- Written by webmin
Image courtesy oldcarbrochures.com
The clamor for a Jeep-branded compact pickup nowadays – and especially since Jeep released the Gladiator concept truck a few years back – is high, and reasonably so. Full-size pickup trucks – even those from Japanese manufacturers – have ballooned to mammoth proportions,and compact pickups are fast becoming an extinct species. Meanwhile, Jeeps are about the right size to fit on off-road trails, but nothing in Jeep’s (domestic) lineup offers a pickup bed. And before you mention the recently announced Mopar kit to convert a JK Unlimited into a half-cab pickup, that just don’t cut the mustard.
Yet at one point in time, Jeep did offer a compact pickup, one that came along right in time for consideration for our Class of 1986. Based on the XJ Cherokee, the MJ Comanche in fact shared just about everything with the four-door XJ from the doors forward, including the UniFrame chassis and the XJ’s choice of fuel-injected 2.5L four-cylinder engine, GM-sourced carbureted 2.8L V-6 engine, or Renault-sourced turbodiesel 2.1L four-cylinder. Also like the XJ, the MJ could be had in two- and four-wheel-drive – in fact, much early advertising for the MJ focused on the two-wheel-drive version, only casually mentioning the option of four-wheel drive. From the cab back, however, the MJ used a specially-designed subframe that connected to the forward UniFrame chassis and used a leaf-spring suspension similar to the XJ’s, but fitted with longer springs to handle heavier loads as well as a height-sensing proportioning valve that changed the brake bias when the bed had a load in it. Under its skin, the 1986 Comanche became a sort of one-year-only design, with the substructure forward of the firewall changing in 1987 to permit the longer 4.0L engine in both the XJ and MJ. Though Jeep continued to produce the MJ through 1992 – including the rare and desirable Eliminator versions – its fate was effectively sealed in 1987 when AMC came under the control of Chrysler, which already had its own compact pickup in the Dakota. Jeep built a total of 45,219 Comanches in 1986, the second-highest total for the MJ over its lifespan.
We already know that the Comanche has a cult following, mostly among off-roaders who heavily modify their rigs. Our question today concerns the collectibility of these pickups: Would you put one in your garage dedicated to vehicles from 1986? Are we likely to see enthusiasts restoring them for AACA shows and for VMCCA tours, or are they destined to all become big-tired mudslinging beasts?