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Jeep was still trying to find mainstream buyers in 1965, but now it had a major weapon: the huge Jeep Wagoneer, which would become a status symbol among many customers. Presumably, they were a major profit center for the small (in the U.S.) company.
It was a good year for Kaiser-Jeep, with around 108,600 Jeeps built — and a nice profit at the end of the year. The new Fleetvan postal trucks helped to set a new record for their government sales (alongside the M606 military Jeep for foreign countries, through aid programs). They also now owned Studebaker’s Cheppewa Avenue military-vehicle plant and Studebaker’s military contracts, part of a 1964 deal.
Sales for individual models were usually not available from Kaiser-Jeep, and this year was no exception; we only know they made around 40,846 four-cylinder vehicles, 50,578 sixes, and 17,167 V8s. From that one can speculate about which vehicles were successful.
Generally, change came slowly at Jeep in these years — but there were some big changes for 1965.
Jeep Wagoneer was not a typical “prestige” vehicle, but it was purchased by some quite wealthy people. Launched in 1963, it stood on its own in 1965, without the old Utility Wagon / Station Wagon / Panel Delivery trio. The year also brought a wider grille, new chrome tail-light trim, a new choice of high or low gearing in 4x4s with the automatic, easier control of the 4x4 shifter, and a V8 engine. Finally, 1965 brought a standard “safety package” including front and rear seat belts, padded sun visors and dashboard, safety glass windshield, dual brake system, self-adjusting brakes, hazard flashers and backup lights, and dual speed electric wipers.
Wagoneer started out at $2,658 (two door, rear wheel drive) and went up to $3,644 (four door Custom Wagoneer 4x4). Weight ranged from 3,480 lb to 3,658 lb, light given the size of the cars. Panel Deliveries, which had metal sides replacing the rear windows, where even cheaper and lighter ($2,511 and $3,082, weighing 3,253-3,396 lb).
The 1965 Jeep Wagoneer was advertised as “the only four wheel drive station wagon with the stylish appearance and luxury manners of a modern family car!” Supporting that claim were variable-rate rear springs, servo-type drum brakes, and an optional GM automatic transmission, not to mention the usual power steering and power brakes. The four wheel drive control used a cabin-mounted shifter, without requiring a stop.
Jeep advertised the Wagoneer as having the biggest cargo area and largest tailgate opening of any wagon in its wheelbase class (Wagoneers were marketed as station wagons well into the 1970s.)
Before 1965, Wagoneer had a single 3.8-liter “Tornado” or “Hi-Torque” six cylinder engine, with a 35-amp alternator. The only overhead cam engine made in America, it had domed pistons, large valves, and closed crankcase ventilation. The engine hit 140 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, similar to the 3.7 liter (225) slant sixes (in 1964 only, a 110 horsepower version was sold).
The new 327 cubic inch “Vigilante” V8 engine had with 250 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque, quite an improvement over the 140 horsepower six. It had hydraulic lifters to avoid frequent valve adjustments, and ran on regular gas.
Unusual features included not just the unique automatic-transmission 4x4, or the high/low transfer case with automatic (new for 1965), but also a power takeoff unit and optional snow plow and push-plate.
Oil changes were advertised as being needed only at 6,000 mile intervals, with major lubrications spaced at 30,000 miles, a substantial savings over vehicles which demanded 3,000 mile intervals.
More big news for 1965 was the Super Wagoneer, which brought a new front end look which was used through to 1991 — a look ironically shared with the Gladiator pickups and the cheap Panel Delivery. The original 1963 look lasted through the end of 1970.
The traditional Jeep, the CJ, was available in sporty play-car trim, and tough, able, workman trim. The options – air conditioning, CB radio, Levi’s styling, winches, push bumpers, and helper springs – shows how much variety was available.
The Jeep was agile on the road as well as off-road, yet had a fairly comfortable ride compared with the YJ Wranglers that would follow in 1986.
The reason they switched from CJ to Wrangler, giving the new cars longer leaf springs, a lower spring rate, a wider track, and an overconstrained suspension, was precisely because they had become popular with ordinary civilians who drove them as though they were sports cars. The result was a large number of rollovers, resulting in injuries and deaths, which, according to insiders, horrified AMC management. Unlike Ford, which was able to simply trade off lawsuit costs against fuel tank ruptures, AMC leaders were unwilling to leave with a car that was dangerous in the hands of their new buyers, and made changes to make their cars safer now that they were no longer being used solely as tools.
2200 / 2700
Manual Drum (11"x2")
The Jeep Gladiator pickups had the same front axle, body-on-frame architecture (and the same basic frame), the same dashboard, and the same engines as the Gladiator. For both engines, the standard transmission was a three-speed manual; rear drive cars had an optional four speed with overdrive and both could have the GM automatic. Gross vehicle weights ranged from 5,000 lb to 8,600 lb (the latter only with the four speed manual — automatic buyers had to settle for 7,000 lb).
The V8 was new for 1965, along with an improved 4x4 shifter, dual-range transfer case, better steering system, optional full-time power steering, and variable rate rear springs.
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