EXPERT REVIEW

chicagotribune.com's view

Give `em less.

That`s what American Motors Corp. did for 1987 when it came up with asmaller version of the Jeep Comanche pickup.

The `87 Comanche shortbed pickup is built on a 113-inch wheelbase versusthe 119.6 inches of the regular Comanche, which bowed a year ago. And thecargo bed is 6 feet rather than 7 feet on the regular model.

And sales have taken off since the new model has appeared, AMC says.

Of course, the $6,495 price tag had a lot to do with the smaller Jeeppickup`s success.

We test drove a two-wheel-drive Comanche shortbed, as it`s called. Whilea 2.5-liter four and 4-speed manual are standard, our test vehicle cameequipped with the optional 4-liter six ($512) and automatic ($895), a goodcombination for performance as well as for room saved: There is no manualtransmission stealing space on the front floor.

The shortbed can be purchased in 2WD, or 4WD version (starting at$9,589). The problem is that whether two- or four-wheel-drive, the basicdesign puts you rather high in the saddle to allow room for the 4WD hardwareand clearance for off-roading. It means great down-the-road visibility, butmakes for some tense moments in corners and turns from the raised center ofgravity.

The success of the smaller, less expensive Comanche bodes well for AMC`splans to build a new mini-Jeep in Kenosha for the 1990 model year. AMC andDaihatsu of Japan had been negotiating for Daihatsu to build a mini utilityvehicle in Venezuela for AMC, but those talks fell through.

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