Here’s what every gearhead should know about the 1980-1983 Jeep J10 Honcho

You can tell how much enthusiasts appreciate the J10 model line from the large number of used examples that have changed hands in recent years. Still, it’s a habit to still ask “is it worth buying a used J-Series Jeep today?” Jeep discontinued the J10 thirty-four years ago. So, like any old used car, you can hardly expect perfection. However, you can be sure of the J10’s solid reputation for reliability that has many wondering what business sense made Jeep discontinue the model. The durability and unforgettable styling make it a perfect addition to your collection, whether for daily driving or off-road adventures.

Although the Honcho designation eventually became the J10’s common nickname, the Honcho, along with the 10-4 and Golden Eagle, were packages for the Jeep J10. They were not Jeep models. Call it a case of identity crisis, and you wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Gearheads from the ’80s would easily recognize the J10 on its 7-foot bed that sits on a 119-inch wheelbase. Four decades later, collectors and enthusiasts appreciate the collectible value of classic Jeeps, especially the J Series that used to be the Jeep Gladiator. Let’s check it out.

Related: 15 Rare Jeeps That Are Worth a Fortune Today

Jeep J10 Overview

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The J10 model line of pickup trucks joined the J-Series Jeep in 1974. Manufactured by the defunct American Motors Corporation (AMC), the J10 hit the market in various trim levels, including the Golden Eagle, 10-4, Laredo, and our main attraction in this the article – Honcho. Notably, many automakers sold the J-Series Jeep full-size pickup during its 26 years of production between 1962 and 1988. In addition, many versions of the J10’s predecessor were built and sold in markets outside the United States, including Argentina and Mexico.

As the J10 was built on the Jeep (Wagoneer) SJ platform, the J10 packages were similar to the Jeep Wagoneer and Cherokee and could be ordered with either the classic step-side or flat-side body designs. The J10 also had a wider, yet lighter and easier to open tailgate, compared to the Gladiator and older J series models.

The J10 featured many other upgrades over its predecessor, including a smarter dashboard. The platform remained in production for more than 26 years. Compared to the Gladiator, the J10 models used upgraded front axles and disc brakes, stronger frame members, clutch linkage and six-pin wheels. Remember the beloved and highly capable 4th generation Jeep Wrangler that was introduced in 2018? It’s the Gladiator/J10 returning as one mid-size pickup truck.

Jeep 10 features and specifications

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A quick reminder – AMC produced the J10 from 1974 to 1983. As such, the J series model year determines the specific features, given that the changes in features and specifications were mostly driven by government and environmental regulations. In other words, a newer J Series may not necessarily be more powerful than an older model. That said, the J10 also had different trims, each with unique features.

The J Series’ standard engine between 1972 and 1988 was a 112-horsepower 4.2-liter inline-six, which generated 210 lb-ft of torque. The available engine options for the aforementioned years include a 175-horsepower 5.9-liter V8 producing 245 lb-ft of torque, a 195-horsepower 5.9-liter V8 producing 320 lb-ft of torque, and a 225-horsepower V8.6-liter engine.

When the J10 arrived in 1974, it had a Quadra-Trac 4WD system, so the wheels didn’t have to work at constant speed. The system also used a third slip differential to distribute power automatically between the rear and front axles. AMC followed this up in 1977 with the part-time manual Dana 4WD system – and in 1983 replaced the Quadra-Trac 4WD with the full-time 4WD Selec-Trac system with a two-speed transmission. Selec-Trac was optional for the J10 model.

Related: 5 Big Jeep Wranglers to Buy Used (5 to Stay Away From)

Honcho and J Series trim packages

1978 Jeep J10 Honcho
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Jeep models began with car-like styling and features in 1975, as evidenced by the Pioneer package that year. Pioneer offered nicer interior and exterior styling, such as wheel covers, chrome front bumpers, wood grain interior, window moldings and more. The Honcho trim package included additional factory-installed features such as roll bars, Levi’s (yes, the clothing company) blue or tan interior, and bold decals and color scheme.

Remember when we said in the overview that the vehicle could be ordered with either the classic step-side or flat-side body designs? The Honcho package only came with the step side (also known as the sport side) and the short bed truck design. By the end of 1983, 1,264 Honcho packages were produced. As mentioned earlier, the 10-4, Golden Eagle, and Laredo were also special decal packages for the J-Series Jeep.

The 10-4, for example, offered an optional citizen band radio, a big deal at the time and matched the “10-4” radio endorsement decal. The Golden Eagle trim was also available for the Jeep Cherokee and CJ. With chrome trim, leather buckets, a cutting-edge Alpine sound system, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the Laredo package was easily the most luxurious of the J Series trim packages.

Honcho means boss

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In 1970, AMC bought Jeep from Kaiser Motors and then sold the Honcho as the Gladiator before becoming known as the J-Series pickup trucks. Jeep positioned and packaged the Honcho as a men’s ride and added this refrain to their popular marketing ad:

“Honcho” means boss. And when it comes to 4WD pickups, the Jeep Honcho is way ahead with sporty good looks, all-out performance and the rugged reliability that comes with the Jeep name.”

Such masculinity perhaps explains why the civilian truck was later adapted for military use. The Jeep Honcho’s standard mill was a 258 cu-in six-cylinder engine, with the 225-horsepower AMC 401 cu-in V8 as an available option. Both engines used the Quadra-Trac drive system and had a solid reputation for durability and reliability.

The Honcho could also be ordered with a combination of features in all J-series trims. When Jeep resurrected the Gladiator in 2020, a Wisconsin Jeep dealer jumped at the chance to recreate the original Honcho, complete with knockoff Honcho accessories. An original Jeep Honcho can be found in reputable classic car dealers, despite their rarity. Admittedly, the Honcho might as well be the rarest pickup ever to come out of America, and yet somehow isn’t the most desirable.

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