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10 Almost Forgotten Jeeps You Might Have Trouble Recognizing

Do You Know Your Jeep Fleetvan From Your Jeepster?

Updated November 9, 2018

Whether on a highway, summer road or in urban setting – recognizing a Jee p shouldn’t pose a problem for anyone, let alone a true gearhead. Like every manufacturer, however, Jeep too had their ups and downs. This translated to their portfolio of vehicles, of course, and some of them have had more success than the others. This time we’ll be looking at some peculiar Jeeps that you might have trouble naming or recognizing. Although Jeep’s design language has remained largely intact since they started making vehicles, some of the upcoming nameplates are true oddballs. Others are simply forgotten due to being overshadowed by their sibling models. Or they simply never managed to garner enough attention during their lifetime, hence they fell into obscurity. Whichever the case, here are the 10 Jeeps that deserve to be rescued from the jaws of oblivion.

1948-1950 Jeepster

Last phaeton car produced by one major automaker hails from the post WWII period when Jeep was still known as Willys-Overland. Jeep was always utility vehicle-focused manufacturer, but their post WWII years were by far the most one dimensional in that respect. This is the main reason they decided to try and build a passenger car even though they lacked the technology to do so. Because of its phaeton body style, the Jeepster was mostly considered a warm season vehicle and that severely limited its selling potential. That’s the reason it only stuck around for two model years. That, and its relatively high price compared to other market offerings. Jeepster cost $1,765 in its initial year and the price had to be lowered to $1,495 in 1949. However, many of ’48 model’s standard equipment became optional at extra cost.

Powertrain lineup consisted of 63-horsepower “Go Devil” 4-cylinder which stuck around throughout the Jeepster’s production run, Hurricane in-line 4 for 1950, and two straight sixes. L148 Lightning for 1949 and 1950, and L161 Lightning for 1950. Only 19,132 total Jeepsters have been produced and few have survived to tell their tale today.

1961-1975 Fleetvan

Based on DJ-3A Dispatcher, highly polarizing Jeep Fleetvan took over some of its role model’s postal duties in 1961. U.S. Mail ordered a contingency of FJ-3 Fleetvans which weren’t much longer than the Jeep CJ, and came with horizontal grille bars and right hand drive. Extended FJ-3A version of the van was 154 inches long (19 inches longer than the FJ-3), and had vertical bars up front. All Fleetvans were motivated by 2.2L F4-134 Hurricane in-line 4-cylinders tied to Borg-Warner T-90 3-speed manual transmissions. However, Borg-Warner auto was available as an option too. Outside of government agencies like the post office, very few people decided to go with the Fleetvan. It still enjoyed quite a long production run for a fleet vehicle, though.

1981-1985 CJ-10

It might be part of the iconic Civillian Jeep series, but CJ-10 is arguably the most mysterious of the lot. The elusive CJ-10 was basically a mashup between the J10 Gladiator pickup and a CJ SUV. The last of the CJ’s was only offered in overseas markets (mostly in Australia) and for commercial military use in the US. Hence its rarity. It came in half-ton and three quarter-ton forms, and had three engines to choose from. Smallest was the 2.5L AMC 4-cylinder unit while the largest was the 4.2L AMC straight-six. In between, CJ-10 could have been ordered with Nissan’s 3.2L SD-33 6-cylinder diesel. At the same time, TorqueFlite 727 automatic or Tremec T-177 4-speed manual were responsible for shifting gears. Underneath the CJ-10 were the front Dana 44 axle and either corresponding or stronger Dana 60 rear axle.

Not many of them have been produced because Australian market proved to be tough for many reasons, but mostly for high shipping costs. At the end of the line, there was also the Jeep CJ-10A produced in Mexico between ’84 and ’86. Around 2,300 of these modified versions were built for the United States Air Force to be used as aircraft tugs.

1967-1969 M715

M715 was commissioned by the US military and built by Kaiser Jeep in order to replace the venerable and increasingly expensive Dodge M37. Just like the CJ-10, the M715 too was built upon the Gladiator chassis. However, M715 wasn’t very reliable back then and was subsequently replaced by another Dodge – the M-880. The reason was the engine. 231ci Tornado 6-cylinder featured the overhead cam design which wasn’t very advanced back then leading to non-optimized construction and improper maintenance. In order to keep the costs down, Kaiser Jeep used numerous civilian SJ platform components. M715 was a convertible and it had a foldable windshield. This five quarter ton truck was produced in Toledo, Ohio. Around 33,000 of them have been made but their service in Vietnam, Europe and Korea renders them somewhat scarce these days.

1951-1953 CJ-3A Farm Jeep

CJ-3A followed the first massively produced civilian Jeep and added a few innovations including new models like the Farm Jeep and the Jeep Tractor. They were even more spartan than conventional Jeeps and intended for everyday hard farming labor. That’s one of the main reasons very few of them have survived. Another is their small production batch. To this day we don’t know how many of them exactly have been produced, but there probably weren’t much more than 200 units in total. Don’t let this confuse you, though. Any CJ-3A could have been fitted with farm equipment later on, but only 1951 through 1953 models designated GC or GD on their VIN plate (C for Farm Jeep and D for Jeep Tractor) were the intended models.

Like their conventional siblings, Farm Jeep and Jeep Tractor also had the “Go Devil” 4-cylinder engine, but unlike their somewhat plushier siblings, farming versions came with a power take off, hydraulic lifts, and a heavy-duty hitch. This is what’s helped them overcome daily obstacles imposed on them by the very nature of their intended purpose.

1956-1965 Forward Control

Jeep Forward Control derives its name from the forward control body design that features cab over engine layout. It was introduced in order to spice things up as Jeep’s then-current pickup truck creatively called the Willys Pickup Truck was beginning to show its age. Forward Control was based on CJ-5 platform, but featured rather unique styling that would never again be offered in any Jeep-made vehicle. It had its ups and downs, but never caught the public attention the way Jeep hoped it would. Only around 30,000 of them have been manufactured over the course of their decade long production run.

Jeep FC was initially offered with the Hurricane F-134 4-cylinder (FC-150 and FC-160), but quickly received the new Super Hurricane in-line six engine (FC-170, FC-170 DRW and FC-180). At the same time, extended chassis FC-180 and FC-190 models were offered with the Ford Y-block 272ci V8 engine. There were numerous overseas Jeep FC spinoffs as well, but Forward Control remained largely obscured until recently. Today, they’re more or less collectibles.

1981-1986 CJ-8 Scrambler

Scrambler is another CJ that’s come and gone largely unnoticed compared to its coevals. It was based on much more popular CJ-7 platform and represented the extended version of it. The name Scrambler stuck even though it was only an appearance package. Tape graphics and special wheels were such a bargain that most CJ-8 owners ticked the box and ended up with them. Although not the most popular back then, Scrambler is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Like the Forward Control, it too is becoming increasingly more expensive as time passes. After all, one of them was owned by none other than the president Reagan.

US market engine options were limited to 82-horsepower 2.5L 4-cylinder and 110-horsepower 4.2L in-line six. European models were stuffed with 60-horsepower 2.4L diesel on the other hand. 4 or 5-speed manuals were the most usual transmission choices, but 3-speed auto was available too, although only with the 6-cylinder. Total production of CJ-8 Scrambler came to almost 28,000 units. Enough for good amount of them to survive but not enough to make them common. That’s why they’re rather expensive today.

1966-1973 Jeepster Commando

Commando was original Jeepster’s spiritual successor introduced in order to compete with other personal utility vehicles such as the original Ford Bronco, Toyota Land Cruiser, International Scout and Chevy Blazer later on. Unlike its distant predecessor, Jeepster Commando could have been configured as a pickup, convertible, roadster or wagon thanks to its removable hardtop. Versatile ute also offered optional V8 engine when AMC took things over from Kaiser in 1971. 304ci V8 delivered 210 horses for ’71 and 150 ponies afterwards. AMC also revised Jeepster’s design and changed its name to Jeep Commando.Their other powertrain options were the 232ci and 258ci straight sixes while four-wheel drive remained mandatory.

During the initial, Kaiser years, however, Jeepster Commando was only available with F134 Hurricane 4-cylinder and Buick’s 160-horsepower 225ci Dauntless V6. Ironically, although Kaiser’s Commando represented the original idea and styling, it was the questionably designed AMC’s Commando that had had more success. Noit enough to threaten the Bronco or Blazer, though.

1966-1971 Kaiser Jeepster Commando

1971-1973 AMC Jeep Commando

1955-1984 Dispatcher Jeep

Light duty, two-wheel drive version of a CJ usually responsible for deliveries has enjoyed a long and fruitful career. Jeep DJ went through numerous generations starting off as DJ-3A and exiting the stage as DJ-5M (letter series) based of a CJ-5. It even spinned off its electric version dubbed DJ-5E – Electruck in 1974. Conventional Delivery Jeeps, on the other hand, started off with the famous “Go Devil” 4 cylinder and either column or floor-mounted 3-speed Borg-Warner T-96 manual transmission. As ownership of the Jeep changed, so did the engines. First came Hurricane and Buick Dauntless mills and later on came the AMC arsenal of straight-six and four engines.

Jeep DJ could have been ordered with both the soft and hard top, or even with full van body. You’ll mostly remember it as a hard top, right hand drive postal service vehicle, although many hotel resorts (both home and abroad) ended up ordering soft top models in various colorways including pink.

1955-1981 CJ-6

Unlike the iconic CJ-5, its 20-inch longer wheelbase CJ-6 variation doesn’t exactly boast a cult following. Most of them have been sold abroad with Sweden, South American countries and South African Republic being the main buyers. South Africa also assembled it in local Volkswagen subsidiary. At home, on the other hand, most of them ended up serving in the military or the U.S. Forest Service. Around 50,000 have been made over the course of 20 years, and although US production ceased in 1975, CJ-6 survived for 6 more years abroad. By then, it rode on 104-inch wheelbase, 23 inches longer than CJ-5’s original 81-inch variation.

Jeep CJ-6 was offered with everything from Hurricane 4-cylinder to AMC 304ci V8. It was actually a spinoff of the M170 military vehicle which saw its primary use as a field ambulance. One would have though they’d garner much bigger attention looking at today’s Wrangler Unlimited, but that wasn’t to be the case. Maybe putting too much emphasis on CJ-6 as a workhorse repelled potential buyers and sent them CJ-5’s way.

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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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