Mention the Jeep Commando to an off-roading enthusiast, and often, they would remember the 1971 or earlier models. The 1972 Jeep Commando was quite the deviant during its time – with its uncharacteristic front grille design that mirrored its competition more than its own lineage. Interestingly, this frowned-upon styling, which made such a fuss almost 50 years ago, seems to have never happened – now that the Commando is considered a high-value collectible.
Long before the advent of SUVs, the 1972 Jeep Commando was the suburban vehicle of choice. It featured 4WD and new AMC V6 and V8 engines. The Commando was the first to sport automatic transmission and was available as a pickup, convertible, roadster, and station wagon.
In AMC’s attempt to equip the 4×4 with better engines, it had to sacrifice the vehicle’s aesthetics. As a result, sales plummeted so severely that barely 21,000 units were sold during its two-year production run. Was the Jeep Commando truly a dead-end in the Jeep evolution? Be the judge after learning more about the vehicle in this article.
1972 Jeep Commando
The 1972 Jeep Commando (C104) was a sport-type, off-road vehicle – third in the lineup of the Jeepster series that followed the VJ and C101 models. Its nomenclature came from two pre-AMC predecessors – the Willys Jeepster and Willys Commando Fire Truck, where Jeep replaced the Jeepster part of the name after AMC’s 1970 takeover. Re-introduced in 1972, the Jeep Commando intended to compete with the International Scout, Ford Bronco, and Toyota Land Cruiser.
The 1st generation Jeepster VJ was produced from 1948 through 1951 before it got into a 15-year hiatus – to make way for the post-war Willys (early CJ series) and the continued development of the 1946 Jeep Wagon and 1947 Jeep Truck. Despite its distinctive body styling, this utilitarian-automobile crossover did not catch on with traditional Jeep fanatics due to its limited functionality, lacking rear-wheel drive, and sparse advertising. Only 19,132 Jeepsters sold out during its three-year run.
After keeping quiet for some time, the four-wheeler was then revived in 1967 in the form of the 2nd generation Jeepster Commando or C101, with four model offerings: pickup, station wagon, convertible, and roadster. Like its older sibling, the 1967 Jeepster was a two-door vehicle. However, in its last year, a limited-edition Hurst trim, with unique features such as red rally stripes, a Hurst Special dual-gate shifter, a four-wheel drive (finally!), and an 8,000-RPM scoop-mounted, racing tachometer, hit the market. This second installment in the Jeepster Commando lineup fared better in sales, with 57,350 units sold in half a decade.
Before the last production year of the C101, AMC took over Kaiser and was responsible for the launch of the 3rd generation Jeepster, the 1972 Jeep Commando. It made its way into the automobile market by targeting beach lovers using a youthful ad campaign promising seaside fun and sporting an interior designed to impress the ladies and regular beachgoers. Had it not been for its front-end restyling and AMC dropping the signature Jeep grille and replacing it with an unpolished honeycomb-pattern grille, this last trilogy installment could have fit well in the picture of legendary Jeep vehicles.
Front-end grille aside, the 1972 Jeep Commando had several noteworthy features. The roadster and convertible models’ bodywork was stunning and would easily entice anyone to unwind and have a fun afternoon with friends. Its brand-new AMC 232/258/V8 304 ci engines provided an excellent torque curve, and its automatic transmission made for convenient cruising. Its Avocado Mist finish is one of the most elegant, sophisticated finishes anyone has ever seen. It also came second to none in the speed category, with 0-60 mph acceleration in 12 seconds and an advertised top end of 91 mph. With only 20,223 units sold during its lifetime, the 1972 Jeep Commando is a rare find.
Here’s a walkaround of the Jeep Commando, which is in stellar condition:
1972 Jeep Commando Specs
A Hurricane F4 and Dauntless V6 engines were available on 1967 models until 1971, then changed to AMC I6 and 5.0-L V8 304ci engines in 1972 till 1973. The I6 power mills had two types – a 3.8-L AMC 232 Straight-6 and a 4.2-L AMC 258 Straight-6 that were almost like those used in the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.
The bore-stroke ratio for each are as follows: 95.3 x 88.9 mm (3.75 x 3.5 inches) for the AMC 232 I6, 95.3 x 98.9 mm (3.75 x 3.895 inches) for the AMC 258 I6, and 95.3 x 95.3 mm (3.75 x 3.75 inches) for the AMC–304 V8. Displacement is 3,800.3 cm3, 4,229.2 cm3, and 4,980.3 cm3, respectively. Air-fuel mixture is handled by a double-barrel Rochester carburetor. Fuel capacity is 56.78 L (15 US gallons).
All 1972 Jeep Commando body styles debuted with Borg-Warner T-14/T-18 or TH400 Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission, coming from a synchromesh T-86/T-90 three-speed. Both the three-speed manual and four-speed automatic gearboxes had disengageable 4WD as standard and power steering as an option. F4-equipped Commandos use a 9.25-inch dry plate clutch, while V6-equipped ones use a 10.4-inch dry plate clutch – both of which have vibration damper spring hubs and flexible drive facings.
Maximum power is 100-110 hp (74 kW @ 3,500-3,600 RPM) for the I6-powered Jeeps and 150 hp (111.855 kW @ 4,000 RPM) for the V8 ones. Compression ratios are 8.0:1 (I6) and 8.4:1 (V8), respectively. Maximum torque is approximately 185-245 ft-lbs (251-332.18 Nm @ 1,800-2,500 RPM). Combined city and urban fuel efficiency top out at 13-14.3 US mpg (15.61-17.17 UK mpg)/16.45-18.09 liters/100 km.
The Commando’s ignition system consists of the ignition switch, coil, distributor, spark plugs, and high/low tension wiring mated with a transistorized voltage regulator and 12V, 35-Amp alternator. V6-equipped models specifically need a coil ballast resistor. The 1972 models and up have a clutch-type electric starter system. All models require a 12V, 50-Amp battery with assembled dimensions of 10.81 x 6.75 x 7.81 inches (L x W x H). An 800-CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) 12V battery provides thrice the expected service life of conventional batteries and can mount in any position (except inverted).
Stock tire sizes are 4-ply BF Goodrich E70-15 on 15-inch rims for both front and rear. Upgraded tire sizes – 195/75R15, 205/75R15, and 205/70R16 – may be similar or slightly larger than stock. Tire pressure recommendation is 20 psi/137.89 kPa for the front and 24 psi/165.47 kPa for the rear.
A double-safety hydraulic brake system, paired with self-adjusting wheel brake units, are standard on all 1972 Jeep Commando trims. A hand-operated parking brake that operates at the rear wheels complements the braking system. A transmission brake mounted to the rear of the transfer case, and a power brake unit (that utilizes manifold vacuum and atmospheric pressure to provide stopping power) are available as options on earlier vehicle models with the three-speed transmission.
The 1972 Jeep Commando features semi-elliptical multi-leaf springs and shock absorbers at the front and semi-elliptical single-leaf springs and shock absorbers at the back longitudinally hang from the frame side rails. A front-axle stabilizer bar (for Dana 30 front axles) mount to the ladder-type frame for added support. Examine multi-leaf spring units periodically to avoid difficulties with steering.
The vehicle’s overall dimensions are 174.5 x 65.2 x 63.4 inches (4,432 x 1,656 x 1,610 mm – L x W x H); wheelbase is 101 inches (C101) and 104 inches (C104). GVWR is 4,200 lbs for all models (with curb weight ranging from 2,980 to 3,020 lbs). The vehicle’s rated towing capacity is 3,500 lbs. An 8,000-lb WARN Winch (view on Amazon) is perfect for everyday pulls.
The Commando body consists of no. 18 gauge steel with a Chromium finish. Station-wagon models have a liftgate mounted above the tailgate, while the roadster and convertible trims have a drop-type tailgate. Rubber spacers placed between the body and frame provide insulation. Front seats are split, and all seats have seat belts. The entire instrument panel is mounted within clear view of the driver and contains switch panels and controls, which are easy to reach and operate. Periodic application of a good-quality wax will extend the life of the finish.
Check out this video that briefly covers the specs of a V8-powered 1972 Jeep Commando. There are also a few tips on what parts of the vintage car need work:
Cost of a 1972 Jeep Commando
The 1972 Jeep Commando price was initially $3,408. For a vehicle that did not have a considerable number of features and tech, that was quite pricey given that it was not even a full-fledged sports car. Nowadays, its average bidding price is at least five times the amount of its original value. Some prices even go up to $33,000 and more – thanks to its collector-item status.
Updating the Curbside Classic
The unappealing nose extension, front grille, and fender redesign were not the only things that went wrong with the Commando. Owners also had complaints about its overall aesthetic, body, and automatic transmission, to name a few. In this section, we will cover 1972 Jeep Commando parts that you can upgrade to not only rectify common issues but also make the Jeep classic less dated:
A COMP Cams K68-115-4 High Energy 192/200 Hydraulic Flat Cam K-Kit for AMC 199-258/4.0L (view on Amazon) allows proper clearance to fit larger tires. It would be perfect for the pickup and station wagon models. Depending on your desired tire size, you ideally want a 2-inch or 4-inch lift kit with FOX shocks.
Ring & Pinion Gear Set
Perhaps, the second biggest complaint about the Commando is its vague steering and harsh and bouncy ride. Doing mods on the drivetrain components and gearing will help resolve this. A Yukon Gear & Axle (YG D44-411) High Performance Ring & Pinion Gear Set for Dana 44 Differential (view on Amazon) will let you set up your bad boy for a plush ride when hitting the sands or riding the harshest of conditions.
Front Bumper Guard
This item comes in very handy during emergencies and reinforces the vehicle’s functionality. With a front bumper guard, you can indulge in fog lights, an 8,000-lb 12V electronic winch, and other off-road accessories. Tip on determining the best winch, add another 30% to the working GVWR of your Commando.
Nowadays, a top cargo carrier basket is a must if you have a 4×4 off-road vehicle. This add-on serves many purposes, including additional cargo space, room for your bike, surfboards, and other equipment. It can also be a base for a rooftop tent (if you love to camp). A Mild Steel Roof Rack Top Cargo Carrier Basket (view on Amazon) is a great choice for your hardtop.
One other upgrade idea that stands out is converting your Commando’s carburetion system into fuel injection. This means changing the stock engine. It is unnecessary but can prolong your vehicle’s life and drastically improve its performance on- and off-pavement. The Novak Conversions is an excellent reference on step-by-step procedures to make this happen. While you are it, finish the job with a full-body paint makeover. And voila! You would have restored the Jeep Commando into a thing of beauty that is beyond recognizable.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much is a 1971 Jeep Commando Hurst Special? The initial MSRP is a bit obscure, but current listings indicate the following prices: $4,600 for low retail, $10,750 for average retail, and at least $25,000 for high retail (based on Nada Guides data). These units are usually customized and in mint condition.
- What is a 1973 Jeep Commando worth? The original list price of the 1973 Jeep Commando was the same as the 1972 model. But current values for the collector-item vehicle is within the range of $25,000 to $31,000. You will get great value from this vehicle as it tops out at 98 mph and has 150 hp. It is equipped with an AMC 304 ci V8 engine and TH400 Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission.
- What should I look out for when buying a used Jeep Commando? First, you should get to know the story behind the vehicle. It will tell you a great deal about its condition and pre-existing issues. Thoroughly inspect the exterior of the four-wheeler as they are known to have poor rust protection. Check the frame and chassis, driveline components, axles, and clutch to ensure that they are not busted or need a major repair or rebuild. Also, ask about previous upgrades done on the vehicle.
- Why did they stop making the Jeep Commando? The Jeep Commando was not among the most liked vehicles that AMC produced during its time. The consumer’s lack of patronage towards the vehicle resulted in a drop in sales. Many speculate that the odd front-end styling of the 1972 Jeep Commando hastened its demise. Others think that its lack of technology and beneficial features made it unpopular with the public, ultimately leading to its production cease.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is the maker of the 1972 Jeep Commando and is one of the “Big Three” automobile manufacturers known throughout the globe. The almost century-old company’s rich history consists of legendary automobile companies’ combined expertise like Willy’s Overland, Kaiser, and AMC. Collectively, FCA went from success to near-bankruptcy status to taking over European auto companies. Today, the firm’s portfolio includes automotive brands Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, and Ram, and is looking forward to a union with Groupe PSA in 2021.
Conclusion – 1972 Jeep Commando Review
Perhaps, the biggest flaw of the 1972 Jeep Commando is its only detrimental flaw – the lack of the signature seven-slot grille that sadly defined the capabilities of the four-wheeler. And while AMC may not have thoroughly thought of the consequences of restyling the vehicle differently, people’s haste in passing judgment is what ultimately made it unsuccessful. So, no – the Jeep Commando is not a Jeep outlier. If anything, it was proof that not all Jeep ideas turn out to be a success. It was a far cry from perfection, but it was a reliable and sturdy vehicle. And now that collectors realize its true worth, hopefully, everyone else should, too.