The Jeep® J-Series, based on the iconic Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer/Cherokee (SJ), made a name for itself as a tough, rugged, and go-anywhere full-size pickup truck. The mighty J-Series ran for a 26-year production span under the Gladiator and J-Series names, and during that period, it was sold under four different companies: Willys, Kaiser-Jeep, American Motors Corporation (AMC), and Chrysler Corporation. Despite being the underdog against Detroit’s Big-3 other full-size offerings, the J-Series has become highly collectible and desired among Jeep collectors.
Throughout the years, Jeep released several appearance packages for the J-Series, but one of the most popular was the Honcho, which ran from 1976 to 1983 on the J-10. It consisted of bold striping with decals and was offered with factory extras such as the Levi’s interior or a roll bar. The content of the Honcho package varied from year to year, but “always included the wide-track look of the Cherokee Chief.”
The Honcho was one in a series of special decal packages offered for J-Series trucks in the mid to late 1970s, which included the 1977–1979 Golden Eagle and the 1978 “10-4” version which offered an optional Citizens’ Band (CB) radio along with the decals. The Honcho package was only available on the sportside (step-side) and short bed trucks. Between 1974 and 1983, an unknown number of Honchos were produced, but the Sportside Honchos were made between 1980-1983, with only 1264 of these trucks ever made.
The 1981 Jeep J-10 Honcho shown here is one of the finest examples to be found worldwide. Restored and being sold by JeepHeritage, this Honcho has been restored to the company’s Stage One restoration standards but has been updated to Stage Two standards (multipoint fuel injection, Bluetooth, hydro-boost, and four-disc brakes) since the initial build. The Honcho was fitted with a 6-inch suspension lift in the back and 4 inches in the front to accommodate the original Goodyear 37-inch MTR tires. However, due to the availability of those Goodyear tires, JeepHeritage updated the truck to have a new set of BFGoodrich All-Terrain 35-inch tires.
JeepHeritage stripped the truck down to its bare frame, sandblasted, galvanized and powder-coated it so it would never rust again. The body was media blasted, metalized, and painted to the highest quality standards. The undercarriage was polyurea-coated before reuniting with the original frame. The drivetrain was rebuilt and upgraded to a 6.6-liter (401 cubic-inch) AMC V8.
The interior was reupholstered to the highest standards, with Laredo-trim-styled high bucket seats and full leather on the dash, door panels, seats, and armrests. NOS bumpers and grille were found and installed, and wiring was completely redone, with the stereo upgraded to include Bluetooth and SiriusXM. A full stainless steel exhaust from front to back ensures that this 401-powered Honcho sounds amazing.
The truck has covered 35,000 miles since the restoration. It has traveled across the globe, visiting places like Scandinavia, Italy, and Spain, and crossing the U.S. on several road trips from the East Coast to the West Coast. With a hefty price tag of $145,000, this Honcho isn’t cheap, but it is one of the most desirable trims among J-Series collectors.
For those seeking even more power, JeepHeritage’s Vigilante4x4 division can upgrade the Honcho with the latest HEMI® V8 powertrain and modern chassis and coil-over suspension with 6-piston brakes. Yes, it will cost even more, and you may have to wait 36 months for the truck to be completed, but their portfolio of builds is just short of righteous. For more information on this truck, check out the JeepHeritage website.
1981 Jeep® J-10 Honcho Sportside Image Gallery: