6 Weird & Unusual OEM Jeep Engines

Updated December 27, 2015

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Over the years Jeeps have been powered by a variety of engines, some of which were pretty unusual. Here’s a look at 6 of the oddest Jeep motors.

The Jeep brand has had high times and low times, largely depending upon what other company owned them at the time. Thankfully each of its owners saw the value in the Jeep brand and keep the wheels rolling, even if it meant borrowing an engine or two from another company.



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1979 Jeep DJ5G

Believe it or not there was a Jeep that shared an engine with a Porsche. The 2.0 L overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine was purchased  from Audi/Volkswagen from 1977 through 1979. It was the same basic engine as used in the Porsche 924 and 924 Turbo. However, the engines sent to America were built to AMC specs, which are different from Audi/VW/Porsche specifications. AMC used a carburetor and standard points ignition and were built to  wider internal tolerances. The result was that the AMC version produced up to 30 hp less than the VW-Audi-Porsche version of the engine. While  installed extensively in the AMC Gremlin, AMC Spirit, and AMC Concord, the only Jeep in which this engine was installed was the 1979 Jeep DJ (Dispatcher or Postal Delivery). In the DJ5G, it was mated to a 3-speed A904 automatic transmission with a VW/Audi pattern bellhousing.



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M422 Mighty Mite

If you think that AMC didn’t start building Jeeps until its purchased Kaiser, you’d be wrong. American Motors won the contract in 1960 to build a compact, lightweight (1700 lbs) M422 “Mighty Mite” vehicle for the Marine Corps. It was powered by a 1.8 L AMC designed aluminum air-cooled V4 engine that produced 55 hp.The Mighty Mite was commissioned by the Marines as their helicopters were not capable of lifting full-sized Jeeps. However, advances came quickly and soon the Marines had heavy-lift capabilities (bye, bye Mighty Mite).  The Mighty Mite was in production for just 36 months and only 3922 were built.



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Renault J8S Turbo Diesel

So we’ve seen a German-made engine in a Jeep, how about  a French-made diesel? The Renault  2.1 L four-cylinder turbodiesel (not a pure diesel design but adapted from a gas engine) was optional in Jeep Cherokee and Comanche  between 1984 and 1986. Even now you can find folks who love the engine (particularly the high mileage it delivered) to those who didn’t (issues with easily overheating the all-aluminum diesel engine). It was fairly sophisticated for its time and that may have been the reasons for some its issues. Plus problems pretty much across the board with the French-made Peugeot transmissions didn’t make many friends and the whole fiasco probably set back the adoption of small diesels in SUVs in the US for several years.



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Kaiser Dauntless V6

Here’s an engine that powered an IndyCar to a 232 mph qualifying speed for the Indianapolis 500 some years ago. In 1966, Kaiser introduced the “Dauntless” 3.7 L V6 engine for the CJ and as an option in the C101 Jeepster Commando. But it hadn’t started out as a Kaiser engine. The company had purchased the rights and tooling  to build the 3.7 L engine from Buick, as GM no longer felt there was a market for V6-powered cars. It remained in the Jeep line until 1971,  not long after AMC acquired Kaiser in 1970. Then in 1974, realizing the need for a mid-sized motor, GM purchased all the mothballed tooling back from AMC and had the line running within four months. GM kept that version of the engine in production until 1987, building a special version to comply with the Indianapolis 500 stock block rules, and with additional modification taking its life as a production car motor out to 2008.

buick v6 indy2


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Willys L134 (Go Devil)

The Willys engine that powered nearly every Jeep used in WWII, regardless of which company manufactured the vehicle, had both humble and unlikely roots. Before the war, Willy’s four cylinder engine powered the Model 77, a very inexpensive, but high mileage car (sort of the Chevrolet Spark of its day). The engine was an under performer, producing only 48 hp from 145 CID. The company wanted the government contract so in a relatively short time redesigned the engine to produce 60 hp from just 134 CID and nicknamed it the “Go Devil”. Despite the fact Willy’s entry was overweight, the Army was so impressed by their entry’s performance, they were awarded the contract.



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Jeep Tornado

The Jeep Tornado was the first U.S.-designed  overhead cam (OHC) automobile engine that was mass-produced after WWII. The 3.78 L inline-six was introduced in mid-year 1962. The Tornado replaced the flathead 6-226 Willys Super Hurricane that had been in service since 1954. However, its life in the US was brief, being dropped from the line after 1965. The engine was too sophisticated to maintain for mechanics accustomed to working on flatheads. The engine did continue in production in South America. When Ford acquired Willys-Overland do Brasil, they made design changes on the engine, so what had started as a Kaiser-Jeep engine was for a few years a Ford engine.





Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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