THEN AND NOW: SCRAMBLER CJ8
JEEP CJ8 SCRAMBLER; THEN. Still reeling after a second oil crisis in 1979, North American auto manufacturers were having a hard time staying in business. New government requirements for safety and emissions standards meant greater cost to the already struggling companies, with smaller outfits like AMC Jeep finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the marketplace.
The buying public began to look more seriously at the compact pick-up trucks being offered by the Japanese, and domestic manufacturers responded with the likes of the Ford Ranger and Chevy S10, but Jeep were having a hard time keeping up.
Their low-cost quick-fix was to take an existing model, the CJ7, extend the wheelbase by ten inches, the bed by two feet, and include a removable soft or hard top cab. Finished off with a sturdy roll-bar, special wheels and some fancy graphics, North America saw its first factoryfresh convertible 4x4 pick-up truck, the Scrambler, which debuted in March 1981.
AMC attempted to keep the Scrambler fresh and appealing by offering several trim packages. The SR Sport and SL Sport variations came with a host of extras including larger tires, under-hood insulation, special decals, three-spoke steering wheel, under-hood lighting, chrome trim, carpets, and the seemingly obligatory-for-the-time, denim version.
At $8392 the denim model was the most expensive Scrambler to grace the showroom floor but during 1982 the Scrambler’s price was reduced to a mere $6765, and Jeep television ads of the time were asking the motoring public “Why buy a car?” It wasn’t enough though, as sales
reflected the price and were falling fast. “Going Topless” was the 1985 ad-man’s angle, and Jeep offered a free soft top with the purchase of all new Scramblers but it was too little too late; sales were barely a quarter of the first year’s at a little over two thousand units, and 1986 saw the final year of production with one hundred and twenty eight units sold in North America.
The potential was there for the vehicle to succeed, but sadly it never happened, although if you happen to have a right hand drive model, fitted with a hard top and rear barn door, consider yourself extremely lucky; marketed as the ‘World Cab’, it’s an extremely rare model in North America as only two hundred and thirty were made for the Alaskan Postal Service. If you’re travelling to South America or Australia your chances of finding one are much better as the same hard top, righthand-drive Scrambler was sold there in much greater numbers, and fitted with full length rear windows and was appropriately called the Overlander.
JEEP CJ8 SCRAMBLER; NOW.
Learning to drive in a purpose-built Jeep CJ7 rock crawler riding on 37" tires immediately qualifies you for the “Not
your average Soccer Mom” category. Yes I said Mom, and Jamie-Leah Papoutsis is just that, mom to three wonderful boys; Micah age nine, Gabriel age seven, and their much loved, eighteen month old brother, Paul Junior. But with all this precious cargo to haul around, the family needed something a little bigger than their current rock-crawling CJ, so Mom decided that she wanted a Scrambler.
1982 was a pretty good year for some people, and the immaculate CJ8 Scrambler that you see here –purchased in October 2016 after a long search by the Papoutsis family- had just rolled off the production line and was in the hands of its first American owner in Alabama. The Southern climate is generally kind to vehicles, and even though the twenty-year old truck was totally rust-free, its second owner, a Texan, completed a full body-off restoration in 2014.
Papoutsis is only the third owner of this beautifully restored Scrambler, and has a comprehensive binder that documents the entire process. Needless to say that the truck didn’t require any work to qualify for an Ontario safety, and as it’s only ever summer driven should, with little more than scheduled maintenance, last long enough for all the Papoutsis’ boys to learn how to drive in it. Even at such a young age, the boys told me –quite diplomatically- that they don’t have a favourite family Jeep; secretly though I think they do.
With the rock crawler on hand for off-road fun, Papoutsis “Decided to keep the Scrambler stock, you just don’t see Scramblers in this condition here in Canada.” The only requirements she had were a new soft top and fixed seating for the boys. Paul senior was employed to fabricate seat mounts enabling the rear seats to sit higher than the middle row, thus keeping everyone happy. And a great
job he did too, the Scrambler now sports three rows of comfy seats and still has room for all the boys’ baseball gear.
Heading out for the photo shoot, and with just over two thousand miles on the freshly rebuilt AMC 258 six-cylinder engine, Papoutsis effortlessly shifted the five speed manual transmission as if it were an automatic; “This is how I unwind”, she said. Life takes on a different pace in the Scrambler, and with trips to ball, back road runs, and frequent family outings to their local conservation area, this particular Jeep only represents happy times in the Papoutsis home. What a year that was…six facts about 1982 • The Canada Act was passed; meaning we were truly independent from the UK Government’s House of Commons, and could at last make all our own political decisions. Go Canada! • Lotto 6/49 was first drawn on June 12th
with a half million dollar jackpot. • Karen Baldwin became Canada’s first
ever Miss Universe. • Dominion Day was renamed Canada Day. • The Commodore 64 home computer was
launched. • The Falklands War; two months of bitter
fighting and almost a thousand lives lost.