In the ’70s, the Big Three increasingly encouraged going off-road. Jeep, not yet part of Chrysler and ever ahead of the curve, figured this out about two seconds after it converted its lightweight military sherpa to civilian duty, and it took the rest of the industry decades to catch up.
When it did, the results appeared to catch the ad copywriters flat-footed. This potted group of mid-’70s full-size SUV ads take a strangely pedestrian approach. It’s almost as if the copywriters didn’t know how to pitch this new breed of vehicle that combined the attributes of a station wagon and a pickup without using the name of a competitive product or encouraging buyers to void the warranty against a boulder. And if the writers couldn’t wrap their heads around it, how could buyers be expected to? Even the SUV name is basic—possibly a little too basic.
Believe it or not, the ancestral lineage of the modern four-wheel-drive system dates to 1893. Bramah Joseph Diplock, an English engineer, patented a four-wheel-drive system that year, designed for a steam-powered traction engine. The concept was then adopted by would-be dignitaries in the self-propelled industry, including Ferdinand Porsche (in 1899), Daimler-Benz (1907), Marmon-Herrington (1931), and a host of others, including American Bantam, which designed the prototype general purpose vehicle that famously became the jeep built by Willys and Ford during World War II. Three decades later, the 4×4 drive system – offered by multiple corporations – had attained a long-established reputation for uncompromising off-road durability. In our latest edition of This or That, we’re celebrating 4×4 vehicles from the early Seventies. Let’s take a closer look at four examples for you to ponder, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.
Arguably, Jeep made the 4×4 vehicle both fun and affordable for the masses with a contemporary system that was truly battle-tested. Its proliferation beyond what became the CJ was hard to miss, offered in larger platforms such as this Commando-based Super Commando II from 1972. This was one of but a couple years in which the Commando line did not include the Jeepster name, and convertibles, like our featured vehicle, came standard with a removable hardtop, V-8 engine and, of course, the four-wheel-drive system. According to portions of the seller’s listing
The Commando had its own new front end and unique sheetmetal that made it one of the most distinctive Jeeps in decades. What makes this one even more distinct is it’s done in range-topping Super Commando II trim. While we don’t have the paperwork to confirm an SC2, the appearance absolutely shows the premium feeling correctly…The darker blue streak highlights the power bulge in the hood, and the full-length stripe is a reminder that these had flush-fitting front fenders…The sea of blue continues inside, and it shows off quite a comfy interior. You have high-back bucket seats with a velour pattern, and the door panels were even done to match…the dash has a great classic look with a clean pad, factory speedometer, heat/defrost controls, and even the locking hub instructions are still affixed. You’ll also notice well-integrated upgrades for more confident driving, including the auxiliary gauges…This optional 304 cubic-inch unit looks authentic and authoritative under the hood…A three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and Goodyear tires make for a good all-around cruiser…Plus, don’t forget as a true jeep you have a proper two-speed 4×4 transfer case.
The Jeep Commando was directly based on the outgoing Jeepster Commando, however it featured a series of modifications designed to allow it to accommodate the AMC 232 and 258 six-cylinder engines and the 304 V8 engine.
THE JEEP COMMANDO – C104
American Motors Corporation (AMC) bought Kaiser in 1970, they immediately set about ensuring the Jeepster would be competitive in the rapidly growing early 4×4 SUV market genre. The likes of the Ford Bronco, the International Scout, the Chevrolet Blazer, Range Rover, and the Toyota Land Cruiser were proving stiff competition for the Commando which many considered a little dated.