(first posted 7/15/2011) Some things just make no sense whatsoever. Like the odd ratio of hot dogs to buns on offer at the supermarket. Giving politicians power and authority when most of them are silly fools. And calling what we drive on a parkway and what we park on a driveway.
That said, I’m still at a loss to explain why today’s CC was not a runaway smash on the sales charts. In fact, the Jeep Comanche was probably one of only a couple of cars that its dealer network actually asked to be discontinued by the parent company. (The other is the Hudson Jet after Hudson shacked up with Nash in 1954. Rambler dealers understandably didn’t want two compacts in the same showroom)
First, some background. By the early 80’s Jeep was on life support and the power was flickering. Ailing parent American Motors had gotten by for years by wits, guile and David Copperfield–type accounting, but the endgame was in sight if there wasn’t a modern replacement for the hoary old Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer. The company was still building CJ 5s and 7s but every year there were fewer customers for crude designs that had been on the showroom floor practically unchanged since they had come back from WWII. The company was dying and radical surgery was needed, or the patient was a goner.
AMC was a hodgepodge of obsolete Spirits, Concords and Eagles in the twilight days of malaise-era motoring. The passenger cars were a dead end and everyone knew it. The company’s salvation would be using the “halo” of the (still) magical Jeep brand to launch a line of smaller, lighter four wheel drive “sport utility” vehicles that were of sensible size, returned reasonable fuel economy and could use existing mechanical bits to appeal to a nascent thirty-something market that wanted to drag their expensive canoes to the lake on the weekend, haul the kids to soccer games during the week and throw a golf bag in the back for a quick nine holes at the country club. It was to be a make or break product and its writ ran large.
Forests of trees have been felled to produce the history and praise of the ’84 Cherokee. We won’t revisit that here, other than to note that this monocoque design was extremely adaptable to the needs of a wide range of configurations (2WD, 4WD, 2Door, 4Door V6, I4, etc). This gave the product planners at Franco-American Motors (after the de facto takeover by Renault) the idea that a light pickup would be an easy way to flesh out the line beyond two models for very little incremental cost. (The full size J-10 on offer had been essentially unchanged since it was first sold as the Gladiator in the early 60’s. Its days were numbered).
The Comanche was to be marketed as a “mid size” pickup. Not as small as an S-10 or Ranger, not as big and thirsty as a F-150 or Scottsdale. Mid size it was- three seat belts in front, a seven foot bed (one foot longer than S-10/Ranger) and a choice of 4 and 6 cylinder engines along with 4X4 options that made it an all things/all people type pickup. The name on the hood would bestow backwoods cred on what was a new generation of feminized, civilized four wheeling.
Jeep tried hard. There was a Comanche for every purse and purpose. The absolute stripper was the “SportTruck” with a 150 CID AMC four, 4 speed manual, rubber floormats, cheap plastic seats, radio delete and not much else for $6499 (A come on – you couldn’t find one for that price because dealer then and now wouldn’t stock an ultra stripper) . The SportTruck could even be had without a rear bumper (in theory, anyway) and a 6 foot bed. A 2.8 GM V6 was available on the upmarket XLS, which was the Ne Plus Ultra of the Comanche line in the early years. Buyers were not impressed with that V6; the GM mill drank a lot more gas and produce only marginally better HP and torque than the AMC four. The gutless 2.8 would be dropped in ’87 for a proper 4.0L I 6 which had buckets of power and torque.
That took some doing, as the Renault designers made the engine compartment small, because in their world view, a big six would never find a home there. What did they know about American’s love of torque and power? So the big six was shoehorned in, probably by American engineers who grew up doing shade-tree engine swaps. The radiator got pushed forward about as far as possible.
Lots of special edition option packages and an official line of accessories and appearance packages could make the truck just about whatever the buyer could ever want. It seemed so foolproof and destined for success.
Or so it seemed. For a while the Comanche was in demand. The first two years saw more than respectable sales of about 35,000 of both wheelbases, but then demand dropped like a stone. The mid sized truck experiment died with a quiet announcement in mid June 1990 that the Comanche was going to the happy hunting grounds due to low sales and dealer apathy hostility. At the end, only about twelve copies a day were rolling off the Toledo assembly line. The last few were quietly shipped to dealers at a big discount and the Comanche ceased to be.
What went wrong? In hindsight, lots of problems were apparent that could not be foreseen at the time. First, the Comanche was a truck built from a unit body design (no frame) that did not lend itself to the lengthening needed to produce a crew or club cab. That severely limited its marketing appeal when all its competitors added a back seat (however useless for anyone but Santa’s elves).
Second, Dodge introduced their Dakota about the same time and aimed it squarely at the “mid size” market that Jeep had identified and tried to fill. There was an opening there, but maybe it just wasn’t big enough for two major competitors. Other problems were more size related: the bed was not wide enough for a sheet of plywood or drywall to fit flat between the wheelwells, (a major faux pas for the construction market), there was almost no room behind the seat, and despite three place seating in the cab, it was impossible to get three adults in there with the manual transmission. They just wouldn’t fit.
Then there was the intrigue in the boardroom- Chrysler bought AMC for 1.5 Billion in 1987 and there was no way that they were going to source two pickup trucks that competed head to head. The Comanche had no future and no place in the MoPar universe.
This Comanche was spotted in historic, beautiful, White Springs, Florida on the banks of the Suwannee River.
Nice article on a pickup that has always been attractive to me. I too was surprised that this one never took off. The 80s was an interesting time in smaller trucks. Rangers, S-10s, plus all the Toyotas and Nissans and finally the Dakota. A lot of choices there. True, the unit body Jeep was a bit less of a true truck, but I would have figured that with the El Camino’s demise after 1987 that there would have been some carry-over demand for something other than a regular small truck. But I guess not. We have to wonder if an extended cab model would have helped, but that may have stretched the wheelbase a bit much for that unit structure.
Even the El Camino was body on frame! What were these clowns thinking? And Ranger WAS available with a 7 ft box from day 1
I’ve always liked these – good looking rigs. It is a shame they didn’t sell better but I suppose the Dakota is the more practical of the two. There are decent number of these still around but here but oddly most of them are the two wheel drive model.
You aren’t kidding about the inline six being wedged in. I recently acquired a Cherokee with a dead six that I thought would be easy to swap in a cheap, used motor. The firewall is notched and the radiator is barely accessible to fit in the 4.0L. You actually have to get a hose to connect to a tap (behind the passenger side headlight) to drain the radiator. I should have stuck to Lada Nivas!
engine photo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/5920998208/in/set-72157627157874126
This is anecdotal, but everyone I know who owned a Comanche loved them. Some people are really dedicated and have followed through where Chrysler wouldn’t, updating their Comanches with all the pieces from later Cherokee Sports.
I never thought of them as “midsize”, despite the presence of three seat belts or an extra foot of bed length… they always seemed quite small (just like the Cherokee).
I didn’t mention it in the piece, but I owned and drove a Comanche for 15 years. I bought it new in 1987 (mere moments before Chrysler bought AMC). I paid $7659 for it and argued over the last $150 with the dealer like a dog fighting over a pork chop. I put about 120,000 miles on the Comanche and it was in the shop twice. (Water pump and clutch slave). It was equipped with the 2.5 L AMC 4, 5 speed 2WD. It consistently got over 28 MPG. Never stranded me once.
The only gripes I had was the quality of the interior. The headliner fell down,naturally, but the AMC door panels and cheesy plastics were fragile and…Cheap.
Body integrity was superb. For the first week or so that I owned it, I thought that there was a problem with the drivers door. It just wouldn’t shut if the window was rolled up. It eventually dawned on me that the cab was so airtight and sealed that I had to let the window down slightly to close the door.
Sometimes I miss my Comanche, but its replacement has gone 10 years and over 256,000 miles and can haul things that the Comanche couldn’t dream of. It’s my T100.
My boss and I went to find a new truck for the company in about 1987 or 88, and drove the Jeep first. He was a big Jeep guy and really liked a lot about it….until he drove the Dodge. It felt comfortable big inside after the Jeep, had more room in the bed, and was basically the same price. The Jeep was nice, but the Dodge was a whole lot nicer, and we both also felt more reliable. It certainly was a trouble free workhorse, eventually hitting nearly 300k as his personal farm truck after it was retired from the business.
I’m strangely attracted to these despite the fact that it was engineered contrary to all known pickup truck convention-Firstly,That unit constuction aspect ,as opposed to a frame, and secondly, the solid front axle on 2-wheel drives. That point bugged me much more. A 4-x-4 with a solid axle was expected given the state of the truck suspenison art at the time, but c’mon guys, the last 2WD US pickup to have it up to then was the ’71 Dodge,itself an aniquated relic by then.
It’s really a moot point with me as I’m only interested in the 4×4 version.
Keep in mind that that solid front axle was located much more accurately with its multi-links and coils than the old leaf-spring axles. Range Rover band Mercedes made them work well too. The XJs handled better than average for the times, including some with ifs.
I also was attracted to these (not surprising, since I bought a new Cherokee in 84). I liked the size and its general design.
The 71 Dodge was far from the last 2wd to use a solid front axle. International continued with the I-beam until the 73 model year on their full size pickups. The Scout Cabtop and Terra had a tubular FA until 2WD was discontinued at the end of the 79 model year very similar to the Jeep set up in that it replaced the diff with a solid tube and used the rest of the 4wd components. Dodge used a tubular FA on their 3500 DRW 2wd just like the Jeep set up at least well into the 90’s.
The 2WD XJs had solid front axles.
Coil springs; but solid axles.
I almost bought a 2WD Cherokee…at the time I was working in a railroad freight yard, I’d destroyed my first-gen Dodge minivan’s MacPherson strut suspension on the ballast and ruts. I was attracted to the utility of the solid axle.
But the salesman had a stripper loss-leader TJ he needed to move…end of the model year…and “for just the same money” he could put me in that, with actual four-wheel-drive.
I bought it; and I did well with it and did well at trade-in time; but two weeks after I got it my work assignment changed. Didn’t need that ruff-n-tuff suspension anymore.
Instead, I had to drive back and forth between Cleveland and Buffalo on a regular basis. With my new Jeep…I now needed a ROAD car.
Holdens were unitary from day one especially the ute untill 71 Falcons the same.
a well made unitary body is stronger and lighter and handles better.
Jeep were late with getting the idea, 4×4 conversions for local utes would put these in the shade so we never got any.
Sport 4×4 was a V8 Holden with an Overlander kit under it
,A home grown set up that could be factory ordered was available but lotsa people grafted the Holden on to a Landcruiser frame and called it good Basicly a weapons grade Chevy engine with a 4X4 drive train in a 5 seater wagon with all the fruit .
Jeep was up against factory hot rods in OZ for similar money and off road the Jeep wasnt up to it so this may have sold here if it was cheap/good enough but Jeeps wernt cheap and were not well thought of far from a dealer. The warranty didnt extend to some parts of Ausse when new in Jeeps .Toyota gave full cover so guess who sold rentals Toyota and people who needed4x4s just get around bought Toyotas and parked their Landrovers beside the long dead Jeep in the shed Ive seen paddocks of Jeeps and early landrovers just parked and left to rot never seen many dead Landcruisers,usually write offs they dont handle well at speed on gravel Ive had a cruiser sideways at 80mph on gravel it aint nice, real hard to catch, If yer had money shopping a sport 4×4 in OZ Jeep dont even rate its Strictly a suburban boy,
I had Commanche Longbed for many years…..in 1997 I did a Peugeot 2.5 intercooled Turbo Diesel swap along with a divorced Nissan Transfer case behind the Stock New Process one. It’s crawl ratio was insane and was used quite frequently pulling heavy boats off steep boat ramps. I also used as daily driver to work and back……with the big Factory fuel tank…..it had a 500-600 mile range. Highway mileage (not towing) was in the low 30s.
FYI, they have a fully-boxed frame,including the massive Xbox section at the rear of the truck…..however that Frame was grafted (spot welds/mig welds) in to the XJs front rails….my pickup was special-order 1 Ton with Dana 44s front and rear…and it was repeately overloaded with sand,gravel,whatever. The bolted-in bed helped it give it more torsional strength…and the bed itself (the cross-members) is how the fuel tank is held in place.
I sold that truck for more money than I ever put in it…..the person who bought the truck…..still has it (selling it led to a bidding war to those that were wanting the truck after I did the Peugeot Diesel swap). Had pressing down on a clutch-pedal not become an issue for me, I would have never sold it.
Had AMC coughed up the dough on introduction for an extended-cab….it would have lasted just like the XJs long run
Here I sit in Gallup, NM. A town that had a AMC dealership for decades and until Chrysler’s bankruptcy had a Dodge/Plymouth (they couldn’t be bothered to change the signage)/Jeep dealer. This is a town where the pickup truck has been king since WWII and old Jeep CJs, YJs, XJs (everything but the full size Jeeps) abound. How many Jeep Comanche pickups do I see routinely around town? Two. As popular as trucks are around here I am amazed that Jeep did not do better with that one in Gallup, NM. (Heck I even see a Scrambler regularly around here.)
I too love the idea of this pick up. Simple, rugged, big but not too big.
Good article; but the author has some perspective and some facts wrong. First, AMC, while struggling, really believed it had reached safety with its Alliance/Encore models. Those of course were adapted Renault designs; and that was made possible by Renault’s majority ownership in AMC by this time. Renault had already committed to absorbing AMC and was going about it in stages; the full buyout would be 1983.
And the Alliance and Encore were selling well in their first years. Word hadn’t hit the street yet of their horrific engineering, susceptability to rust and assembly problems. So there wasn’t panic in Kenosha; there were sighs of relief and a newfound optimism.
Second…the old J-series (later rechristened SJ) vehicles, Wagoneer, J-10/20 and Cherokee…were not only selling well, they were carrying the company. They took a hit in the 1979 fuel-price spiral; and EVERYTHING took a hit in 1981-82; but they were performing well enough in sales that the decision was made to keep them in production. Which, you may recall, continued to 1990.
Third…while you’re right about the intent of the small engine bay in the XJs, you are wrong about who gets the credit. VAM, the Mexican state-owned automobile company, which manufactured only AMC designs under license, had their own version of the 232/258 six…I think it was a 240; an undersquare design more suited to Third-World needs. The VAM engineering people were completely underwhelmed by the performance (I use the term advisedly) of the GM V-6; and tried, as an experiment, shoehorning their own six into an XJ. With an offset radiator and fan, it worked! And for once (or maybe more than once) the home offices in Kenosha and Toledo learned from their serfs in the hinterland.
I was not aware sales were poor; there seemed to be a fair number out in the wild where I lived. You may be right there; but I would posit that the REAL reason the Comanche got the axe (tomahawk?) was that it was direct competition to the new Dakota pickup. The Chrysler conquest by AMC management hadn’t yet occurred; and the Comanche suffered from being NIH.
Obviously the product planners wanted Jeep to get out of the regular-truck market, to focus on what we now call SUVs.
VAM, the Mexican state-owned automobile company, which manufactured only AMC designs under license, had their own version of the 232/258 six…I think it was a 240; an undersquare design more suited to Third-World needs.
Just looked it up, out of curiosity. It was a 282, based on the 258, and very much oversquare, not undersquare. Wider bore with the same stroke as the 258.
That’s sounds a lot like 4.0 pistons/block with a 258 crank and rods, lots of guys make their own and call it a 4.5 with stock bore and 4.6 when you bore the block. The 258 is a small bore long stroke while the 4.0 is big bore and shorter stroke. You end up with an almost “square” engine 3.875 x 3.895 for the 4.5 version. http://www.ajeepthing.com/stroker-motor.html
I currently own an 86′ 4×4 long bed with the GM V6. It’s a great little truck, except for that nasty V6. I am the second owner and it has 86,000 miles on it. But they are farm miles so it’s more like 386,000. But it goes ok. As far as why they killed it? I always heard that it was becuase there was limited space on the production lines for the ever popular Cherokee/Wagoneer. And that for every so-so selling Comanche produced, a hot selling Chergoneer was not produced. And then yes, of course the Dakota came along.
JustPassinThru has a point about the spirit of things at AMC back then, for a short time you could see a Le Car or Alliance all over the place. And then they all died and America woke up to that fact that they were designed by the Frogies.
You know what they say, in heaven the engineers are German, the cooks are French, and the policemen are English. In hell the engineers are French, the cooks are English, and the policemen are German.
There were clearly a number of factors that led to the Comanche’s demise, including needed production capacity for the Cherokee and duplication with the Dakota after the buyout. I always thought at the time that it was the lack of an extended cab that doomed them. They certainly weren’t “mid-sized” – I found the cabin very cramped, much more so than the contemporary S-10 regular cab. The “Eliminator” model with the multi-hole aluminum wheels and the black cherry color that they all seemed to be was very sharp.
I’m not sure about the June 1990 death announcement; Comanches were produced through the 1992 model year. I think June ’90 is when the dealer council stated that they’d prefer a Jeep badged Dakota instead.
I’ll admit that I never thought about the extended-cab trend vis a vis the unibody platform. That would have been a nightmare…the standard (the only) cab seemed tight. Probably that was the compromise in giving it a full-size bed on its “intermediate” overall dimensions.
And it was intended to be THE Jeep truck. As noted, the J-10/20 wasn’t selling and wasn’t even being advertised. Although it was kept in production until December 1997, when the ChryCo takeover was finalized.
I never sat in one, but I gave one a good looking over when I saw it at a dealer’s while having my then-new TJ serviced. It seemed, on appearance, that they’d constructed a sort of U-channel frame to link the box section to the cab section. At least it gave it the APPEARANCE of truck construction, unlike the Rancharoos and El Bambinos.
Too bad it failed; but given the circumstances, it had to happen.
Well depending on what year Elky or Chero you are talking about they actually had real full frames.
Can’t say I’ve been under a Comanchee but I’m sure it is set up similar to the Dodge Van based Cab and Chassis. It’s basically a rectangular tube made of sheet metal very similar to the rails used on the full body rigs. heck on the old Dodge there was actually a “floor pan” of sorts forming the top of both “rails” instead of actual crossmemebers. It’s the way the Sprinter Cab and Chassis was set up too.
Right you are. I was confusing, for a moment, the integral body/box with a unibody construction.
They’re entirely different, of course; although with a unibody pickup, it would be (and was, for Jeep) very hard to have a box separate from the cab.
The box is separate from the cab on the Comanche and the box does unbolt from the hybrid unicab/frame. In this thread there is a pic of one with the bed off. http://www.comancheclub.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=16305
I didn’t saw lots of J-10/J-20 either. The only one I remember was the one driven by Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) in the tv series Dallas.
The timing of some these postings are often interesting, on my way home from work there was one heading for scrap on the back of a flat bed. It had been mostly stripped.
If anyone wants pics of the underside, I need only go out to the driveway and take them
If this had resembled the Gladiator Jeep it might have got some traction those had a good rep
The last year for the Comanche was 1992, when only 3,181 were sold. This was despite a banner sales year for Jeep as a whole due to the introduction of the Grand Cherokee.
The Comanche’s cab wasn’t as roomy as the Big Three’s compact trucks because it was based upon the lower, car-like Cherokee body. In theory, that should have resulted in a more stylish truck. Alas, to save money the Comanche used Cherokee front doors, which gave it an awkward appearance, particularly with the long-bed version.
Not seeing why the unusual body/frame design precluded an extended cab; I suspect that it had more to do with Jeep not prioritizing truck sales, which had always been pretty marginal for the brand.
I wouldn’t be too hard on Jeep for offering a solid front axle on the two-wheel-drive versions. Jeep quite rightly focused on the four-wheel-drive market, and a solid axle did make more sense for hard-core off roading.
Loved the look of these trucks. To bad no one makes a small pick up any more. With the need for good gas mileage and small utility trucks the only one left the Ford Ranger is being discontinued. All my kids learned to drive on 4 cylinder 5 speed stick rubber floored mini trucks.
I too love Comanche trucks – I have a “Comanche Crew” that Jeep should have built in my shop now under construction. The Cherokee front donor was a 2001 4×4 sport 4 door and the Comanche rear donor was an 87 shortbed. Both were rust free and are now cut and welded back together with the bottom of the rear Cherokee door closing against the Comanche door frame and the top of the rear Cherokee door closing against the Cherokee door frame (rear door handle and latch are Cherokee). The top of the rear Cherokee door leaned forward while the top of the Comanche door leaned rearward which left a triangle to fill that was only 3″ wide at the top (see pix). The frame and floor pan is 95% done with the rear roof transition, door post transition and filling in the bottom of the Cherokee rear doors left to build out. Going to try to go with a one piece driveshaft (6′ -6″ approx) as the “Crew” wheelbase is about 42″ longer than the Cherokee (the ride will be soo much better). It’s a lot of work but is going to be awesome when completed – have been planning this ever since the Comanche was dropped.
Wow; awesome. Send us a set of pics when it’s done, and we’ll make your truck famous!
please sent more photo for built up xj to double cabin.
hey can you e mail me some pics of your crew cab project. want to make my own. just bought a donor comanche because i would not dare cut a good one thanks
Hello, Just wondering if you ever finished your crew cab? I’ve been planning to do the same thing and would love get a feel for the challenges and things to watch out before that you learned before I start.
It used to drive me nuts as a kid that the badge (or vinyl sticker, I guess) on these read, “SPORTRUCK”. I could never decide if it was supposed to be a “Spor Truck” or a “Sport Ruck”
More pix of progress – slow but sure
i love what you did with the ‘comanche crew’. if ya dont mind my asking what did you put under that beast as far as a frame goes. this is an awesome build. i would love to have a truck like this.
The unibody frame rails and floor pans for both the Cherokee and Comanche were welded togther since they were a match. I have reinforced the transition point on the frame rails with 3 x 3 angle iron about four foot long spanning across the Cherokee to the Comanche frame portions. The now empty Comanche transmission cross member is about 12″ behind the Cherokee’s functional trans member. The driveshaft is well above the rear Comanche crossmember and both trans members are plated / cross braced and welded together, then re-bolted with four bolts on each crossmember to the bottom of the unibody frame for additional support. The Comanche Crew’s wheelbase is 42″ longer than the original Cherokee’s but the frame transition area should be rock solid!
Hi, I saw some of your pic’s of the comanche crewcab, looks nice so far. I would like to see the entire build if you have the pic’s or better a site that has them. I have an 89 comanche and a 92 cherokee and would like to see how it would turn out to put them together possibly.
I currently own a ’92 4×4 Pioneer with the 4.0. I am the second owner and have fallen in love with the little truck. Lots of power, a TON of torque and rides down the road very nice. It def could’ve had more options and the original clearcoat on these suck but its a truck, not a porche. I wish they would start remaking these based on the Wrangler instead of those stupid looking 4 doors they’re churning out. I’ll be first to buy.
A long time coming:
The homebuilt Comanche Crew came out of the shop in one piece for the first time in 18 months. Was really glad to see it outside so I could get a good view of the lines and profile. I think the rear roof and rear upper door post works very well and this is as close to factory as it would have been in 1992. Rear leg room is going to be much greater than any small crew cab production truck.
Spent last week reinforcing the unibody blend point. The trans crossmember for the Comanche (now unused) is about 30″ behind the Cherokee crossmember and both bolts to the bottom of the frame rails in a beefed up place. I plated and welded both crossmembers together and added a heavy boxed metal crossbrace in the middle and rebolted the new assembly to the original mounting places on the new crew cab frame.
Before final assembly, I added 3″x3″x45″ long 10 guage angle iron to the outside and bottom of both the frame rails overlapping both Cherokee and Comanche frame sections. I had seven 1-1/4″ holes drilled in the side of the reinforcement sections that I rosette wire welded and ground down smooth to further reinforce the crew cabs frame.
The work that remains is the remaining body/paint work and the interior work (will use a recovered Comanche bench seat for the rear). Lots of hours invested but most are behind me now and I think the end product will be well worth it. I eventually will have a Powerpoint presentation put together of the build.
I’ve had my comanche since sept. 1988. It has over 200k on it. Had it one day and got hit in the ass at a rod stewart concert, no back bumper which was to go on two days later. Then 6 months later i got hit head on sitting along side the road by a drunk driver. Thought they would total it but no, after $6000 or so of repairs i was on the road again. It been on the road with me ever since with the same gas mileage since day one, doesn’t use oil and no major engine work since day one. Three water pumps, two alternators and one power steering pump, one radiatior and thats it. It will probably be buried or cremated with me. Going to get a new paint job this winter and maybe someday a new clutch when it needs it. The 4 liter engine was the best thing that jeep ever produced. I was a quality engineer for them (AMC/Chrysler) for three years and traveled to all the jeep plants and knew the critters from front to back and still do my own wrenching on the comanche. Can’t work on these new models and don’t like the payments as the truck has been paid for for over 19 years and just keeps giving and giving to me. Love my Jeep….
The 2001 Comanche Crew is 95% done and looks even better than I had hoped for. A TON of work but well worth it. I believe if Detroit would have built it it would have looked like this or very close. What do you think?
Very nice! Congratulations on a job well done. Yes, it does look like it came off the factory lines.
A better picture
That is badass! I love the choice of wheels! For my tastes, a full 6 ft bed is too much for a crewcab….Id like to see something proportioned like the Nissan Frontier crewcab. But you didn’t build it for me!
You did a fantastic job, Britt.
What a SWEET truck, Britt… planning, patience, and perseverance pays off! Congratulations!
Have owned a 1987 with a 2.5 and 4spd. with 256000 mi since Sept 1999 was totaled Dec.23 2013 in a rearender.Bought it back replaced rear springs,shocks,cut damaged bed sides off. Put on wood rails and tailgate,painted cab flat black with a white top.Have liked this truck since I bought it and did not want it scrapped.
That’s cool Bruce, can you post more pictures of your Comanche from the rear, after you finished it?
This what it looks like now.
I remember the Jeep Comanche. I liked its downsized body and utilitarian nature. I was greatly disappointed when Jeep discontinued the Comanche, while the XJ Cherokee was allowed to continue. I thought the Comanche was perfect as it was. It may not have had a back seat like the Cherokee, or more doors, but so what? It’s a pickup truck.
I love living in a land that rust forgot. Reverse CC effect.
In the early nineties my boss had one of these with insane mileage. They could rack up the miles without much effort.
While there were certainly other factors, the main reason for the demise of the Comanche is likely the same thing that killed off any of the independent’s successful vehicles: competition from the Big 3. It happened time and again when the independents got something that sold, and with the success of the small pickups, even though the Ranger and S10 were smaller than the Comanche, AMC simply couldn’t compete on the same scale. The Comanche’s tight cab made matters worse since it doesn’t seem like it was all that much bigger inside. The final nail was just a really unfortunate Chrysler buy-out situation with the only other ‘mid-size’ pickup being the Dakota.
It’s a shame because the Comanche really wasn’t that bad. Maybe if someone else had bought AMC, things would have panned out differently. But Iacocca was no dummy, and when AMC was absorbed into Chrysler, everyone knew the Comanche was a goner. Although 4WD and Jeep are synonymous, that same kinship doesn’t apply to pickup trucks. If you wanted a 4WD pickup, you bought a Ford, Chevy, or Dodge.
Man, I always liked these boxy Jeep pick up trucks. I really thought they were way better looking than the Mazda B series offerings of the time.
It’s liter here in the States, not litre! 😉
The reason the Comanche or any of the Jeep pickups failed was that they were Jeeps. I don’t mean to say that Jeeps were bad because they are a damn fine vehicle BUT to most folks Jeep means SUV(or whatever the term was before the SUV term came into life) and the idea that Jeep could make a good pickup truck was bewildering to a skeptical public.
In other words Jeep was as typecasted as a maker of 4×4 family movers/mail trucks etc as Ray Liotta is typecasted as movie thugs/heavies/gangsters. Thus nobody was going to buy a Jeep pickup just like nobody was going to cast Ray Liotta as kind mild mannered family man in some children’s movie.
To use a car example, Toyota, Nissan and Honda found out if they want to sell Luxury cars, that they would need to sell them under a new name as most people thought of Toyota as a maker of reliable well made affordable cars like the Camry or Corolla.
Back in high school, these were one of the many Jeeps I lusted after. By and large, the Scrambler and the J-10 would have been my Jeep pickup of choice (scored a Scrambler in college) but the Comanche was much more attainable since the older rigs had been beat hard and put away wet. The MJ’s didn’t cease production until ’92 when I graduated so even pretty deep into college, these were theoretically within reach. Had I been able to find a 4×4 shortbed with the 4.0 and 5spd Id have snapped it up…came close up in Paris, TN. A triple black one with with a rollbar and brush guard, 4″ lift Centerline wheels and BFGs. A sharper truck would be a rare thing. When I went to ask about it and test drive it, the salesman told me it was sold. SKUNKED.
As to why they weren’t more popular, the main reason is likely the Dakota, as has been stated. As per usual, Jeep came out with a slick looking truck with solid mechanicals and superior offroad ability. But like the Gladiator/J-series and the Scrambler these sold well initially, but then the marketing department just let them fade out of sight and out of mind. The FC series had die hard fans but never really caught on either, in the vein of the van based pickups of the ’60s. MJs did offer 2wd (lacking in the other 2) but with no extra cab, the appeal was limited. They did call these ‘midsized’ but that seemed a bit far flung. The Dakota alone could claim that in these days. 2 distinct smaller pickups under the Mopar flag is definitely too many…3 if you count the Ram 50 which at least was built by Mitsubishi.
The only really successful (from a sales standpoint) Jeep pickup was the old Willys pickups. At that time only they and the WWII era Dodge power wagons had a factory 4×4 setup and they tended to appeal to that specific crowd. Fords and Chevys had the ‘normal’ pickup market covered. It would seem that in those days the Willys carved out their niche by being something very distinctly ‘Jeep’. The J series and Comanche had their quirks but are largely very much like mainstream trucks. The Scrambler was just ahead of its time. Enthusiasts are fabricating up their own versions left and right and even a few aftermarket companies are doing very well with conversions. Even Mopar is in on the act with the JK-8 Freedom kits that convert the 4 door Wranglers into Scrambler clones. Seems that a lot of offroaders need some cargo capacity but not what a ‘regular’ truck offers while delivering superior offroad ability. Only Jeep can offer that.
If the size of the cab area didn’t hinder the Cherokee, I’m not convinced it is the size of this truck that held it back.
I don’t believe the Dakota necessarily held it back. If anything, this was a profoundly different offering from what became another Chrysler brand. This was not a badge engineering job, but distinct in size and appearance.
The biggest issue was likely the lack of anything but a standard cab.
The next issue would have been a lack of marketing – these were rarely heard about over their entire run. If you had told me they were gone in ’87, I’d have believed you.
The comments saying that Chrysler was stuck on a Dodge = Trucks, Jeep = SUVs mode is probably spot on. It would appear Chrysler starved it, probably a short sighted move. Many car lines expanded into SUVs, even trucks. There was likely room for a successful Jeep truck that was fairly inexpensive to spin off the Jeep SUV line.
It seems like I heard a few times that recently Chrysler wasn’t thrilled about sticking a SUV line back in the Dodge brand, but the Durango franchise was just too tempting, and reviving it obviously paid off, It has not killed the related Jeep model, both have sold in very good numbers, both are generally well regarded, and I rarely hear complaints about badge engineering.
The Comanche was not given a proper opportunity. Too bad, it was a great looking truck!
I believe you are correct with the lack of marketing idea. I was born in 1977 and watched a lot of TV(we had cable since it was offered in 1983 in my area) I remember all those 1980’s car commercials such as the 1985 Nova and the Hyundai Excel commercials etc. I never ever saw a Jeep Comanche commercial. In fact I never knew they existed until I saw one in the metal down the street from my home.
As for the lack of the extended cab, I really don’t think in the years the Jeep was offered that this was a big issue as we were not in the SUV era yet and a pickup truck was still bought by folks that needed a vehicle to haul/carry stuff and not a status symbol for the “urban cowboy/cowgirl” that it would evolve into in the 1990’s
The real trouble was AMC did not promote the truck when it came out in 1986 and neither did Chrysler from 88-92.
it is odd that AMC did not try to promote it when they went all out to get the new 1984 XJ Jeep Cherokee on popular shows such as Knight Rider(in fact the Jeep Cherokee arrived to show rooms for the 1984 Model Year and before the year was out a Cherokee Chief version appeared in the 1984 episode Lost Knight) but there was no love for the Comanche from even AMC so how did they expect the public to love it?
Here’s a pic of my favorite Comanchee crew cab conversion. I especially like the use of the newer Cherokee, like the one I currently I own (#7). The second Jeep I owned was a black Comanche Eliminator 2wd with the 4.0 h.o., 5 – speed and locking rear differential. It embarrassed many a Camaro, Firebird and Mustang though is main competition was an especially annoying S-10 SS. To this day it was the quickest truck that I’ve ever owned.
Really nice trucks, but most tended to rust away here in the mid Atlantic. I do agree that most owners tend to run them hard and long. It is difficult to find a decent runner around here (may have to resort to the left coast). I would love to find a decent “Eliminator” version with the 4.0L 5speed.
The Dakota was the nail in the coffin for these.
I knew a few people who had these, and they were pretty much unified in the opinion that they hated the damn thing. They did rust at a rate that was shocking, even compared to Cherokees, and they seemed to all have some issues with transmissions or rear ends.
..Bought a 1986 Comanche long-bed 4X4 (garnet color), went through two “Iron Duke” 4-cylinders after 300,000 miles, and stored it in my garage for ten years; went on a retirement binge and redid the body bumper-to-bumper, added a 6-inch lift, and — with the help of some talented guys — dropped a 350 CID Chevy into it. Just for good measure, added a dual stainless steel exhaust (even the hangers are stainless), and rolled it out two years ago. I’ll try to attach a picture or two I took at the car show.. Actually won third prize!
Here’s one from the back…
I have an awesome Jeep Comanche that I am sure that Comanche fans will be willing to cross state lines for. If you want pictures you can email me at email@example.com.
I will post photos after I replace an alternator next week….True fans will love it. Black, lift kit, shocks, roll bar, push bar lights, good paint, no rust…1988. Just want offers as I know the value of a classic. This truck is my friend!
I have an 88 Comanche Pioneer with tow package. It runs rough, but has potential. This is my Senior year and I don’t have the time nor knowledge to do it justice. Located in SW Oregon. Make me an offer.
I have an 86 with about 230K miles. In AMC’s defense, the only parts that have failed were Chevrolet parts. [Knocking on wood]. The GM 2.8 is gutless and an oil sprayer. Got it from down south with no rust.
Also, glad to see the misnomer about the Comanche being frameless corrected. In it’s day it was pretty light duty for a Jeep–compared to a J-10. Then within a few years all the “girl jeeps” (no offence just they way the Japanese knock offs used to be called on the trail) appeared. Then, the venerable old Comanche started to look pretty well put together design wise.
Tho I will admit the interior is pretty ticky tacky. My only fails have been a persistant vapor lock problem as a new exhaust system was welded up too close to the fuel lines. I can’t blame AMC for that. The 86 is the last year with a carb and sure easy to get to most everything under the hood. Wish they had made millions of them.
And, IMHO, if Frank Lloyd Wright had designed a pickup I think the Comanche would have been it in the “form follows function” school a clean, practical design.
The ad mentions a 2.1-litre turbo diesel. Interesting; don’t think I’ve ever smelt/heard/seen one. Whose engine was that?
Kind of a pity the Commanche fizzled out; a version based on the ’97-up Chicory might’ve been a very fine-looking truck.
Given that Renault had a very significant equity stake in AMC at the time, and given that the Cherokee was designed by their top engineer and intended for European sales, the use of a Renault diesel is of course obvious. Not many sold in the US, but a hefty percentage of the ones sold in Europe had it.