By on September 5, 2018

Long before the Wrangler and Cherokee became Jeep’s household names, and even before the Jeep brand existed as we know it today, the company known as Kaiser Jeep produced the Jeepster Commando. And for a few special examples, Hurst made some of its own modifications.

Let’s have a look at a special proto-Cherokee:

In the mid-1960s, the Kaiser Jeep company desired an SUV to compete with existing offerings like the Toyota Land Cruiser and International Scout, as well as Ford’s upcoming Bronco. The company’s new Jeepster Commando (C101) was ready for a 1966 debut, which just so happened to be the same time as the Bronco’s launch. Game on!

Four different versions of the Jeepster were on offer: a convertible, a roadster, a wagon, and a truck. Four-wheel drive was available from the start, and base model power was provided by a 75-horsepower inline-four F4-134 engine which dated back to 1950. Optionally fitted was a 3.2-liter Buick V6, which managed a much more respectable 160 horsepower. Jeepsters delivered power through a standard manual or optional automatic transmission.

Things stayed roughly the same with the Jeepster for a few years, until the Hurst version came along for 1971. All examples featured a white exterior festooned with red and blue stripes, plus a standard roof rack. Better handling was on offer via Goodyear G70 tires, fitted to wider steel wheels. Hurst versions received the requisite Hurst labeling all over the place, as well as a hood-mounted tachometer, while the interior featured a different steering wheel and a special shifter for both manual and automatic transmissions.

The Jeepster Commando lasted in its original iteration until 1971. By then, Kaiser Jeep was owned by American Motors (note AMC badge on tailgate), and the Jeepster was looking old. AMC developed a new model known as the Jeep Commando (C104), which sported a longer 104-inch wheelbase, revised styling, and new engines. After just two years, the C104 version was replaced by the first-generation Cherokee (SJ).

Widely reported as the rarest Jeep vehicle in existence, the estimated number of Jeepster Commando Hursts produced ranges between 100 and 103. Sources also report some Hurst versions were sold as model-year 1970 vehicles, rather than 1971s. Today’s Rare Ride is a 1971 example from late in the run; an indicated number 99 of 103. With the optional V6 and automatic transmission, this one’s very clean and asks $28,000.

[Images: seller]

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16 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1971 Jeepster Commando of the Hurst Variety...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Isn’t the idea of a Hurst branded product of this era, produced with an automatic transmission, kind of ‘lame’? Just askin’.

    • 0 avatar

      Hurst pioneered the first shiftable automatic shifter which I believe was an option on the GTO and called the his (shiftable gate) and hers (leave in drive) shifter. It never sold well on the GTO, and this Jeepster looks like it has one – maybe it was an excuse to get rid of old GTO stock.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Stingray: “maybe it was an excuse to get rid of old GTO stock”. Well said. That explains the sort of thing that I was thinking. A ‘slush box’ with Hurst markings on a Jeep of this era, is not quite what I would expect the target market would be clamouring for. Unless they were targeting the ‘polo’ set identified by Range Rover in 1970?

        Of course I know a great many guys in high school who bought Hurst shifting ‘knobs/handles’ and installed them on their regular shifters.

      • 0 avatar

        Funny you should mention the GTO. When I saw the hood mounted tach I immediately thought of the GTO. A friend had what was otherwise a ’69 Judge except he ordered it from the factory in his chosen color scheme (red with black vinyl top) which had a hood mounted tach. The tach quit working at some point between his “blowing” the original engine (400?) and then destroying the replacement (455? The numbers have become a jumble for me now.)

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Thank you. Came here to say this.

  • avatar

    The sun never sets on the Buick-powered empire.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Love me some Nailhead torque!

    • 0 avatar

      The section “From Fireball to Dauntless” is pretty interesting:

      Basically, the General sold the rights and tooling for the V6 to Kaiser Jeep. AMC bought Jeep and mothballed the V6 in favor of AMC power plants. Finally, the General reacquired the rights and tooling. After various refinements, the Fireball-Dauntless eventually gave rise to the 3800 (blessed be the 3800).

  • avatar

    Strange combo of late-’60s minimalist 4X4 and early-’70s muscle car, complete with the latter’s tropes (stripes, Hurst shifter, hood mounted tach, etc). Neat, tho.

  • avatar

    At first glance I thought it was a postal Jeep.

  • avatar

    Great find, Corey. I never understood the market for these, it seems the only place I’ve ever noticed them were carting tourists around some 3rd world all-inclusive resort or driven by guides at some “Safari Land” amusement park

    • 0 avatar

      It’s weird how they went up against the Bronco and IH, and yet didn’t really include any offroad abilities.

      • 0 avatar

        These were 4WD, at least the ones I remember, but keep in mind jeep was pretty much killing it with CJ’s back then too. The Jeepsters were somewhat popular in the mountains of western NC when new (the Jeepsters, not the mountains). I’m pretty sure this one is 4WD, too, the transfer case shifter is on the right of the tunnel towards the dash. From what I remember, these seemed to rust away pretty quickly, I haven’t seen one in years.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    This is not only a prototype crossover, but one with ridiculous sporting pretensions, like the Jeep Compass Trailhawk with red bucket seats.

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