Home » This Rare 1986 Jeep Wrangler Press Kit Is Filled With Information That Never Made It To The Internet

This Rare 1986 Jeep Wrangler Press Kit Is Filled With Information That Never Made It To The Internet

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The clouds part, and a beam of sunlight shines onto a cardboard envelope at my doorstep. “DO NOT BEND” has been stamped twice onto the front; the sender is “Digital Consulting,” an eBay seller of rare automotive media kits. I grab the parcel and feel a chill rush up my arm, for I understand the gravity of what I am about to behold. This was the world’s very first look at the world’s very first Jeep Wrangler: the 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ. Viewing the materials within would be a borderline religious experience, as I would finally learn things about the Jeep Wrangler that had seemingly been lost to time. Here’s a look at Jeep Wrangler information that has somehow never made it to the internet.

I opened the cardboard envelope and carefully slid out an old First Class USPS envelope shipped to Automotive Quarterly photographer Rick Lenz (great last name for a photog) by “American Motors Corporation Public Relations Department” out of the now-defunct company’s Southfield, Michigan headquarters. A black-and-white photo of a then-totally-new, half-door, top-off, alloy-wheel-equipped Jeep Wrangler adorned the envelope along with the text: “1987 Jeep Wrangler News & Photos.”

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Inside that envelope was a beautiful photo of a black, hard-top, chrome-grilled YJ atop some text reading “Jeep Wrangler 1987 photos and technical information.” This was printed on the front of a folder, which housed precious media information meant to introduce the world to the very first Wrangler:

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First, let’s check out the very first photos of the Jeep Wrangler available to the public, for they are gorgeous. These glossy prints look so lovely in person, though these scans my colleague Jason made are nice, too:

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What’s going on with those rear bumpers? Those don’t look like the production bumpers. And what’s the deal with those mirrors on that last photo? Those also don’t look like what ultimately came off the assembly line.

As for the documents, the first was just an intro page titled “1987 Jeep Wrangler All Photos and Stories For Release May 13, 1986.” Here it is:

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Then there was the “Jeep Wrangler General Story.” On these pages, American Motors’ Vice President of Product and Quality, Francois Castaing, talks about how the YJ shares some of the CJ’s overall look, but that the vehicle is actually quite different. This is a pattern throughout the press release, and fairly normal for a press release for an all-new vehicle — especially one that isn’t actually that different than its predecessor — though I think Jeep had another reason for trying to differentiate the YJ from the CJ (more on that in another article):

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“We’re completely confident of the Wrangler’s off-road capabilities…but the factors that make this vehicle particularly unique are its smooth ride characteristics for every transportation,” Castaing says in the press release.

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Likely spurred by some bad PR from rollover lawsuits in the 1980s (again, more on that in another article), Jeep makes it clear that the Wrangler is significantly changed from its tippy forebear. “While it bears an outward resemblance to the Jeep CJ-7, which ended 40 years of civilian production in January 1986, the Wrangler is actually a breed apart,” AMC’s press release introducing the new Jeep Wrangler reads.

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“The product design philosophy behind the two vehicles is completely different,” Castaing says, before again mentioning that the Wrangler — which was in development for five years — brings “everyday comfort” that the CJ never had, as a Jeep isn’t just an off-road vehicle, but also a machine for personal transport.

(As someone who’s experienced CJs and YJs, I can tell you: They’re really not that different).

The page above mentions that the Wrangler would not be called a Wrangler in Canada, but rather a YJ. This, as I understand, was due to a trademark dispute with General Motors, who owned the name Wrangler as a trim level for one of its trucks.

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1985 gmc wrangler

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1985 gmc wrangler

The page also mentioned the engine options: A fuel injected AMC inline-four cylinder and a carbureted 4.2-liter inline-six, with both offered bolted to a five-speed manual and just the six available with a three-speed automatic.

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The YJ borrowed quite a bit from the legendary Jeep Cherokee XJ— the transfer case, wheels tires, engines, transmission, axles, steering system, and brakes. Many of these components and systems would also form the basis of the Jeep Wrangler TJ and Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ.

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This page talks about the standard equipment, as well as the 0-60 time of under 12 seconds for the six-cylinder model.

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The page above talks about the exterior features, as well as — and this is something I haven’t seen anywhere on the internet — an optional tire size of 255/75R15 for the Off-Road Package. For years I’d been curious what tire size Jeremy Clarkson had on his Jeep YJ when he did the Rubicon in 1993 (see below), and while my 1987 brochure may not represent 1993 specs, it does tell me that the vehicle was designed to handle 30-inch tires, so I bet that’s what these are:

The YJ press release also includes input from Robert Nixon, AMC’s director of exterior design, who talks about the crease in the grille and the square headlights — two features that, at the time, set the Jeep world ablaze with controversy:

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AMC’s Director of Interior Design Vincent Geraci talks about how much more comfortable and modern the YJ’s interior is than the CJ’s:

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I have to say that, like all the discussion before in this press release about how the YJ is significantly different than the CJ-7 before it, this is a bit of a stretch. The YJ’s interior is only marginally more modern and comfortable than its CJ-7 predecessor. Here’s the CJ-7’s cabin:

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Image: Collinsbrosjeep (for sale listing)

And here’s the Jeep YJ’s cabin:

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Image: classiccars.com (for sale listing)

Sure, there’s more plastic on the dash, but come on — that’s pretty subtle.

Not so subtle, though, is this typo in the “Jeep Wrangler Heritage Story” section of the Wrangler’s introductory press release — “will presents.” (As someone who is highly typo-prone, I sympathize).

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There’s not a whole lot to say about this part of the press release, though I will highlight the ending, which says the YJ “holds out the promise of the smoothest on-road ride yet offered in a small sport utility.” Any YJ owner will tell you: That’s a stretch.

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The last document in the media kit talks about the “Jeep Wrangler Marketing Story.” It describes Jeep’s history of print ads and commercials for the CJ, as well as the brand’s plans for marketing of the new YJ:

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Here’s the panoramic cowboy-sleeping-in-Jeep commercial referenced in the document above:

A bit of an aside: My personal favorite YJ commercial is this one poking fun at the Suzuki Samurai:

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Also included in the press kit was this one-pager discussing the deals one can get on Jeeps and Renaults, which were for sale in the U.S. in 1987 and a few other model years before bowing out of the U.S. market in 1992:

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But the real gold comes in the form of specs. Here are the fuel economy and power/torque figures for the then-new Wrangler:

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Below is a detailed spec sheet, which includes details nowhere to be found on the entire internet.

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For example, I’ve been trying to figure out the Jeep Wrangler YJ’s approach, departure, and breakover angles for literally over a decade, and could never find them. I honestly didn’t think Jeep ever published those figures, but look — they’re right there!

  • 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ Approach Angle: 30.77 degrees
  • 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ Departure Angle without bumperettes: 36.37 degrees
  • 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ Departure Angle with bumperettes: 31.50 degrees
  • 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ Breakover Angle: 24.64 degrees

I also can’t find the YJ’s stock ground clearance anywhere online. Check them out in that press release:

  • 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ ground clearance (axle): 8.14 inches
  • 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ ground clearance (skid plate): 9.65 inche

Also worth pointing out is that 3,022 pound curb weight. That’s awesome, especially when you consider that the modern Jeep Wrangler’s lightest two-door configuration comes in at a hefty 4,012 pounds. Obviously, it’s a much safer and more comfortable vehicle, but wow how things have changed.

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Anyway, I just thought I’d share that press kit with you. If you want to take a close look at the full press kit (minus photos) American Motors sent to journalists in October, 1986 so that those journalists could introduce the world to the Wrangler nameplate, click here: 1987JeepPressKit

I’m just glad I finally have those approach/departure/breakover numbers I’d been searching for since I was a teenager.

 

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Matt Galbraith
Matt Galbraith
11 months ago

87 YJs had the unique mirrors mounted to the body for the soft tops. That was an 87 only item as in 88 they switched to the door mounted mirrors. Also the 87 half doors used snaps between the door and fabric. 88 switched to the belt rail. AMC made the 87 only.

Aaron C
Aaron C
1 year ago

My dad replaced our ’76 CJ-5 with an ’87 Wrangler the month they arrived. He still has it. Has oil undercoated it almost every year and there’s not a spot of rust on it. After years of issues with the carbs, I finally tracked down a conversion kit for him for a Motorcraft 2150 that’s working amazingly well, and after 35 years and 100K miles, he just had the AX-15 swap done when the Peugeot stopped shifting – I actually think this was a local mechanic’s fault, as he didn’t use the proper fluid when doing the transmission fluid change. Dad is 80 this year and says people keep stopping by offering to buy it. But as his only living son, I have claimed right of first offer if and when he decides to sell it. 🙂

Thanks for reprinting all the promo info on it!

Last edited 1 year ago by Aaron C
Waremon0
Waremon0
1 year ago

What is a shift-on-the-fly transfer case? Did the competition have electronic TCs at that time?

Aaron C
Aaron C
1 year ago
Reply to  Waremon0

Possibly referring to the hubs? I remember when my dad bought our ’87 it was the first Jeep where we could just shift and go, instead of shifting into 4WD, then going outside to engage each front wheel hub?

SAABstory
SAABstory
1 year ago

Tangentially related: I owned a Renault Alliance. Definitely a showstopper, just probably not how the ad wants you to think.

Ben Siegel
Ben Siegel
1 year ago

I had a ’91 YJ with the 2.5L and the AX-5 transmission. I’d get 18MPG city, 18MPG highway. As confirmed with the trip ODO because the floating fuel gage was never trustworthy – at a 1/2 tank if I took a turn it’d fluctuate from showing 1/4-3/4 tank. That was fun.

David Tracy – 30″s would fit – barely. I ran 30″ Wrangler GSAs, or what were stock on a TJ for a while.

Jake Harsha
Jake Harsha
1 year ago

No word in there about the BA 10/5 transmission/explosive device?

Ah, truth be told, this kinda brings me back to a simpler time when the American Motor Company’s knee-jerk, light-duty design decisions and half-assed engineering affected my ability to get to work after almost every weekend of wheeling [sigh]. It was an innocent time before I knew what a Nutter Bypass was or why the term “Dana 35” should’ve horrified me; before I had experienced the unalloyed joy of endless Carter BBD adjustments or HEI ignition upgrades.

You see, I had a 1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ. I bought it my sophomore year of college in 1993. I still remember cruising with the top down, aftermarket stereo booming as that poor, pathetic 4.2 tried in vain to keep up with traffic.

I still own it to this day. It’s out in my pole barn.The tub and the frame are the only stock components remaining. With a GM 6.0L LS V8, 3/4-ton drivetrain, Ox-locked D44s and giant mud tires, it’ll almost pull a wheelie and, given the correct driver inputs, it’s capable of driving over whatever it is pointed at, more or less…but some days I still miss the purity and innocence of the Heep in its original, flawed stated.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jake Harsha
Just Jeepin’
Just Jeepin’
1 year ago

And now I finally understand why the TJ was marketed in Canada as, the TJ.

niceladybadjeep
niceladybadjeep
1 year ago

Wow, Jason was immediately thrown under the bus for shitty scans.

Rockymountainhigh
Rockymountainhigh
1 year ago

Fresh out of college in the early 90s, I bought my first Jeep and it was a used ’87 Wrangler. Dark blue with the khaki/tan decals and half doors and a nutmeg interior. Six other Wranglers since then (and a few F-150s) and I’m now in a ’22 JT Gladiator I factory ordered. I’d trade it instantly to have my blue YJ back. I loved that Jeep and the bumperettes and auto gearshift on the tree and the 2-bar mirror brackets that were wide as hell and the simple as can be fold down windshield. Instantly I tell ya. I loved that thing! The door uppers leaked like a sieve. I don’t miss those though haha.

Just Jeepin’
Just Jeepin’
1 year ago

I’ve long heard in the community that you should never sell your first Jeep. I still have my broken LJ in desperate hopes I’ll be able to fix it and keep it running forever.

Ben Siegel
Ben Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Just Jeepin’

I sold my ’91 YJ after an offroading accident sucked some water into the intake – the buyer knew this and was planning an engine rebuild. It was still running but would take about 1qt of oil every ~100 miles.

Does it help if I sold it to get a ’98 TJ? I upgraded from the 2.5L to the 4.0L, AX-5 to AX-15, and 30″s to 32″s.

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
1 year ago

The crease in the front grill is my favorite part of the whole design and the main reason I’d choose a YJ over any other Wrangler. It just looks so classy.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
1 year ago

They were really hammering the ride quality in that press kit — and that extended to the marketing as well. To this day I still remember the copy for one of the introductory TV spots (not the sleeping cowboy one), where the narrator said: “With a tight-fitting soft top, and surprisingly smooth on-road ride.” They made it sound like it was so different from the CJ.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
1 year ago

Always liked the fonts and overall design in AMC’s marketing. Whichever font family it is, the AMC glossy materials seemed timeless, somehow contemporary and yet very connected to the brand. AMC may have been the smallest car maker, but when it came to marketing AMC’s team seemed to punch above its weight.

World24
World24
1 year ago

I’m flabbergasted with the YJ just by looking at the standard final drive ratios.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
1 year ago
Reply to  World24

I had a couple 5 speed XJ’s with the 3.08 rear end. They were definitely geared to help the fuel economy on the highway. The second I put 31’s on my 94, 5th gear became useless.

Bryanintowson
Bryanintowson
1 year ago

And here I thought buying press kits for my Jeeps was my secret shame. I let go of some of the XJ and ZJ material when I bought a WK2. The press kit for the WK2 is really slick.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 year ago

I love that the four has 117hp and the six… 112hp. I know the torque matters, but that’s still wack.

06dak
06dak
1 year ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

But the fuel economy was the same

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 year ago
Reply to  06dak

Having owned a four-cylinder Wrangler YJ I can attest to the fact that the ‘four was working very hard nearly all of the time.

Jake Harsha
Jake Harsha
1 year ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Having owned the 4.2, I can attest that it was too. 🙂

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
1 year ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

112hp @ 3000rpm! If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the six was a NA diesel.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

Jeeeeeeep. (Imagine a Homer Simpsonesque “beer” sigh)

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

I’m just glad I finally have those approach/departure/breakover numbers I’d been searching for since I was a teenager.

It’s oddly satisfying to find something like that after such a long time.

Dumb question: aren’t those angles rather… precise? I get that it’s marketing material but it seems a little heavy on the sig figs.

In 1989 a friend bought a new Wrangler Sahara with the 4.2 and the AX-15. It was fun to drive but not particularly comfortable – and I was much younger then. 🙂

Also I learned that Jeep called the Cherokee a “sportwagon” while referring to the Wrangler as providing what people wanted in “small sport utility vehicles”.

Interesting stuff, DT!

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Very true! Different tires, different levels of wear and sag in the suspension, etc.

And if you drive a Mustang, a tire pressure discrepancy of a few PSI can cause you to crash dramatically leaving a Cars & Coffee. 🙂

Data
Data
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Pretty sure that was a BMW and 1.5 psi is the magic number for mayhem.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Let’s assume two factory-new ones, completely stock as delivered to the dealer.

  1. What were the build tolerances?
  2. Were there two or more OEM tire suppliers?
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

‘build tolerances’ ?
Damnit, man: you made me nose-spit iced tea at the dog

—but, thanks for the laugh (after I got through choking)

Jake Harsha
Jake Harsha
1 year ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

Jeep YJ Build Tolerances: They tolerated no more than 3 or 4 drinks per break by the people building it.

Cyko9
Cyko9
1 year ago

Excellent article and the Internet is richer for it. Go Autopian!

I will say, instead of inspiring me to search YJ ads, I looked up what Comanches go for.

06dak
06dak
1 year ago
Reply to  Cyko9

Starting at $7199!

Citrus
Citrus
1 year ago

Scalding take:

The square headlights look good and were the right choice to make something look right in the ’80s.

I mean dropping them for the TJ made sense – square headlights wouldn’t fit softer ’90s trends – but I’ve always rolled my eyes at the traditionalists who always want a car to look like it was 1963. Porsche fans are also bad for this.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

I rather like yjs. Purists take the fun out of everything.

121gwats
121gwats
11 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I draw the line at grumpy grills.

OptionXIII
OptionXIII
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

I’m willing to guess a large part of the meeting room justification for it was to give a visual distinction that this was a new vehicle in order to distance the new YJ from the rollover issue on the CJ that David kept alluding to.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

Ah, the “real Jeeps have round headlights!” crowd…funny how they got quiet after the Liberty was introduced. ^_^

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
1 year ago
Reply to  PlatinumZJ

and they all make a kinda exception for the XJ these days.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

When I was a kid, back when the TJ was the latest and greatest, I was one of those round headlight diehards but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve really started to like the YJ. Like you mentioned, they were the right headlight for the time. Sometimes I even think I prefer how the YJ looks over the TJ

121gwats
121gwats
11 months ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

I prefer how the frame looks over a TJ, lol. They are notorious for rusting out, so if you’re looking for a used Wrangler its either CJ, YJ, JK.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

Yes, at the time the YJ was released, round headlights were visual shorthand for “This vehicle is old & outdated” as far as the general public was concerned. The rectangular headlights met the expectations of the time, and also announced that this was indeed a new Jeep.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

The square lights were a good clean break with the CJ line. The style was also perfect for the 80’s.

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