• Image Credit: FCA

5 pickups that could inspire Jeep's return to the segment

Stop teasing us already, Jeep! The most patriotic of car brands has hinted on and off that it will re-enter the pickup market after being essentially absent for more than two decades. 

Most recently, Jeep titillated us with news that it would bring a stylized concept that draws heavily from its past to the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. 

Is this just another way of tugging at our heart strings, or does Jeep actually have a pickup on the drawing board? Only they know for certain, but one thing that fuels our speculation is Jeep's passion for its heritage.

With this in mind, let's take a look at five pickups from Jeep's past that are likely to inspire the next generation, at least in one way or another. 

  • Image Credit: FCA

5. Jeep Comanche (1985-1992)

Styled like the iconic Jeep Cherokee built from 1984 through 2001, the Jeep Comanche was actually quite different underneath. That's because the Cherokee utilized sophisticated unibody construction, which meant the more work-oriented Comanche had to have a separate frame engineered to support its truck bed.

The last Jeep pickup available from the factory, the Comanche retains a small but loyal following of owners drawn to its Cherokee styling, its available 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, and its "just right" proportions. Stretching 194 inches from head-to-toe, the Comanche has presence but is more compact and nimble than a modern pickup. 

The next Jeep pickup probably won't share a face with the current Cherokee, but its size might give us a clue of what Jeep has planned. 

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4. Jeepster Commando (1966-1973)

With its clean lines and removable top, the Jeepster Commando was more of a statement than it was a genuine workhorse. Its nameplate revived a similarly town-and-country-oriented model that was half stylish convertible and half truck.

The Jeepster Commando that arrived in 1966 came in a variety of styles, including a unique Hurst Jeepster that featured rally stripes, a Hurst shifter, a Continental tire kit, and an 8,000-rpm tachometer. Later on in its life cycle, the pickup became simply known as the Jeep Commando and its styling became more conventional.

Given that Jeep parent FCA already has a line of utilitarian trucks under the Ram badge, it seems plausible that the next Jeep pickup could be more lifestyle-oriented. Don't look for car-like styling like the Commando, but this model's relatively lax utility could someday make an appearance again.

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3. Jeep Forward Control (1956-1965)

Unlike the Commando, the Forward Control was all about utility. Designed specifically for commercial use, it derived its name from the placement of its engine below the cabin, placing the driver and passenger at the forward-most portion of the vehicle. This allowed for fantastic visibility... and probably not the best crash test scores.

Underneath, the Forward Control was mostly identical to the Jeep CJ-5, the brand's mainstay for more than 40 years and the inspiration for the current Wrangler. 

Jeep is essentially out of the commercial market, so a big truck like the Forward Control would make more sense under the Ram brand. Still, the fact that the Forward Control was basically a pickup CJ-5 means that a Jeep pickup could potentially utilize the current Wrangler's separate frame. 

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2. Jeep Gladiator/J-Series (1962-1988)

Based on the Jeep Wagoneer, the Gladiator is the longest-lived Jeep pickup. From the front seat forward, it was essentially identical to the more family-oriented Wagoneer, which lived on until 1991 as the decidedly plush Grand Wagoneer. The Gladiator nameplate was dropped in 1971, when the trucks received a more conventional J-Series alphanumeric badge denoting their payload capacity. 

While Grand Wagoneers were (and, well, still are) the thing to have in Aspen and Greenwich, the Gladiator was Jeep's answer to trucks from General Motors, Ford, International Harvester, and, ironically, Dodge. Today, Dodge is one of Jeep's sister brands, and a Jeep pickup wouldn't make sense as a direct competitor. 

However, Jeep is reviving the Wagoneer nameplate for what's expected to be a three-row SUV that slots in above the Grand Cherokee. Perhaps the Gladiator nameplate might make a comeback as well.

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1. Jeep JK-8 Kit

Yes, you can buy a brand new Jeep pickup today direct from your local dealership. Well, sort of. Jeep's in-house answer to the American Expedition Vehicles Brute, the JK-8 conversion kit offered by FCA's Mopar division transforms the Jeep Wrangler into a pickup.

The only problem? You have to do it yourself. The kit includes all the parts necessary for about $6,000, but it doesn't include paint and, of course, it doesn't include the cost of the truck.

Jeep has sold nearly 1,000 examples of the kit, so it's fair to say that there is demand for a pickup. A Wrangler-based pickup that could be bought directly from a showroom floor, minus all the hassle of putting it together, could be a huge ticket for the brand. 

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