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Jeep now offers its Gladiator mid-size pickup truck with the 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoDiesel V6 developed for the Ram 1500. The result is much more truck than Wrangler, heavier but with 442 lb-ft of torque, and even improved fuel efficiency. But years before Jeep built its diesel mid-size pickup truck, someone dropped a Mercedes-Benz turbodiesel in a Jeep CJ-8 “Scrambler” Restomod. The result is magnificent.

The Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler foreshadowed the new Gladiator

The Jeep grille of a white CJ-8 Scrambler 4x4 restomod with Mercedes turbodiesel badges, a car dealership visible in the background.
1984 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler | Cars & Bids

The current Jeep Gladiator lifts its name from the 1962-1988 Gladiator SJ, a full-size pickup truck designed by Willys Motors. But the current Gladiator’s spiritual predecessor was the CJ-8 “Scrambler” pickup.

The word “Jeep” was WWIII slang soldiers used for their Willys-Overland 1/4 ton “Quads.” After the war, Willys trademarked the term and rolled out the Civilian Jeep (CJ) line of 4x4s. Every generation retained the spirit of the original 4WD convertible with its full-frame and solid axle construction. But by the CJ-7, the SUV was larger and capable of highway speeds.

Jeep stretched the wheelbase of a CJ-7 to 103.5 inches and installed a removable half-cab, creating a pickup-style cargo box in the back. Thus, the CJ-8 “Scrambler” was born. Though Jeep only built its CJ-8 Scrambler from 1980 through 1986, this Jeep truck became an icon. The Alaskan Postal Service ordered a lot of them and former President, Ronald Reagon, had a beloved Scrambler to drive around his California ranch.

Just like the Scrambler before it, the current Gladiator is a stretched wheelbase Jeep Wrangler with a pickup box and removable top. But unlike the Scrambler, the current Gladiator is only available with four doors.

Someone built a diesel Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler pickup truck

The rear of a white Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler pickup SUV with its Mercedes-Benz Turbodiesel badges visible.
1984 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler | Cars & Bids

In 2022, Colorado-based dealer German Motors Incorporated listed a diesel-powered Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler on Cars & Bids. Yes, you read that right. Why German Motors Inc? Perhaps because the long-wheelbase Jeep’s new powerplant is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel I5 built by Mercedes-Benz.

Why in the world would someone put a Mercedes diesel in a Jeep? Well the “OM617” in question is widely regarded as one of the most reliable engines of all time. It powered legends such as the 300-series Mercedes sedans and military off-road vehicles. The builder obviously was not concerned with keeping this Jeep truck stock, so the engine choice makes sense.

The engine should make about 123 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Which, considering this CJ-8 restomod‘s 3,020-pound weight and low gearing, should be plenty. The Jeep has a four-speed automatic borrowed from a Ford truck (a New Process 435 to be precise) and a Dana 300 transfer case.

This CJ-8 Scrambler is not exactly a pickup

The dashboard of a Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler restomod, the diesel only sticker on its speedometer visible.
1984 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler | Cars & Bids

You may have noticed that the Jeep pictured is not a pickup truck. This is because someone installed a full-length soft top. This makes sense, considering they bolted a bench seat into the rear. It would be awkward to have the front two passengers under the original half-length hard-top while the rear passengers had to brave the elements.

Turning the Scrambler truck into a very long CJ SUV may upset some Jeep fans, but it’s far from a permanent change. Other modifications include 15-inch steel rims, LED lights, tubular front bumper, Smittybuilt side steps, a Design Technology Tiny-Tach tachometer, and a sizeable locking center console. This final mod may not be the most aesthetically pleasing but will make sense to anyone who has lived with a convertible. This Jeep also has a locking storage box installed in the trunk.

My favorite parts of this unique build include the tasteful Mercedes and “TURBODIESEL” badges and the “Diesel Fuel Only” stickers on the tachometer. And of course, it has a glow plugs button on the dashboard, which looks right at home.

This is a highly modified CJ-8, and not everyone’s cup of tea. But it is one of the most original, and useful, Jeep trucks around.

Next, find out what makes the Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel an instant classic or learn more about the history of the Jeep Scrambler and see more restomods in the video below:


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