Classic Car Corner: The Commando

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere

Several years ago I saw a really cool Jeepster Commando at the Big Rock car show in Duvall. I thought that I should have one. Well, I didn’t see any more and had somewhat forgotten about it until this spring when I got to drive one at the Mecum Auction in Seattle. It was a perfect restoration, was like brand new and sold for $26,000 plus 10 percent buyer’s premium — a little too nice and too pricey for me, plus I didn’t have a bidder card anyway.

jeepster 1

Well, my interest was rekindled so I started searching in earnest. I did go see one in Chehalis and one even in Woodinville. They were a little rough for me. I prefer that someone else spends their time and money fixing them up and then I swoop in and buy a nice driver at a good price. At last I found what looked like a good one on eBay located in Spokane. That’s a bit of a drive, even for me, to look at a car, so I thought I’d just take the train over there. The only direct train to Spokane gets in at 12:45 a.m. and the others go through Portland and take 10-12 hours so that idea was out. I then decided to catch a plane to Spokane. They leave every hour in the morning and take less than an hour so I made the arrangements and flew off. The seller met me at the airport and took me to his house on the other side of town. At that point I realized it was going to be a bit awkward if I didn’t like it and had to ask him to drive me back to the airport.

This was the second Jeepster Commando he had rebuilt and it was acceptable so we made a deal and I headed home to Woodinville.

I told him I would pay the extra $500 he wanted if the car made it home that day. Well, it was a long drive in a 45-year-old car that was a little noisy, hot and the steering is a little loose but I did make it this time. I’ve not always been successful on my drives home.

Kaiser Motors bought the Jeep line from Willy’s in 1962 and in 1966 came out with the Jeepster Commando to compete with the new International Scout, Ford Bronco and Toyota Landcruiser (which I also own). They took the Jeepster name from a car that Willy’s made from 1948-51 which was an under-powered, low slung roadster with a canvas top and no windows but really cool looking. The new Jeepster Commando had four models: pickup, convertible, roadster and my car, the wagon (which does have a removable roof).

They were all four-wheel drive and mine has the 160 horsepower Dauntless V-6 engine (a really cool name for an engine) which was made by Buick and a three-speed on the floor. They sold 57,530 Jeepster Commandos between 1966 and 1971.

American Motors (formerly Rambler) bought the jeep line in 1970 and in 1972 dropped the Jeepster name and just called it the Commando. They modernized the front end to accommodate a V-8 which resulted in the car going out of production in 1973. Interestingly, American Motors’ next vehicle was the Jeep Wagoneer which was very much like the ’59 Willy’s Wagon I had. Of course, the Wagoneer was very successful and is still being made today, although not by American Motors.

I am so far very happy with my recent acquisition so keep an eye out for a bright yellow Jeepster with a black top buzzing around Woodinville or parked at my #1 spot at Windermere. Of course, you are always welcome to come in and chat or even bring your classic car by to show off.

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter