Truck-spotting is catching on with the kids

Quimby Mug Bayou Florida Headshot
Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler

My habit of truck-spotting is getting picked up by my kids which is great.

This past Friday my son and I were heading home after picking up pizza when he saw an old Jeep inside a fenced lot. I hadn’t seen it because I had been concentrating on making a right turn and getting the pizza home. That mission changed when my son said, “Dad, there’s an old Jeep over there. Did you see it?”

The pizza can always be reheated. I had to see that Jeep. I pulled off a U-turn at the next intersection and headed back. It was worth it.

Through the locked, chain link fence of this small auto shop which had recently reopened following Cat 5 Hurricane Michael in October (yes, we’re still dealing with damaged homes and businesses around here) it looked to be an early 80s Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler pickup. Granted, I’m not crazy about the grille cover, but it was the first time I’ve seen one of these unicorns in Panama City.

But then I began wondering if it was a kit build. I couldn’t get too close so I had to settle for shooting some photos through the fence (see photo above). When I got home I compared the Jeep to some Scramblers online including President Reagan’s beloved CJ-8.

Most, but not all, CJ-8 Scramblers I’ve seen bear the name prominently on the hood which is not the case here. However, Hagerty’s history (posted below) reveals that some models did not feature the label. The roll bar and doors do look legit. In fact, the lines of the hard top match what I’m finding online. I’ll have to go back and ask about it. Regardless, I’m proud that my 13-year-old son spotted it and knew it was different from other Jeeps he’s seen.

It’s no secret that the market has been kind to CJ-8 Scramblers. Current valuations from Hagerty’s are $32,000 (pristine, Concours condition); $23,400 (excellent); $15,500 (good); $7,300 fair.

Hagerty’s posted the following history on the CJ-8 Scrambler which Jeep produced for model years 1981-1986.

Derived from the CJ-7, with a 10-inch longer wheelbase and extended rear overhang, the CJ-8 Scrambler was initially available as a pickup with a bulkhead behind the seats. Buyers could choose either a hard fiberglass pickup cab with steel doors or folding vinyl pickup top with vinyl doors. Its introduction in 1981 meant that it preceded all other domestic-made compact pickups by at least a year (the Chevrolet S-10 was introduced in 1982 and the Ford Ranger was a mid-year introduction for 1983). Later, a full-length hard fiberglass wagon roof was made available, but very few were fitted. By and large, the majority of Scramblers were hard cab pickups.

Powertrain availability and options generally mirrored both its CJ-7 and CJ-5 stablemates. As such, only for the introductory year was the AMC 304 cid V-8 available as an option. Trim packages, however, were generally unique and limited on the Scrambler. Aside from the plain entry level model, a SC Sport and SL Sport were also available. Both featured “SCRAMBLER” decals on the hood sides, but the SL also had most fittings in chrome, to include the grille and bumpers. During 1982, the Laredo package was also made available on the Scrambler, becoming Jeep’s top end trim package for all models.

The Scrambler never saw large sales (even for Jeep) and was dropped for 1986. In addition to low sales, it was also dropped because Jeep’s new Cherokee/Wrangler based pickup – the Comanche – had just been introduced.

We’re still waiting to see some new Jeep Gladiators on the road around here. Shouldn’t be long. If nothing else, I’m sure we’ll catch some at next year’s Florida Jeep Jam in neighboring Panama City Beach. More than 2,000 Jeeps from 17 states are expected at the next annual event which is scheduled for May 13-16, 2020. Off-roading events are included.

Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential LibraryCredit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library