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1965 Jeeps: Wagoneer, CJ, Fleetvan, M-606, and Gladiator

jeep universal

Back in 1965, Kaiser-Jeep was trying hard to get into the mainstream buyers. Its new weapon was the huge Jeep Wagoneer, which would become a status symbol for many buyers.

jeep gladiator

Kaiser-Jeep’s construction of 108,600 Jeeps meant a nice profit at the end of the year, though that number wouldn’t even match, say, Plymouth Valiant sales.

New Fleetvan postal trucks and the M606 military vehicle (for foreign countries) helped set a new record for government sales. The company had purchased Studebaker’s Cheppewa Avenue military-vehicle plant and military contracts in 1964.


Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer

steering wheelLaunched in 1963, the Jeep Wagoneer stood on its own in 1965, without the old Utility Wagon / Station Wagon / Panel Delivery trio alongside it. The year brought a wider grille, new chrome tail-light trim, a new choice of high or low gearing in 4x4s with the GM automatic, easier control of the 4x4 shifter, and a V8 engine. Finally, Jeep added a standard “safety package” with front and rear seat belts, padded sun visors and dashboard, safety-glass windshield, dual brake system, self-adjusting brakes, hazard flashers, backup lights, and dual-speed electric wipers.

standard 1965 wagoneer

The 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, which was light given their size and off-road capability. 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).

panel delivery truck

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.

transfer case lights

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; there were no self-proclaimed “SUVs.”)

The Jeep Wagoneer’s standard engine was a 3.8-liter (232 cid) “Tornado” or “Hi-Torque” straight-six, with a 35-amp alternator. The only overhead cam engine made in America when launched in 1963, it had domed pistons, large valves, and closed crankcase ventilation. In the 1965 Wagoneer and Gladiator, the engine hit 145 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque, similar to the 3.7 liter (225) slant sixes.

vigilante v8

The new 327 cubic inch “Vigilante” V8 engine had with 250 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque, a huge jump over the 140 horsepower six. It had hydraulic lifters to avoid valve adjustments, and ran on regular gas; the engine was fitted with a two-barrel carburetor and automatic choke.

327 V8

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.

1965 Jeep Wagoneer

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.


Jeep Universal / CJ series

universal tops

The traditional Jeep 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, and how Kaiser-Jeep was trying to reach every possible customer. The base engine was a 134 cubic inch Hurricane Four, rated at 75 hp (4,000 rpm) and 114 lb-ft (2,000 rpm), with a 7.4:1 compression ratio. There were two wheelbases — 81 and 101 inches — and either rear or four wheel drive.

jeep universal

Buyers could opt for the “Dauntless” V6, which produced more power than the Wagoneer’s base engine — 160 horsepower (4,200 rpm) and 235 pound-feet of torque (2,400 rpm) from 225 cubic inches. It had oversized water chambers in the V for extra cooling, and took regular gas. CJ-5 and CJ-6 buyers could also get a Perkins diesel, with 192 cubic inches and a 16.5:1 compression ratio; it was rated at 62 hp (3,000 rpm) and 143 lb-ft of torque (at 1,350 rpm).

six cylinders

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.



CJ 4x4Wagoneer
GAW Rating F/R Axle

2000 / 2000

2000 / 25002,500
Axle Ratio4.564.274.09
Max GVW 3,2003,750 - 3,900-
Curb weight, RWD1,9342,0673,617
Curb weight, 4x42,2742,3363,774
Tires6.85 x 156.00 x 167.75 x 15
Suspension, F/RLeaf/Variable RateLeaf/Leaf 
Turning diameter35.042.335 / 44.5

The base CJ and DJ cars could be purchased with an optional “Dauntless” V6 engine, Perkins diesel, heavy duty alternator, compressor, power brakes, radiator chaff screen, power takeoffs, and snow plow, among other things. Buyers could get a full or half metal cab, full or half fabric top, or a convertible top; a front bucket seat for the passenger, driver’s 2/3 seat, passenger 1/3 seat, and rear bench seat. A four-speed manual transmission was optional except with the “Dauntless” V6.

Pickup trucks

Jeep Gladiator pickups had the same front axle, architecture, frame, dashboard, and engines as the Wagoneer. 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 — again, changes seen on the Wagoneer. Ground clearance was best in class, despite a relatively low step height of 22 inches. The team had gotten the best of both worlds.

1965 gladiators

Though they were never strong sellers, Gladiators were sold in a fairly wide variety. The J-2000 and J-3000 series were both available in all forms; stake and platform trucks got single or dual rear wheel options to increase their capacity. The wheelbase was 120 inches on J-2000, 126 inches on J-3000, regardless.


Sales were good, by Jeep standards; they made 40,846 four-cylinder vehicles (all “Universals”), 50,578 sixes (Wagoneer, Gladiator, and Universal), and 17,167 V8s (Gladiator or Wagoneer).

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