Cars Of A Lifetime: 1986 Jeep Comanche 4×4 – Old Soapy

Once upon a time I found myself looking for a pickup that would get good gas mileage, have four-wheel-drive, be able to pull a trailer, have a large bed, and cost next to nothing. What could possibly fit the bill? A Toyota? Nope; cost too much, can’t pull a trailer. An F150? Nope, not good enough gas mileage. A Dakota? I like my transmissions to last and the four-wheel-drive to be a little more capable. Getting close though. Hmm; I know, a Jeep Comanche for seven hundred and twenty-five dollars!

I found it on Craigslist just a town away. I had been looking for something like it for awhile, so when the ad appeared, I was the first guy to look at it. Reginald and I drove out to test drive it. We found it in a storage lot being attended to by an older gentleman. The tires were almost flat, the registration was expired, and the battery was dead. The man said it had been a nursery truck its whole life. He had bought it from the nursery, but his back prevented him from using it now. Since the title was still in the nursery’s name, I would be the second owner.

We got the tires filled up and got a jump start. The Jeep rumbled to life. Everything seemed to be working just fine.  The man wanted eight hundred dollars for the Jeep. I talked him down to seven twenty five and we drove it off. We took it straight to the gas station where we discovered it had no gas cap. Luckily Reginald just happened to have one sitting in his toolbox in the back of his pickup.

Next, we took it strait to the DMV to register it. On the way I noticed that whenever I turned on the heater fan, seeds and mouse parts would blow out accompanied by a sickly soap-like odor. Well, I figured that would all blow out eventually and it fit in well with the dash mounted generic ignition and the single speed toggle switch controlled fan. Not to mention the loose shifter knob, non-functioning radio, non-functioning dash lights, etc.

Oh, and the seat was all ripped up, so it was covered by an old blanket, perfect! No, really, it was just perfect for my needs. I have news for a big group of people in this country; a pickup truck is a tool. Earrings are a fashion accessory, but a truck is a tool. I suppose though in a society where men wear earrings and spend an hour in the morning doing up their fuaxhawk,  I should expect the F150 Raptor/Platinum/Disco Stew special.  But I digress.

The Jeep unfortunately came with the old GM V6 and not the venerable AMC straight six. But I suppose you can’t have everything for seven hundred and twenty five bucks. Of course I gave it a basic tune up and pulled off all of the emissions junk. But it was still dogged by poor design, and a nasty old electric controlled carburetor. The Jeep did word all right though. In fact it proved to be very reliable. But as I drove it, I noticed that the front tires were wearing at an alarming rate and the steering pretty sketchy. At speeds above forty mph, it would scare the hell out of one.

Upon closer inspection, I found that one of the front wheels was bent and the tires were badly weather checked. So I traded an old twenty-two caliber short revolver for a pair of used BF Goodrich all terrains and found two more for forty bucks on CL. But the two I found were in a little town called Mill City which at the time was experiencing road closures due to heavy snow. Well, it was pretty dicey going the forty miles to Mill City in the snow on my old tires with that killer steering. But luckily because the conditions were so bad I never exceeded forty miles an hour and there were hardly any other cars on the road.

I got the tires put on and I had the rear drive shaft rebuilt and balanced.  The truck drove much better now with no vibrations. But the steering was still sketchy. However, I drove it to work every day for quite some time and it was dead reliable. In fact, I could always rely on it to spew soapy smelling mouse parts and seeds no matter how much I used the fan, and to eat front tires.

After I got most of our hauling done, I found that there was nothing more to haul and that I could use a few more seats.  So I advertised the truck on CL for eleven hundred dollars. I got a guy who wanted to trade me rig with a strait six and five seats for it so I said goodbye to the little red pickup and hello to something a little (really only a little) different.