Late in 1990, while having a few drinks at their moribund assembly plant, the remaining Jeep Australia employees where trying to think of a new project to keep them busy.
In the preceding twelve months, they had successfully converted twenty-five new, full-sized Grand Wagoneers to right-hand drive. The Wagoneers were snapped up by customers who had been starved of Jeep product since the assembly-side of the Brisbane plant had been shut down in 1985. But the recent announcement (from Chrysler), that the Grand Wagoneer days were over, meant that similar projects were not possible.
From the remnants of the new parts stock, they knew they could put together one last truck. However, there was a problem. While they had a J27 cab, and all the mechanical components, there were no style-side panels to make the rear half of the vehicle.
Then one of the staff members had a brainwave. Why not try to fit the pickup tray from the military-spec CJ10? It didn’t take long for the guys to work out how it could be done. The CJ10 tray was too short and narrow for the J27 chassis; but if they substituted a CJ10 chassis, handcrafted wider fenders to the sides of the tray, and used the wide-track axle housings designed for the full-sized Cherokee Chief, hopefully, everything would fit.
Almost instantly, the components began to resemble one helluva truck. Even though the styling of the cab was completely different to the modified pickup tray, it was easy to see the vehicle was going to have a very ‘eat-my-dust’ personality. Being somewhere between a CJ10 and a J20, it was instantly nicknamed ‘The J15’.
Into the truck went a Jeep 360 (5.9L) V8, heavy-duty cooling system, Torqueflite automatic, New Process 208 transfer case, 4.09 diff ratios, and a limited-slip in the rear axle. The cabin was fitted out with a Grand Wagoneer instrument panel, tan Cherokee Chief trim, deep-pile carpet, tilt-adjust column, leather steering wheel and a T-bar shifter in a centre console. And an all-black paint job added a touch of evil.
The boys at Sydney Jeep (now 4WD1) saw the truck before it was finished and made Jerzy Stanley at Jeep Australia an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Once in their hands, the J15 was upgraded with 33” Goodyears, a full Rancho suspension with RS9000s hooked up to an In-Cab controller, front and rear driving lights, CB, phone, 115-litre auxillary fuel tank and a K&M shifter to replace the troublesome Mustang unit that was fitted to all 1981-on RHD full-sized Jeeps. Later, a Dodge ‘light pod’ was added to roof. With the extra-wide track, and on-road stiffness easily controlled by the Ranchos, it was found that the front sway-bar could be permanently removed - without affecting on-road handling.
Off road, the Jeep proved to be an extremely effective machine. The combination of the Rancho bits, the flexible chassis (made more so due to the cab being separate from the pickup tray) and no sway-bar, allowed the truck to cover ground that thwarted lesser vehicles. At the 1992 Mount Seaview Jeep Jamboree, the J15 was the first 4WD (of any make) to conquer the hill climb without using fully-lockable diffs.
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