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Hurst Jeepster

Posted in Features on March 29, 2017 Comment (0)
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Kaiser Jeep brought new sportiness to the lineup when the Jeepster Commando 4x4 debuted in August 1966 as a ’67 model. Styled after the original ’48-’51 Jeepster phaeton, it was offered with many options and came in four models: Roadster, Pickup, Wagon, and Convertible. The Model C101 Jeepster Commando was decidedly different from the other sport utility rigs of the day and a bit more stylish than most. The most whiz-bang part of the intro was the optional 225ci V-6 powerplant, a design recently acquired from GM’s Buick division. It was a moderate sales success by Jeep standards, but there was strong competition from the Ford Bronco, IH Scout, and Chevy Blazer, but Jeep worked hard to keep the Jeepster Commando in the spotlight as the ‘70s dawned.

In 1970, Jeep hooked up with Hurst Performance Products to do a sporty version of the Jeepster Commando Station Wagon for the ’71 model year. Though Hurst was fully capable of supplying show-and-go, the Jeepster Commando got mostly show. Plans were hatched to make a limited run of 500 units—300 with automatics and 200 with a three-speed manual. They have been alternately called the Hurst Specials or Hurst Jeepster.

In addition to Hurst shifters, the Hurst Specials started off with a nicely equipped Jeepster Commando Station Wagon in white, to which red and blue rally stripes were added on the cowl and tailgate. The Hurst “H” badges were added to the hood sides, tailgate, and interior. A hood scoop was added and its only useful job was to carry a tachometer. Inside, the automatics got the Hurst Dual Gate floor shifter and the T-14A manuals got the legendary Hurst T-Handle shifter. To give them better on-road performance, G70-15 Goodyear Polyglas white letter tires were part of the mix.

The Hurst Jeepster started off as a $3,208 model 8705F Station Wagon in Champagne White with the V-6 ($211) and full-boat Trim Package B option ($350). An automatic added $326. Dealer cost for the Hurst packages was $250 for the stick and $275 automatic, but retail was somewhat higher. This rig belongs to Rod and Luana Schneider who have owned it since the ’70s. It was wheeled for a few years until they learned its rarity. Being die-hard C101 fans, they also have a built one for wheeling.

The Hurst Commando rollout process started with a press launch in June 1970, followed by a July dealer announcement. Little behind-the-scenes documentation is available, but legend has it Kaiser Jeep initiated the project after a one-off promotional CJ was done in 1968, and reluctantly AMC carried on after its purchase of Jeep in February 1970. It’s very clear the widely announced original plan for 500 units was changed. A reduced production run of about 100 units has long been the guesstimate. That production number has been challenged in recent years, as nearly 65 known survivors are in the Hurst registry at the Jeepster Commando Club. “Common knowledge” once said only automatic versions were produced, but that has also been proven false, with several original stick-shift rigs found.

Clearly, the Hurst Jeepsters are one of the most rare Jeeps you can own, and collector interest is high. They make a great vintage daily driver and are definitely a ’70s head-turner, even if not the most capable wheeling Jeep on the block!

Don’t mind the dent. It’s been there for a long while and Rod and Luana prefer their rig in time capsule, unrestored condition. The view from here shows much of the Hurst and Trim Package B equipment, including the roof rack, chrome bumpers, wheel covers, and sliding rear quarter window stripe and badge.
Inside, Trim Package B gave you Deluxe front and rear seats, carpets and a few other goodies. The Hurst Dual Gate Shifter allowed a standard PRND21 shift pattern on the left gate, but if you slammed the shifter to the right, you could manually shift between First, Second, and Third without worrying about accidentally hitting neutral. Hurst called it the “His-and-Hers” shifter. Along with the 8,000-rpm tach, the shifter was pretty sporty feature for a stock rig, but it did allow the driver to maximize what performance was available. Standard gearing for the V-6 was 3.31:1 but 3.73:1 was available. With the lower gearing and a svelte curb weight of only 3,000 pounds, acceleration with the V-6 was snappy for a ’60s Jeep. If only they had mounted the Buick 350ci V-8, show would have united with go for a truly sporty Jeep!
The GM-sourced Dauntless 225ci V-6 is most fondly remembered for finally getting the Jeep CJ out of the slow lane. It cranked out 160 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque with a two-barrel and a little less with the early one-barrel offering. The Dauntless was only used in CJs and the Jeepster Commando but was considered as a possible base engine for the Wagoneer and Gladiator trucks. GM was happy when AMC dropped the Buick-sourced 225ci and 350ci engines from the Jeep lineup in favor of its own line of powerplants. Immediately upon regaining control of the design in 1974, Buick upgraded the engine for its midsized cars and reintroduced it for ’75. Shortly after, they developed the even-fire V-6 for a ’78 intro. Derivatives of the engine have been in production ever since.

Sources

Jeepster Commando Club Hurst Page
jeepstercommandoclub.com/hurst

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