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The Terrible Ten Jeeps

Jeep Compass Front
Jp Staff | Writer
Posted March 1, 2011
Photographers: Courtesy Chrysler, Jp magazine

The Worst Jeeps Ever

Yeah, we probably just trounced your favorite Jeep model and you're irate with us. Hey, at least we didn't push your elderly mother down a flight of stairs or toss a bag full of puppies into a river. Let's keep things in perspective.

We love Jeeps. We even love a lot of Jeeps that made this list. But sometimes you gotta take the blinders off and see things for what they really are. In this case, many of those things are big, stinky piles of mediocrity, apathy, avarice, or incompetence. Whether by design, guile, or mistake, sometimes the factory just pumps out an inferior product. Most of the Jeeps on this list can (and should) be modified into stronger, more durable, or better-working vehicles. Still, some of 'em should be taken out behind the shed and given a double-tappity-tap to the proverbial head.

The Jp staff pooled its brain power (it was either write this story or light a 3-watt bulb for 10 seconds) and compiled its list of the ten worst Jeeps in factory-trim. Let's say that again-in factory trim. If you don't mind swapping suspension, drivetrain, or other parts, many of the Jeeps on this list will make a darn fine vehicle. But if you're planning on hitting the road or trail with 'em in factory-form, you'd better have your roadside assistance on speed-dial.

It's an all-wheel-drive car with a huge chin overhang that kills approach angles. The CVT transmission clobbers any kind of off-road ability, and even if you spec the five-speed the intrusive computer cuts power output and limits torque to the spinning tire(s) which stops any forward momentum. Driving a Compass off-road is only slightly better than wheelin' a Prius. At least you won't electrocute yourself when you get stuck in a puddle.

See Compass and add two doors to the price.

'76-'86 CJ-5/CJ-7
We love the CJ, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a pile. The bodies weren't galvanized so they rot away, the steering and clutch linkages can separate when the body and frame flex on the trail, the frames crack at the suspension mounts (or pretty much anywhere, really), the steering box mounts snap in half or fall off of the frames, and the two-piece axleshafts in the Model 20 are guaranteed to separate and spin with off-road use. In short, they sort of fall apart if you use them. Add emissions gizmos onto the 4.2L engine, a crappy Carter BBD carburetor to ensure sputtering and impossible tunability, and a wiring fuse box that's the work of Satan, and it's a wonder the CJs of that era didn't bring down the whole company. Hey, wait a minute...where'd AMC go?

'63-'65 1/2 IFS Wagoneer
A low-revving 230-cube overhead-cam six-cylinder that wasn't the most durable of engines starts it off. The funky IFS suspension was innovative, but hasn't proven that durable off-road or easy to maintain. It is somewhat reminiscent of a bastardized Ford TTB, but with big, swinging cast-iron upper linkages and a steering setup that allowed the tires to go toe-out or -in as the suspension cycled. Again, another innovative option was the cast-iron Borg Warner AS-8F automatic, but if you chose it you were stuck with the single-speed Dana 21 T-case with no low range. In short, it's not so much the sum of the parts that earns this vehicle a spot in this list as it is the intended purpose. This is perhaps the first 4x4 Jeep that made allowances for on-road comfort at the cost of off-road performance: a harbinger of things to come in the watering down of the Jeep brand to the modern day.

Here's another Jeep we absolutely love, but if you take the blinders off, you'll see it really isn't an exceptional vehicle in stock trim. For starters, it came with Jeep's by-then antiquated Tornado 230 OHC motor. The 230 didn't like to rev at high rpms because things inside sort of, well, came apart. So naturally, the low-rev torque engine was matched to a high-revving 5.87 gearset in the axles. Kaboom-city. Despite its big ring and pinion, the closed-knuckle Dana 60 front has 30-spline axleshafts which are metallurgically inferior to more modern shafts and, like the Dana 70 rear, used a big, bell-shaped drum-brake setup with wheel cylinders lacking internal chrome plating, so any moisture in the brake system led to rusted, seized cylinders. The divorce-mounted NP200 T-case leaked gear oil out of the yoke seals even when new. The trucks were heavy, had no power steering, and most of all, rode like a freight train on a dirt road. With open diffs and a completely incompliant suspension, as soon as you hit uneven terrain forward momentum ceased and you were left spinning tires.

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