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The Jeep Commando was a sport utility vehicle (SUV) produced from 1966 to 1973. Kaiser-Jeep and American Motors Corporation owned the Jeep brand while the Commando was produced and kept the design and the mechanics relatively similar during the change in ownership. The Commando was built and marketed as the SUV that could take you to the beach or around town in comfort while still offering all the suspension, power and handling to conquer off-road terrains.
The origins of the Jeep name can be traced back as far as World War II when the U.S. Army expressed their need for a lightweight, all-terrain reconnaissance vehicle. However, it was not until World War II that the classic Jeep we see today was born. The Army made contacted 135 companies and asked for a functional prototype in 49 days. American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland responded, submitted their designs and prototype and Willys-Overland eventually won the contract. After World War II, there was a significant public demand for a civilian model for farmers and construction workers, leading to the release of the first full production civilian model in 1945 named the CJ-2A.
The Jeep Commando was a civilian type SUV that was built to compete with the Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Bronco. It was designed as a throwback model to the original Willys-Overland Jeepster. The original Jeepster was one of the first crossover models that rose from the success of the WWII military-type Jeep. The Jeepster was designed to be the "utilitarian" type vehicle that was suitable for the passenger vehicle market. The Jeepster ended production in 1950 but the Commando would resurrect the Jeepster for another eight years.
The Jeep Commando was produced to feed the demand for a quality SUV that people could use for towing and weekend activities while still having all the comfort desired for driving on paved roads during the week. The Commando started out with a relatively small engine however as years past, there were additional options for larger engines that were more capable off-road. The engine size started with four-cylinders but there was soon a six-cylinder option. The Commando was the ancestor to many of modern day SUVs. The Commando pioneered the function and capabilities for day-to-day and off-road driving that we see in today's SUV market.
The 1973 Commando C104 had a wheelbase of 104-inches, hence the C104 name. The front end was redesigned from earlier models to accommodate larger engines. The Commando came with an option of the AMC 3.8L or 4.2L V-6 or AMC 5.0L V-8. The 1973 AMC 5.0L V-8 produced 150hp with a 3.75-inch bore and a 3.753-inch stroke which was a substantial decrease from the 210hp produced in 1971. The drivetrain was a standard four-wheel drive arrangement with an automatic four-speed transmission. The paint options were only a teal green and bright orange.
Under the ownership of Jeep by Kaiser-Jeep, the Commando's official name was the Jeepster Commando C101, where C101 stood for the 101-inch wheelbase. There were two engine options, the F-Head Hurricane four-cylinder that produced 75 horsepower (hp) at 4000 revolutions per minute (rpm) and 114 lb-ft of torque at 2000rpm. The second option was a Dauntless V-6 capable of 160hp and 235 lb-ft of torque and had a 3.75-inch bore and 3.40-inch stroke. The larger V-6 was the generally preferred engine option. There were four body styles available that included a station wagon, convertible, pickup and roadster. The station wagon model featured sliding rear windows, embellished full interior trim and an optional two-tone custom finish. All models came standard with a four-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive.
In 1971, a select number of rare "Hurst Jeepsters" were produced that offered Hurst Performance upgrades such as an 8000rpm tachometer, a T-Handle shifter and optional automatic transmission. The exterior upgrades included a champagne white base paint finish with red and blue stripes, special exterior emblems, a roof rack and Goodyear white letter tires and wider wheels. There were three models of the Jeepster called the Revival Jeepster, Commando Convertible and open body roadster.
When American Motors Corporation bought Kaiser-Jeep in 1970, they dropped the full Jeepster Commando C101 name and shortened it to simply the Commando C104. When this change took place they lengthened the wheelbase to 104-inches, added a full length grille and added the AMC 3.8L or 4.2L six-cylinder and AMC 5.0L V-8. The 3.8L six-cylinder produced 100hp and 185 lb-ft of torque with a 3.75-inch bore and a 3.50-inch stroke and the 5.0L V-8 produced 210hp with a 3.75-inch bore and a 3.753-inch stroke.