The release, in 1983, of the military-inspired CJ10 was enthusiastically greeted by Jeep Australia's country dealers. At last, they had a vehicle to sell against the all-conquering Toyota Landcruiser 45-series flat-top and well-backed trucks.
The unusual-looking Jeep had features that couldn't be matched by the Japanese product; standard equipment Trac-Lok limited slip diff in the beefy Dana 60 rear axle, galvanized panels in all critical areas, factory-applied rust proofing with a 4-year guarantee, detachable (CJ-type) doors/roof/windscreen and a long wheelbase that provided an exceptionally smooth ride, and a flatter stance when loaded.
Unfortunately, for Jeep's country dealers, the CJ10 was priced higher than the Landcruiser. This meant that, in many instances, the prospective buyers would simply check the price and move on to the Japanese vehicles - without examining the Jeep's superior specifications.
When the potential market did start to realize that the ugly beast had much to offer, it was too late. The 1985 drop in value of the Australian dollar, and instructions from the USA to pull the plug, gave the management no alternative but to stop importing CJ7s, CJ8s, and the CJ10. It also meant closing down the assembly line for the SJ Cherokees and J20 trucks.
Following the dramatic change in fortunes, Jeep Australia downsized to a parts distribution facility. However, the remaining employees were Jeepers to the core and couldn't help building, or restoring, the occasional vehicle for company purposes, or to sell to loyal customers.
The best example of the staff's initiative would be the used farm truck spec CJ10 that was completely dismantled and rebuilt to be an absolute head-turner.
The project began when the panels were sent out to be stripped back to the metal and refinished in a light silver metallic. The craftsmanship was superb and the Porsche color instantly made the truck look lighter and more agile.
The guys at Jeep Australia looked after the running gear. The Nissan-built diesel and the 4-speed manual were pulled and replaced by an AMC 4.2 six bolted to a Chrysler Torqueflite 727. (1981-1985 Aussie Jeep Cherokee V8s had the 727 fitted). Better-quality shock absorbers were added and the rear springs were beefed up to cope with the intended usage carrying heavy spares and towing vehicles on a four-wheel trailer.
While the body panels were being refitted, the original grille was discarded in favor of a CJ7-type with the addition of a chrome overlay. The holes which normally house the headlamps were filled in with high-powered driving lights, as the CJ10 featured fender-mounted lamps to comply with European regulations. The standard 16-inch rims were replaced by 15 x 7 Cherokee Limited alloy wheels, and the passenger's bucket seat was removed to make way for a two-thirds bench seat as used in Jeeps supplied to the Australian Army (for evaluation puposes).
Other changes inside the cabin included replacing the steering wheel with a soft-rim, leather job from a Cherokee, and upgrading the door trims and dash to Laredo specs. A local trim shop fitted insulation, deep-pile carpet and retrimmed the seats and healining in contrasting, burgundy velour.
Alloy additions included tubular-style front and rear bumpers with alloy step-deck inserts, double-hoop roll bar with light brackets and a mount so that the spare wheel could be moved up behind the cabin. The large-diameter alloy tubing complemented the sleek paintwork and gave the Jeep a real personality.
Other additions included a Pioneer radio/tape, fire extinguisher, window tinting, after-market exterior mirrors and under-dash air conditioning.
When completed, the silver CJ10 was testimony to the enthusiasm of Jeep Australia's last employees.
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