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Hey everybody, I’m looking to start a jeep family. The wife’s been driving a Liberty for the last five years, it just hit 230,000 and is holding up well. 


So anyways I found an 86 Comanche near me on Craigslist. 87,000 Miles on it, only a couple rust spots and the seller just replaced a bunch of standard things (muffler, brakes, booster, master cylinder). Going to look at it in a few days. 


I’m wondering how much I would have to invest in this to have it be a daily driver? I won't be off-roading or hauling, mainly just driving around town. 


Is this vintage more difficult to repair than a “modern” car? The oldest car I’ve owned and worked on was a 92 Buick. Are aftermarket parts readily available? I don’t want to do anything crazy, just keep it looking as good as possible and retain the ability to drive from point A to point B. 


Please share your thoughts, thanks! 

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With 1986 you’ve got likely engines of carbureted 2.8 Chevy v6, 2.5 i4 I think throttle body early Renix, or a Diesel engine.
The v6 is considered all round kind of crappy and low on power, easy swap of a 95 3.4 v6 out of a Camaro into it. Now I’ve have a 2.8 5 speed with np207 transfer case I’ve put a lot of miles on, and beat the hell out of with no problems. others aren’t so lucky with it.

The 2.5 is the little sister to the 4.0. Decent engine but not a lot of power.
Diesel I don’t know a thing about.

Transmission are ax-5 manual , or 904 automatic.
If 4x4 Np207 transfer case or the np228 select track, with Dana 30 front axel with vacuum disconnect.
None of those combinations are real desirable. These can be replaced or upgraded, also many never have trouble with them I put my Jeep through hell and those parts never failed, although the rear Dana 35 axel did, several times.

I think the older jeeps are easier to work on than the newer. but something like carburetors are a PITA to get right if your using the factory set up. All kinds of aftermarket kits to make it more tunable.

For just driving around town you might get by with whatever the factory engine is. Your not going to have abs or traction control but the oem 80s jeep is not like trying to get a 1950s truck to have road manners. It’s not that far off the 90s standard and plenty of upgrades if you want to modernize. Just depends what you need in a car.

Far as brakes and other maintenance items like hoses, brake booster and master, water pump, power steering fluid, radiator fluid, just plan on replacing it all, 30 years old hardly driven, I’d bet most of it is going to be bad.

Problem with the 86 mj is it was a year before the 4.0 became available and it’s a major pain to retrofit it in to the 86. Easier to put a v8 in. I wouldn’t shy away from it, actually kind of like it better and like the challenge.

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Green Mesa is on the numbers there.


Personally I would not buy a diesel one and plan on driving it long term, even if it is currently working.  However, they're extremely rare, so it's unlikely you'll run into one.  Parts aren't really available, and they have massive inherent weaknesses.  Since it's very unlikely you are looking at buying one of these, that's all I will say.


The 2.8L GM V6 is a pile.  Be very cautious if you buy one.  If it has been kept in good shape they are pretty easy to work on, and it will run a long time if you baby it though.  Personally I'd only ever buy one if planning to swap the engine out. 


The 2.5L was by far the best engine offered in those years.  As Green Mesa says, they're good quality but lacking in power.  If you're not needing to boot it onto the interstate or pulling a trailer, they're perfectly fine though.


Honestly, the MJ/XJ chassis is very easy to work on (the MJ is easier than the XJ even) and there is a massive amount of aftermarket support for the XJ along with a little for the MJ.  So everything but some of the MJ specific parts are easily enough sourced.  Most autoparts stores will stock nearly every regular wear item.


I spent a ton of money fixing up my 88 to daily drive it...  But I modified a lot of stuff at the same time, and it was absolutely clapped out and undriveable when I bought it.  If the truck you're looking at just needs some odds and ends, fluid changes, and a cleaning, you'll probably be able to get it back to roadworthy for only a couple hundred bucks.  If it has been run long term with zero maintenance and hack modifications, costs might spiral...

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The Comanche is a mix of new and old school engineering. The 86 is further towards the "old school" end of the scale than any other year. There is nothing complicated about the design. By modern standards it's a very easy vehicle to work on. Parts availability for most things is good, but slowly fading for parts specific to the older years. Anything specific to the Comanche (anything located behind the doors, basically) might be a challenge, but that's why we're here.


The '86 Comanche is widely considered to be the worst year for good reason, mostly the 2.8L V6 that was the optional engine - I can't think of a single desirable characteristic about it. The 2.5L is an underpowered cockroach with a lot of similarities to the 4.0L. I wouldn't call it desirable in stock form, just "meh". It's not necessarily bad, but the 4.0 inline 6 (especially from 1991 on) was just so much better. With the 2.5 you at least get the advantage of fuel injection. The '86 2.8L has the dubious honor of being the only carbureted factory Comanche, and the carb it has is a typical mid '80s emissions nightmare. That's about as much as I know about it. Listen to Green Mesa XJ for 2.8L advice.


As far as getting it going as a roadgoing truck, other than the obvious things like making sure it runs and drives:


it is almost certainly in need of some front end work by now unless it's been done recently. It is 32 years old, after all. The steering linkage on these is relatively complex compared to a modern car and has lots of places to develop looseness and slack. It doesn't take much to make the steering in these feel sloppy. The steering gear is an old GM design dating back to the 60s, kinda vague and lifeless compared to a modern car in the best of times - but nowhere as bad as an actual old truck. New tie rod ends, ball joints, control arm bushings, and track bar will help, and will improve the driving experience greatly, even if none of them have visible play.


The unofficial slogan of Comanche Club, "look under the carpet before it's too late!" is repeated around here for a very good reason. These trucks have a number of stupid design decisions that result in above average levels of floor rust. Water tends to drain in through the firewall (especially where the fusebox is), and if it's a manual the clutch master cylinder can leak directly onto the fuse box, destroy the fuse box, and flow down to the floor pans to help rust them out. If you look under the truck and don't see the carpet matting, you have a chance here. One of the first things you should do is remove the carpet/vinyl matting and look at the condition of the floors.


Now that that's out of the way, the Comanche is one of the best small trucks ever made. It was ahead of its time and (IMO) was never really surpassed by a vehicle of its size on anything but refinement.

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The good: 87K miles. That's it, if it's true. The power plants for 1986 all suck in varying degrees, and parts are not easy to find for the carburetor models. My main concern would be the body seeing that it's an Ohio truck. If it has good bones w. zero or minor rot and was garaged most of it's life, grab it if the price is reasonable. If not, pass. I've seen a lot of one-owner pristine 86's with low mileage lately. The drivetrain can be replaced/modernized for a lot less $$ than a rusted out body.

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do not assume that the rust you see from a photo is the whole extent.  a semi-common problem with rust-belt trucks is rotting of the frame itself from the inside-out.  (especially right in front of the rear tires/springs).  if it's solid, then you're good. :thumbsup: but if you can stab a  screwdriver through any part of the frame, then it might be too much project for you.  :(  

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