Jeep Comanche Pioneer
American Motors (1985-1987)
Chrysler Corporation (1987-1992)
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Compact pickup truck|
|Body style||2-door truck|
|Layout||Front engine, rear-wheel and four-wheel drive|
|Engine||2.1 L Renault J8S turbo diesel I4|
2.5 L (150 CID) AMC 150 I4
2.8 L GM LR2 V6
4.0 L (242 CID) AMC 242 I6
|Transmission||4-speed Aisin AX-4 manual|
5-speed Aisin AX-5 manual
5-speed Peugeot BA-10/5 manual
5-speed Aisin AX-15 manual
3-speed A904 automatic
4-speed Aisin AW-4 automatic
|Wheelbase||113 in (2,870 mm) Short Wheel Base |
119.9 in (3,045 mm) Long Wheel Base
|Length||179.2 in (4,552 mm) Short Bed |
194.0 in (4,928 mm) Long Bed
|Width||71.7 in (1,821 mm)|
|Height||64.7 in (1,643 mm)|
|Predecessor||Jeep CJ-8 (Scrambler)|
|Successor||Dodge Dakota |
Jeep Gladiator (JT)
The Jeep Comanche (designated MJ) is a pickup truck variant of the Cherokee compact SUV (1984–2001) manufactured and marketed by Jeep for model years 1986-1992 in rear wheel (RWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) models as well as two cargo bed lengths: six-feet (1.83 metres) and seven-feet (2.13 metres).
During the mid-1980s, according to AMC chairman W. Paul Tippett Jr. "People are finding trucks a reasonable and sophisticated alternative to cars." To satisfy the demand and to compete with Japanese competitors, both AMC and Chrysler were preparing compact pickups for the 1986 and 1987 model years (respectively). Also at this time the financial health of AMC was poor and the automaker was in need of cash as it was preparing a new line of midsize sedans (the Eagle Premier) scheduled to be produced at a factory being built in Canada (Brampton Assembly), but the best thing the company had going for it was its popular line of Jeeps and introducing a compact Jeep pickup truck in the fall of 1985 was expected to help.
The Jeep Comanche was introduced in mid-August 1985, at a lavish event staged at the ballroom of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino (currently Bally's Las Vegas) for AMC's over 1,500 North American dealers. American Motors included Chinese officials as part of the negotiations establishing Beijing Jeep (now Beijing Benz). The goal was to produce and sell Comanches in China through this joint venture.
The new trucks were unveiled by Jose Dedeurwaerder, an engineer and international business executive with 23 years of experience with Renault, who had just been appointed as AMC's new president. The base price of the two-wheel drive model was $7,049 (adjusted only for inflation equal to US$16,065 in 2017 dollars), making it the lowest priced Jeep model for the 1986 model year.
American Motors' Jeep designers based the Comanche MJ body, styling, engineering, and drivetrain on the XJ Cherokee, which had been introduced for the 1984 model year. The Comanche had a somewhat more conventional body-on-frame design behind the cab and a removable cargo box, but retained the unibody construction of the Cherokee in the front half of the vehicle. By contrast, the Volkswagen Caddy and Dodge Rampage are technically coupe utilities, not trucks because the cargo bed is an integral part of the body structure and not removable.
Two cargo bed lengths were used; one for the seven-foot long-bed model, which appeared first in 1986, and a second, shorter version for the six-foot cargo bed, which debuted for the 1987 model year. Unlike other pickups of the time that used C-channel frames, the Comanche's frame design (called a "Uniframe" by Jeep) under the cargo bed was fully boxed, with a large X structure centered over the rear axle. For strength, the rails were over eight inches deep (top to bottom), much deeper than conventional midsize truck frames (1983 Jeep J-10 full-size truck frame is 6.75 inches at the deepest point). This structure was pioneered by AMC for the 1971 "Cowboy" compact pickup prototype.
From 1986 to 1987, the Jeep Comanche grille had ten slots in a similar configuration to the 1984-1987 Cherokee XJ, while from 1988 to 1992, this configuration changed to eight slots to match with the SUV. A new "4x4" badge, similar to those found on the Cherokee and Wagoneer models, was affixed to the upper rear of the cargo box on all the four-wheel drive models.
After the Chrysler buyout of American Motors for $1.5 billion on March 9, 1987, designed to capture "the highly profitable Jeep vehicles ... and 1,400 additional dealers" the Jeep Comanche, like the similar Cherokee, received only minor changes. These were primarily to improve reliability and parts interchangeability with other Chrysler-built vehicles.
The Comanche used the XJ Cherokee's "Quadralink" front suspension, with coil springs and upper/lower control arms on a solid axle. It was argued that the coil springs allowed for greater ride comfort and axle articulation during off-road excursions. A track bar (Panhard rod) is used to keep the axle centered under the truck. Modified versions of this same basic suspension system were later used on the 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee, 1997 and newer TJ Wranglers and 1994 and newer Dodge Rams.
For the rear suspension, the truck used leaf springs that are considerably longer than the Cherokee's, which give Comanches good load-carrying capacity without creating a hard ride. The standard rear axle was the same Dana 35 used in the Cherokee, except that the Comanche mounted the leaf springs underneath the axle, as do most other trucks, and the Cherokee mounted them on top of the axle. There was also a heavy duty Metric Ton package for the long-bed models. The package included heavier-duty leaf springs and wheels, larger tires, and upgraded the rear axle to a Dana 44, which increased the stock payload (cargo) capacity from 1,400 to 2,205 pounds (635 to 1,000 kg), well above that of any other mid-size truck. The Metric Ton Comanche's payload rating was higher than that of many full-size pickups.
The inaugural 1986 model year Comanches could be equipped with one of three engines. The AMC 150 2.5 L, 150 CID I4, The General Motors LR2 2.8 L V6, or the Renault 2.1 L I4 turbo diesel were all offered from the start.
The V6 engine, which was the same basic unit used in the first generation Chevrolet S-10, had 7 hp (5 kW; 7 PS) less than the base four-cylinder, only slightly more torque, and was equipped with a two-barrel carburetor instead of the four-cylinder's electronic TBI fuel injection.
Changes to the engine lineup happened in the truck's second year on the market. For 1987, the 2.8 L V6 was replaced by the new fuel-injected 4.0 L, 242 CID AMC Straight 6 engine that delivered 173 hp (129 kW; 175 PS), some 63 horsepower more than the previously outsourced V6. The new six-cylinder was also more fuel-efficient. The slow-selling turbodiesel was dropped during the model year.
Other changes under the hood occurred in 1991, when Chrysler adopted their own engine control electronics to replace the original Renix systems. One effect of this change was that the 4.0 L, 242 CID, I-6 engine gained 17 hp (to 190 hp (142 kW; 193 PS), having already gained 4 hp (3 kW; 4 PS) in 1988), while the 2.5 L, 150 CID, I4 engine jumped from 117 hp (87 kW; 119 PS) to 121 hp (90 kW; 123 PS).
During the production life of the Comanche, six different transmissions were offered, manufactured by Aisin, Chrysler, and Peugeot. Aisin provided the AX-4 (four-speed), AX-5 and AX-15 (five-speed overdrive) manual transmissions, along with the AW-4 four-speed automatic that was used beginning in 1987. This is the same Warner transmission used in early- to mid-1990s Toyota 4Runners with the 3.0 and some 22re 4wd. The AX-15 was phased in to replace the Peugeot BA-10/5 five-speed that had been used from 1987 until mid-1989 behind the 4.0 L I6 engine. The Comanche came equipped with a weight sensing rear brake proportioning valve.
Although Chrysler purchased AMC in 1987, only one Chrysler transmission was ever used in the Comanche, and that was prior to the takeover. 1986 models equipped with the 2.5 L I4 or 2.8 L V6 were offered with Chrysler's three-speed TorqueFlite A904 automatic. Throughout the Comanche's production run, Chrysler would continue AMC's practice of purchasing Aisin automatic transmissions.
By model year availability:
- 1986 - Custom- The most basic Comanche trim that could be ordered.
- 1986 - X- One of the more "basic" trims of the Comanche.
- 1986 - XLS- A "step-up" version of the more "basic" Comanche trims.
- 1987-1992 - Base (SporTruck)- Became the most basic trim of the Comanche after 1986.
- 1988- Olympic Edition- Based on the Pioneer trim to commemorate the 1988 Summer Olympics and Team U.S.A. .
- 1987-1988 - Chief- Added more standard equipment to the base-level Comanche trims.
- 1987-1990 - Laredo- The top-of-the-line and most "up-level" trim on the Comanche.
- 1987-1992 - Pioneer- A "step-up" version of the base Comanche trim.
- 1988-1992 - Eliminator- The "sporty" Comanche trim.
Phaseout and aborted name revival
The decision to phase out the Jeep Comanche "came from a combination of two factors— low sales and Chrysler's attempts to make the Jeep brand fit into the Chrysler hierarchy of Plymouth, Dodge, and Chrysler models" with Jeep housing SUVs and Dodge making trucks.
As sales dropped, the Comanche was planned for discontinuation. In 1990, the National Council of Jeep-Eagle dealers asked Chrysler to discontinue the Comanche, and allow them to sell a version of the Dodge Dakota pickup.
The company decided to cease production of the Comanche on June 12, 1992, after only a few thousand more trucks rolled off the Toledo, Ohio, assembly line. A total of 190,446 Comanches were made during its production run.
Following the discontinuation of the Comanche, the Dodge Ramcharger would be dropped outside of Mexico shortly afterwards as part of Chrysler's plans to have Dodge sell pickup trucks and Jeep sell SUV's. Despite that, Dodge would later re-enter the SUV field with the Dodge Durango in 1998 at the height of the initial SUV boom and at one point would offer three SUV's or crossovers (Durango, Journey and Nitro, the latter being a rebadged version of the Jeep Liberty (KK)) while Jeep didn't offer any pickup trucks. Dodge itself would stop offering pickup trucks in 2011 when the Ram Trucks brand was spun-off from Dodge, taking the Dodge Ram and Dakota with it.
Jeep will finally re-enter the pickup truck market in early 2019 with the Wrangler-based Jeep Gladiator. Jeep actually considered reviving the Comanche name alongside Gladiator and most commonly Scrambler, as well as simply using a new name, before deciding on Gladiator, feeling it fits that truck the best; sensitivity to the Native Americans (specifically the Comanche tribe) and much less brand recognition compared to Jeep's decades-long use of "Cherokee" for the Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee also likely played factors. The new Gladiator will serve as a 27-year later replacement for the Comanche.
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