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In 1963, roughly ten years after buying Willys-Overland, Kaiser finally renamed itself to Kaiser-Jeep. The 1965 Jeeps were the first to show “Kaiser-Jeep” on some of the nameplates, rather than just “Jeep.”
Kaiser seems to have been largely left out of the Jeep myth, but they were a good caretaker, building up sales and keeping the capabilities alive; and innovating with the Wagoneer and Gladiator.
The 1965 Jeeps all had some things in common, including leaf-spring suspensions with live front and rear axles — both front and rear — and either standard or optional four wheel drive. Most shared the same three engines.
1965 was a good year for Kaiser-Jeep, with around 108,600 Jeeps built, and a nice profit. Their new Fleetvan postal trucks and the M606 military Jeep, built for foreign countries, helped to set a new record for their government sales. Studebaker’s military contracts and Cheppewa Avenue military-vehicle plant, purchased as part of a 1964 deal, also contributed.
Kaiser-Jeep generally didn’t release much detail in their sales figures; for 1965, they made around 40,846 four-cylinder vehicles, 50,578 sixes, and 17,167 V8s, all of them with either standard or optional four wheel drive. For 1966, the numbers were good, but not quite as good: 25,400 four-cylinders, 50,578 sixes, and 16,800 V8s. That was good for a $7.2 million profit — higher than in 1965, indicating better transaction prices.
The 1964 engines had topped out at 140 horsepower (gross); but the new 327 cubic inch “Vigilante” V8 brought 250 gross horsepower at 4,700 rpm and 340 lb-ft of torque at 2,600 rpm. Sold only on the Wagoneer and Gladiator, it had hydraulic lifters for low maintenance, and ran on regular gas.
The Tornado (or “Hi-Torque”) overhead-cam six was still the standard engine on Wagoneers and Gladiators; the only overhead cam engine made in America, it had domed pistons and closed crankcase ventilation. The 3.8 straight-six put out 140 hp (gross) at 4,000 rpm and 210 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm, making it roughly equivalent to the 225 (3.7 liter) slant six from Chrysler (likely around 100-110 horsepower, net).
The “Hurricane” four-cylinder was standard on the CJ/DJ series — the direct descendents of Army Jeeps — producing 75 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque. They had intake valves in the head, fed by a Carter YF carburetor, and exhaust valves in the block. The Hurricane replaced the venerable 65-hp “Go-Devil” flat-head.
An optional Perkins diesel, not a common sight in the US, generated 60 horsepower — but was good for 143 lb-ft of torque at a low 1,350 rpm, and reputed to have high mileage.
The Jeep Universal was America’s most popular small 4x4 — hardly a crowded market — but it could not compare in sales to even the least popular mainstream cars. Amerians were still almost entirely buying domestic coupes and sedans.
Jeep was still trying to crack the mass market. The Tuxedo Park Mark IV was “a new idea in sports cars ... the sportiest, most FUNctional car on the automotive scene.” This fancy CJ had chrome bumpers, vinyl bucket seats, hood latches, gas camp, mirror, and tail lamp trim — with optional power takeoff equipment to winch boats, plow snow, and do other serious work normally left to bigger trucks. It also boasted variable rate springs and new “fashion tops” in five bright colors.
Science-fiction writer Keith Laumer seems to have lampooned the marketing of the Tuxedo Park in several stories and novels.
Two wheelbases were available, 81 and 101 inches, with a variety of convertible top and seat colors. Front bucket seats were available, in “pleated British calf grain vinyl.”
The Mark IV, the fourth attempt at mass-market CJs, was “more different” than past models had been; even so, with the muscle car race heating up, trying to sell a four-cylinder (or V6) Jeep as a sports car ran counter to everyone else’s marketing. Was it fun? Well, yes.
“Universal” models, mainly unchaged from 1964, included the CJ-3B, the longer CJ-5, and the even longer CJ-6. Jeep was discovering that the longer they made them, the better they sold, generally. They all had variable rate springs to balance ride and capability.
The 1966 models gained a 225-cubic-inch “Dauntless” V6, good for 160 hp (gross) using a Carter two-barrel carburetor; the V6-powered Universals had new “servo” type brakes to handle the extra power. Using the V6 may have been an attempt to get into the mainstream, where V8s were already highly popular; an automatic transmission may have made more progress, though. The engine itself was a Buick design, made with tooling purchased from GM by Kaiser-Jeep; AMC later sold it back to GM. The flywheel was thicker and heavier than the ones used by Buick, but the engine kept GM’s bell housing.
Three-speed CJs used a steering column shifter for extra leg-room; four-speeds used a floor shift (there were no automatics, yet). A single lever controlled four wheel drive mode, with shift-on-the-fly.
Universal Jeeps were basic indeed, including an oil-bath air cleaner (requiring maintenance rather than element replacement), turn signals, windshield wipers (no washer), front seat belts, no passenger seat, and an alternator, with a manual transmission.
Options included a heater, defroster, ventilating windshield, passenger seat, rear seats, windshield washer, interior rear view mirror, four-speed manual transmission, hazard flashers, and a power locking differential.
Buyers could also get heavy duty springs and shocks, a magnetic drain plug, radiator chaff screen, winch, angledozer, rotary broom, compressor, mower, post-hole digger, snow-plow, trencher, and welder (not all of which were available on Tuxedo Park). Universal buyers could choose between full and half fabric tops, metal half cabs or full cabs, and convertible tops.
The DJ had a lower grille and hoodline, lightweight suspension, and different gearing, befitting a lightweight courier vehicle that could brave snow and unpaved roads. The “Dispatcher,” mainly used by the Post Office, was sold with a right hand drive variant sporting and a rearview mirror on the left hand side, by the front of the hood. Buyers could get a full cab enclosure with sliding doors and a rear door.
The 1964 DJ-3 was no longer available by 1965, but the company added a longer DJ-6. DJs weighed and cost less than CJs; the most expensive DJ-6 was $1,818.
The Jeep Fleetvan, or FJ, was essentially the DJ with the Hurricane engine and a van body; most appear to have been purchased by the U.S. Postal Service. The FJ-3 and longer-wheelbase FJ-3A were based on the DJ-3; the FJ-6, on the DJ-6. These came standard with a Borg-Warner T-90 three-speed manual transmission, and unlike the CJ series, had an optional Borg-Warner automatic transmission. They, too, were sold in right hand drive for postal use.
The FJ-3/FJ3-a were made from 1961 to 1965; in 1965, the FJ-6 was brought out, replacing the others. All were made in Toledo. The FJ-3 was 135 inches long; the FJ6 was 154 inches long, and wasn’t replaced until 1975, when the FJ-9 showed up.
The Gladiator pickup truck was based on the Wagoneer; it was sold in both rear wheel drive and part-time four wheel drive models. Wheelbases were 120 and 126 inches; gross weights ranged from 5,000 to 8,600 pounds; and the pickup boxes were seven or eight feet, with or without dual rear wheels (stake bodies were also available). New for 1965 was the Vigilante V8 and a General Motors three-speed automatic transmission.
The Panel Delivery version had 107 cubic feet of cargo area, about the same weight capacity as a half-ton pickup. The bed was lower than conventional pickups, making loading easier; but ground clearance was actually higher than competitors, helping off-road use. A low gear ratio for off-roading was also helpful in tough situations. For 1965, the company claimed “new, improved steering;” power steering was optional.
Hoods opened from fender to fender for easier servicing. As with the Tuxedo Park, four wheel drive was the push of a lever away, with no stopping needed, and an indicator light told when four wheel drive mode had been engaged (these features were available on both manual and automatic vehicles, and with both three and four speed manuals.)
Gladiator trucks were fairly bare-bones in convenience features; options included a fresh air heater and defroster, electric washer/wipers, locking rear differential, rear bumper, chrome front bumper, power brakes, transmission brakes, four-speed transmission (included with the highest capacity model), air conditioning, radio, cigar lighter, power steering, external rear-view mirror, and the various Jeep appliances that were unusual on other vehicles such as angledozer, push plate, dump body, snow-plow, winches, and wrecker body (some options were not available on panel trucks).
1965 saw the phase-in of a new series of Gladiator trucks, with the optional V8, and generally higher weight capacity; the numbering changed as well, presaging the move from Ram 150 to 1500 by adding a 0 at the end and increasing the base number.
Just two years past its introduction, the 1965 Jeep Wagoneer was “the only four wheel drive station wagon with the stylish appearance and luxury manners of a modern family car!” It boasted variable-rate rear springs, servo-type drum brakes, and an optional automatic transmission, with the usual power steering and power brakes. The design lasted for two more decades.
The four wheel drive control used a simple lever, 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; it could handle seven foot long ladders, lying flat. It also had the lowest tailgate of any four wheel drive wagon for easy loading, despite a very high groud clearance. The steering was improved for 1965 for less effort.
Forward Control trucks were work vehicles with pickup beds; Jeep tested and approved bodies from other suppliers, making them into tow trucks, fire trucks, and dump trucks. The FC150 was powered by a four cylinder; the FC170, by a six.
Mahindra, currently a Jeep competitor, had been assembing FC-150 kids in India since 1947; starting around 1965, they began making them locally, under license
Military Forward Control trucks were the M676, M677 pickup, M678 van, and MC67, ambulance. Only a thousand or two were made for civilians each year, so Jeep dropped the civilian line in 1966.
Jeep had been exporting Forward Control knockdown kits to Mahindra since 1947; now, the Indian company started producing the FC-150 locally, under license.
The F134 Jeep station wagon, pickup, and panel van were all dropped during calendar-year 1965.
One final military vehicle was the Kaiser M715, used for transportation, command, communication, and towing; it could cross water as far as 30 inches deep (60 inches with a special kit).
* Same as equivalent CJs
** 4x4; RWD, 3,500 lb
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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