Some things seem universal in Jeep design—mainly, separate fenders and a seven-slot grille. Never mind that, from the mid-1980s through much of the '90s, every Cherokee and Grand Cherokee had an eight-slot grille; the CJ5, the one that still influences Jeep design today, laid the groundwork for the styling features you see across the brand's lineup today.
So it's a little surprising to look back at this slab-sided, blunt-nosed 4x4, a Jeep design that looks nothing like a traditional Jeep. Witness the 1972-1973 Jeepster Commando.
The Jeepster Commando was an innovative if unusual addition to the 4x4 landscape. Similar to an earlier Jeepster built from 1948 to 1950, the second-generation Jeepster was a two-door, open-top 4x4 with styling halfway between a coupe and an off-roader. It was pitched as a "four-wheel drive sports convertible," an all-road adventure car available with a convertible top, a full-length hardtop, or a pickup-style half-cab.
From 1966 to 1971, the Jeepster Commando featured front-end styling that was instantly recognizable as part of the Jeep family: Round headlights, a seven-slot grille, and CJ5 front fenders that look like they're slowly being absorbed by the rig's nose.
This seven-slot Commando sold reasonably well, competing with the contemporary Ford Bronco and International Scout. Then, in 1970, Kaiser Jeep was purchased by AMC. For 1972, AMC undertook a mild redesign of the Commando (which dropped the Jeepster name). The wheelbase was lengthened; the Commando's four-cylinder and V6 engines were replaced with AMC straight-six and V8 options, which also found their way into the contemporary CJ5.
The new engines necessitated a new front-end design. Gone were the narrow seven-slot grille and round headlights; in their place, a full-width stamped-steel grille that strongly resembles Ford 4x4 and pickup truck designs from the era. With this redesign, the Commando lost all resemblance to anything else in the Jeep lineup.
Sales slid. The model was discontinued in 1973. Jeep continued making rugged CJ5s and Wranglers, with pop-off doors and roofs. The Commando was replaced by the SJ Cherokee, a full-size 4x4 version of the Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer sold from 1974 to 1983, itself replaced by the midsize, unibody XJ Cherokee that soldiered on until 2001 and became one of Jeep's most successful products.
That makes the '72-'73 Commando an interesting outlier, something of a dead-end in Jeep evolution. with seven days left to bid as of this writing, is an honest survivor with just over 69,000 claimed original miles and a clean body that seems to confirm years of light use without repair or restoration.
It provides an interesting look at what AMC thought would make for a successful Jeep: A four-seat 4x4 with a removable roof that wasn't meant to be a workhorse like the CJ5. It's hard to call this particular example "luxurious," with its bare metal floors, but it's definitely not the kind of implement-like vehicle Jeep built its reputation on at the time.
AMC may have invented the Jeep Wrangler and the unibody XJ, but this design proves not every Jeep idea the corporation had was a success.