early ’58 FC-150s had a narrow front axle and were not stable. Find a complete example or bring several FCs home with you. Replacement parts like window seals, glass, and sheetmetal can be difficult to find.
The J trucks are part of the Full Size Jeep (FSJ) lineup that also included the Wagoneer and fullsize Cherokee. Despite the moniker, they are actually similar in size to modern midsize vehicles like the Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma. They were available in different wheelbases, bed configurations, and weight ratings, but most were regular-cab pickups. The ’62-’71 trucks were called “Gladiators” and wore unique grilles.
Years Produced: 1963-1987
Total Production: 120,267
Engines Offered: 230ci Tornado I-6, 232ci AMC I-6, 258ci AMC I-6, 327ci Vigilante V-8, 350ci Dauntless V-8, 360ci AMC V-8, 401ci AMC V-8
Wheelbase (in): 120 (short bed), 131 (long bed)
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 84 (short), 96 (long)
What to Look for: A ’74-’76 J10 with a 360, T-18, Dana 20, and Dana 44s (the front with open knuckles and disc brakes). This truck wouldn’t need many changes to become a very capable vehicle on the trail. You could likely purchase the whole truck for less than what it would cost to get these parts.
What to Avoid: The ’73-’79 Quadratrac models require expensive gear oil, and rebuild parts are getting harder to find. Also note that the TH400 uses a unique bolt pattern that is not interchangeable with Chevy cases.
The Scrambler, or CJ-8, is a long-wheelbase version of the CJ-7. It uses leaf springs front and rear, and the suspension and drivetrain are interchangeable with CJ-7s from the same model years. Like many Jeep trucks, Scramblers have a cult following and have gained value over the years.
Years Produced: 1981-1986
Total Production: 27,792
Engines Offered: 151ci I-4, 258ci I-6
Wheelbase (in): 103
True Pickup?: No
Bed Length (in): 611⁄2
What to Look for: Pretty much all Scramblers command a premium price these days, but they should be less expensive due to the availability of the TJ Unlimited. We would look for one with a 6-cylinder, manual transmission, and half-cab.
What to Avoid: The 82hp 4-cylinder can’t get out of its own way. We would only purchase one of these if you are planning on swapping something more potent in its place.
The Comanche was the pickup version of the Cherokee, and many of the drivetrain and suspension components are interchangeable. The Comanche uses unique leaf springs though, which are longer than Cherokee leaves and fitted under the rear axle instead of over.
Years Produced: 1986-1992
Total Production: 27,292
Engines Offered: 2.5L I-4, 2.8L V-6, 4.0L I-6
Wheelbase (in): 113 (short bed), 119 (long bed)
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 72 (short), 84 (long)
What to Look for: We would look for a ’91-’92 Comanche with the higher-output 4.0L and a reliable AW4 or AX15 transmission. The Metric Ton package is also worth looking for since it came with a Dana 44 rear axle.
What to Avoid: Steer clear of the anemic 2.8L V-6 (’86 models only) and the Peugot BA-10 transmission if you can help it.