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Rare, rugged Jeep J10 Honcho precursor to 2020 Gladiator

James Raia

The Jeep J10 Honcho was the precursor to the 2020 Gladiator.

Jeep doesn’t make a lot of pickup trucks, but for seven years beginning in 1976, a trim package called The Honcho was available. The limited-edition offered on the J10 model and only on the step side and short bed offerings included bold striping and decals.

Optional extras included an interior made by Levi’s (in blue or tan) or a roll bar. The specialty trucks also included the Golden Eagle and 10-4. The latter was offered with an optional CB radio corresponding to the radio acknowledgment decal “10-4.”

The Jeep J10 Honcho was the precursor to the 2020 Gladiator.
The Jeep J10 Honcho was the precursor to the 2020 Gladiator.

The Jeep J10 Honcho was manufactured through 1983, and it could be ordered with a combination of the specialty items. Only 1,264 examples were made. It’s not the most coveted, but it’s now often considered the rarest pickup truck ever made in the United States.

After American Motors Corporation (AMC) purchased Jeep from Kaiser Motors in 1970, the Honcho was sold as the Gladiator. They were known as the J-Series trucks.

Jeep J10 Honcho: rugged dependability

Jeep marketed the truck as the epitome of masculinity with this advertising poster refrain:

“Honcho” means boss. And when it comes to 4-wheel drive pickups, the Jeep Honcho is way out in front with sporty good looks, all-out performance and the rugged dependability that comes with the Jeep name.”

Jeep reintroduced the Gladiator as a 2020 model, its first pickup truck in 30 years. A Jeep dealer in Wisconsin decided to pay homage to the original Honcho with a Gladiator with look-a-like original Honcho looks.

Despite its scarcity, the original Jeep Honchos are available on well-established vintage vehicle websites.

Optional extras included an interior made by Levi’s (in blue or tan) or a roll bar. The specialty trucks also included the Golden Eagle and 10-4. The latter was offered with an optional CB radio corresponding to the radio acknowledgment decal “10-4.”

The J10 Honcho was manufactured through 1983. It could be ordered with a combination of the specialty items, and only 1,264 examples were made. It’s not the most coveted, but it’s now often considered the rarest pickup truck ever made in the United States.

History of the Jeep J10 Honcho

The Jeep J10 Honcho stands as a notable chapter in the rich history of Jeep vehicles, embodying the rugged spirit and durability that enthusiasts have come to associate with the brand.

Produced by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1976 to 1983, the Honcho marked Jeep’s foray into the lifestyle pickup truck market, blending utility with a distinctive style that still captures the imagination of collectors and off-road aficionados alike.

The J10 Honcho package adorned the Jeep J10 model, which itself was part of the larger Jeep Gladiator series. This line of full-size pickup trucks boasted a range of features designed for both work and play, but the Honcho stood out with its unique combination of off-road capability and bold, eye-catching graphics.

AMC offered the Honcho with various features that underscored its dual nature as a workhorse and a recreational vehicle. It came equipped with four-wheel drive, a testament to its off-road prowess, and a choice between a straight-six or V8 engines, offering a balance of power and efficiency.

The Honcho package also included special decals, roll bars, and a choice of either a standard or step-side bed, catering to buyers looking for a vehicle that matched performance with personality.

Marketing strategies for the J10 Honcho capitalized on the growing interest in pickup trucks as lifestyle vehicles. AMC positioned the Honcho as a perfect companion for adventurous individuals, highlighting its ability to traverse rough terrain with ease while also serving as a dependable vehicle for daily tasks.

The inclusion of comfort features, such as bucket seats and optional air conditioning, further enhanced the Honcho’s appeal as a versatile vehicle suited for various needs and preferences.

Collectors and enthusiasts continue to celebrate the Jeep J10 Honcho for its unique place in the history of American pickups. Its blend of functionality, distinctive styling, and rugged capability has cemented its status as a cult classic. Restoration projects and enthusiast gatherings often feature the Honcho, showcasing its lasting impact and enduring appeal.

In the broader context of Jeep’s history, the J10 Honcho exemplifies the brand’s commitment to offering vehicles that combine practicality with a sense of adventure.

It serves as a precursor to contemporary models that strive to meet the demands of modern drivers while retaining the spirit of innovation and adventure that has defined Jeep for generations.

The Jeep J10 Honcho not only captured the essence of the late 1970s and early 1980s automotive culture but also laid the groundwork for the evolution of the lifestyle pickup truck. Its legacy continues to influence the design and marketing of trucks that cater to those who seek a blend of reliability, capability, and style.

Article Last Updated: March 5, 2024.

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