1989 Jeep Comanche Is an Unassuming Sleeper With a Turbo Surprise, Runs 11s

Introduced in 1985, the Comanche was, at the time, Jeep's third pickup truck. However, with the CJ-8 Scrambler's discontinuation in 1986 and with the Gladiator sent into the history books in 1988, the Cherokee-based Comanche remained the company's sole hauler until 1992.
1989 Jeep Comanche dragster 7 photos
1989 Jeep Comanche dragster1989 Jeep Comanche dragster1989 Jeep Comanche dragster1989 Jeep Comanche dragster1989 Jeep Comanche dragster1989 Jeep Comanche dragster
The nameplate was retired for good that year and Jeep stopped offering trucks altogether until the Gladiator was revived in 2019. All told, the Comanche was remembered as the brand's last pickup truck for almost three decades. Come 2023 and it's getting some traction as a collectible, but many of them are still in service or rotting away in backyards.

But here's a Comanche that's a bit different than the rest. While it still looks very much like a workhorse, this 1989 version of the hauler is spinning fat rear tires and running fast quarter-mile sprints at the drag strip. Yup, as strange as it may sound, this Comanche is living the dragster life.

How is this possible since the truck was never offered with a V8 and its diverse engine lineup included rather mundane mills? Well, owner Kain Zehren paired the Comanche's factory 4.0-liter six-cylinder powerplant with a big turbocharger. The unit in question is a VS Racing 78/75 and it works in conjunction with a significantly modified AMC straight-six.

Specifically, the stock block has been bored .060 over and now relies on forged rods and pistons, as well as a custom stainless-steel header. The oomph travels to the rear wheels through a GM Turbo Hydramatic 350 and an 8.8-inch rear end with 3.73 gears sourced from a Ford Explorer. Engine management is handled through a MegaSquirt Gold Box.

How quick is this unassuming truck, you ask? Well, Kain took part in the 2022 Hot Rod Drag Week at Byron Dragway and was awarded the Quickest AMC Award for an 11.82-second and 117.03-mph (188.34-kph) average over the five-day event. Granted, that's nowhere near as quick as a Dodge Challenger Demon, but it's fast enough to trump a long list of modern vehicles, including the BMW 4 Competition and even the Tesla Model 3 Performance.

But the footage you're about to see below shows the Comanche running faster than average. Pitted against a modified 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, the pickup truck covered the quarter-mile in 11.59 seconds at 118.62 mph (190.90 kph). The Chevy didn't stand a chance with its 13.30-second run.

Most likely the quickest Comanche out there, this truck left the factory with a 4.0-liter AMC inline-six rated at 177 horsepower and 224 pound-feet (304 Nm) of torque. The nameplate's most potent engine at the time, the straight-six gained a "High Output" version good for 190 horsepower in 1991.

The truck was also offered with a 2.5-liter inline-four capable of up to 130 horsepower, as well as a Chevrolet-sourced 2.8-liter V6 rated at 115 horses. In 1986 and 1987, the Comanche was also sold with a 2.1-liter Renault diesel that generated 85 horsepower and 132 pound-feet (179 Nm) of torque. The latter was part of AMC's partnership with Renault before the Chrysler Corporation takeover.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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