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Backward Glances: A Detailed Look at the 1982 Jeep CJ-7 Jamboree Commemorative Edition

Posted in Features on March 6, 2018
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Photographers: TEN ArchivesEric Bickel

The story of the ’82 Jeep CJ-7 30th Anniversary Jamboree Edition begins in 1952. In that year, a group of Georgetown, California, residents worked to revive the failing economy of their Sierra Nevada foothill town. Georgetown dates back to the 1849 Gold Rush and was in the epicenter of the gold mining industry until it played out in the early 20th century. By the early 1950s, the town subsisted on logging and little else. A new gold rush was needed.

Tourism became the new Georgetown gold, and to further that, a group of pioneer four-wheelers in town concocted an event called the Jeepers Jamboree. The first in 1953 brought 55 vehicles and 155 participants, and that was a good enough crowd to warrant a second Jamboree. It’s been an annual event ever since. Though not exclusively limited to Jeeps, there wasn’t much else back then capable of making the trip over the worst parts of a neglected and mostly abandoned stagecoach road to Lake Tahoe. Eventually, it became known as the Rubicon Trail.

By the 1980s, the Jeepers Jamboree was big business for Georgetown, and Jeep was an integral part of it. As four-wheeling became an American pastime, the Jamboree had also become a Class-A marketing opportunity no manufacturer of 4x4s could fail to notice…and Jeep had the lock on it. After all, is Ford going to successfully promote the Bronco on the Jeepers Jamboree? By 1981, with the 30th Anniversary coming the next year, a big Jeep splash was envisioned with the production of a limited run of a commemorative-edition CJ.

Eric Bickel’s Topaz Gold Metallic ’82 CJ-7 Jamboree Edition is as period-perfect as he can make it. It’s one of the second batch produced. It wears number 0152 and is shown here with the Accessory Package, though, like almost all surviving Jamborees, it was not originally so equipped. In fact, as far as we and Eric can tell, Jeep sold only a handful of them with the package; right now, only one that left the dealer with it is known to survive. A correct Accessory Package adds $1,800-$2,500 to the market value of a Jamboree. He’s had this Jambo since 2006, and it was originally a Colorado Jeep. It has the “low” 3.31:1 axle ratio option, which was common on high-altitude Jeeps, and has the period-correct lockable storage box. Mike Jewell of Austin Jeeps brought it back to perfect condition in 2016.

It isn’t clear when the idea was conceived, or who proposed it, but in a product direction meeting on November 20, 1981, a Special Promotional Package was approved to commemorate the 30th Annual Jeepers Jamboree in the summer of 1982. Most sources give AMC stylist Jim Alexander the credit for designing the new package. It was announced internally in a Product Direction Letter dated December 14, 1981, and the dealer announcement came in a letter dated January 29, 1982. Officially called the CJ-7 Jamboree Commemorative Edition, it was to be limited to 2,500 individually numbered units, though far fewer were actually built. Today these rigs are commonly called “Jambos.”

The option required a soft top CJ-7 with a few specific options. Among them were the 258ci I-6, five-speed manual transmission (later a few were made with automatics), power steering and brakes, 235/75R15 Goodyear Wrangler tires, 20-gallon fuel tank, sport steering wheel, HD battery and alternator, HD cooling, HD suspension, bumper-mounted Marchal halogen driving lights, tach and rally clock, and the Trac-Loc limited-slip rear axle (though some are seen without). On top of the CJ-7’s $7,765 base price, these goodies added $2,162 for a total of $9,927.

The $1,332 Jamboree package itself included the special Topaz Gold Metallic paint, padded rollbar package with saddlebags, special gold-accented seats, chrome bumpers and bumperettes, chrome spoked wheels, center console, décor group, black soft top, black carpeting, Jamboree spare tire cover, and the Jamboree serial number plate and decals.

Eric’s unrestored Olympic White Jamboree is one of only about 70 built and wears the dash number of 0693. This one was in the last batch built in June of 1982. Here you get to see the standard package and a soft top, which was always black. The original was a Whitco, but this is a 1987 vintage Bestop. The interior was virtually identical to the Topaz Gold units. The Jamborees built later show the most variation from the original build parameters. Though none have yet been found, Jeep even released air conditioning as an option later in Jamboree production. Only about 20 Olympic White Jamborees survive. This totally original Jambo spent most of its life in a climate-controlled garage.

On top of the base package, there was a $1,644 dealer-installed accessory package that included an 8,000-pound Ramsey Model 2001 electric winch, AM/FM stereo CB radio with antenna, fire extinguisher, Marchal driving lights on a windshield-mounted bar, brushguard, and grille guard. If you got everything it would have set you back about $12,903 for the Jambo if you paid full retail, plus transportation. That’s about $33,000 in today’s bucks. Production started around March 1, 1982 and the Jamborees were available by April of 1982.

To get the nitty-gritty details, we consulted Eric Bickel, a Texas Jeep collector and probably the most studied expert on the Jamboree. His website (82jambo.com) is both a registry of the remaining units and a cornucopia of information gleaned from years of digging. Every known bit of information on the Jamboree can be found there, but there is still a lot to be learned, and maybe you have a lost piece of the puzzle.

One of Eric’s biggest disappointments is the lack of production information. No records specific to the Jamboree have been found yet, but Eric has been very busy studying the VIN and plaque numbers of the known survivors and applying statistical algorithms to make estimates on the numbers produced. These are not just wild guesses, and don’t doubt his ability to plot statistical evidence and make conclusions. He has a doctorate in engineering from Stanford and is a professor at the University of Texas, teaching Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. Statistics are a big part of what he does.

Among the Jamboree package items were the spare tire covers marking the 30th anniversary of the Jeepers Jamboree. These are both factory original covers, and it’s very unusual to find them in good condition. Both Jamborees still have their original 1982 spare tires.

Eric discovered Jamborees were made in several batches, the first during the month of March 1982, when approximately 412 were built. The second batch started in mid-April, and that’s when the first white Jambos were built. Yeah, there were Olympic White Jamborees, and Eric is the guy who confirmed the existence of about 70 of them. There was a break again in early May, and then more were built in May until the end of June, when the last one rolled off the line. In these second two batches, Eric estimates another 186 were built, a mix of gold and white. There was another group of about 30 with low numbers that Jeep saved for special purposes, and some of those have also turned up on the survivor’s list.

Eric’s best statistical estimate is that 630 Jamborees were actually built. He can absolutely confirm 129 survivors with another 28 very likely ones. Many others have been reported but are either unconfirmed, likely to have been scrapped, or have disappeared. Eric says a good estimate is 200 survivors in total, but he is working to get a firmer number.

So why were 2,500 announced and only 630 or so built? Economics! Jeep sold as many as they got orders for, and then the model year ended. The Jamboree was a promotional vehicle to help sell Jeeps, but not necessarily Jamborees in particular. Media hoopla promoting the Jeep brand was the main reason for Jamboree production. The profit margin is slim with low-production specials, so they didn’t want to build any more than they could easily sell, but the publicity benefits were a tangible asset.

The special gold-striped seats (interior code BV-1) are probably the most difficult and expensive parts of a Jamboree to recreate. They are similar to other optional seats in the era, but with the unique gold stripes. Also visible in this shot are the padded rollbar, rollbar saddlebags, and center console. The fire extinguisher was part of the dealer-installed accessory package.

It’s known that six Topaz Gold Jamborees were at the 30th Anniversary Jeepers Jamboree, and one to three Olympic White Jambos. This has been photographically verified from period images by the crew of our sister publication 4-Wheel & Off-Road, who covered the event. Thanks fellas, wherever you are now. What’s funny is that at the time, 4-Wheel & Off-Road and Four Wheeler were from different publishers and fierce competitors on the magazine racks.

In doing the research for this, we hit up TEN: A Discovery Communications Company Archivist Thomas Voehringer, and he found the original 4-Wheel & Off-Road photo file for the story with color slides and black-and-white prints from the event, and you see some of them here. It was covered in the November 1982 issues of both Four Wheeler and 4-Wheel & Off-Road. The Jamborees also got plenty of coverage prior to the event. It’s ironic that Jamboree production had stopped by the time the Jeepers Jamboree occurred. One Jamboree was to be given away at the event on July 24, 1982, and Lake Tahoe resident Max Withrow had the winning ticket. Where are you now, Max? Another was given away in a national campaign by Jeep, but little is known about that Jeep or the winner of it.

While the CJ-7 Jamboree wasn’t as rock-ready as the later Rubicon, it could and did conquer the legendary Rubicon Trail, so you could say it was Jeep enough. Today, it’s turned into a very collectible Jeep, and prices of $30,000 or more are not unheard of. We can thank Eric for bringing much of the Jamboree’s history to light. If you are interested in learning more, tune in to The Jambo Registry (82jambo.com).

The individually numbered plaques are unique to each vehicle but were somewhat randomly installed. Except for a few that management saved for special purposes or people, it appears the line workers grabbed one out of a box and stuck it on with little or no preplanning. Inexplicably, a few loose N.O.S. badges have turned up. A Jamboree with a number over 751 has not been found, and there were many unused numbers between it and 0001. Among the loose badges found, a couple were as high as the 2200 range. Also shown here is the gauge package and the incredibly hard to obtain AM/FM/CB radio.
The winch and grille/brush bars were a useful accessory but are seldom seen. Likely that was due to the substantial dealer markup. Most guys just bought aftermarket stuff at a substantially lower price. Still, the 8,000-pound Ramsey Model 2001 winch was a good one, and with the required HD battery and alternator, you were as well equipped for winching as Jeep could make you.
It was an ordinary Jeep 258ci I-6 under the hood. The 258 six, the only CJ engine option above the 2.5L I-4, cranked out 115 horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor. If only the V-8 option had been retained another year, the Jamboree could have been lots more exciting. Sadly, the option had ended just the year before. As Maxwell Smart would say, “Missed it by that much!”
This is very likely John Hanson from 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine in July 1982 on the Rubicon. From what we can see, he has managed to not dent it up yet. We would dearly like to know the dash numbers of this and the other Jamborees on the run.
A vintage black-and-white pic showing one of the Jamborees with a damaged license frame from the Reno Jeep dealer. The Rubicon has changed so much over the years that we are not sure where on the trail this was taken. We know it’s somewhere past the Big Sluice.
Jeep has always had a big presence at the Jeepers Jamboree, but this is an awesome assembly of vintage Jeep iron lined up at the MGM Grand in Reno before the event. They convoyed down to Wentworth Springs and ran the trail back up the hill. In the foreground are five of the six Topaz Gold Jamborees we know were at the event. There is another gold one in the back along with a white one. AMC/Jeep representatives from 30 countries were handed the keys to these 70 brand-new Jeeps.
Now you can say you have seen a unicorn. Eric has determined no more than 22 automatic Jamborees were built, half of them Olympic White like this one, putting them into the unobtainium category. He found this survivor in Central California. It’s numbered 0635 and beyond the automatic, it’s a normal California-spec Jamboree. It’s in the process of being restored by Austin Jeeps (austinjeeps.com) right now. Eric thinks it’s remotely possible this was one of the Jamborees at the 30th Annual Jeepers Jamboree.

At a Glance

Vehicle: ’82 Jeep CJ-7 Jamboree Edition, Topaz Gold Metallic
Owner: Eric Bickel
Estimated value: $35,000
Engine: AMC 258ci I-6
Power (hp): 115 @ 3,200
Torque (lb-ft): 210 @ 1,800
Bore & stroke (in): 3.75 x 3.90
Comp. Ratio: 8.3:1
Transmission: Warner Gear T-5 5-spd
Transfer case: Dana 300 2-spd
Front axle: Dana 30
Rear axle: AMC Model 20
Axle ratio: 2.73:1 (3.31:1 opt.)
Tires: 235/75R-16 Goodyear Wrangler
Wheelbase (in): 93.4
GVWR (lb): 4,150
Curb weight (lb): 2,770
Fuel capacity (gal): 20
Min. grd. clearance (in): 7.6

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