1975 and 1976 Jeeps: CJ, Cherokee, Wagoneer, and Pickup
While Jeep was clearly rooted in its past in 1975-76, it was also, finally, starting to find success with nontraditional groups.
Farmers and contractors had long relied on Jeep to do tough jobs, including snow plowing, farm work, and offroad access. They could still find what they wanted in the 1975-76 Jeeps, which had a factory snow-plow option (among other things), but civilians were starting to find the CJ sporty and the Wagoneer trendy.
Jeep sold under 70,000 Jeeps in 1975, thank to the extended-wheelbase CJ7, about 95,000 in 1976. That’s far less than, say, 2014 Cherokee sales. With a single factory, limited engine range, and quite a bit of sharing, AMC survived; and, for Jeep, those numbers were quite good. (The fact that 95,000 was a banner year is why Kaiser, then AMC, had constantly and usually unsuccessfully tried to tap a broader market.)
They had a line of pickups named “Pickup.” Referred to as the “J-series,” formerly the Gladiator, these included the advanced Jeep four wheel drive system and woodgrain sides, or, on the other end, a factory tow truck package.
Engines and four wheel drive systems
AMC used its own engines in all its vehicles — the GM V6 was still in the future. The line included a pair of straight-sixes (232 and 258, both fed by a single-barrel carburetor), and three V8s – the 304 with a two-barrel carb, the 360 with two or four barrel carbs, and the 401 with a four-barrel.
The CJ came with the 232 six, with the 258 and 304 optional; the Cherokee came with the bigger six, with the other engines (except 304) available; and the Wagoneer with the 360 or 401. Electronic ignition was new for 1975, and standard across the board, replacing condensers and points.
The Jeep four wheel drive system was much more advanced than most competitors’ designs. Though de rigeur today, these were very unusual in 1975. To quote from AMC:
Quadra-Trac is 4-wheel drive when you need it—automatically. A unique, controlled-slip third differential serves as constant monitor of the traction of all four wheels. Power is automatically distributed between the front and rear axles. Rear wheels maintain traction and push the vehicle, while front wheels maintain traction and pull the vehicle through turns as well as on straightaways, minimizing the possibility of skids and loss of control.
Unlike conventional 4-wheel drive systems, there's never a need to get out to engage hubs or shift a lever to activate 4-wheel drive. Quadra- Trac is always ready, yet it is designed for smooth, quiet operation - you might not even be aware that Quadra- Trac is working except for the improved control and handling you'll experience.
Whatever your 4-wheeling needs-Quadra- Trac is for you. If you're a man who likes to get as far away from civilization as you can, you'll appreciate the traction on steep hills and rough trails. Your favorite lady driver will appreciate the way Quadra- Trac delivers extra control and handling in slippery hazardous weather.
And when you hitch up a trailer to your Jeep vehicle and pile your kids and gear on board you'll be grateful for the added stability Quadra-Trac delivers in crosswinds or the turbulence caused by large vehicles passing at highway speeds. (Note: An optional low range is available and is recommended for low speed, and high power demand situations). ...
Quadra-Trac's unique controlled slip third differential feeds power to both front and rear wheels in direct proportion to their needs.
AMC customer care
AMC was proud of their toll-free telephone number, mentioning it several times in their brochures.
When you buy a Jeep vehicle you expect the utmost in ruggedness and durability. You should also expect the utmost in service and convenience. We have made every attempt to deliver. ...
We've made some promises to you we fully intend to keep, but in case you have a problem and it can't be resolved by your dealer or the local American Motors office, we provide you a toll free telephone number to Detroit. If you have to use this number, we promise you'll get results.
Jeeps averaged over 14 ½ years of life, despite being used in off-road, industrial, and farm conditions. This was far better than any of the Big Three could claim.
Jeep CJ series
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.
Technical changes for 1975-76
In 1975, AMC brought out a quieter exhaust system, more serviceable wiring harness, and electronic ignition (a Chrysler invention not used in Volkswagen Rabbits and other cars for some years to come).
The suspension still used its ancient leaf springs in both front and rear, with a full floating front axle, Saginaw recirculating-ball steering, and a box frame featuring side six cross members for rigidity. The engines (driven by a synchronized three-speed transmission with a floor shift) could still take leaded gas, except for the 304 V8, which needed a catalytic converter. The base engine was AMC’s smallest powerplant, a 232 cubic inch straight-six fed by a single-barrel carburetor, but the bigger six and the 304 were also available.
Standard features included self-adjusting brakes, F78 x 15 tires, electric windshield wipers, fold-down windshield, 15.5 gallon gas tank, fuel tank skid plate, and oil gauge and voltmeter. A look at the dashboard shows that the CJ was designed to be a utility vehicle.
New for 1976 were courtesy lights under the dash, a day/night mirror, a new steering wheel, an instrument panel overlay, and a bright rocker panel protection molding between the front and rear wheels. New combination backup/tail lamps were larger and easier to see; a new windshield had screw-type hold-downs, easier to use, and an inside-mounted wiper motor; and a new energy-absorbing steering column had better anti-theft protection and a steering lock. A new option was the front stabilizer bar, now required on hardtops to prevent rollovers.
The really big news for 1976 was the CJ-7. It had the first automatic transmission ever to be used in a CJ, possibly accounting for a sudden rise in Jeep sales. The CJ-7 used Quadra-Trac four wheel drive (with optional low range), which had never been used in a CJ. It also had larger door openings, more front and rear leg room, an injection-molded plastic removable top, and more cargo space than the CJ-5, thanks to a bigger 93.5 inch wheelbase. The even-longer CJ-6 was quietly dropped at the end of 1975.
Sales of the CJ series kept it a niche vehicle in 1975, with over 32,000 CJ-5s and not quite 3,000 CJ-6s sold. In 1975, CJ-5 sales stayed roughly the same, but they sold over 21,000 CJ-7s. Both CJ-5 and CJ-7 would do even better in 1977.
Dealer installed options
- Swing out tire carrier (for easy access to tailgate)
- Mechanical or electric winches with 150 feet of 5/16” wire line (8,000 lb capacity)
- CB radio; air conditioning; carpeting; mini spreader; roll bar padding
- push bumper; snow plow; pull plow; helper springs; rear step bumper
Factory installed options
- Padded instrument panel (for safety; standard on Renegade)
- AM radio in a weatherproof case (with a whip-type antenna.)
- Forged aluminum styled wheels (standard, Renegade)
- Full soft top (a new design had improved visibility and larger door openings; available in black, white, or, with Levi’s® interior, in tan or blue).
- Power steering
- Rear seat: Foam padded vinyl bench seat
- Roll bar
- 304 2bbl V8 engine; power drum brakes (with V8 only)
- 258 6 cylinder engine; 4-speed manual transmission (with 258 engine only.)
- Steel Belted Radial Ply tires.
- Heavy-duty cooling system, springs, and shocks (front and rear).
- Rear Trac-Lok differential.
- 4.27 axle ratio.
- 70 amp battery; engine block heater; wheel covers; draw bar; rear bumperettes; outside passenger mirror.
- Levi’s interior (blue or tan seats in denim look, with matching instrument panel and sun visors; a matching soft top and carpet were available too.)
|GAW Rating F/R Axle||
2200 / 2700
|2650 / 3450|
|Axle Ratios||3.73, 4.27||3.54, 4.27||3.73, 4.27||3.54, 4.09 (opt)||3.21, 4.10|
Manual Drum (11"x2")
|Disc (11.9 x 1.1 )|
|Front Spring Deflection
Rate (Std 4 Leaf)
|190 lb/in||170 lb/in||210 lb/in||170 lb/in|
|Optional (7 leaf)||270 lb /in||230 lb/in||270 lb/in||230 lb/in|
|Rear Spring Deflection Rate||115/230 lb/in||185||115/230 lb/in||185|
|Rear Spring Optional Rate||270 lb/in||250||270 lb/in||250|
|Transfer Case||Dana 20||Dana 20||Dana 20||Dana 20||NV241|
|Head Room (canvas/metal)||41.0 / 40.0 "||41.0 / 40.0 "||41.3|
Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer
Jeep’s two upscale vehicles were almost identical: the Wagoneer and Cherokee. The latter was a two-door, lower-priced Wagoneer. They shared the same dimensions and wheelbase, but the Wagoneer had better trim, including a woodgrain instrument panel.
Wagoneers were increasingly purchased by wealthy people; at least one insider claimed that dealers wanted Jeep to raise the price of the Wagoneer so it would increase its “snob appeal.” Had AMC executives done so, it’s quite possible the Jeep Wagoneer would have achieved the status of the Range Rover, while the Cherokee continued to sell with the aura of its more expensive brother.
The Cherokee and Wagoneer included a floor mounted shifter for the three-speed manual transmission, steel top and headliner, electronic ignition, full floating hypoid open end front axle, multi-leaf springs, a 22 gallon tank, roll-up tailgate window, front bucket seats, energy-absorbing steering column, day/night rear-view mirror, padded sun visors and dashboard, and folding rear bench seat. These were not typical “prestige” vehicles.
New for 1975 were quieter mufflers and an increased gross vehicle weight of 6,025 pounds; in mid-year, the Cherokee Chief was brought out, with off-road tires, a 3.54 axle ratio, flared fenders, and a big label.
1976 saw an upgraded frame with splayed side rails allowing more widely spaced rear springs for greater stability; stronger cross members and box section rail construction; new multi-leaf springs and shocks for a smoother ride; and new body hold-down mounts to minimize vibration and noise. The windshield washer was improved; and a new forward pivoting front passenger seat was added to Cherokee to help rear passengers get in and out.
The base engine was the 258 cubic inch straight-six, but the 360 (with a two or four barrel carb) and 401 V8s were also available, and the three-speed manual could be upgraded to a four-speed with the 360 engines. QuadraTrac™ automatic four wheel drive was only available with a GM automatic transmission. As with the Wrangler, the Cherokee used recirculating-ball steering, a full floating hypoid open-end front axle, front and rear leaf springs, and a full frame.
Cherokee options included the usual CB radio; AM/FM with quadraphonic sound (new for 1975); a center armrest; cargo area carpeting and insulation; electric rear defroster (new for 1975); luggage rack; power rear window; heavy duty springs and cooling system; 62 amp alternator and 70 amp battery; heavy duty shocks; rear Trac-Lok differential; tinted glass; free wheeling hubs; cruise control; tilt-wheel; front power disc brakes; power steering; convenience features. A front push bumper, snow plow, front power take-off, and trailer towing packages were also available - as was an 8,000 pound winch. The AM radio was optional.
The Jeep Wagoneer was essentially an optioned-out four-door Cherokee (or the Cherokee was a lower-level, two-door Wagoneer), making standard the automatic transmission, power steering, power disc brakes, Quadra-Trac, and an upgraded interior. The Quadra-Trac low range was optional. The 360 two-barrel engine provided power even in base trim.
Cherokee’s lower price helped sales beat Wagoneer, though both were minimal sellers, with Cherokee beating 18,000 (in 1976) — compared with 16,520 Wagoneers. Both did far better than in 1975, when nearly 13,000 Cherokees and under 10,000 Wagoneers were sold. Part of the reason may have been quickly receding memories of the 1973 fuel crisis, though improvements to the vehicles may have helped.
1975 Jeep Cherokee
1975 Jeep Wagoneer
|GAW Rating F/R Axle||3500 / 3540||Same||3215 / 3215|
|Axle Ratios||3.07, 3.54, 4.09||3.07, 3.54||3.07 V8, 3.54 I6, 4.09 opt|
|Standard Brakes||Manual Drum (11"x2")||Power Disc|
|Clutch Area||10.5-106.75 (V8, 11”)||(Automatic)|
|Front Spring Deflection Rate Std/Opt||200 / 260 lb/in||Same||195 I6, 215 V8; 215/260 opt|
|Rear Spring Deflection Rate||160/260 lb/in||Same||165 / 265|
|Rear Spring Optional Rate||230 lb/in||Same||265|
|Transfer Case||Dana 20||Quadra-Trac|
|Leg Room||45.0 / 36.0||Same|
|Head Room (canvas/metal)||38.6 / 39.5||Same|
|Cargo capacity, cu ft||91||Same|
The pickups had the same front axle, body-on-frame architecture (and the same basic frame), the same dashboard, and the same 258 cubic inch straight-six as the other Jeeps, hooked up to a three-speed manual transmission, with optional Quadra-Trac four wheel drive and GM three-speed automatic. This all made assembly on the same lines much easier and kept engineering and inventory costs low.
There were two pickups by capacity, J-10 and J-20; both could be ordered in the new-for-1975, frilly Pioneer trim. J-20 buyers could get a long bed with an extended wheelbase, and enjoyed a standard 360 V8 engine (not the Chrysler 360) with a two-barrel carburetor and power front disc brakes. Both pickups a 19 gallon fuel tank, 50 amp battery, vinyl covered headliner and floor covering, day/night mirror, padded dash, dual padded sun visors, and oil and ammeter gauges.
For 1976, the frame and suspension were upgraded in the same way as the Cherokee and Wagoneer, as were the windshield washers. The Pioneer pickup added woodgrain exterior trim, carpeting, fabric seats, a chromed front bumper, bright window moldings, bright wheel covers (J10) or hubcaps (J20), dual horns, a locking glove box, and other features.
Options included an aluminum cargo cap with windows and screens, a lockable liftgate, and (hard to believe, today) safety glass; an extra 20 gallon fuel tank (J-20 only); sliding rear window; four-barrel 360; 401 V8; Quadra-Trak; rear Trac-Lok differential; heavy duty battery, alternator, suspension, and cooling system; four-speed manual transmission; rear step bumpers, tinted glass; and convenience groups and items.
Dealers could install a snow plow, helper springs, trailer hitch, front push bumper, and mini spreader. J-10 buyers could pay extra to get the two-barrel 360 that came with the J-20.
The J-10 series, costing $4,228 and up in 1975, sold just under 7,000 units, with the J-20 selling nearly 3,000 more — a truck total of well under 10,000 - around 1/8 of equivalent Dodge sales, and Dodge was well behind Chevy and Ford. In 1976, Jeep sold around 13,000 J-trucks.
Similarities between the pickup specs and the Cherokee/Wagoneer specs are no coincidence. Otherwise, it is unlikely AMC could have sold them; sales were remarkably low for the pickups in both years.
J-20 (where different)
|GAW Rating F/R Axle||3200/3200||3500/4090-5500|
|Axle Ratios||3.54, 4.09||3.93 std, 4.09 opt|
|Standard Brakes||Manual Drum (11"x2")||Power Disc, 12.5” rotor|
|Clutch Area||10.5-106.75 (V8, 11”)||11.0 - 110.96|
|Transfer Case||Dana 20|
|Length||193.6||193.6 or 205.6|
|Wheelbase||119||119 or 131|
|Cargo capacity, cu ft||38.6||38.6 or 44.4|