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1967 Jeepster Commando Barn Find

Posted in Features on July 16, 2018
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During the 50th Jeepster Anniversary (fourwheeler.com/events/1708-jeepster-invasion), we stumbled upon this incredibly clean and simple 1967 half-cab Jeepster Commando C-101. The original owner was a World War II veteran who bought the Jeep for the proper purpose of Jeeping in the Colorado high country. For one reason or another, it was eventually parked in his barn. Decades later the owner passed on, and the Jeepster was hauled out and donated to his church in Santa Monica, California. They didn’t really know what to do with it, and so it sat again. It had some broken bits and pieces, but it was in near-original condition with just 18,000 miles on it. It was as complete as Jeepster Commandos get, right down to the oil bath air cleaner, when Alex Earle found it on a side street some years later. It wasn’t a runner at the time, but there was no doubt in his mind this was the perfect rig to take home.

One of several trails Alex tested his half-cab Jeepster on during the monumental 50th Jeepster summit in Moab, Utah, was 7 Mile Rim. Navigating down Wipeout Hill proved to be an easier task with the 101-inch wheelbase of the Jeepster.

Driver Now

Under the hood of this Jeepster resides the factory Buick 225ci Dauntless V-6 that Jeep was using at the time. This old motor has gobs of low-end torque, a unique odd-fire design, and an extra-heavy flywheel. The odd-firing impulse of the V-6 is what gives the engine its characteristic rumble that many Jeepers and old Buick guys are familiar with. Fuel is fed through the stock Rochester two-barrel carburetor for simplicity. They usually run decently enough off-road when they are clean and properly tuned. This Jeepster Commando also houses a GM TH-400 automatic transmission that was a new factory option for the Jeep brand thanks to the longer 101-inch wheelbase. The torque was then split to the front and rear axles through the Dana 20 transfer case.

The factory oil bath air cleaner looks like a top hat sitting on the original Rochester two-barrel carb feeding the Buick Dauntless V-6. Power brakes were a factory option for Jeepsters, and it’s nice to have the extra stopping power when on steep sections of trail, as well as when in busy Southern California traffic. A RedTop Optima battery supplies starting power for the engine and feeds the vintage Warn winch.

Below the Rails

When Alex brought the Jeep home to Marina Del Rey, California, it was sporting the factory Dana 30 rear axle (not a typo) and Dana 27 front axle, and those sufficed for a while during camping and off-roading excursions all over the California deserts. Eventually it was time for larger tires and more reliable axles. A set of narrow-track axles from a CJ-5 were sourced and hung on a new set of Alcan 4-inch lift springs. The front Dana 30 was rebuilt with new 4:10 gears, and the disc brakes provided greatly improved performance compared to the original 10-inch drums. A limited slip was added to the rear Dana 44 with a new set of 4:10 gears as well. Bilstein shocks are fitted to all four corners of the Jeepster’s chassis and 33-inch tires tip the axles.

The TH400 automatic transmission and Dana 20 transfer case are protected by the original skidplate. You can catch a glimpse of the unique carrier bearing on the front driveshaft that Kaiser-Willys used to clear the passenger-side exhaust.
Alcan put together a set of custom 4-inch lift springs for the front and rear to make room for the 33x10.50R15 mud tires. A narrow-track Dana 44 rear axle was sourced from a CJ-5, and then it was stuffed with 4:10 gears and a limited slip to send power to both rear tires.
The front axle has been upgraded to an open-knuckle, narrow-track Dana 30 with disc brakes from a CJ-5 as well. The differential was left open and outfitted with 4:10 gears to match the rear. The original Ross steering box and bellcrank operate the upgraded heavy-duty drag link and tie rod that direct the tires. Bilstein shocks at all four corners help keep everything under control.

Inside and Out

The half cab was a later addition to give the Jeepster a little pickup style and functionality, and for Alex that meant lots of bed space for camping essentials and off-road equipment. If additional space is needed, the rooftop basket can carry the extra load while also hosting some auxiliary KC lighting and a high-lift jack. The paint is original from the factory, and aside from a few dents and dings from past adventures, it’s in fantastic shape. The original “half-moon” or “dog-dish” Jeep hubcaps, along with the Warn 5721 winch on the front, give the rig an authentic old-school look.

It sports the original 1967 paint from the factory, vintage winch, factory chrome bumpers, and sweet old-school BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires. The round KC lights mounted to the roof basket are ready to light up the night when needed.

Inside the Jeepster, things are simple and to the point—pretty much original down to the dashpad. One easy-to-spot upgrade is the set of in-cab control cables for the Warn winch. A large steering wheel provides the driver some leverage for turning the manual steering box. The center console was specific to the automatic transmission–equipped Jeeps, straddled by original low-back vinyl seats protected from the desert sun and dust by Bestop seat covers.

The interior is simple with no frills, not even a radio. Bestop seat covers protect the original seat vinyl underneath. No carpet is common for the vintage, so some rubber floor mats keep messy boots contained. Jeepster models with the automatic transmission came with a sleek center console for the gear selector, and the dashpad was in nearly perfect condition.
From the driver side of the cab you have access to the in-cab control cables that operate the Warn 5721, just to the left of the steering column. The radio is gone and the hole has been covered with a custom plaque, but the rumble of the motor and hum of the road are entertainment enough when on a Jeepster trip.
Another way to tell that the 56,000 miles are truly original is by the lettering on the heater controls. They are legible and completely intact. This is probably the only one that we have seen in this kind of condition. The horn button is a spectacle as well. The clear crown cap is scratch free and the color on the emblem is well preserved.

Why This Jeep

It’s not often you come across a 50-plus-year-old 4x4 with 59,000 original miles and good factory paint that is still hitting the trails. It’s a simple take on getting outside to experience the real world. Alex told us, “I look at this Commando as a time capsule of what it was like to venture off-road in 1967. Carburetors act up, no heat or sound insulation to speak of, the electrical system is woefully inadequate, and steering is just a suggestion. Yet, when it is gliding across the desert and making its way up steep slickrock ascents, I can't think of a modern rig I would trade it for!”

The WWII vet who bought this Jeepster brand new used it for exploring the mountains of Colorado, and this rig has lived most of its life engaged in one adventure or another since it rolled off the assembly line. It’s right at home with aired-down tires and some ledges to climb in the desert.
The half cab and bulkhead were added after getting the Jeepster back to a functional condition again. It’s great for keeping gear secure behind the passenger compartment, and especially handy when you’re bouncing all over the place driving off-road.
Front to back, top to bottom, it is clean and simple, and so much fun to drive. This Jeepster was meant to be outdoors and exploring the backcountry of America.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 1967 Jeepster Commando
Engine: Buick 225ci odd-fire Dauntless V-6
Transmission: TH400 Automatic
Transfer Case: Dana 20
Suspension: Alcan custom 4-inch leaf springs, Bilstein shocks
Axles: Dana 30, 4.10 gears (front); Dana 44, 4.10-regeared limited slip from a Kaiser CJ-5 (rear)
Wheels: Original Jeepster wheels and factory hubcaps (re-centered for correct backspacing to prevent tire rub)
Tires: 33x10.50R15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains

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