One of the many AMC cars found in my driveway growing up ,,,
For those of you that don’t follow this blog regularly, I have a fondness for the vehicles built by American Motors, mostly because my dad worked for the company from 1963 to 1989. 1970 was a special year because AMC swung for the fences and bought Jeep from Kaiser Automotive. It was a huge risk that ended up paying off big for the company and most likely saved it for another 17 years. It’s also the reason Chrysler bought AMC in 1987.
Yet from hanging out on some Jeep forums I know there are AMC haters that say the firm messed up Jeep and maybe there were some areas, like the use of plastic in interiors, that were not wins. But overall AMC took the Jeep brand to the next level transforming it from a smallish firm engaged mainly in military and overseas vehicle business into a bigger, company with some of the hottest-selling sport-utility vehicles in the world .
That includes this week’s spot that I found at the Chicago Auto Show in February, a CJ-7. This is the CJ-5’s big brother being 10 inches longer.
Upgrading the Jeep lineup was a smart move and another beneficiary of the AMC purchase as the brand now had access to AMC’s dealer network. In 1970 that consisted of just more than 250,000 dealers, whereas when Kaiser owned Jeep it was tiny and its profits came from selling Jeeps to the military and via civilian contracts, which had become a money-loser by the time AMC bought it.
RELATED Spot: See its bigger brother the M715
Step one for AMC was getting their engines into the entire Jeep lineup. The very old F-head four was an easy cut, but many have questioned dropping the popular Buick-based 225 V6. However, the AMC inline 6 cylinders, 232 and 258 ci, had advantages in their smoothness. The 232 also made roughly the same net power as the V6.
The tooling was sold back to GM, and it had a long life back in the GM stable. The longer-stroke AMC 258 would be the middle option, and the top dog was AMC’s new 304ci V8, a first for Jeep.
AMC kept making improvements to the brand. A dealer-installed radio became available in 1973, and air conditioning became available via dealerships in 1975. Electronic, breaker-less distributors replaced breaker-point Delco distributors for the full engine lineup.
In 1975, the tub and frame were modified from earlier versions. The windshield frame and windshield angle were also changed. Another change was going from a Dana 44 to an AMC-manufactured model 20 that had a larger-diameter ring gear but used a two-piece axle shaft/hub assembly instead of the one-piece design used in the Dana. The CJ-7 featured an optional new automatic all-wheel-drive system called Quadra-Trac.
For 1977. Power disc brakes were an option as well as the “Golden Eagle” package, which included a tachometer, clock, and air conditioning among the many new options. Other trim packages included the Renegade, Golden Hawk, and Laredo.
In addition, there were Special Editions, the Limited (2,500 units limited edition luxury models), and the Jamboree Commemorative Edition (630 numbered units built for the 30th anniversary of the Rubicon Trail). It is the rarest CJ-7 and one of the rarest Jeeps of all time, placing it in the same rarity class as the 1971 CJ-5 Renegade-II. It is the most heavily optioned CJ ever built and it was the Rubicon of its day. Like the 1970 AMX, all units are uniquely numbered via a dash plaque. There was even a Levi’s Edition. Ultimately CJ-7s were in production for 11 model years from 1976-1986 and 379,299 were built.
But 1983 was really the end of the line for the CJs. AMC was still tight on cash and needed to do upgrades because of much publicized rollovers. The decision, AMC killed the CJ name and renamed the Jeep the Wrangler. Boom, gone were the lawsuits.
With CJ gone it was the last in a line of civilian Jeeps dating back to 1945. Having experienced them, they were a blast to drive. Too bad the lawyers got to that original design.
What are they worth now? According to Hagerty, a 1980 Renegade with a 304 can sell for as much as $44,500. An ’81 is worth slightly more at $50,000. Even the rare ones I mentioned above are not selling for what most might think. Why? Well, maybe one reason is that they’ve looked about the same. I would love to own one but, well, you know how it goes.
Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back next week for another one of my spots along with some of the history behind it. Have a great weekend.