Rare Rides: A 1990 Jeep Comanche Pioneer, the Best Jeep Truck Ever

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic IIRC, both China and the EU use a standardized charger connection. About time the US & Canada to follow.Would take some of the anxiety out of an EU purchase and accelerate adoption. 🚗🚗🚗