Jeeps are cool, but rare Jeeps are even cooler.
Jeep history goes back to when America was gearing up to World War 2 and the military needed a versatile all-terrain vehicle that could thrive in any theatre of war on the globe. Since then, it's been a winding road from the Jeep's conception as a rugged, reliable, and nimble military vehicle by the Bantam Motor Car Company to the exceptional off-roading and recreational vehicle we know today. The family tree of Jeep models is a big and complicated affair and as a result, some great vehicles have been overlooked and forgotten. Here's 9 you should probably know about:
In the early history of America’s favorite off-roaders, the Kaiser Jeep company was made up of a merger between Kaiser Motors and Willys-Overland. Kaiser Jeep introduced the Jeepster Commando as a response to the Ford Bronco and the International Harvester Scout. The Jeepster Commando was available in convertible, wagon, pickup truck, and roadster configurations. When AMC took over the reins, they lost the name Jeepster to renamed it the Jeep Commando and lengthened the wheelbase to accommodate inline-6 engines and a V8.
The Jeep Commander is a big and imposing beast, and its most obvious difference with the Grand Cherokee at the time was the option for three rows of seats. The Commander only stayed in production for 5 years before Chrysler retired and replaced it with the 2011 Dodge Durango. That’s a shame because it looked fantastic and had both Limited and Overland versions featuring the 357-horsepower Hemi V8.
The CJ-10 was based on the rugged Jeep J10 pickup but made for international sale. In Australia, it’s known as the 1 Tonner. The 1 Tonner came with either an AMC 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder engine, or a Nissan 3.2-liter diesel lump. It may not be the best looking Jeep, but it ranks as one of the coolest because you could buy it as a convertible.
When Jeep announced the new Gladiator truck, many remembered the original Gladiator, however, Jeep actually kept building pickup trucks on the same SJ platform as the early Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer, and Cherokee models after it stopped using the Gladiator name. The J10 pickup truck came in a more common long-wheelbase version but the short bed version is rarer.
The Dispatcher Jeep (DJ) was a modified version of the CJ-3A that showed up in 1955 and was used by delivery companies, most famously the United States Postal Service. The later DJ-5 Dispatcher isn’t as rare as it’s remarkably reliable, still useful, and looks seriously cool.
Not so cool is the Jeep Surrey version. That was an early DJ kitted out and then painted in bold colors for hotel resorts. Worst of all though, they had decorated soft tops often matching the striped interior colors.
The cab-over design was popular in the early days of trucks as it made the most of the size of the vehicle to allow a longer bed. Jeep’s offering was designed by Brooks Stevens, the man that designed the Jeep Wagoneer and is responsible for the designs all Harley-Davidson bikes you see today are based on.
In keeping with the versatility of the Dispatcher Jeeps design, it could be ordered with either a three or four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic bolted to either a 4 or 6-cylinder engine or a big 318 cubic inch V8.
The CJ6 was the long-wheelbase version of the CJ-5 brought to the civilian market a year earlier. However, the CJ6 simply didn’t sell well over its 20-year run from 1955 to 1975, despite the introduction later of reliable and powerful engines including the now legendary "Dauntless” V6. The generally accepted theory is that the CJ6 was marketed too much toward being a work vehicle than something ideal for recreational use, and that's something we know now the public wants due to the success of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Probably the cutest Jeep ever made, the Fleetvan was not an off-road capable vehicle, but a van version of the DJ-3A dispatcher sold by Willys-Overland and Kaiser-Jeep. It was mainly used by the US Postal Service. There were two versions, the FJ-3s, and the longer FJ-3As that had a 14-year production run starting in 1961.
When it comes to collector Jeeps, the CJ-8 Scrambler is right up there in the desirability stakes. It was only available for 5 years, starting in 1981, and the reality is that Jeep customers weren’t quite sure what to make of it despite being very practical, versatile, excellent off-road, and fun to drive. As a result, a CJ-8 Scrambler is quite a rare find.
The most famous CJ-8 Scrambler was owned by President Ronald Reagan that came to him as a present from his wife. It’s reported that it was used mainly for transport around the ranch for the Reagan family, their Secret Service detail, and even for showing visiting dignitaries around.