Jeep Comanche – a legendary pickup truck from the 1980s

Article by Christian A., on April 15, 2016

Jeep Comanche, given the designation MJ, is a pickup truck edition of the Cherokee compact SUV launched in 1984. Models came in rear-wheel and four-wheel drives. Two cargo boxes, which measure either 6 or 7 feet, were also available. Production of the unique truck was from 1986 to 1992.

Comanche has quite an unusual form as it is a unibody vehicle built along the likes of the Volkswagen Rabbit and the Dodge Rampage. The engineers at AMC made a subframe that they connected to the unibody structure to serve as the cargo box’s support.

There were two different subframe designs: one for the long-bed model and the other for the short-bed model, which was launched in 1987.


The Jeep Comanche came in a wide array of engine choices, which include the 4.0 L, 242 CID straight-6 engine typical of Jeep models in the 1980s and the 1990s.

The 1986 Comanche could be availed with any of the three engines. During the first production, the models were offered with the AMC 150 2.5 L I4 engine while General Motors had the LR2 2.8 L V6, and Renault featured the 2.1 L I4 turbo diesel. The V6 had a lower output with seven less horsepower than the base four-cylinder.

However, it had more torque, and it came with a two-barrel carburetor rather than the electronic fuel injection. Moreover, it had a poor fuel mileage when placed under the hood of four-wheel drive vehicles.

In its second year, the Jeep Comanche had undergone various changes. The new fuel-injected 4.0L, 242 CID AMC 242 inline-six replaced the 2.8 L V6. This engine produced 173 horsepower, much greater than the V6’s 63 horsepower. The new V6 engine was more efficient when it comes to fuel.

That same year, the turbodiesel model was phased out in the market. In 1991, further internal modifications were made when Chrysler acquired its own engine control electronics, replacing the Renault/Renix/Bendix systems. Because of this, the 4.0 L I-6 unit got 17 additional horsepower to 190 horsepower (or 142 kW), having already gotten a boost of 4 horsepower (3 KW) in 1988.

The 2.5 L I4 also got 13 more horsepower from 117 horsepower (87 kW) to 130 horsepower (97 kW). Most parts are easily available for the Chrysler systems. However, a number of Renix parts were on loan from General Motors.

And in fact, these parts are still available today at really cheap prices. A Jeep Comanche made out of Renix parts is not quite a popular option for buyers since it has no Check Engine Light (CEL). However, as long as drivers know how to use a simple multimeter, they will discover that Renix systems are easy to repair and maintain. During the entire production run of the Jeep Comanche, it had come in 6 various transmissions that were produced by Peugeot, Chrysler, and Aisin.

Aisin manufactured the four-speed AX-4, five-speed overdrive AX-5, and AX-15 manual transmissions, and the four-speed AW-4 automatic transmission. The five-speed Peugeot BA-10/5 transmission was replaced when the AX-15 transmission entered the markets in 1987.

Even if Chrysler bought AMC in 1987, only one Chrysler transmission was produced and used in the Jeep Comanche— and that was even before the takeover happened. The 1986 models with the engines 2.5 L I4 or 2.8 L V6 had the Chrysler three-speed TorqueFlite A904 automatic transmission. Since the takeover in 1987, Chrysler continued AMC’s habit of acquiring Aisin automatics that began in the same year.


The Jeep Comanche adopted the front suspension of the Cherokee with additional coil springs and lower and upper control arms. These two were the first to use the then-new Quadra-Link suspension.

Accordingly, coil springs provided greater comfort and axle articulation during off-road drives. There is also a trackbar to keep the axle in place at the center under the truck. Later on, the same suspension system was used for the TJ Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee.

For the rear suspension, the Jeep Comanche had longer leaf springs than those on the Cherokee, increasing its load capacity significantly. For long-bed vehicles, a Big Ton package was offered. Outside of the U.S., this was known as the Metric Ton package.

It was composed of heavier-duty leaf springs, bigger tires, and an improved rear axle of dana 44, an upgrade from the dana 35 or mopar 8.25. This increased the stock payload capacity to 1,000 kg from 640 kg. This is much higher than other pickups that were comparably sized with the Comanche and actually even higher than many bigger pickups.

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Topics: jeep, pickup truck



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