Click for Coverage
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler
Subscribe to the Free

Jeep Autopsy : Comanche MJ

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 18, 2006
Share this
Photographers: JeepCourtesy Of Hesco Inc.

You might be wondering why we'd start the pickup part of the Autopsy series with the Comanche and not the J-Truck or Gladiator. That would be because in last issue's Autopsy, we covered the Cherokee XJ - which means more than half our work on the Comanche is already done, and you know how we're all about laz ... efficiency here at Jp. The Comanche's arrival happened during some busy years at AMC, also known as the 1980s. There was the offing of the CJ-5, the introduction of the Cherokee, the birth of the Wrangler, the task of finding the best leg warmers possible, and the impending doom and related going-away parties for the CJ-7 and Scrambler. Whew. Who had time to build a pickup?

It seems when you lop off half of an existing sport/utility it's a real time-saver. The perky, midsize, unibody, Cherokee-based Comanche pickup was an instant hit for a starving truck crowd. And it remained on the market until it was dumped for a few reasons, including the existence of the Dodge Dakota (the idea being to consolidate truck models) and because Jeep wanted to focus on real, four-wheel-drive SUVs. Ah, the good ol' days.

The HistoryThe Comanche marked the newest generation of Jeep pickup to appear since the '63 J-Series platform. Its 1985 introduction (as an '86 model) followed just one year after the XJ debuted and shared pretty much every gene of its parent Jeep, the Cherokee. When the XJ got something new - engine, transmission, and so on - the Comanche nabbed it too. Production ended in the '92 model year.

The Model/The BodyThere was a standard-cab/longbox body (119.9-inch wheelbase, 7.3-foot bed) offered at launch. Since the configuration was popular in the day, that's what Jeep shot out first. And it was the offering until 1987, when the optional shortbed debuted (112.9-inch wheelbase, six-foot bed). The base Comanche was the Custom model, plus there was what Jeep called the "Low Series" X model. The primo Comanche was XLS. The ironically named Custom was cheap, designed for the two-by buyer and had little or no bright exterior trim. The X was a slight step up from that, with bright accents appearing primarily in the molding. The XLS and X had an optional Sport Dcor Group (black grille and bumper).

By 1987, names familiar to the Jeep line appeared: Pioneer, Chief, and Laredo, and in that order of cush following the base stripper. Base and Pioneer could be had in long or shortbed form, Chief in shortbed, and Laredo in long. The following year came the SporTruck and Eliminator, replacing the Chief and Laredo and available in either wheelbase. In 1989, Jeep encouraged people to "get out of" their base or SporTruck Comanche and into a Pioneer or Eliminator. The breakdown was that base could be had as longbed and in two- or four-wheel drive, the SporTruck could be a 2WD or 4WD with a shortbed, the Pioneer either way, and the Eliminator as a two-wheel-drive shortbed - until the following year when the Eliminator was offered with four-wheel drive. The easiest way to tell an Eliminator from the other Comanches was by its lack of bench seat. It had buckets and headrests. A longbed Comanche had an optional 23.5-gallon fuel tank. And 1988 is when the MJ, like the XJ, went to an eight-slot grille.

The EngineCopycatting the Cherokee, the Comanche was born with a standard 2.5L four-cylinder, worth 117 hp and 135 lb-ft of torque. By 1987, those figures were pumped to 121 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque. A Fuel Miser Package was available for the inline-four, lowering it to about 100 hp and including a four-speed manual transmission, a deleted tailgate and undercoating, and 3.31 axle gears. The four-by Miser included those changes, as well as no spare tire or brackets. The optional engine for the Comanche was the GM 2.8L V-6, which put out 115 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. The 2.1L turbodiesel inline-four made 85 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. When the Cherokee dropped the 2.8L and got the new optional Power-Tech 4.0L six-cylinder in 1987, so did the Comanche, for 177 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque. The six-cylinder came standard on the Eliminator.

The TransmissionFor the 2.5L, a floor-shift, fully synchromesh four-speed T-4 or AX-4 was standard with 3.93 First gear. The options were a floor-shift, all-synchromesh T-5 or AX-5 five-speed manual also with 3.93 First gear or a floor-shift or column-shift three-speed automatic TorqueFlite 904 with lock-up torque converter and 2.74 First gear. The GM mill had the five-speed manual as standard and three-speed auto option, while the diesel had a five-speed manual as its only offering. When the 4.0L came, the Peugeot BA-10 five-speed manual was standard equipment on the SporTruck and Pioneer, while the AX-5 five-speed was standard on the other Comanches. The manual trannys used a 9.1-inch-diameter clutch disc with hydraulic actuation. The new optional AW-4 four-speed automatic was column-shift for bench seats, floor-shift for buckets; it wasn't available for longbeds with the 2.5L. Mid 1988 brought the AX-15 in place of the Peugeot.

The Transfer CaseThe standard T-case was the part-time NP231 (formerly the NP207 in 1987) with Command-Trac. The optional unit was the full-time Selec-Trac NP229 or 228A (optional starting in 1987 was the NP242). All were chain-driven with aluminum housings.

The Suspension/The AxlesThe brand-new Quadra-Link Cherokee front suspension repeated itself on the Comanche. The pickup ran the coil spring/Dana 30 solid axle/four locating arms setup, while the rear was the familiar full-floating, open-end Dana 35 solid axle with leaf springs under the axle, although they were longer than the Cherokee's. Longbeds could be equipped with the Big-Ton Payload Package, bumping the max payload to 2,205 pounds by way of a beefier rear axle (a.k.a. Dana 44), springs, and shocks, as well as a fullsize spare and 15x7 wheels. Outside of North America, the same heavy-duty upgrades were called Metric Tonne. The optional 4x4 Off-Road Package included high-pressure gas shocks, front tow hooks, a heavy-duty radiator, and front skidplates. There was also an available Trac-Lok rear diff for the 4.0L (if the truck had the fullsize spare). Towing capacity at birth with the Class A hitch was 2,000 pounds; 4,000 pounds with the Class B. Running the 4.0L/auto trans combo brought it to 5,000 pounds. The standard axle gears were 3.54s, with 4.10s as the option - other than the Fuel Miser's 3.31s.

The ’86 {{{Jeep Comanche}}} (4WD, short/longbed) 2.5L (2.46)
2.8L V-6
Wheelbase: 112.9/119.9 in. Displacement: 150 ci Displacement: 173 ci
Overall length: 179.3/195.1 in. Bore x stroke: 3.875x3.188 in. Bore x stroke: 3.50x3.00 in.
Overall width: 66.2 in. Compression ratio: 9.2:1 Compression ratio: 8.5:1
Overall height: 64.7 in. Overall height: 64.7 in. Horsepower: 115
Curb weight: 3,090 lbs. (standard long wheelbase) Torque: 135 lb-ft Torque: 145 lb-ft
Transmission (standard):
T-4 or AX-4 four-speed
Transmission (standard):
T-4 or AX-4 four-speed
Transfer case(standard):
NP207 with Command-Trac
Transfer case(standard):
NP207 with Command-Trac

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results