(first posted 8/26/2014) Certain cities are inextricably linked to the vehicles their residents made. Everyone who knows cars can pair the Michigan cities of Flint with Buick, Lansing with Oldsmobile and Dearborn with Ford. Outside of Michigan, say ‘Kenosha’ and everyone thinks of AMC. Ditto South Bend and Studebaker. And the northern Ohio city of Toledo is every bit as identified as the home of the Jeep.
In 1910, John North Willys bought a six-years-old bicycle manufacturing plant in Toledo, Ohio, where he consolidated the operations of the Willys-Overland company. This marked the beginning of an automobile manufacturing operation that remains to this day. Willys-Overland made it through the Second World War, eventually being purchased by Kaiser in 1953. Kaiser and Willys passenger cars were produced there into 1955 and forever thereafter, Toledo’s one and only famous automotive product has been the Jeep.
We have already covered a good bit of the history of the Jeep Gladiator (here), so there is no need to plow that row again. Instead, let’s just wallow in and enjoy this truck and native son of Toledo.
The Jeep CJ series (and the earlier Station Wagon) vehicles never were intended to anchor and carry an automobile company, but carry the company they did after the 1955 cessation of the Willys Aero passenger car. The 1963 Gladiator and Wagoneer, on the other hand, appear to have been designed with the implicit belief that they would be the company’s core products going forward.
Almost immediately, these trucks stubbornly occupied a significant niche: the slightly smaller-than-average, 4-wheel drive truck. The Internationals and the Dodge Power Wagons were the big dogs in the field, and trucks by Ford and GM were out there as well. A full size down were the Scout, and the soon-to-be discontinued Jeep pickup based on the old 1940s Willys design. In this truck, Jeep found a nice, quiet little place where it could do its thing, out of the way of the bigger and better financed competition.
And didn’t every young baby boomer own the Tonka version? I know I did.
By the ’60s, the Jeep name had plenty of cred among truck buyers, and Kaiser Jeep certainly provided a vehicle that lived up to the reputation expected of a Jeep. And the Gladiator of these years may have been as modern and as civilized a truck as anything made: Not only was there an independent front suspension, but these may well be the first 4×4 trucks offered with an automatic transmission, the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 from General Motors. This interior would not have been out of place in a lower-priced car of the period.
It is hard to narrow down the year of this fellow. We know that it has to be between 1965 and 1967, that short stretch during which Kaiser Jeep employed the AMC 327 V8 engine that Jeep christened the “Vigilante V8”. I see that the J-3000, which we previously covered here, has what appears to be a switch on the steering column for hazard flashers, so if forced to guess, I would peg the red J-3000 as a 1967 and this one as a 1965 or ’66.
The AMC V8 engine is another interesting Toledo connection. This engine bore no relationship to the more famous Chevy 327, but was instead largely designed by engineer Dave Potter in the waning days of Kaiser-Willys. As the air was leaking out of the K-W automotive business, Potter found his way to the fledgling American Motors Corporation, which was desperate for a new V8 engine. Potter’s previous work on the Kaiser design greatly sped the AMC design work, taking the engine from drawing board to production line in a scant 18 months. The first AMC V8 began life in 1956, as a 250-cubic inch mill, before being enlarged to 327 cid (5.4 liters) in 1957.
Unfortunately for Jeep, AMC discontinued the 327 after 1967, and Jeep had to go shopping again. This time, the result was Buick power under the hood until AMC’s 1970 purchase of Kaiser Jeep, when AMC engines returned.
It was fitting that I should spot this old Gladiator while attending a family wedding, about 60 miles east of Toledo, last year. When in Jeep Country, what else should I have expected to find? I will acknowledge that this example is only 2/3 the J-3000 that Paul wrote up last year (both in GVWR and the relative amount of sheetmetal still attached to the frame), but that makes the find no less interesting. Actually, for a northern truck this one is remarkably free of rust mites.
About that rust – wintertime salt spray was probably the Gladiator’s greatest foe. I have long been amazed that the slushy, salty environment where almost every postwar vehicle in the U.S. was designed and built was the same environment they could not withstand. It would have been easier to figure had all the design work been in southern states. “Gol-ly Herb, I just got back from a trip up north, and all the fenders have holes in ’em. Gol-dangdest thing y’all ever saw.” But no. Engineers in Detroit, Kenosha, South Bend, Fort Wayne – and Toledo- lived and worked every day around rusted, swiss-cheesed car and truck bodies: “So it rusted. Kwitcherbitchin’ and buy another one.”
When it closed in 2006, the Jeep Parkway plant was the oldest operating automobile plant in the United States. Think about it: The same assembly lines built the Willys-Knight, the Americar, the later Kaiser Manhattans and about every Jeep from the beginning up through at least the modern Wrangler. Amongst all of those famous products, the Gladiator stands right with them, a product that the people of Toledo could be proud of.
Quite a few northern industrial cities have lost their automotive benefactors over recent decades, and have had their difficulties in moving forward. But Toledo, home of the Jeep, continues to chug along under a long line of different owners. This old Gladiator reminds us that there was more to Jeep in the 1960s than CJ-5s and Wagoneers.
Related reading: CC 1967 Jeep Gladiator J3000 – The Truck of the Future
Yeah I had a Tonka Jeep pickup truck in red it got played into the ground, the real things are a bit thin on the ground here though I spotted some later Jeep trucks recently.
I had a wrecker version, I used it to tow my 65 Galaxie XL promo model around.
I was lucky enough to get a Tonka car carrier equipped with three Gladiators a Christmas gift when I was a kid. Dad also bought me a Tonka Wagoneer, VW Bug, and a road grader. Saw a Gladiator on I-5 traffic in Everett a couple of days ago.
Damn, I want one.
There was even a Tonka Jeep Gladiator cement mixer truck riding on single rear wheels! Hey, child’s play is all about developing imagination, right?
I had some sort of Tonka truck when I was a little kid, but I have no idea what kind of truck it was; I certainly paid no attention to such things at that age. Curiously, I was able to identify certain car models; but trucks were a different thing to me and held no interest.
Quite a find, especially one that is so cherry for its locale. Yes, I had the Tonka version, but it was a Wagoneer.
For whatever reason, the John Steinbeck description of the Jobe Family rig comes to mind with this Jeep. “It could go to hell and back on its belly.” Or along those lines. This is one tough looking old girl.
Thank you; this has made my morning.
Great find. I wonder roughly how many of these are actually left?
While not a totally uncommon practice, it’s still interesting that other car companies’ engines were used in it. Something about a Buick-powered Jeep just seems out of place.
No idea how many are left, but these never sold all that well. I did not find a full set of production figures, but I know that they built nearly 60,000 in 1964 (before the V8 engine), settled into an annual range of 15-20,000 units through most of the 70s, then sunk into 4 figures through the 80s. The last 3 years (1985-87) sales didn’t break 2,000 per year.
Oh okay. Thanks.
I’ve always been a bit dumbfounded that the Jeep brand pick-ups did not get any traction as the SUV and pick-up era as passenger vehicles blossomed. All the elements seemed to be in place; handsome style in a unique look that was clearly Jeep, and a close relationship with popular SUVs. The small Comanche seemed like another natural when the small truck market took off, and it even had the advantage of being a modern design.
The engines, four wheel drive systems and transmissions were mostly the same as the SUVs, so engineering would not seem to have been the weak spot.
And GMC proved that a Truck / SUV only brand could work just fine.
I was amazed to see how low sales figures got the last few years, especially as the economy was taking off and sporty pickups were selling well. Of course by then, this thing was simply ancient.
I will always wonder why Jeep didn’t try to do something like the Dodge Lil Red Express of the late 70s. It should have been a natural “lifestyle vehicle” in the era when 4x4s were becoming hot. The CJ and Wagoneer were cash cows, but Jeep seemed to let these rot on the vine.
I delivered pizzas my senior year of college, and the guy who owned the shop had a 1970s-era Jeep pickup that he used for plowing. I rode in it once and it had the “all metal” kind of feel that had been common in 1960s pickups. What passed for modern and civilized in the mid 60s was quite crude by the 70s.
“I will always wonder why Jeep didn’t try to do something like the Dodge Lil Red Express of the late 70s. It should have been a natural “lifestyle vehicle” in the era when 4x4s were becoming hot.”
Keep in mind, the CJ series was the star of that show.
Not just the CJ by a long shot. Also the original Cherokee.
One problem with the Comanche was that it was based on the downsized Cherokee which was unibody and they were too cheap to spend the money to put an actual frame under it. So the unibody probably scared a few customers away. The other problem was that it became redundant once Chrysler took over, they didn’t need 4 different pickups so they didn’t have any good reason to spend much money on promoting it. Since it was built on the Cherokee line and the tooling was payed for they just figured they might as well wear out the tooling.
The Comanche suffered from only being available with a single/regular cab at a time when extended cabs were becoming the norm for mid-sized pickups.
I haven’t looked at sales figures, but the new Gladiator four-door pickup seems to be a hit based on how many I see around here.
I never knew that these were sold until 1987. As a kid in the 80s, whenever I saw one (of the few), I always thought that it was a 1970s one. I always thought that the only “real” pickup that Jeep sold in the 1980s was the Comanche. For me the Gladiator was discontinued in the 1970s or very early 80s.
Same for me–I always assumed they wrapped up production in the very early 80’s. Don’t know if I never saw one of the last couple years (very possible) or if I just glossed over the fact that it was wearing the then-current grille.
I do quite like these though, especially these early versions with the narrow grille. And I agree they missed the “lifestyle vehicle” boat in the late 70’s; very good point.
Not out of place when you consider that particular Buick engine developed good torque and was quite durable.
I seem to remember a time when Oldsmobile V8’s were popular for marine applications (inboard in medium size pleasure craft) because they could be modified to develop good power and remain durable. Did not Cadillac supply engines for tanks in WW-II?
Yes. The Cadillac “monobloc” and Hydra-Matic was used for the M-5 Stewart, M-24 Chaffee, and the derivative M-19, M-37, and M-41 artillery carriers. All had two Cadillac V-8s and transmissions, one for each track.
I should point out, as a Toledoan, that the Grand Cherokee was never built in Toledo. It has always been built in Detroit.
Good catch. I have amended the text.
Great truck. It took me a while to warm to this shape but now I love it, even in its later incarnations. The simplicity of this one’s face makes it my fave. Nice find JPC.
“And didn’t every young baby boomer own the Tonka version? I know I did.”
I didn’t. I had a big Tonka yellow road grader – my favorite, plus a big green Tonka dump truck. No cars.
I did have something far better – Lionel and Marx electric trains, plus a wind-up train that could actually puff “smoke” – talcum powder!
Still have the Lionels…
I didn’t have the Tonka Jeep either, but I had the big yellow car carrier that came with a plastic Ranchero.
One day I wish I could get one like this, but slightly newer with the Dauntless 350!
Yup that is the one to have.
The few of these I have seen in South California were also rusted nearly beyond repair .
I seem to recall the guys @ Milne Bros. Jeep where I worked in the 1970’s , telling me the OHC I6 was a dud and few lasted over 50,000 miles in regular service .
Rusted in SoCal?? Hard to believe unless they were either out-of-state transplants, or kept on the coast or in the mountains.
That was a good point in the article: why would manufacturers located in the Rust Belt be so clueless about rust prevention? My guess is, management simply didn’t care, having no incentive to sustain post-warranty longevity.
They were just rust prone .
The Buick V6 was a terrific engine if rather thirsty ~ Pops bought a Jeepster with one and it went along very well indeed .
In those days, I think car manufacturers knew that if they built them “too good” people would not buy a new one for a long time.
Yes, the OHC 6 was problematic, and has anyone actually seen the IFS they mention in the ad’s? If so, please post pics. Great find, I have always liked these since my older brother had a ’66 back in the early ’70’s
i dont have a problem with buick supplying engines for these. recall that one of buick’s calling cards for their engines was the torque they produced (at least until they had to stop providing their own engines). work trucks would be all about torque. in my mind that’s a great fit.
That front end may be coming back on a new Jeep Wagoneer.
That is niiiicccce!
That picture “may” be shopped.
Now *that* would be cool. Never going to happen in that form (as much as I like it, too overly literal) but it’s a fun application of many of the old one’s styling themes.
Jeep has released teaser shots of the new Wagoneer and it doesn’t look anything like that. I’m guessing it will be more like the ’84 Cherokee in appearance, though with more detail; we’ll find out in about two weeks. Curiously, at this late date, while we know there will be both a Wagoneer and a Grand Wagoneer, there’s no consensus in the automotive press as to whether “Grand” will denote a long-wheelbase 3-row version or a ultra-luxury model of the same size.
These were very versatile as Tonka’s. I had a red cab yellow bed dump truck. I’m pretty sure a cement mixer as well. A friend had a couple in SUV form, way before I ever heard the term SUV.
Man I want one of these. I think it’s the only classic vehicle I’d want to own and drive.
Not quite this old though. A late-’70s model please, with Quadra-Trac and the long bed. I could use that.
Neighbor of my mom drove one of these till he died. Don’t know what happened to it but the last time I was there this one was still doing dumpster duty north of Houston.
I have read about this truck but don’t remember the buick engine. Which one was it?
It was the Buick 350, the 2 barrel version.
It was available on the Wagoneer and on the Gladiator from 1968 to 1971.
The Dauntless 225 V6 (another Buick engine) was available on the CJ and on the Jeepster Commando from 1965 to 1971 too.
Strangely, Kaiser-Jeep (and later American Motors) bought 400 transmissions for both the Jeepster and the Wagoneer/Gladiators and they also got the Buick version with the “Nailhead” bellhousing. So they had Buick engines that didn’t match their Buick transmissions and they had to make adapter plates for them!
Later, they had adapter plates for the AMC 360 and eventually got a 400 transmission with a bellhousing made for the AMC 360.
Later in the 1970’s they switched to Chrysler Torque Flite transmissions.
If I got one of those Gladiators with the Buick 350, I’d be tempted to replace it’s engine with a Buick Nailhead 401 (not an AMC 401 like the later ones!). I don’t know if it could be done easily but I guess it could be fitted to the transmission just by removing the adapter plate! But the first thing would be to find one that hasn’t been completely destroyed by rust and there are not many remaining around where I live near Montreal in Canada!
Excellent find; these have become so rare. And thanks on helping to figure out that the J3000 I found is a ’67; I’ve updated its title.
Now if only one of us had had the guts to pop the hood and gotten a shot of the 327. 🙂
And in a pre-CC effect, I saw that red J3000 just the other day, out on the highway heading up to the mountains with a bunch of bikes and stuff in the bed. It’s nice to know it’s still getting used properly.
Speaking of the CC Effect and wanting a shot of the 327 in one of these, I just had the ultimate one 45 minutes after writing this comment. Stay tuned.
Always wanted one. Back in late 1985, I decided to buy a new full size pickup, and I wondered if these were still available. Though never common, the J-series had enjoyed a slight surge in popularity during the late 70’s pickup/SUV/4X4 craze, but since that time had become somewhat invisible. I called Walker Bros., the old AMC/Jeep dealer in Los Angeles and asked a salesman if the J-20 was still being manufactured. He told me they were, and though they didn’t have any on the floor he would be happy to show me a brochure and place an order for one. Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a hurry and couldn’t wait the 8-10 weeks for delivery. Bought a Dodge Ram instead. It was a great truck, but if I had to do it over again I think I would have waited for the Jeep.
Cool. I have always liked these, and their smaller Cherokee-based cousins. There’s a white one of these at the end of my street. I’ll have to go get some pictures of it (and a number of other CCs in the area) on one of my evening walks soon.
Awesome history lesson JPC, it wouldn’t surprise me if the info on dates, engines, etc. came from your memory. I have always loved the front end on this truck, it is a classic design.
Sorry to disappoint, but this (like most non-Chrysler or non-Stude cars for me) required some research. As cool as I think these are, I knew very little about them. Writing here is like going to Old Car School. 🙂
My parents are boomers but luckily, by way of handmedown, my millennial self had a Tonka Gladiator too! I think mine was red with the cement mixer, my grandpa had a few of the other ones at his house, a yellow dump truck IIRC. Those were REAL toys!
I always had a profound attraction to the Gladiator probably because of those Tonkas, very cool looking trucks, way cooler than the C10s and F100s that are so in vogue with collectors and customizers now a days.
Oh man, JP, how did you not buy this? 🙂
What a great truck to pick up and just use as a fun beater! It’s like a bigger, more useful Dart wagon!
Oooo… wonder if that bay’s still there, that’s only an hour from me. Cleveland St. in Sandusky, no?
Yes to Sandusky. I am not familiar enough with the area to confirm the street name. I got another couple of prime CCs on that same trip.
I believe Kenosha is in Wisconsin, or it was last time I checked 🙂
I owned the Tonka version as well, but would have been happier with Marsh Tracy’s zebra-striped Gladiator from every boomer kid’s favorite TV show, DAKTARI!
I got to spend a long, HOT July day at the old JEEP plant in 1999. I worked in the engineering department for a Tier 1 supplier to Chrysler at the time, and I drew the short straw. I spent the morning watching cowl vent screens being installed on Wranglers, and the afternoon sorting parts. I did get a chance to walk the plant, which was cool.
There were still some areas that hat the old wood block floors. They were basically short 4x4s soaked in creosote and laid out like tile, end-grain-up. when I got home I mentioned this to my father, a retired AMC supervisor. He told me this was common in older areas of the Kenosha plant. He said that unlike concrete, if you damaged a section of the wood floor you just grouted in a new block.
The Pratt & Whitney plant in East Hartford, CT still has a lot of those wood block floors. When the roof leaks during heavy rains, you can tell where sections of the floor have soaked up water because the swelling blocks create local humps in the floor (I’ve seen them over a foot high). Quite bizarre although not really auto-related…
Cavanaugh, you never disappoint. You even put a pun in the title. I wonder if you could go for 24 hours without making a pun? Probably not. The old advertisings are a nice touch; for one thing, I love the way they put quotation marks on their brand name. As I recall, Alfred Hitchcock did the same thing with the leading lady in one of his films, and it makes me wonder if “Tippi” Hedren ever drove a “Jeep.” Maybe, maybe not.
The side-by-side comparison with the Dodge truck is interesting, and it really jibes with my childhood impression of Jeeps versus other 4 wheel drive pickups of that era. The Jeeps had a purpose-built look to them, while contemporary offerings from other manufacturers looked pretty awkward, like they were up on stilts. Of course fancy terminology like “purpose built” wasn’t in my vocabulary at the time, but ‘Jeeps’ simply looked ‘right’ when other 4X4s looked cobbled-together.
When I was a kid ( a while ago) our next door neighbor had more than one of these. And like others mentioning I remember the smaller (Comanche?) one coming out. I did come close to buying one of those, used, at one point. And yes, I did have the Tonka version and I’m pretty sure my son had a plastic version as well. Does anyone else wonder what it would be like today if more of these lesser American brands had survived. I think it would be great to see modern versions of these, maybe merging with Studebaker. Seeing modern Packards, Hudsons, Kaisers, etc. roaming the countryside…. I think economies of scale may have been GM’s own demise.
I saw a Tonka Wagoneer at an antiques store in Maine last time I went to see my brother, should’ve bought it.
I’ve always liked the Gladiators…just a little different from the everyday Ford, GM and Mopar offerings. Looks like it could get you to the other side of nowhere and back without breaking a sweat. And yes, I watched “Daktari” as a kid, and I had a Tonka Wagoneer – a red one with “Fire Chief” on the doors.
LOVE these trucks. This is an unbelievably rust-free specimen for this area….especially given that the rust mites LOVE these rigs. Im in the minority in that Im not quite as much of a ‘rhino grille’ fan as most. Gimme the single round headlight aluminum ‘razor’ grille. For a full FSJ grille listing: http://www.ifsja.org/forums/vb/showthread.php?t=155619
How did Jeep let the Gladiator name slip away? I mean how many monikers are more badass than that? From where I sit these don’t really deserve the ‘poor seller’ tag. Id like to see sales figures for other competing single cab 4×4 trucks. There weren’t any 4×2 versions of these…maybe the first 2 or 3 years before they went all 4×4. 4×2 pickups usually outsell 4x4s by a significant figure when you take into account ALL American sales.
Jeep may be associated with Toledo, but Kaiser was HQ’ed in Oakland California, and I remember seeing one on display at the Kaiser Building downtown when I was a kid, probably in ’63 or even late ’62 if it was launched then for the ’63 model year. My mom liked to take us to the rooftop gardens which were open to the public, but I preferred the Jeeps in the lobby.
does any one no where i could get parts for my 1964 j2000 jeep gladiator
“I have long been amazed that the slushy, salty environment where almost every postwar vehicle in the U.S. was designed and built was the same environment they could not withstand.”
For quite a while I’ve thought that the reason Big-3 cars are so useless at the things I care about is because they are from a place without mountain roads or valuable real estate, but your rust observation reveals the folly of my belief.
When will the government admit that steel brake and fuel lines are a safety Hazzard? They WILL fail eventually in salt country. Nickel copper lines don’t rust but cost more. Added cost to a new car? $25, $50? Who gives a shit? Nicop lines make an inevitable repair and safety Hazzard into a non issue. Steel lines are DUMB! DUMB! DUMB! But they still come standard on every new car.
I ran an all-makes shop for years. The only cars and trucks I ever saw steel brake lines fail on were Fords, but I saw those regularly. None newer than ten years old though. Jeeps have frames that fail from rust more often than all other brands combined, but their brake lines didn’t cause much trouble.
Guy that moved down the street from me a few years ago has an 80s model as well as a blue early 70s Ford Van.
I actually had 2 of the Tonka Gladiator pickups. 1 was red, the other was blue. Unfortunately over time I lost them both. Now I wish I hadn’t. Were the Wagoneers a short run production? I don’t recall ever seeing those in stores.