The Jeep Gladiator full-size pickup truck managed to stay in production for 26 years with very few mechanical and styling changes.
Many of you fine readers are too young to remember the time when Jeep actually built a pickup truck. The last time this happened was with the Jeep Comanche, basically a pickup version of the Cherokee that was built back in the mid-Eighties until the early Nineties. Today, there’s a Mopar conversion kit featuring a truck bed for the Wrangler but that’s about as closest you’ll come to having a modern pickup. Despite some rumors and a Gladiator Concept that was first shown in Chicago in 2005, Jeep seems to be in no rush to make that another pickup truck any time soon.
But back in 1962, Jeep was owned by Willys Motors which had plenty of experience designing and engineering military and civilian vehicles. The first-generation Jeep Gladiator debuted that year in both short and long wheelbases and in rear- or four-wheel drive. The Gladiator was considered a full-size truck for its time and buyers could also opt for a chassis-mounted camper version that rode on the extended wheelbase. Power originally came from a 3.8-liter straight-six that was good for 140 horsepower and a three-speed manual gearbox came standard.
It wasn't until after the automaker changed its name to Kaiser Jeep Corporation that the Gladiator was offered with a 5.4-liter V8 with 250 hp. It was replaced by a Buick-sourced 5.7-liter V8 from 1968 until ’71. By 1970, AMC had bought Kaiser Jeep and the Gladiator soon received new AMC engines with overall better performance. AMC also dropped the Gladiator name in 1972 and it simply became known as the Jeep pickup. It was also given fresh exterior styling, most notably at the front-end, in order to bring it in line with the Jeep Grand Wagoneer. AMC also simplified the truck’s trim levels, calling it simply the J10 and J20 based on the wheelbase.
From this point on, however, AMC made few updates to it and was finally replaced in 1988 by the Comanche. For those who know their auto industry history, in 1987 Chrysler bought AMC and one of its first acts was to discontinue the J10/J20 partly because it competed directly against its own lineup of Dodge trucks, despite its age. AMC had already done all of the development work on the Comanche so it only made sense to continue its production. That ended, however, in 1992. The bottom line: Chrysler was only interested in Jeep’s Grand Wagoneer and the then-new Cherokee, both of which were huge money makers.
Chrysler was able to enjoy the financial success of the Cherokee without having done any of the real development work, which was handled by AMC. And to this day, Chrysler still seems to view a Jeep pickup as a competitor to its Ram lineup. This 1967 Jeep Gladiator J2000 is currently up for grabs on eBay and the seller claims it’s one of the cleanest original Gladiators still around. Power comes from a 327-cu-in 5.4-liter V8 that’s mated to a manual and has some 122,000 miles on it. The Gladiator’s original wheels and bumpers have been sandblasted and professionally painted to match the truck’s original Glacier White paint.
Fortunately, the truck had a canopy covering the bed floor that managed to keep it rust free. The interior is all original as well and the seller is also including the original owner’s manual in the sale. As of this writing, it had a top bid of just over $5,100. Despite its age, this original Jeep Gladiator still looks good today and according to several recent statements from a few auction specialists, old off-roaders could very well become the next big thing on the classic car market, making this old Gladiator a tempting purchase.