Gearhead or not, chances are you can pick out a Jeep on the road. Tall and boxy, or flat-fendered with round headlights, Jeep was been working with a design language over the past 75 years that’s both timeless and instantly familiar. And thanks to a solid lineup, a reputation for being able to handle some of the most punishing conditions imaginable, and a healthy appetite for crossovers and SUVs, there are more Jeeps on – and off – the road today than ever before.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. The CJ- Jeeps (direct descendants of the original military Willys MB), the wood-paneled Grand Wagoneer, boxy XJ Cherokee, and Wrangler may have gone on to become 4×4 icons, but they weren’t the mass-market brand they are today until fairly recently. What’s more, for every icon that Jeep has built, plenty of other models haven’t been so lucky.
Every automaker has hits and misses, but Jeep’s unique position as a former contractor to the U.S. government, as well as one of the few companies to consistently offer four-wheel drive vehicles, makes even its relatively forgotten models seem pretty interesting. So without getting any of the icons involved, here are 10 interesting Jeeps that have largely been lost to history.
1. 1951-1953 CJ-3A Farm Jeep
Even before World War II landed, Willys was hard at work adapting the Jeep for civilian life. With amenities like full lighting, vinyl seats, a rear-view mirror, and colors that weren’t olive drab, you’d be forgiven for thinking America’s favorite warhorse was getting a little soft. So it released a series of even more spartan models, like the Farm Jeep and Jeep Tractor. With a Power Take Off, hydraulic lifts, and a heavy-duty hitch, these early CJs truly were more farm tool than street truck. Because of a lifetime of hard work, few survive today.
2. 1948-1950 Jeepster
On the other end of the spectrum sat the Jeepster. Willys’ attempt to transform the truck into a sporty roadster, the inline-four powered, rear-wheel drive Jeepster had whitewall tires, plenty of chrome, and seating for four. But it was also as expensive as a V8-powered Ford Deluxe convertible, and its thin ragtop and lack of side windows made it a strictly warm weather car. Production lasted just two years, making the Jeepster an interesting postwar curiosity. It would eventually return in one of the most improbable comebacks in automotive history.
3. 1956-1965 Jeep FC “Forward Control”
Jeep’s imaginatively named “Jeep Truck” pickup was beginning to show its age in the mid-’50s (it had been sold since ’46, and would stay in production until ’65). Willys took the new CJ-5 platform and built a unique cab-over pickup that stood out thanks to its wide track, small wheelbase, Jeep four-wheel drive, and virtually nonexistent overhangs. The FC trucks never quite caught on with the public, but farmers, firemen, and municipalities loved them for their ruggedness. After decades of obscurity, the FC is quickly becoming a collectible, with Jeep even restoring one and bringing it to this year’s Jeep Easter Safari.
4. 1961-1975 Jeep Fleetvan
Those of us of a certain age remember a time before the U.S. Post Office’s LLV, when right-hand drive Jeep DJs delivered the mail. But Jeep also made an uncharacteristic van body for the DJ platform, known as the Fleetvan. With their upright bodies, unique windscreen, and almost adorable styling, the Fleetvan never found many buyers outside of the government and, as a result, may take the trophy as the most obscure full-production Jeep of all-time.
5. 1966-1973 Jeepster Commando
In the mid ’60s, personal 4x4s like the International Scout, Ford Bronco, and Chevrolet Blazer proved that there was a growing market for sport-utility vehicles. Eager to field a competitor, the cash-strapped Kaiser-Jeep dusted the tooling off the Jeepster and released the Jeepster Commando for 1966. Now with rolling windows, four-wheel drive, an available V8, and a removable hardtop, the Commando made a bigger splash than the original Jeepster ever had. But despite a two-generation run, it still couldn’t quite compete with the Bronco and Blazer, and disappeared after 1973.
6. 1955-1981 CJ-6
The CJ-5 and CJ-7 may now be icons, but the CJ-6 was never quite a contender, at least not in the U.S. Built on a longer wheelbase, the CJ-6’s biggest American customers were the U.S. Forest Service and the army. But overseas, the bigger Jeep was a hit. It was built under license by Volkswagen in South Africa, and long before the modern Wrangler Unlimited, Jeep offered a popular four-door CJ-6 in Brazil. American production ended in 1975, but due to its popularity abroad, the CJ-6 soldiered on for another six years.
7. 1981-1986 CJ-8
Like the FC-Series, the CJ-8 is finally getting the love it deserves from collectors. But back in the early ’80s, the CJ-8 (also known as the Scrambler), with its longer wheelbase and small bed out back, just wasn’t selling. And compared to the nearly 1 million (combined) CJ-5s and CJ-7s sold, AMC-Jeep managed to move just over 27,000 Scramblers. Today, unmolested examples fetch a higher price than the more common CJs.
8. 1981-1985 CJ-10
Like the Fleetvan, the CJ-10 is virtually unknown outside of serious Jeep circles. Built on a full-size J10 pickup frame, the CJ-10 featured a heavily modified CJ-7 body, and was sold outside of the U.S., eventually finding some popularity in Australia. Even rarer are the CJ-10A, a Nissan diesel-powered, stripped-down model sold to the Air Force for use as an aircraft tug.
9. 1984-1990 Wagoneer
The full-size Grand Wagoneer has become one of the most iconic Jeep models of the brand’s history, but the XJ-body Wagoneer and Wagoneer Limited have been largely lost to time. Using AMC-Jeep’s cutting-edge XJ unibody architecture, the Limited offered a more modern driving and handling experience to go along with the Wagoneer’s famously plush interior – and wood paneling. Despite its interesting stacked-headlight front fascia, the compact Wagoneer disappeared after 1990, a year before the full-size model left production.
10. 2006-2010 Jeep Commander
While the market for three-row SUVs is healthy now, the segment was in rough shape when Jeep sold its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Commander. Based on the Grand Cherokee, the Commander offered seating for seven, and a range of V6 and V8s, including a diesel option. But it was sold during one of the most tumultuous periods of Chrysler’s history, and only managed to build around 200,000 of them (with a majority sold in the first year) before it pulled the plug.