Ideal for use as is, or as a straightforward rolling project
In late 1970s America, the landscape and culture was changing. Recent oil crises and emissions regulations hostile towards big engines saw consumers turn away from Detroit’s big, soulful offerings, in favour of European and Japanese compacts like Datsuns and the Volkswagen Rabbit. The V8 muscle car days were over and long, low glamour wagons like Cadillacs were starting to shrink away. The American auto industry people knew and loved was in its twilight, but there was one last bastion of hope: the pick-up truck.
Many Americans did not welcome the changes being foisted on them, and they saw in pick-ups a symbol of rebellion and a last refuge for their vanishing culture and heritage. Used since the 1920s mainly on farms and in heavy industries, pick-ups were now at their most popular and mainstream.
The tradition of American folk heroes was revived in such characters as Bo and Luke Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard and the Bandit in Smokey and the Bandit, and with pick-up ownership came a sense that you were a part of this new frontier spirit. If you had big off-road tyres, light bars and roof racks, so much the better…
The ‘Big Three’ car-makers cashed in on this fashion with the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Bronco and Dodge Ramcharger, but for Jeep, arguably the makers of the original off-roader, it was business as usual. The J-series pick-ups first appeared in 1963, and were technologically far ahead of their rivals. It remained in production until 1988, receiving only gradual styling and technical upgrades along the way.
The J-10 was the smallest in the range, and the 1979 model year was marked by the introduction of power brakes with front discs as standard, improved interior trim and lots of new options. Despite this, sales were never on the same level as Chevrolet, Ford or Dodge, and only 15,419 J-series Jeeps were made in 1979.
This example is one of only a small handful in Britain, having been imported in 1990. Helpfully converted to right-hand drive and now fully roadworthy after several years spent off the road, it would make a welcome addition to the American car scene in Britain and promises to be lots of fun for its new owner. It’s good enough to use as is but, equally, there are some areas which could be improved if desired, and we can hardly imagine a more enjoyable rolling project.
The History and Paperwork
First registered in Britain in March 1990
Off the road between 2006 (possibly earlier) and 2017
Painted by the previous owner to resemble the Jeep in the 1996 film Twister
Purchased by the vendor, a classic-car specialist and the fourth British owner, in December 2020
Original dash and seats
Well-appointed with heater, clock and original radio
There once was a time when pick-ups were Spartan and basic, but by the 1970s that was no longer true, and Jeep in particular went out of the way to make theirs comfortable and pleasant environments. The trim level of the base model was elevated to that of the 1978 Custom model, so it had the Custom steering wheel and better-quality door panels as standard, with the seats in two-tone Cara vinyl.
Much of this Jeep’s interior remains original and abounds with character. Apart from some surface marks, the seats are attractive and look to be in very good condition, and the same may be said of the door trim. If the door handles and the window winders look like new items, it’s because they are. It has also had new door locks, each with two sets of keys, all supplied by Team Grand Wagoneer.
The dash is blessed with a beautiful patina, plus some original luxury items like the radio and clock. While there appears to be a piece of plastic trim missing from around the clock, and we’re not certain if the steering wheel is original or not, it is only right that a Jeep should look tough and rugged, and this one certainly does. We would draw attention to the engine-turned instrument panel, a distinctive and attractive styling feature, and also to the good condition of the vinyl dash top which, unlike with so many classic cars, is not cracked or dried-out.
We are advised that not all the gauges work, and the speedometer is among them. The vendor will include another used dash pod, although he warns that it is not quite the same as the existing one.
The new carpet is in very good condition and is suitably protected by rubber floor mats. The headlining, too, although basic, presents very well.
Honcho-inspired paint scheme
Alloy wheels and all-terrain tyres
Good all-round condition with some scope for cosmetic improvement
Given the cultural importance of the pick-up truck in the ’70s and ’80s, it’s not surprising that the J-10 had starring roles in Dallas and CHiPs, but the previous owner decided to model this truck after the one which featured prominently in the 1996 epic disaster film Twister. The yellow with blue graphics is an attractive colour scheme reminiscent of such paint jobs as were fashionable in the 1970s, and which were offered by the factory on the Jeep Honcho sports model. The raised suspension, with alloy wheels and all-terrain tyres completes the ‘king of the wild frontier’ look.
The paintwork generally is in good condition, although there are a few places where it has cracked or chipped, with the result that some of the metal underneath has started to be affected by the ingress of moisture. The bumpers and trim are blessed with an especially pleasing patina, and while the bumpers do have their share of scrapes and small dents, we think that tough, rough-and-ready look is most attractive on a Jeep.
It may be the case that the Jeep once had a tow hook attached, since the central section of the rear bumper has been cut out and affixed to the front bumper.
Underneath, the chassis rails and the floors are extremely solid, and we’d not hesitate to go off-roading in this Jeep, confident that it could take it all in its stride.
One of the last all-American V8s
Drives well and sounds fantastic
MoT with no advisories until June 2023
The best engine you could have in a J-10 for 1979 was AMC’s 360ci (5900cc) V8, but this goes one better. While we are unable to verify it, we are told that the previous owner had it bored out to 6200cc, hence that’s what is stated on the V5.
Standard or not, it sounds great and goes really well. The deep burble from the exhaust is positively soul-stirring, and there’s lots of power available should you want to make the most of it on a wide open road. The steering is extremely light and the brakes very efficient, while the automatic gearbox is easy enough for anyone to operate.
Being a specialist classic-car mechanic, the vendor has been able to invest a lot of his own time making sure the Jeep is mechanically up to scratch. He has fitted a replacement alternator as the previous one wasn’t charging, and also investigated the variable drive system. More recently the Jeep had new spark plugs and oil change with new filter.
The J-10 is supposed to be able to be switched between rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, but when the Jeep came to the vendor he found it worked in rear-wheel drive only due to the absence of front drive gears.
Having installed the drive cogs from his Jeep Grand Wagoneer, he was able to get it working in four-wheel drive, but advises that it still works best in rear-wheel drive. To get the four-wheel drive working properly will be a project for the new owner, as the vacuum change is not working and the vendor has no replacement switchgear.
The right-hand drive is quite a common conversion among Jeeps which have been imported into Britain, with a box under the dash and the column going down the left-hand side into the original steering rack, making it very easy to return to the original American left-hand drive specification if desired.
The Jeep also benefits from a new ignition barrel. The only deviation from standard which we’re aware of is the fuel tank, which is plastic rather than metal and is believed to come from a Ford Transit.
It must be said that there’s a lot going for this J-10, and it’s all ready for you to enjoy. It passed its MoT on 8th June 2022 with no advisories, so you can hit the road and start heading to events straight away.
An extremely rare machine in this country, this Jeep J-10 offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a slice of 1970s American car culture. Inseparable from a landscape built around well-worn Levi’s, cold Budweiser and the music of Jerry Reed and Waylon Jennings, this Jeep has a charisma quite unlike anything else.
Appropriately dressed-up with lifted suspension, off-road tyres and Honcho-inspired paint graphics, its appearance is enhanced even more by the veneer of patina which covers the interior and exterior. While it may want some cosmetic attention at some point, mechanically it all seems to be in good order with just a few small, non-essential jobs to do which could keep you occupied over the winter.
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1979 Jeep J10 Pick-Up
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