Backward Glances: A Detailed Look at the 1982 Jeep CJ-7 Jamboree Commemorative Edition
The story of the ’82 Jeep CJ-7 30th Anniversary Jamboree Edition begins in 1952. In that year, a group of Georgetown, California, residents worked to revive the failing economy of their Sierra Nevada foothill town. Georgetown dates back to the 1849 Gold Rush and was in the epicenter of the gold mining industry until it played out in the early 20th century. By the early 1950s, the town subsisted on logging and little else. A new gold rush was needed.
Tourism became the new Georgetown gold, and to further that, a group of pioneer four-wheelers in town concocted an event called the Jeepers Jamboree. The first in 1953 brought 55 vehicles and 155 participants, and that was a good enough crowd to warrant a second Jamboree. It’s been an annual event ever since. Though not exclusively limited to Jeeps, there wasn’t much else back then capable of making the trip over the worst parts of a neglected and mostly abandoned stagecoach road to Lake Tahoe. Eventually, it became known as the Rubicon Trail.
By the 1980s, the Jeepers Jamboree was big business for Georgetown, and Jeep was an integral part of it. As four-wheeling became an American pastime, the Jamboree had also become a Class-A marketing opportunity no manufacturer of 4x4s could fail to notice…and Jeep had the lock on it. After all, is Ford going to successfully promote the Bronco on the Jeepers Jamboree? By 1981, with the 30th Anniversary coming the next year, a big Jeep splash was envisioned with the production of a limited run of a commemorative-edition CJ.
It isn’t clear when the idea was conceived, or who proposed it, but in a product direction meeting on November 20, 1981, a Special Promotional Package was approved to commemorate the 30th Annual Jeepers Jamboree in the summer of 1982. Most sources give AMC stylist Jim Alexander the credit for designing the new package. It was announced internally in a Product Direction Letter dated December 14, 1981, and the dealer announcement came in a letter dated January 29, 1982. Officially called the CJ-7 Jamboree Commemorative Edition, it was to be limited to 2,500 individually numbered units, though far fewer were actually built. Today these rigs are commonly called “Jambos.”
The option required a soft top CJ-7 with a few specific options. Among them were the 258ci I-6, five-speed manual transmission (later a few were made with automatics), power steering and brakes, 235/75R15 Goodyear Wrangler tires, 20-gallon fuel tank, sport steering wheel, HD battery and alternator, HD cooling, HD suspension, bumper-mounted Marchal halogen driving lights, tach and rally clock, and the Trac-Loc limited-slip rear axle (though some are seen without). On top of the CJ-7’s $7,765 base price, these goodies added $2,162 for a total of $9,927.
The $1,332 Jamboree package itself included the special Topaz Gold Metallic paint, padded rollbar package with saddlebags, special gold-accented seats, chrome bumpers and bumperettes, chrome spoked wheels, center console, décor group, black soft top, black carpeting, Jamboree spare tire cover, and the Jamboree serial number plate and decals.
On top of the base package, there was a $1,644 dealer-installed accessory package that included an 8,000-pound Ramsey Model 2001 electric winch, AM/FM stereo CB radio with antenna, fire extinguisher, Marchal driving lights on a windshield-mounted bar, brushguard, and grille guard. If you got everything it would have set you back about $12,903 for the Jambo if you paid full retail, plus transportation. That’s about $33,000 in today’s bucks. Production started around March 1, 1982 and the Jamborees were available by April of 1982.
To get the nitty-gritty details, we consulted Eric Bickel, a Texas Jeep collector and probably the most studied expert on the Jamboree. His website (82jambo.com) is both a registry of the remaining units and a cornucopia of information gleaned from years of digging. Every known bit of information on the Jamboree can be found there, but there is still a lot to be learned, and maybe you have a lost piece of the puzzle.
One of Eric’s biggest disappointments is the lack of production information. No records specific to the Jamboree have been found yet, but Eric has been very busy studying the VIN and plaque numbers of the known survivors and applying statistical algorithms to make estimates on the numbers produced. These are not just wild guesses, and don’t doubt his ability to plot statistical evidence and make conclusions. He has a doctorate in engineering from Stanford and is a professor at the University of Texas, teaching Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. Statistics are a big part of what he does.
Eric discovered Jamborees were made in several batches, the first during the month of March 1982, when approximately 412 were built. The second batch started in mid-April, and that’s when the first white Jambos were built. Yeah, there were Olympic White Jamborees, and Eric is the guy who confirmed the existence of about 70 of them. There was a break again in early May, and then more were built in May until the end of June, when the last one rolled off the line. In these second two batches, Eric estimates another 186 were built, a mix of gold and white. There was another group of about 30 with low numbers that Jeep saved for special purposes, and some of those have also turned up on the survivor’s list.
Eric’s best statistical estimate is that 630 Jamborees were actually built. He can absolutely confirm 129 survivors with another 28 very likely ones. Many others have been reported but are either unconfirmed, likely to have been scrapped, or have disappeared. Eric says a good estimate is 200 survivors in total, but he is working to get a firmer number.
So why were 2,500 announced and only 630 or so built? Economics! Jeep sold as many as they got orders for, and then the model year ended. The Jamboree was a promotional vehicle to help sell Jeeps, but not necessarily Jamborees in particular. Media hoopla promoting the Jeep brand was the main reason for Jamboree production. The profit margin is slim with low-production specials, so they didn’t want to build any more than they could easily sell, but the publicity benefits were a tangible asset.
It’s known that six Topaz Gold Jamborees were at the 30th Anniversary Jeepers Jamboree, and one to three Olympic White Jambos. This has been photographically verified from period images by the crew of our sister publication 4-Wheel & Off-Road, who covered the event. Thanks fellas, wherever you are now. What’s funny is that at the time, 4-Wheel & Off-Road and Four Wheeler were from different publishers and fierce competitors on the magazine racks.
In doing the research for this, we hit up TEN: A Discovery Communications Company Archivist Thomas Voehringer, and he found the original 4-Wheel & Off-Road photo file for the story with color slides and black-and-white prints from the event, and you see some of them here. It was covered in the November 1982 issues of both Four Wheeler and 4-Wheel & Off-Road. The Jamborees also got plenty of coverage prior to the event. It’s ironic that Jamboree production had stopped by the time the Jeepers Jamboree occurred. One Jamboree was to be given away at the event on July 24, 1982, and Lake Tahoe resident Max Withrow had the winning ticket. Where are you now, Max? Another was given away in a national campaign by Jeep, but little is known about that Jeep or the winner of it.
While the CJ-7 Jamboree wasn’t as rock-ready as the later Rubicon, it could and did conquer the legendary Rubicon Trail, so you could say it was Jeep enough. Today, it’s turned into a very collectible Jeep, and prices of $30,000 or more are not unheard of. We can thank Eric for bringing much of the Jamboree’s history to light. If you are interested in learning more, tune in to The Jambo Registry (82jambo.com).
At a GlanceVehicle: ’82 Jeep CJ-7 Jamboree Edition, Topaz Gold Metallic
Owner: Eric Bickel
Estimated value: $35,000
Engine: AMC 258ci I-6
Power (hp): 115 @ 3,200
Torque (lb-ft): 210 @ 1,800
Bore & stroke (in): 3.75 x 3.90
Comp. Ratio: 8.3:1
Transmission: Warner Gear T-5 5-spd
Transfer case: Dana 300 2-spd
Front axle: Dana 30
Rear axle: AMC Model 20
Axle ratio: 2.73:1 (3.31:1 opt.)
Tires: 235/75R-16 Goodyear Wrangler
Wheelbase (in): 93.4
GVWR (lb): 4,150
Curb weight (lb): 2,770
Fuel capacity (gal): 20
Min. grd. clearance (in): 7.6