In November 27, 1956, Kaiser-Jeep announced a new 3/4-ton pickup truck. This design was a completely new idea for the light truck market. It placed the driver directly over the front wheels in a forward control position.
The Commercial Car Journal, in December 1956, stated the mission of the Forward Control Jeep trucks. "Aimed at providing maximum cargo space in relation to wheelbase," the announcement declared, "the new FC-150 has the cab situated well forward of the engine to provide more than six feet of cargo bed length despite the 81-inch wheelbase."
Overall length was 147.5 inches, two inches shorter than the diminutive Nash Metropolitan and 38 inches shorter than a Chevrolet half-ton pickup. Classified as a 3/4-ton unit, though the chassis was basically that of a CJ-5 Jeep, the FC-150 was powered by the four-cylinder F-head "Hurricane" engine producing 75 horsepower and 114 pounds-feet of torque.
A three-speed manual transmission was standard, while a four-speed was optional. Four-wheel drive was featured, and the transfer case could be shifted without stopping the vehicle -- a major innovation in those days. The price for the pickup was $2,320, just $64 more than the conventional 4 x 4 Jeep truck.
The Jeep advertising program stressed the FC-150's superior visibility, claiming it to be 200 percent greater than that of a conventional vehicle. The deluxe model, in fact, provided a glass area of 2,747 square inches.
However, Motor Trend noted that "T-Birds, Corvettes, Hawks and other short-stature iron which may pass on your right are difficult to see from the driver's seat." The magazine referred to the FC's "helicopter look," observing that "your first impression, as you climb into the cab of this little workhorse, may very well be that you have ensconced yourself under the bubble canopy of a whirlybird."
Like the other four-wheel-drive Jeep vehicles, the forward control models would climb almost any kind of grade. Bob Scala, reporting for Motor Trend, recalled, "For our initial test hop, we pushed the transfer control into the low-speed, four-wheel-drive position and pointed the stub nose of this heap of Jeep up a motorcycle hill climb course. This course was a narrow, deeply rutted, and bumpy trail, and while we decline to estimate the percent grade, we would never dream of attempting to negotiate it in a conventional truck or passenger car.
"The Jeep had no difficulty whatever with this and climbed steadily and surely to the top. We turned around, experienced the sensation of leaping from a ski jump, and allowed the engine compression to lower us safely to the bottom. We are keeping our eyes open for a hill which might stop the Jeep, but we'll bet it will have to be close to vertical."
Transfer controls on this model were reduced to a single lever, in lieu of the two-lever operation typical of other Jeeps. Steering was light and easy, though somewhat slow (a ratio of 32.0:1 gave five-and-a-half turns, lock-to-lock). Clutch and brake pedals were of the pendulum type, just then coming into widespread use.
For convenience the brake fluid reservoir cover was placed on the dashboard. Access to the engine was through an easily removable cover, and heavy fiberglass insulation deadened engine noise. The payload bed stood just 24 inches above ground level, for convenient loading. However, the strange configuration of the bed somewhat limited its carrying capacity. To link the FC to other Kaiser-Jeep products, the company gave it a familiar seven-slot twin-headlight grille of contrasting body color.
For more information on Jeeps, see:
- History of Jeep
- Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
- Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews