(first posted 12/12/2014) Winter’s chill came early in central Indiana this year, with morning temperatures in the teens by mid November. My stupid Ford Focus cares not about the weather: its unreliability continues unabated, spring, summer, fall, or even early winter. This time it was a hole in an exhaust component, and as my independent mechanic hates doing exhausts I thought I’d try the Ford dealer around the corner from work. While I waited, as the sun rose, the service writer pulled up in this Jeepster Commando.
I’m calling it a 1966, the first year these were made. The lack of side reflectors say it’s from no later than 1967. And check it out: it’s the convertible! Most of the Commandos I’ve encountered, even back in the 70s when these were a not-too-uncommon sight, were the wagon models with the removable hard roof. You could also get these in roofless roadster and stubby-roof pickup guises, but only the convertible had rear passenger windows integrated into the body.
Here’s a wagon I photographed at an auction a couple years ago; read about it here. It was billed as a ’69 but the lack of side reflectors cast serious doubt on that. And that’s not an original hard top. And that bright yellow paint fairly screams “Repaint!!” But whatever: point is, notice the lack of rear passenger window behind the driver’s door.
While Kaiser marketed the wagon, truck, and roadster as a workhorse, they wanted you to think of the convertible as a funmobile — something you’d drive along the beach, babes in tow. And why not? It was certainly capable of conquering whatever beach terrain you might find. And notice the two trim levels here – for a little more scratch, you could get two-toning and a little extra chrome, and I imagine additional interior amenities.
This is the base model, and there’s little in the way of amenities here. Hard, painted metal abounds. At least there’s a radio; AM only, natch. And dig those crazy straight-outta-the-70s seat covers. Badges on the body next to the doors say that this base Commando at least got the 160-hp Dauntless V6 rather than the gutless 70-hp Hurricane four, which will make this Commando a lot more fun.
And dig that rust. We surely love our survivors here at Curbside Classic, and this Jeepster shows clear signs: faded paint, windows that don’t quite roll up all the way, and the rumpled soft top. It also shows signs of decent care: all four hubcaps are present and, as it pulled up, it sounded like it was running smoothly.
The service writer drove it so deftly that I figure it must be his. What a cold morning for it! There’s no way this was a fun drive – outside air obviously pours into the cabin, and on this improbably cold morning there was no way the heater could keep up. I imagine he was giving it one last spin before putting it away for the winter.