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The Jeep Comanche was a straightforward compact pickup truck built upon the extremely popular Cherokee SUV platform. It was known as the MJ based on its weight, approximately one metric ton. Jeep offered two models, a rear-wheel, two-wheel drive option and a four-wheel drive option that included a bed length of either six feet or seven feet. The Comanche was introduced to offer customers an American made option to the ever increasingly popular Japanese trucks that were smaller and more compact, increasing fuel economy.
The Comanche was developed in part by Chairman Paul Tippett Jr. who noticed there was a market for mid-sized pickup trucks. AMC was the current owner of Jeep and they were enduring tough economic times. The emergence of smaller pickup trucks and there increasing popularity motivated Jeep to release the Comanche to increase sales. It was released in 1985 and was the lowest priced Jeep model offered.
The Jeep Comanche, also known as the MJ for metric ton Jeep, was noticeably different from other pickup trucks of its size. It used a unibody chassis to support the majority of the truck load throughout the vehicle's skin. Just like the Jeep Gladiator, it was designed to be a sporty truck, one that offered a higher horsepower/weight ratio for increased fuel economy as well as an overall faster vehicle. Even though it was a smaller truck, it was known for its cargo and towing capacity and its unique Selec-Trac and Command-Trac four-wheel drive options.
The debut model engine options included the AMC, 2.5-liter, CID four-cylinder, the carbureted General Motors 2.8-liter V-6 or the Renault 2.1-liter, four-cylinder turbo diesel. The transmission was Chrysler's TorqueFlite A904 automatic that was standard issue for smaller and lighter V-6 and V-8 vehicles. There was an option of a four speed or five speed manual if three speeds weren't enough. A seven foot bed was the only option that coupled larger doors, making for the largest model offered with the highest rated maximum payload of 2200 pounds. The wheelbase was 119.6 inches with 43.8 inches between wheel wells. The truck was also offered in two-wheel and four-wheel drive options. The four-wheel drive trucks offered Selec-Trac for four-wheel drive capability on pavement and dirt or Command-Trac which only allowed four-wheel drive on dirt or very wet pavement.
In 1987, Chrysler introduced the new 4.0-liter engine that had a 3.88-inch bore and 2.5, 3.18, 4.0 and 3.44-inch strokes. A new Aisin four-speed automatic transmission was used that featured electronic shifting, a driver instrument panel and higher RPM shifting. This year also featured a new 113-inch wheelbase with a six-foot bed and a new eight-slot grill. The four-wheel drive system was the Command-Trac option only. In 1988, the 4.0-liter engine was fine-tuned which increased output to 177hp and the 2.1-liter, four-cylinder Turbo Diesel was dropped. The new Eliminator model came with many new luxury options such as a color-keyed grille, fender flares, new 10-hole alloy wheels, a tachometer, bucket seats, upgraded trim, and a sport steering wheel. 1990 marked the first year the four-wheel anti-lock braking system was offered but there weren't many other upgrades. In 1991 Jeep made significant changes to the Comanche. The exhaust and intake systems were redesigned to increase air flow. It was powered by the most powerful engine in its class, a 4.0-liter AMC that produced 190hp. The 2.5-liter V-6 also increased in power to 130hp. The power increase to the 2.5-liter engine can be attributed to the addition of a multi-port fuel injection system.