This daily-driven Jeepster is the epitome of cool

It was in 1966 that Kaiser built the Jeepster Commando to compete with the International Scout, Ford Bronco, and to some extent, the Toyota Land Cruiser. It combined the go-anywhere capability of a Jeep with the greater functionality found in larger SUVs, wagons, and pickups. And that’s exactly what Kaiser built. The Jeepster Commando was offered in four forms: pickup, convertible, roadster, and wagon.

The Jeepster Commando is somewhat of an oddity today. Even hard-core Jeep fans might not recognize exactly what this is at first glance. But for Sam Fankuchen, he grew up loving the hard lines, slab sides, and tall hood of the Jeepster. He eventually found one in a modest condition with good paint and a partially rebuilt engine. Time and self-education put the engine back together better than it came from the factory. This 225-cubic-inch V-6 is called the Dauntless and was basically a Buick V-6 built by Kaiser – itself a near copy of the small-block Chevrolet but missing two cylinders. A hot cam, high-flow heads with homemade headers bolted on, and a Holley four-barrel carburetor give the V-6 a distinctive and surprising rumble.

A new set of gauges, a roll bar, a mild suspension lift, and modern wheels and tires give this 1970 Jeepster a new lease on life. And Sam isn’t one to baby this truck. It gets driven all across California on trips to national parks and other scenic destinations. It’s climbed the Redwood Forests and been down to Joshua Tree. Sam says he’s wheeled in just about every off-road park California has to offer.

And who could blame him? His Jeepster seems impeccably restored with reliability and ease of service in mind, but without an overconcentration on aesthetics to the point of being a garage queen.


Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read More
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