While Jeeps became well-known in Australia during World War 2, and some civilian versions began entering the country from 1945, there wasn’t a concerted effort to market Jeep until the late-1950s. Even then, the sales figures were small, and absolutely minute by USA standards.
In the ten years between March 1958 and May 1968 the Jeep distributors sold just 5,626 vehicles. That’s an average of just over two vehicles per working day!
For the jeepaholics, here is the ‘official’ list, kindly provided by Barry Massey, a long-time Jeep enthusiast and owner of Jeep Spares in Brisbane.
FC150 FORWARD CONTROL 1
FJ3 VAN 1
626 2WD WAGON 6
6-230 2WD WAGON 18
6-230 4WD WAGON 36
FC170 FORWARD CONTROL 126
475 4WD TRUCK 236
6-230 4WD TRUCK 366
SJ WAGON AND GLADIATOR TRUCK 527
CJ5/CJ6 WITH FORD 6-CYLINDER 604
CJ3B & CJ3BL 1000
6-226 4WD WAGON & TRUCK 1133
CJ5 & CJ6 4-CYLINDER 1560
The sales records for the period 1969- 1972 seem to have been consigned to the dustbin.
Calculated guesses range from 1000 to 1500 units. In 1973, it was less than 100.
The Sydney-based LNC Industries took over Jeep distribution in 1974. A business decision, one would imagine, they would eventually come to regret.
LNC chose to import just the CJ5 and CJ6 models. Their accountants must have played a part in the ordering process, for the company ordered only the most basic versions. They were built as right-hand drive (using the steering components from 2wd Dispatcher delivery van), but the seating – a single bucket plus a two-thirds bench – was designed for a left-hand vehicle. This meant (incredibly) the driver had to sit on a two-person seat. An optional steel hardtop came in a wooden box and it was up to the dealer, or the customer, to try and assemble the dozens of individual parts.
The Jeeps were basic, rough and expensive. At the time, the asking price for a soft-top CJ was above $6000, while a better-built Landcruiser hardtop was under $5000. As you could imagine, the dealers had an uphill battle trying to find customers. And those that did purchase a Jeep were often not happy once they got the vehicle home. Many owners complained of sagged suspension and poorly finished bodywork. The wife of one owner was shocked when she attempted to climb into their new CJ5 Jeep - by gripping the edge of door opening – only to realize that the sharp, ragged inner edge of the panel had cut two of her fingers to the bone!
LNC was also to face a few legal challenges from people who bought new Jeeps in 1977, only to discover, after the purchase, that the vehicles were fitted with 1974 compliance plates.
It was time for American Motors Corporation to step in and take control of the Jeep situation in Australia.
Sydney radio personalities try out a CJ5 on Bondi Beach, circa 1960.