CC Capsule: 1979 Jeep J10 – Forgotten Gladiator

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Here’s a machine I haven’t seen in years, a full-size Jeep pickup.  It seems like the few I’ve seen always have a wooden or otherwise non-original bed, and with this example, it only adds to its somewhat whimsical charm.

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A macho truck like the J10 is out of place in such a purportedly touchy-feely town, and after meeting its owner, I can’t say he exactly matches the profile of the burly type I’d expect to be driving it.  This is also reflected in the hood ornament, which I am told belonged to a Packard and whose placement here is charmingly irreverent.

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The J10’s outsider status compared to the likes of Chevy and Ford mirror this truck’s current context in a hippie-ish town.  Buyers in the ’70s were after trucks which could cross over into family living and serve as domestic conveyances or even muscle cars.  While dropping the overtly masculine Gladiator model name expressed a desire to follow that trend, the limited development budget was unable to back it up.  In the days when so many trucks were sold with two-wheel-drive, the evergreen, 4WD-centric Jeep was a different animal.

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The severe shape of the cab is especially noticeable when viewed from behind and pretty much says everything else about how the J10 compared to the more popular trucks, especially those from GM, which were the most car-like of its rivals.  The best analogy I can think of is to say that comparing this full-sizer from Jeep to a Chevy C10 or Ford F100 is like comparing the Subaru Loyale to the Accord or Camry of the late ’80s.  Unfortunately, no money and a takeover by Chrysler meant Jeep was be unable to come up with a refined replacement as Subaru managed when replacing its lumpy staple with the Legacy and Impreza.

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Thus, the J10 would meet a dead end while Auburn Hills profited from Jeep’s brand reputation.  It’s ironic, when one considers how much more cachet the related Grand Wagoneer had as a domestic hauler than the Suburban, itself a highly regarded, capable machine.  It just goes to show you how fickle the buying public is and what a nightmare product planning can be.  If Iacocca truly was a visionary salesman, then axing these big trucks (and the Comanche) while parlaying their square shouldered, classic image into a high-end line-up of SUVs is another smart move for which he can be credited.

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