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History of the Jeep J20

by Rob Wagner

American Motors Corporation produced the Jeep J20 pickup truck from 1974 to 1987. It was the three-quarter-ton version of the Jeep J10 and the offspring of the Jeep Gladiator. The J20 featured the same body styling as the Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer with the conventional slab-sided or step-side cargo box. The Jeep J20 also shared the same mechanical components and chassis as the Cherokee and Wagoneer.

Origins

The full-size Jeep J20 was essentially the same truck as the Jeep Gladiator, which was the pickup truck version of the Jeep Wagoneer launched in 1963 by Kaiser-Jeep. By 1970, the Gladiator three-quarter-ton model featured a 132-inch wheelbase and gross vehicle weight rating of 7,000 lbs. American Motors Corporation purchased Jeep from Kaiser in 1970 and eliminated the Gladiator nameplate in 1972 to simply call it "Jeep" or "Jeep J-Series." When Chrysler purchased Jeep from AMC in 1987, it dropped the J-Series truck line in favor of the Comanche pickups. Chrysler produced the Comanche through 1992.

Characteristics

The Jeep J20, and its sibling, the J10, featured the same architecture as the Cherokee-Wagoneer. It had the same front axle, dashboard and the optional Quadra-Trac system for four-wheel drive models. The Jeep also shared the Cherokee's body-on-frame truck construction. The J10 and J20 came with the same trim as the Cherokee's Pioneer model. While the J10 featured a 119-inch wheelbase, the J20 was available with the 119-inch wheelbase or the extended 131-inch wheelbase for the long bed version. Standard equipment on the J20 were wood grain exterior accents, chrome front bumper, fabric seats, carpeting, dual horns, hub caps, brightwork around the windows, 12.5-inch power front disc brakes and a locking glove box.

Under the Hood

An AMC 360 cubic-inch V-8 was standard equipment in the Jeep J20. The engine's bore was 4.08 inches and the stroke measured 3.44 inches. It featured an 8.5-to-1compression ratio and a two-barrel carburetor to generate 175 horsepower and 285 foot-pounds of torque. The optional engine was a four-barrel carburetor version of the 360 that developed 195 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. A three-speed manual was the standard transmission to match the 360, but an optional four-speed manual or General Motors three-speed automatic were available.

Dimensions and Capacities

The J20 had a front axle capacity of 3,500 lbs. and a rear axle capacity up to 5,500 lbs. The standard rear axle ratio was 3.93-to-1, while the 4.09-to-1 version was optional. The J20 was slightly more versatile than the old Gladiator trucks, with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,000 lbs. The J20's body on the short wheelbase measured 193.6 inches, the same as the J10, and 205.6 inches when placed on the long wheelbase. The body measured 78.9 inches tall, and the truck's profile was tall at 65.9 inches. The cab's legroom was a generous 45 inches and the hip room was 38.3 inches. The gasoline tank held 19 gallons. Buyers could add an optional 20-gallon fuel tank.

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.

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