The 1961-68 Jeep CJ-5 Perkins Diesels

In 1960, if you were on of the very few Americans who wanted a diesel in a car, light truck or utility vehicle, you had few options beyond a swap. Then came Kaiser-Jeep. For the 1961 model year, Jeep took the extraordinary step of offering a Perkins diesel option for the CJ-5 and CJ-6. Given the practically non-existent market for light truck diesels here in the States, one could logically assume the intent was for export markets where the diesel was popular. That is born out by some brochures printed by the Export Division of Kaiser and some Perkins CJs are found overseas in various places. A surprising number were sold here.

Jon added a Newgren low profile 3-point hitch, Jeep PTO and Newgren saw, along with a front weight and radiator chaff screen. These pics show the saw up for transport and down for making sawdust. This Jeep could run that saw all day with a couple of gallons of fuel. a 180 horsepower rating for marine engines. The 6.9L had oil cooled pistons, four-bolt mains, roller tappets, oil cooler, gear driven cam and injection pump, inboard combustion chambers (injectors at top of engine), exhaust valve inserts and positive valve cooling. The crankshaft was a forged unit and the block was cast of nodular iron. The heads were tied down with five bolts for each cylinder.

Perkins in the USA

After it’s recent acquisition by Massey-Ferguson (1959), the North American arm of Perkins was no doubt hoping to expand markets here. Somewhere along the way, they hooked up with Kaiser-Jeep to supply automotive versions of Perkins 4.192 engines for use in four-wheel drive CJ-5 and CJ-6 Jeeps. In a detuned form, the 4.192 was already in use by Massey-Ferguson in certain versions of the MF-65 tractor… mainly the Mark 1 version built for the UK from ‘58 into 1960. While a few 4.192 powered MF-65 tractors found their way here, the US market MF-65 diesels primarily used the Perkins 4.203, IDI, which was a slightly larger and more powerful evolution of the design and appeared in 1960. It later evolved farther into a  direct-injection engine… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Check out Tractor Talk in this issue to see a 1962 Massey Ferguson tractor.


The Jeeps

The CJ-5 (81-inch wheelbase) had debuted for 1955 and the longer wheelbase CJ-6 (101-inch wheelbase) a short time later. They were the mainstays of Jeep’s Universal line. The diesel was an option in both, but not in the 4×2 DJ line nor any other Jeep product. The 62 horsepower diesel  could certainly have fit in other Jeeps of the day that used the Jeep gas four, the Utility Wagon and Pickup, as well as the Forward Control, but those models were on the way out when the Perkins debuted. The Perkins was a little small for the Gladiator pickup or the Wagoneer, but we’ll bet Perkins would have gladly sold them the six-cylinder 6.354 for those applications … and it would have been a nice fit.

A working Jeep with diesel power. Shot at a show about 10 years back, this 1966 Jeep CJ-5 was a barn find. Jon Stoltzfus acquired it in 2003 with only 13,000 miles from a Pennsylvania farmer and it had been sitting since the late 1980s. The halfcab is home-made. It has the optional ventilating windshield and, of course, the diesel. Trans is the standard 3-speed. It’s amazingly rust free.

Into 1965, the only other engine option for the CJ was the F134, and 134 cubic inch F-head gas four that made 72 horsepower at 4000 and 114-lbs-ft at 2000rpm. Starting in ‘65 was a 225 cubic inch V6 that made 155 ponies and 230 lbs-ft. and headlined the CJ and C101 models into the 1970s.  Balanced against the gas four, the 62 horse Perkins held up pretty well. With only a 3,000 rpm redline, it couldn’t match the engine speed of the gasser but it had gobs more torque. Drivers reported “similar” performance. Though we could not find it specified in the available documentation, we figure that had to come with a change in gearing.

Available period documentation says the diesels were equipped with axle ratios “suitable” for the diesel, but do not list a ratio. A 4.27:1 axle ratio was most common in civilian CJs of that era. Also available were 5.38, 4.88, 4.56, 4.27, 3.73 and 3.54:1 ratios. We’d guess 3.73:1 for the diesel but whatever was used, the end result was a 30 mpg CJ that could almost keep up with the gas four.

Of the 1,745 diesel CJs built from 1961 through 1968, 589 of them were the 101-inch wheelbase CJ-6. Of the survivors today, a fair number of them are CJ-6s.

The Perkins option featured a larger 9.25-inch clutch but the rest of the powertrain was the same as the standard CJ according to the year of manufacture. Standard was the T90 3-speed manual with an optional 4-speed T98. The diesel pressed the T90 torque input limits but the T98 had a very comfortable reserve.

The Perkins fits nicely and the whole conversion adds 273 lbs. to the total weight of the Jeep. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that there were some right hand drive versions done for certain overseas markets. The Parts Book for the diesel shows  it wasn’t a massive undertaking to install it. The vacuum wipers had to be changed to electric and there were many small bits and bobs, but no major alterations were required.


Exact production isn’t clear from research but the best numbers we have through 1968 show 1,156 CJ-5 diesels and 589 CJ-6s.  Though some sources list them into 1969, documentation does not back that up, with no diesel prefix CJs listed. Surprisingly, Perkins CJs are seen fairly often, even if they aren’t plentiful. Parts for the Perkins mill are still available and most of the rest of the Jeep is just like any other of the era. There are a few engine parts unique to the Jeep, such as the thermostat housing and bellhousing.

The Perkins 4.192 debuted in 1958. It made 192 cubic inches from a 3.5-inch bore and a 5-inch stroke. It was a wet-sleeved, five-main IDI engine. In it’s automotive form, it cranked out 62 horsepower at 3000 rpm. The tractor version was 54 horses at 2250 rpm. Industrial versions were rated at 50 horsepower continuous at 2000 rpm and a little more intermittently. Torque was 143 lbs-ft at 1350 rpm for all of them. The compression ratio was only 16.5:1 and though it had glow plugs, it wasn’t known as a great cold starter. The updated 4.203 (extra displacement via a bore increase to 3.60-inches) had a slightly higher 17.4:1 compression ratio so it might have cold-started a little better. There was little difference between the variants, though some industrials used a hydraulic governor. The direct injected D4.203 version, used into the 2000s, made significantly more power.

The diesel CJs had a special serial number prefix. From ’61-63, it was 57558 for the CJ-5 and 57758 for the CJ-6. From ’64-68 the prefixes were 8310 for the CJ-5 and 8410 for the CJ-6. The numerical sequence started at 10,001 for both and carried over until production stopped.

The Legacy

One of the common threads in the early days of diesel in light vehicles was a lack of suds. The Perkins Jeep came pretty close to breaking that stereotype. It was a big and torquey enough engine to offer a pretty good power to weight ratio in the CJ and it fit the platform easily. A higher revving diesel might have been more optimal but with the right gearing, a Perkins CJ was a more-than-respectable performer.

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