Home » Trail-Rated Paperweights: 1987 AMC Jeepster vs. 1987 Jeep Honcho OffRoadster

Trail-Rated Paperweights: 1987 AMC Jeepster vs. 1987 Jeep Honcho OffRoadster

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“Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”. Mom would say that when I’d come back to the table at Wang’s Family Buffet, a plate stacked a foot high with eggrolls, chicken wings, and crab rangoon. She was right; I was never going to finish consuming all of that fried goodness, and I knew it. Our own David Tracy has experienced the same issues with sad vehicles that he saw online and simply had to purchase with little regard to the number of similar sad vehicles he already owned. A few he’s brought back to some semblance of life, while many others molder and become affordable housing for possums. Those are the subjects of today’s showdown.

NOTE: You’ve probably already noticed that Mark is out this week, so the rest of the staff is taking turns trying their hand at Shitbox Showdown. The following cars are not really owned by David Tracy and thus not for sale, since they do not actually exist. If they did, however, I have no doubt that our great founder and Jeep devotee David would have had derelict examples like these in his collection, so just go with it.

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Yesterday, Thomas presented us with equally tragic “whole life crisis” cars, in this case Canadian-specification sports machines that Bryan Adams might have gifted himself with after winning a Juno Award in the early eighties.

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Neither is much of a prize now, but it was a blowout for an Audi-built Porsche against the often-unloved Corvette C4. Our dear readers would apparently rather do 1980s cosplay as a thirtysomething cocaine-addicted stockbroker than as balding fiftysomething owner of a concrete company that also owns a Donzi speedboat (though I’m not sure if those stereotypes hold up above the border).

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Today, there’s a couple of too-good-to-pass-up examples of Jeep products David purchased a year or so ago that were left behind when he went Hollywood; you might remember the rescue stories. Both are Sebring Red, both were ill-fated attempts by Jeep to expand their market share in 1987, and both are as needy as a person who posts ten times a day on Instagram. David has finally had a revelation and accepted the fact that someone else has to make them Their Problem. Which of these two death throes American Motors products would you choose?

 

1987 AMC Jeepster- $4,500 “OBO”

Engine/drivetrain: 4.2 liter Inline Six, 5 Speed Manual, 4WD

Location: Ferndale, MI

Odometer reading: 27,678 miles, probably flipped (the odometer, not the car, maybe)

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Runs/drives? Technically, yes, but realistically no

The idea of making a Jeep Wrangler into something more practical for daily suburban use than, well, a Jeep Wrangler, is an admirable idea. Styling this streetable YJ to look like a Pacer might not have been an admirable idea. The AMC Jeepster failed to find buyers despite the capable Wrangler chassis under the comfortable, weather tight targa topped body, but the concept proved quite appealing to David, especially a surviving example in a sad state with one pop up headlight winking happily at him. If you can imagine a Suzuki X-90 that actually made sense, this might be it (they tried again with a concept that went nowhere in 1998).

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This particular one is a Holy Grail with a five speed and the Trailrunner package with a lift, and inclinometer, side steps, and cool driving lights hidden under the grilles below the windshield. David got this example running rather easily and drove it an astonishing 800 miles back to the Motor City a year ago, which you can read here. Since that time he’s done , well, very little. He did some minor brake work and flushed the radiator, but even the Taco Bell wrappers from his return trip that he was going to pitch the next morning are preserved for the ages. Power accessories reportedly work except for the door locks (like, who’s gonna steal it?), and if you prioritize tunes over conditioned air, you might be happy with this Jeep, or car, or whatever it is since the radio works but climate control fan does not.

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Door panels with the “Pacer” style fin (the fishbowl glass can’t roll all the way down) are in good shape, even if not all of the speakers work.

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The top is sealed relatively well, and the rear seats flanked by cool louver-covered side windows look like they were never occupied by anything other than mold, mildew, and a few mice.

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In back the trunk lid features giant cartoon Jeep taillights and a special flexible exhaust bracket (bungee cord).

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No mention if David has the optional trunk seats seen in the brochure below; they’d be nice to have if nothing else as a surface over the likely rusted floor.

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The clutch is having a hard time mediating between the engine and the rare five speed, but a sieve-like main seal means you or your mechanic will become friendly with this part of the car anyway. Under the hood, the legendary Jeep six still reportedly runs strong, which is a good thing considering the limited access the deep windshield provides to the back cylinders. If you have to change the back plugs, words will emerge from your mouth that broadcast TV would beep out.

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David will even throw in the Jeep compass/Swiss Army knife key for instead of hoarding it as a keepsake!

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This Big Red Egg needs plenty of work but appears to be in decidedly better nick than Tracy’s next offering.

 

1987 Jeep Honcho OffRoadster Pickup- $3,500 OBO

Engine/drivetrain: 5.8 liter dual throttle body fuel injected V8, 5 Speed Manual, 4WD (if it works)

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Location: Royal Oak, MI

Odometer reading: 64,546 miles (likely flipped once)

Runs/drives? More than likely could run, what constitutes ‘drives’?

If there’s one car that pulls at David’s heartstrings, it’s large new-for-1962 Jeep SJ trucks; the Cherokee and pickup models he owns are seemingly non-negotiables in terms of things he’ll part with. The 1987-1992 full sized SJX that replaced it might be a bit too modern and refined to earn that much of his love, but the Holy Grail Honcho OffRoadster model of this short-lived series certainly was a must-have. Only 1000 were planned to be built, but the VINs stop after about 587 so it appears there were few takers. Naturally, when Mercedes Streeter found one outside of Chicago, logic got thrown out faster than a Spin Doctors CD and he immediately purchased it. After a bizarre adventure of getting it sort of running and back to Detroit (which you can read here), he kept it in climate controlled storage, meaning the climate of the parking lot in Royal Oak where he left it controlled the continued deterioration. Grand plans for a frame-off restoration changed to the frame attempting to rust itself off. By David’s own admission, this ‘project’ is good from afar but far from good (and, as we said, rougher than the Jeepster).

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With an electric sliding roof panel, a 360 cubic inch fuel injected V8, a five speed and special wheels and ground effects, the Offroadster was a short wheelbase SJX Honcho modified by ASC when new. Some fender flares are cracked; finding a replacement will prove as likely as Drake really getting into collecting Wartburgs. The blow molded plastic “air gate” is still there, and the randomly-opening-cargo-dump feature is still functional.

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You can see the way the roof works in the owner’s manual snippet below.

Roof Electric

The roof panel, which is now primarily emergency crank operated, would allow a lot of water in if it wanted to, and it looks like much water did indeed want in. This water rusted out much of floors and caused the interior to smell like the south side of San Francisco at low tide. Electric windows work, the Cerwin Vega Bass Boxx does not, and I wouldn’t even ask about air conditioning. The comprehensive instrumentation on the seven-slot dashboard works sporadically, which means it doesn’t really work at all.

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Dashes

Still, David did drive it over three hundred miles to its current resting place, so indeed it “ran when parked”. Since that was over a year ago, you had best bring a tire compressor and jump pack to even think of driving it anywhere.

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David said that this formerly 235 horsepower truck was “pretty fast”, but when your frame of reference is old postal Jeeps and Oldsmobile compacts my guess is that, combined with the carbon monoxide from the busted exhaust, was skewing his opinions. If you want an example of how rarity doesn’t equate to monetary value, this OffRoadster is certainly it, but the potential for period cool factor is still high for ambitious welders.

So put on your Vision Street Wear t-shirt, pop on a backwards baseball cap and hightop Reeboks; time to decide. Yeah, neither of these alternative universe Jeep actually exist, but which one of these running 1987 basket case would you want to pop your Def Leppard Hysteria cassette into, if either AMC tape deck worked? On a deeper level, the Jeep brand needs all the help it can get these days, so your input on these unexplored product niches is even more important today than it would have been four decades ago. Would a full-sized Jeep truck or a modern Wrangler Jeepster today change their fortunes? Choose now – David needs both of these gone quickly.

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Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

I prefer the pregnant fiat x1/9 over the kcar pickup. Though both are overpriced.
I don’t get how this vote even works. Fake cars fake money yet pos quality? Hope Mark gets back before. His baby is totally ruined.

AlterId
AlterId
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

“Fake cars fake money yet pos quality?”

Eighties Jeeps, so, you know. verisimilitude.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
9 months ago

I like the Jeepster. I will fight anybody who likes the other fictional vehicle.

Myk El
Myk El
9 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

There’s 251 of us so far. I like our odds.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 months ago

Ran when parked? Looks more like ‘Parked then ran.’

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
9 months ago

I would really have to see the undercarriage of both of these before deciding. I suspect they are pretty rendered.

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago

Nice pun. However, as of right now, I would suspect they are totally unrendered.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
9 months ago

Buying a dead Jeep Honcho from the Autopian’s Head Honcho seems like something one should do.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
9 months ago

I’m putting a lift kit on that Honcho before I even register it.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 months ago

By lift kit, do you mean an Uber app on your phone?

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
9 months ago

You know there’s a company that offers ute kits for WJ that looks awfully close to that Honcho, just need the roll/lightbar deal and lower them a bit.

Cyko9
Cyko9
9 months ago

I love both of these ideas, and I actually prefer the Honcho Offroadster design. With all the mini SUVs becoming trucks, something like this could fly nowadays. But playing by the rules, the Red Egg Jeepster is in better shape & a better deal.

Ricki
Ricki
9 months ago

I’ll take the Jeep Ute over the Jeep Aztek, though the Jeep Aztek seems extremely funny.

Gubbin
Gubbin
9 months ago

Jeepster for me, the bed’s too short on the Honcho and I don’t want to wear a rain slicker when I drive.

Though I haven’t sat in a Jeepster, with that short hood does the I6 engine protrude into the cabin like in a van?

Gubbin
Gubbin
9 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Hm, serviceability and NVH might be a little harsh but a dashboard you can sleep on like a bed might be useful.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

V8 and 5 Speed, yes please.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
9 months ago
Reply to  JDE

But it is an AMC 360 V8. It’s not a good engine at all. Even David admits it.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Fair point…..still I would probably still try to live with it. Probably Holley Sniper the thing to make it something I could live with.

Stephen Walter Gossin
Stephen Walter Gossin
9 months ago

Honcho all the way over here. Fantastic Showdown; bravo Bishop!

Extra points for Def Leppard Hysteria.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago

fake cars, really?

You should’ve done this for april fools

Last edited 9 months ago by Dogisbadob
Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
9 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

They’re real to me!

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

they’re less real than a mirage 😛

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

At Autopian, every day is April Fools.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

fair enough

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
9 months ago

Give me the Honcho.

I want to name it “Mike”

Church
Church
9 months ago

That Jeepster has aged worse than I would have expected and is not at all worth that place, even if the taco bell box on the passenger footwell is full. Honcho all the way because while it’s dated, at least it has some practical use left in it.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 months ago

I’m voting for the exceptionally rare Jeep Tracy. It comes from the factory with an AMC 4.0 I6 with a blown head gasket, a manual transmission that is currently in a kitchen sink, rust holes, a colony of mice that are in eternal war with a colony of cats, and a stack of citations from the City of Troy MI.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago

Honcho.

YODO

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
9 months ago

This is a tough one. It will be impossible to get parts for either one! I guess I’ll become a metal fabricator and go with the Honcho

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago

The Bishop is a next-level troll. I salute your spot-on alt-world roast. When do we get an LA DT spoof?

David finds the discarded prototype of the “Holy Grail” BMW i9, the lifted off-road Dakar-inspired version of the hybrid i8 sports car. Unfortunately cat piss has delaminated the carbon fiber space frame which has rendered it undriveable. Undeterred, David tows it home with his Barbie Jeep where it becomes a decaying sculpture in his apartment car park. A battle with Los Angeles City Code Enforcement ensues. In a stroke of genius, he has it declared an artwork symbolizing the futility of trusting industrial solutions to ecological disasters.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
9 months ago

I’ll take the Jeep Fiero … I mean Jeepster. I ain’t got time for rusted out floors and frame problems.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
9 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

No that wasn’t me. I drove my shitbox Corolla to the meet. Crap, what was that guy’s screen name!?! BAH! He’s a super cool dude, and that bike was amazing.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
9 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

It was great to meet you as well. It takes a lot to get me into the city proper, especially during rush hour, and that meetup was totally worth it.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
9 months ago

The Honcho will make an outstanding garage companion to my Dad’s old Denbeigh Super Chauvinist, which coincidentally also ran when parked. We’ll take the truck.

Well done, Your Eminence!

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
9 months ago

I have to hand it to you on the little Jeep grille reimagined on the dash as HVAC vents. That’s pretty good.

Buzz
Buzz
9 months ago

“…but even the Taco Bell wrappers from his return trip that he was going to pitch the next morning are preserved for the ages.”

Just be glad it isn’t fossilized chow mein and Panera bread bowl…

I like the Honcho OffRoadster more, but I’m not dealing with rusted out floors. My vote went to the Jeepster.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
9 months ago
Reply to  Buzz

Same here.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
9 months ago
Reply to  Buzz

Yep! I SSSSOOOOOO want a Honcho, but have to go with this Jeepster based on condition.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago
Reply to  Buzz

If I go Jeepster can I get DT to autograph the Taco Bell wrappers? This is non negotiable.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
9 months ago

The Honcho is sweet, so I’ll go with that.

As always, The Bishop does fantastic work!

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
9 months ago

Pop up headlights vs V8 with a stick?!?

GAAAAAAAH!!! HOW DO I CHOOSE?!?

I guess… ummmm… okay, fine! Honcho it is.

No!! Jeepster.

Wait. Definitely Honcho.

Yeah.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
9 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Smash ‘em together and call it the Heepster.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Heepster or HEAPster?

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
9 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Honchster! No, Jeepcho! Wait, no, Honchster! Arrrgh!

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