Why spend $50k on a new Gladiator?
It was a huge deal when Jeep finally revealed its reborn pickup truck, the Gladiator, at the 2018 LA Auto Show. Based on the highly popular Wrangler, the Gladiator has already become a hot-seller with the average transaction price hovering at around $56,000. Not exactly cheap for what's essentially a midsize pickup truck mated to a Wrangler. But hey, profit is profit. For those able to find one (and good luck doing so), the base Gladiator Sport trim begins at around $33,545, which is still not exactly cheap. Bottom line: if you want a new Jeep Gladiator, come prepared to pay.
There is, however, an alternative solution, though it won't work for everyone. Instead of a new Gladiator, go with one of its ancestors, such as a J10. Funnily enough, the J10 was the successor to the original Gladiator when it launched in 1971. Jeep decided to drop the Gladiator name and rebrand its pickup truck simply as the J-series. Some even preferred to call it the Jeep pickup.
There were two variants offered, the J10 and J20, which designated payload capacity. It's also important to remember that Jeep was not owned by FCA at this time. Heck, FCA didn't even exist. Years before Jeep was acquired by Chrysler, it was owned by AMC, itself bought by Chrysler in 1987. Therefore, J-series models were powered by AMC engines, which weren't all that shabby.
Beginning in 1972, the J pickups came with a standard 4.2-liter inline-six good for 112 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque and an optional 5.9-liter V8 with 175 hp and 245 lb-ft (this was later increased to 195 hp and 295 lb-ft, which is still nothing compared to today's V8s). Beginning in 1974, AMC offered the tough-as-nails 6.6-liter V8 with a meatier 225 hp and 320 lb-ft. Aside from the engines, the J-series were later equipped with Dana's manual four-wheel-drive system and, later on, the full-time Quadra-Trac system. Both manual and automatic transmissions were offered as well.
Years later, in 1983, Jeep replaced Quadra-Trac with a new four-wheel-drive system called Selec-Trac. In general, the J-series didn't change all that much, especially cosmetically, until 1988, when they were discontinued. The reason for doing so was simple: because AMC, therefore Jeep, was now under Chrysler ownership, there was no need to keep selling an aging pickup truck when Dodge already offered new trucks.
There was one exception, however, and that was the Comanche, which was a pickup truck version of the then-new Cherokee. Chrysler opted to keep the Comanche until 1992. Today, the J-series still has a loyal following and it's totally possible to buy a quality used one for tens of thousands of dollars less than a new Gladiator.
Take this one on Craigslist, for example. This 1980 Jeep J10 4x4 has only 43,000 original miles and looks fantastic inside and out. Power comes from the 5.9-liter 360 cu. in. V8 and paired to a TorqueFlite 727 automatic gearbox. The seller claims the truck is mostly new, aside from a 3-inch lift and 32-inch tires. There's also a modern speaker system. The price? $18,999 and it's located in the Los Angeles area. True Jeep pickup truck fans would appreciate this, perhaps more so than a new Gladiator.