An Introspective Look at the Jeep FC-150

1Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved cars. Sure, I had a cool Lionel electric train set and even fancied building some random model airplane kits from time to time; but, when it came right down to it, CARS was where it was at for me. I lived and breathed them. Tinker Toys always seemed to lack enough detail to hold my interest. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were my strongest vice. Each one was different and intriguing in its own way and special for its own reasons.

Fast forward a handful of decades and a couple hundred car shows later; it’s seemingly impossible to see something automotive that really ignites any excitement anymore. My enjoyment of all things automotive has become more sensory, certainly when automotive design overall has become, in my opinion, somewhat mundane. It takes something visually fantastic, mechanically profound or some sensational sound to attract my gaze and steal my attention.

I think that’s why I like Jeeps so much. They all have similar visual appeal, so much that the Jeep community embraces a two-letter abbreviation to reference their particular model from a vast seventy-seven year span. From a JK to a TJ or CJ, it takes a species specialist to tell the difference between them at times. It’s truly evolved to the point where it’s all about the driving experience for me. Like the feel of the breezes that surround you as you drive an open-air Jeep or maybe the convention involved with driving something that resists being driven half-heartedly. It commands input and rewards such with a thrill for all of your senses.

But then one Jeep turns that premise on its ear. The Jeep FC-150 is so irregular in its appearance, many who have never witnessed one before are quick to ask “Is that really a Jeep?”. Gratefully, the answer is yes and what a Jeep it is.

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Built off a CJ5 chassis and manufactured for a decade, from the middle fifties through the mid-sixties, the FC models (short for Forward Control) are as refreshing to the eye of the typical car enthusiast as ride on a wooden roller coaster. Seasoned journalists survey its peculiar exterior with newfound enthusiasm and never fail to don a smile with the prospect of driving such a vehicle.

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4And what’s not to love? Driving an old FC can be compared to piloting a cross between a lunar rover from a dated science fiction movie bred with a 1950’s-era semi- truck. It’s somewhat awkward due to your body positioning over the front wheels but mostly just outlandishly fun. Heck, your inner child might even believe that you have somehow shrunken yourself and taken the wheel of a classic Tonka truck. That could happen, right? The similarities between them make one ponder the possibility that the two are actually the same. Fact is, toymakers only make cars that replicate ones that people would truly love to drive; hence, the Jeep FC. I’ve never seen kids playing in a backyard sandbox with a toy Moped or a 3-wheeled Cushman. It makes total sense…

My first time driving an FC was just a short little jaunt around a parking lot but it was indeed something special. The large-diameter steering wheel positioned relatively level in front of you and the fact that you can see the ground right in front of your feet makes your automotive sensibilities do an about-face. The controls are simplistic and antiquated, the seating crude and the subtle reminder that you are essentially riding atop the engine is always at elbows length away. Still, the experience is crude yet wondrous.

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I would argue that the term “Super Car” being reserved for those that possess absurd speed or racecar-like handling is unfounded, if not completely unfair. While the early FC’s were powered by the puny 134 cubic inch four cylinder engine, it clearly wasn’t their speed that made them so outstanding. Throw in a hydraulic dump bed and a total absence of a hood and you end up with a vehicle capable of totally collapsing conformity while cruising comfortably below the posted limits? It’s hard to deny that Jeep FC indeed ranks as “Super” car and puts it high on my list of the coolest cars around. OlllllllO

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This Looks Like a Job For…SUPER JEEP!

Everyone has likely heard the timeless quote “Look… up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!” It matters not whether you are young or old, rich or poor – EVERYONE loves a superhero.  Interestingly, the one defining factor that allowed Superman to avoid being mistaken for just another common flying fowl or small passenger aircraft was always the outfit that he chose to wear. Certainly, no one else would be caught out soaring around the public skies, in plain view, dressed in little more than brightly colored briefs, a pair of Lycra tights and a cape. Clark Kent knew good and well that if you were going to save the world, you needed to dress the part. He needed to stand-out with colors so bold that no mere mortal would dare wear them in the broad light of day. Someone at Jeep must have been taking notes…SJ1

Flashback to 1972 – The Jeep CJ5 was selling like hotcakes after successfully surviving the transition from Kaiser to American Motors with its identity still firmly intact. The rest of the automotive world was still dazed from the tail end of the muscle car era: a time when the number of cubic inches your engine displaced was all that really mattered, so automakers proudly emblazoned it on your fender for all to see. But now cars were trending in an inverse direction, with engine size beginning to recede as fuel economy and emissions standards began to grow in importance. AMC Sales and Marketing thinkers saw this as a prime opportunity to give the consumers what they longed for- modest performance, touches of flashy chrome and wrap it all up in a color-coordinated paint and stripe packages that personified 70’s pop culture. And they called it Super Jeep.

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The 1973 Jeep Super Jeep was NOT a car for the timid. In fact, little or nothing about this car was subtle or understated. The Super Jeep was available in a total of 6 paint colors, each a little bolder than the prior, and all accented with one of two stripe schemes to really set things off visually; delivering a massive dose of styling flash that can be equaled by nothing less than a sequin-covered body suit. All Jetset Blue Metallic and Champagne White CJ models received blue & red stripes while Butterscotch Gold, Daisy Yellow, Copper Tan Metallic and Fairway Green Metallic hues were all treated to orange & white striping that can only be described as being something snuck out the back-alley door of a retro pop art exhibit. A giant star adorns the side panel directly behind the door opening, reminiscent of the trusty shield wielded by Captain America in a vintage comic book. Suddenly you didn’t need to have 400 horses under the hood to be known as the baddest guy on the block.

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Accentuating the daring paint jobs were a handful of appearance goodies that originated from well-outside the normal CJ fare like a curved chrome front bumper, two-tone vinyl seats in paint-matching tones and L78-15 whitewall tires mounted on white painted steel wheels. Much speculation exists that one of the motivating factors behind the “Super Jeep” was that the supply of aluminum alloy wheels used on the ever-popular Renegade had become scarce, causing Jeep to devise a plan to make people clamor for the simplicity of an over-abundant stock steel wheel. Sometimes giving the people what they want involves, to some extent, indoctrinating those people with what you think they want.  After all, who ever said saving the world couldn’t be done in sensible shoes?

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Whatever the reasoning behind such a limited production model as the ’73 Super Jeep, it seemingly disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. It’s believed that only a few hundred were ever produced although no credible documentation is known to exist to support that claim. What is known quite certainly is that very few of these gems still exist and if you ever get an opportunity to see one firsthand, you really have to jump at the opportunity.

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One opportunity to do just that would be found in the Omix-ADA Jeep Collection, which proudly possesses a fully-restored Super Jeep that truly personifies an automotive super hero. You can check it out at http://www.jeepcollection.com/ or see it in person at the 2nd Annual Jeep Heritage Expo on June 3, 2017. Further details on the show can be found at http://www.ruggedridge.com/event   OlllllllO

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