Rare Rides: A 1990 Jeep Comanche Pioneer, the Best Jeep Truck Ever
Today’s Rare Ride comes from a time when Jeep still offered a two-door pickup to the American small truck consumer.
Super clean, pretty retro, and with great tape stripes, it’s the Jeep Comanche Pioneer. A fitting example of the first-ever Jeep featured in this series!
Jeep introduced the massively successful XJ Cherokee as a new compact SUV in 1984. That was right around the time all the Detroit manufacturers were debuting their new small truck-based utility vehicles, like the Bronco II and the Blazer/ Jimmy. But while other manufacturers used a truck and turned it into an SUV, Jeep went the opposite route: The Cherokee was available a full two years before the debut of its Comanche truck sibling.
Now you Cherokee fans will be preparing to explain in the comments how the XJ was in fact a unibody vehicle and was not body-on-frame like the truck-based SUVs mentioned above. There, I saved you the trouble. The Comanche was both unibody and body-on-frame. The passenger portion at the front retained the Cherokee’s construction, but the bed behind was body-on-frame. Using the more traditional chassis at the rear meant the Comanche was easily adapted to two bed lengths. The long-bed (7′) model was available at the Comanche’s launch, and a six-foot short bed arrived in 1987.
In addition to bed length selection, Comanche was configurable in either rear- or four-wheel drive. There were also four different engines available. The smallest was a Renault turbodiesel inline-four, of just 2.1 liters in displacement. Next up was a 2.5-liter inline-four from AMC, which was used in the AMC Eagle and (later) the Eagle Premier. AMC also borrowed an engine from GM (1986 only), the 2.8-liter V6 straight from the Blazer. Finally, there was the 4.0 inline-six of outstanding repute, contributed by AMC. Transmissions were four- or five-speeds if manual and sourced from Aisin, or three-, four-, or five-speeds in automatic guise, and provided by Chrysler, Aisin, or Peugeot.
AMC (and then Chrysler) made small changes to the Comanche over its life, mostly fiddling with trim offerings. Custom, X, and XLS gave way to SporTruck, Chief, Laredo, Eliminator, and today’s Pioneer. Pioneer was considered a step up from the basic SporTruck from 1987 onward and lived underneath the sports-oriented Eliminator, and high luxury Laredo. Pioneer also contributed to a single-year special, the Olympic Edition.
Alas, the Comanche was a slow seller. Sales peaked in 1988 at just 43,718 units and fell off rapidly after. By 1990 Comanche didn’t make it to 10,000 sales, and in 1991 only 5,188 found homes. After less than 1,000 were made in 1992, the model was dropped. Chrysler wasn’t too upset about the Comanche’s death; there was a strict hierarchy to be enforced, and within it, Jeep made only SUVs, while Dodge took care of the trucks.
Today’s Comanche Pioneer is part of the few examples made toward the end of the model’s run. With mixed manual and power equipment, it has functioning AC, an automatic transmission, and the 4.0-liter. With 151,000 miles, it asks $9,900.
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You can build your own Neo-Commanche: https://www.smythkitcars.com/jeep-ute
Alright, now make one out of the Renegade.