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Jeep: The First 70 Years Part 3

Jeep Renegades
Jim Allen | Writer
Posted May 1, 2011
Photographers: Courtesy Chrysler Group LLC

Bobtails, And Others, In The Modern Era

The New CJs: 1970-1986
While the CJ line had benefitted from many improvements since its 1955 makeover, it was still very much the same unit by the time American Motors took over in 1970. Job One for AMC was to incorporate its line of six- and eight-cylinder engines into the line-a most necessary step by then, especially in the case of the venerable F-head Four. That necessitated some fairly major chassis upgrades including stretching the wheelbase. That allowed for a most welcome increase in interior room, and along the way, they took the time to upgrade the suspensions for better ride and drive.

"More room" was the perennial cry of loyal but frustrated Jeep owners. To answer that, the '76 CJ-7 was developed. It was the "three bears" Jeep. It was stretched just enough to vastly increase interior room but not so much as to hamper trail performance for those who wheeled them. On top of that, they were offered with hardtops, full doors and-gasp-roll-up windows. Gadzooks, you could even get air conditioning!

Even the CJ-7 wasn't enough, and with the CJ-6 being retired from domestic sales, an even-longer CJ was contemplated. For 1981, the CJ-8 Scrambler debuted. Its role in the market was a bit vague. Was it a small pickup or a long Jeep SUV? Inept marketing, combined with AMC's financial troubles, made it a modest seller at best but long after its demise, the CJ-8 had a renaissance and became one of the hottest models for Jeep builders and collectors.

One of the most interesting parts of the AMC era was the staggering number of special editions. Take the same basic Jeep and adorn it with an ever-changing series of decals and options packages, and you see marketing at work. Sounds cheesy, but it worked! They were generally popular back then, and original versions of these special editions are now hotter than fission.

The CJ era and the AMC era ended at about the same time. Bad publicity over rollovers left the CJ tarnished in the public eye. The CJ name, and the round headlights, faded away after 1986. In 1987, the comeback kid, Chrysler, made the still-ailing AMC an offer they couldn't refuse and took over the company. Jeep was the raisin in the bland AMC pudding. AMC cars went the Studebaker route, but Jeep flourished.


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