Jeep could read the handwriting on the wall as well as anyone else, but was in a bind for product funds for the development of the 1967 Jeepster Commando.
The cost of developing an all-new model was just too high to risk in the tiny market that then existed, and Jeep could quickly go broke trying to match tooling dollars with a giant like Ford.
But Jeep always had a talent for wringing new models out of old tooling, and it proved up to the task of bringing out a competitor for the Bronco and Scout. This new Jeep, christened the Jeepster Commando, was introduced in January 1967.
In choosing that name, Jeep was harkening back to a vehicle from its recent past. From 1948 to 1951, Jeep, then called Willys-Overland, had built the famed Jeepster, one of the last true roadsters made in this country. That Jeepster Sports Phaeton, as it was called, was a fairly expensive niche vehicle, and though admired by many, it was purchased by relatively few.
The new Jeepster was meant to be a volume product, so it came in a full range of body styles. The lineup included a Jeepster Commando Roadster, Commando Pick-Up, and Commando Station Wagon.
All Commandos shared the same handsome sheetmetal, with the model differences being noted chiefly by the roof. The Pick-Up featured a metal cab top over the front seat, while the Station Wagon had a full top. The tops were bolt-on affairs, so they were removable (although not easily). The Roadster could be ordered with no top at all, a full soft top, or a "cab top" that made it a convertible pick-up.
A separate model in the series, not sharing the Commando nameplate, was the confusingly titled Jeepster Convertible. This Jeepster was supposed to be the spiritual replacement for the old Willys Jeepster -- but with bodywork shared with the Commando, except for some trim differences, few customers caught the connection.
To save development costs, the new Jeeps used the 101-inch wheelbase chassis from the CJ-6, a long-wheelbase version of the CJ-5. Although the CJ-6 was available in the U.S., it was more popular in overseas markets.
Use of this long-wheelbase chassis gave the new Jeepster much more interior room than a CJ-5 and a better ride as well. Front fenders were standard Jeep items, but the hood was much wider, overlapping the fenders. This made the Jeepster appear wider than it actually was.
The traditionally styled Jeep grille had seven slots, with the top edge extended to match the shape of the wider hood. The body itself was a slab-sided steel affair. Jeep stylists did a neat job of giving the Jeep a pleasing, purposeful look that retained the classic styling trademarks so important to its image. Roll-up windows, door locks, and vent wings gave it the necessary civilian touches most families required.
Front bucket seats, which were standard equipment, sported horizontally pleated vinyl upholstery. A rear seat was optional for the Roadster and Station Wagon, as was common for sport/utility vehicles at the time.
The non-Commando Jeepster Convertible came with jazzier trim. A key styling element (and the easiest way to spot one), was its two-tone paint scheme, consisting of a narrow band of white paint, framed by chrome moldings, that ran along the top edges of the rear fenders and doors and wrapped around under the windshield and onto the rear deck.
The decklid was also white and trimmed with chrome strips. Standard on this Jeepster was a folding top with glass rear window, color coordinated front and rear floor mats, "Continental" spare tire with cover, and hubcaps.
Unlike the "classic" Jeepster, these new Jeeps all came with standard four-wheel drive. This reflected family tastes, and recognized that the sport/utility market pretty much demanded four-wheel drive.
Engine choices were limited. Standard was the "Hurricane," Jeep's dated four-cylinder F-Head engine, which was running out of wind by 1967 and put out just 75 horsepower from 134 cubic inches. This engine came with a three-speed manual gearbox only, since it was really too underpowered to chum an automatic.
But power lovers could -- and usually did -- order the optional "Dauntless V-6," a 225-cubic inch, cast iron, overhead-valve unit built on tooling Buick had used for several years before selling the line to Jeep. The V-6's robust 155-160 horsepower was more than ample for the Jeepster, and could be had with either the standard three-speed or an optional three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic built by GM.
Although the Jeepster Commando had a lot to offer, the interior decor was not particularly attractive -- it was, actually, quite spartan. Read on to learn more about the Jeepster Commando's interior features.