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Jeep Trucks Through History

Posted in Features on March 1, 2013 Comment (0)
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Jeep Trucks Through History
Photographers: The ManufacturersFred Williams

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
Willys Pickup
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.

Jeepster
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.

Forward Control
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.

J Truck
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.

Scrambler
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.

Comanche
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.

Aftermarket Jeep Trucks
Looking for someone a little more modern or custom? The aftermarket has stepped up to fill the void in Jeep trucks with several unique options that are stylish and functional.

AEV Brute
The Brute is the original TJ pickup conversion. American Expedition Vehicle offers the Brute in kit form so you can turn your TJ into a pickup, or you can have AEV perform the conversion for you. The kit includes an enclosed half-cab, a frame extension, and a separate bed.

Wheelbase (in): 117
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 67

AEV Brute Double Cab
Building on the success of the TJ Brute, AEV took the concept to the next level with the JK Brute Double Cab. The cab is enclosed behind the front doors, and a 61-inch bed is added to the 23-inch stretched chassis. Currently these conversions are only available directly from AEV, but in the future we would expect a kit like AEV offers for the TJ Brute.

Wheelbase (in): 139
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 61

Mopar JK8
Although Jeep isn’t offering a factory pickup, the Mopar performance division does offer a kit to convert a JK Unlimited to an extra-cab pickup. We have seen JK8 conversions on dealership lots, allowing you to finance the entire vehicle and drive a brand-new Jeep pickup off the showroom floor.

Wheelbase (in): 116
True Pickup?: No
Bed Length (in): 50

Burnsville JK Hauler
The JK Hauler takes a four-door JK, encloses it behind the rear doors, and puts it on a Power Wagon chassis. This way you end up not only with a Jeep pickup, but a bigger engine and heavier-duty axles at the same time.

Wheelbase (in): 153
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length: Custom to order

TJ Unlimited Half Cab
Want to give your TJ Unlimited the look of a Scrambler? GR8Tops offers half-cabs and bulkhead kits for TJs, LJs, and YJs. This is the easiest way to get that pickup look from your modern Jeep.

Wheelbase (in): 103
True Pickup?: No
Bed Length (in): 481⁄2

Prototype Jeep Trucks
Jeep has made a number of prototype pickups in the last few years to test the waters on the possibility of producing a pickup. They range from the functional to the fanatical, but they all give us a glimpse of what is going on inside the minds of Jeep engineers and corporate brass.

Gladiator
The Gladiator was unveiled at the 2005 North American International Auto Show. Although few knew it at the time, it gave us a hint as to what the JK would look like. Like the JK8 kit offered by Mopar, the Gladiator was an extra-cab, but it also had a pass-through to the cab like a Chevy Avalanche.

Wheelbase (in): 138
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 66

Nukizer
Perhaps the most popular Jeep concept truck to date was the Nukizer (pronounced “new-kaiser”) that Jeep brought to Moab in 2010. The Nukizer used an Egyptian J8 chassis with an AEV Brute bed and stepside flares. Power came from a 2.8L diesel from a Liberty, further taunting us with things we cannot have: a solid axle, diesel Jeep.

Wheelbase (in): 124
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 67

Mighty FC
The most radical Jeep truck concept was undeniably the Mighty FC. The drivetrain used standard JK parts, with the addition of portal axles for massing ground clearance. The heavily modified JK cab was situated over the front tires with an 8-foot Tafco bed featuring fold-down sides for easy access.

Wheelbase (in): 117
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 96

JT
The JT concept debuted at the 2009 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. It used a production JK drivetrain and chassis with body parts from a J8 Jeep that is built in Egypt for their military forces. The bed was integral with the cab and measured 47 inches wide by 61 inches long, with a tailgate that swings open to the side. This is closest thing we have seen to a production truck. It was built entirely with off-the-shelf parts and would not be difficult for Chrysler to put into production.

Wheelbase (in): 116
True Pickup?: No
Bed Length (in): 61

J12
The J12 was built on a stretched JK Unlimited chassis and was unveiled at the 2012 Moab Easter Jeep Safari (see a theme here?). It wore a retro Gladiator grille and had a 6-foot bed , but unlike the Nukizer and Mighty FC, the cab was integrated with the bed.

Wheelbase (in): 116
True Pickup?: No
Bed Length (in): 72

Military Jeep Trucks
Jeeps were born in war, and not just bobtail MBs. Jeep pickups have served our armed services for decades in a variety of capacities. They often were built on civilian chassis and had drivetrain components that are interchangeable with their more pedestrian brethren, but with the addition of cool features like blackout lights and fording kits.

CJ-10A
These Jeeps were used as military airplane tugs in the U.S. and are easily identified by their headlights, which are in the front fenders instead of the grille. Foreign versions of the CJ-10 were true pickups, but we never received those here. Also realize that all CJ-10As were 2WD, but they use a modified J20 frame so a Dana 44 bolts right in. A cover plate over the transfer case locks the NP208 case permanently in low range, but don’t fret. That can easily be remedied.

Years Produced: 1984-1986
Total Production: 2,300
Engine Offered: Nissan SD33 diesel
Wheelbase (in): 88
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length: Negligible

What to Look for: If you can pick up a CJ-10A from a surplus auction for cheap you are well on your way to a unique wheeling rig.
What to Avoid: Converting a CJ-10A for trail use requires a fair amount of custom fabrication. The Nissan engines are underpowered. CJ-10As share the engine with Scouts, and turbo kits are available for added power.

M715
The M715 is the heavy-duty, military version of the J truck. They use 24V electronics and rode on a heavy-duty suspension and Dana 70 axles that distinguished the M715 from their civilian counterparts. The M715 also has large wheel openings that will accept 38-inch-tall tires with the stock suspension.

Years Produced: 1967-1969
Total Production: 33,000
Engine Offered: 231ci Tornado I-6
Wheelbase (in): 131
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 92

What to Look for: If you are not looking to restore the truck, try to find one that has already been converted to 12V electronics and front disc brakes. Small-block swaps are common too, but these can range from sano to hack job.
What to Avoid: Prices on M715s vary widely, so be patient when shopping for the best deal.

M35A2
You want the biggest, baddest Jeep on the block? The M35A2 is it. No need to swap in Rockwell axles—this is the vehicle that came with them! They are incredibly heavy and loud, get lousy fuel mileage, and are awesome. This is not the vehicle to pick if you want to keep a low profile. Further ruining the M35A2’s chances as a getaway vehicle is the 55-mph top speed.

Years Produced: 1950-1988
Total Production: 78,000
Engines Offered: OA-331 Continental Gas I-6, LDS-427 Turbo Multifuel I-6, LDS-465 Multifuel I-6
Wheelbase (in): 154
True Pickup?: Yes
Bed Length (in): 144

What to Look for: We have been eyeing “bobbed deuces,” which remove the rear axle to create a giant 4WD Jeep.
What to Avoid: Remember that military vehicles were driven like rentals their entire lives, so check closely for undercarriage damage and any field fixes that might require work soon.

Sources

Mopar
Auburn Hills, MI 48321
800-992-1997
www.mopar.com
American Expedition Vehicles
Wixom, MI 48393
248-926-0256
www.aev-conversions.com
GR8TOPS
Lexington, SC 29073
803-741-5443
www.gr8tops.com
Burnsville Off Road
www.burnsvilleoffroad.com

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