Ever had a car that makes you think irrationally? One that grabs at your heartstrings and makes you say and do very strange things? That car, for me, is the Jeep J10. My weak spot for the J10 has existed for many years now, so finally I bought one. But it’s pretty rough.

It Was Love At First Sight

A couple months ago, I was visiting my friend in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Since I Craigslist 12 hours a day (I wrench the other 12), I knew there was a Jeep J10 for sale nearby. Did I already own three cars and a motorcycle? Maybe. But I couldn’t resist. I called the seller.


The car was located right off the highway that I’d have to take anyway to get back to Detroit. It was meant to be. The town was called Yadkinville. I met the seller on his farm, he drove me around town in the J10, and I fell in love. I told him I’d buy it if he waited a week for me to return with a flatbed. He agreed.

Some friends and I drove a truck with a flatbed down from Detroit and picked up the truck. Before we left, the seller gave us a gallon jug of moonshine and told us to go to the local mud run. Since I love mud, we went. It was awesome. After the mud bog, we drove over the Appalachian mountains back to Motor City.

1985 Jeep J10: An Introduction

The Jeep J10 isn’t exactly a common vehicle, so let’s go through the basics. Jeep J trucks are based on the SJ platform that underpins the old Cherokee, Wagoneer, and Grand Wagoneer. SJ-based pickups have been around since the SJ platform debuted in 1962. Early trucks were called Gladiators and later models were called J trucks.


There are many different variants of SJ-based trucks: J10, J20, J200, J300, J2000, J3000, J4000. There were even beefier military versions called the M715 and M725. All of the numbers behind the J basically identify what weight class the truck is in. By the time my truck was built in 1985, there were only two kinds of SJ trucks you could buy: A J10 or a J20. The J10 was the half ton truck and the J20 was a tougher 3/4 ton truck with stronger axles, stiffer springs, beefier steering, and shorter axle ratios.

The two most common engines found in J trucks are the AMC 360 V8 and the 258 inline 6. These engines were usually mated to the legendary 727 automatic transmission or a four speed T177 manual transmission.

My J10 is outfitted with the 258 inline 6 engine, largely regarded as one of the most reliable engines ever built. Backing up that inline six is a T177 medium duty 4 speed manual transmission (four on the floor, baby!), an NP208 transfer case, a Dana 44 front axle, and an AMC 20 rear axle. It’s a pretty solid drivetrain all the way around.

There were two different wheelbases offered on J trucks: 120 inches and 132 inches. My truck is the long wheelbase version, so it’s a total handful to maneuver and barely fits in my garage. To put that into perspective, my J10’s wheelbase is a full 16 inches longer than that of a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. That’s a lot of space between those front and rear tires.

What Shape Is She In?

You can learn more about the condition of our J10 by watching the video below, or if you’re worried about your boss giving you “Das Boot” for watching videos at work, keep on reading.

My J10 spent all of its 30 years as a farm truck in a small town called Yadkinville, North Carolina. It only has about 65,000 miles on the clock, which sounds nice, except this truck has lived a tough life. The paint is scratched everywhere, there’s no clear coat left, the body has dings all over it, the back of the cab is rusted badly, and the interior is totally filthy. Let’s get this truck baselined. We’ll look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

Let’s start with good news first. The truck has a lot going for it, despite its questionable aesthetic profile.

1. The engine runs

2. The gun rack... works.

3. The frame is completely rust free

4. The AC works

5. The transmission shifts beautifully

6. Four Wheel-drive works

7. The moonshine was good

The Bad

1. The carburetor needs to be rebuilt (Jeep doesn’t idle)

2. There is rust on the rear of the cab, in a door jamb, and some on the passenger floorboard

3. The exhaust pipe is about six feet too short

4. The lights don’t work

5. The windows don’t crank down

6. The tires are shot

7. Weather stripping is in shambles

The Ugly

1. Dings Everywhere

2. Paint is really dull

3. Bench seat is spewing foam

4. Headlight surrounds have faded to gray

5. Rear bumper is covered in surface rust

6. The engine bay is covered in vacuum hoses

7. Half the animal kingdom has lived in my cab

8. It’s filthy in here

My Plans For The Truck

This truck is eventually getting a full restoration: paint, bodywork, interior work- the lot. But first and foremost, the plan is to get this truck on the road. So that means:

1. Changing the fluids

2. Buying a new Motorcraft 2100 carburetor to fix my idle problems once and for all


3. Getting rid of all the emissions stuff to help my engine run better and to make it easier to work under the hood

4. Cleaning cleaning cleaning. This will take a while

5. Replacing the tires

6. Going through the brakes and replace the pads/shoes. Maybe even the wheel cylinders/calipers.

7. Cruise down Woodward Avenue

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