Today, Jeep is owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is among the top ten automotive giants in the game. Jeep was recently awarded as, the most American in the car industry. They have the most “Made in America” parts, like transmission and engine. They also have a high ratio of employment to sales in the US.
So, what’s special about the Jeep? Its off-roading capabilities of course. While some of the models have taken on a more aesthetic look, Jeeps are made for rugged driving. For example, the 2018 Wrangler Rubicon is actually named after a crazy Californian trail. This trail can take up to eight hours to complete and its conditions change every day, which includes rocks shifting and trees falling. Those who finish the trail are likely to have a story to tell and also a newfound respect for their Spartan wheels.
Jeep is such a revolutionary off-roading brand that any SUV with off-roading potential is referred to as “Jeep”. However, Jeep’s official design is easy to recognize and just about anyone can identify the distinctive round headlights and 7-slot grill. It’s also unmistakably Jeep, when you see no car doors. People love Jeeps because they can just as easily pull up to the beach, hair blowing in the wind, as they can navigate heavy snowfall in the winter.
The Advent of the Jeep
Jeep was born out of a rich history. Before the introduction of the Jeep to World War II, it was all motorcycles and horses, so this machinery really changed the game. Willys-Overland Company began mass production in 1941 and provided Jeeps to the allied troops, that included the US, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, China, and Russia. Wartime saw 650, 000 Jeeps facilitate troop transportation and reconnaissance missions, aka military exploration. What made the cars effective is that they successfully took on all types of terrain. Thus, Jeeps were fundamental to the advantage the Allies had over the Axis.
Also, here’s a fun fact. It’s speculated that the name Jeep was chosen because of famous Pop Eye cartoon character, “Eugene the Jeep”. This is how the many variations of Jeep came to be over the years…
Willys-Overland MB Jeep
The 1941 Willys-Overland MB was the first-ever mass produced version of the Jeep. The lightweight utility vehicle could be found in the hands of military personnel. It quickly travelled over all types of terrain and was used to carry small loads, like weapons. It came with a 60 horse power that by today’s standard doesn’t sound powerful, however at the time was standard. It was also initially designed with a 13-slot grill however, after not too long, it downsized to nine. The MB featured specialized combat wheels that could even support driving flat for a distance. The high approval of the MB carried drove its popularity among civilians when the war had ended.
When WWII was coming to an end, a lot of publicity began, that motivated people to buy Jeep. Ads promoted its potential for post-war rebuilding, “the power and stamina of the versatile “Jeep” will serve many needs in the years of reconstruction ahead”. The car was also being praised for recreation, “Gee wouldn’t it be swell to have a Jeep at the lake after the war? Are you Jeep planning too?”. The CJ-2A model hit the market in 1945 for post-war use.
It was a big success and thus, it lived up to its name, CJ aka Civilian Jeep. Farmers and construction workers were the first to use the CJ however it wasn’t long before the car became widespread among the general population. Many modifications went into CJ Jeep models, yet some can still be seen today. Like the four-wheel drive, the six-cylinder engine, and the seven-slot grill.
Henry J. Kaiser’s CJ-5 and CJ-6
Willys-Overland sold Jeep to Henry J. Kaiser in 1953 for $60 million. A year later the CJ-5 version came out, which went on to be the longest-standing Jeep model. It was in production for a whopping 30 years. What made the model appealing to the masses were the many improvements that enhanced its off-roading potential. Updates were made to the axels and transmission and it had also been remodeled for all-weather. This included a hardtop that was suitable for winter.
The CJ-6 model was introduced in 1956. It was stretched out to be 20 inches longer than the CJ-5 however was virtually identical in all other ways. Almost a decade later, both the CJ-5 and CJ-6 became more powerful, since Kaiser took on the rights to the Buick 225 cu in (3.7 L) V6. The horse power increased to 155.
Then in 1970, Kaiser’s ownership transferred over to American Motors (AMC). They took engine power a step further and replaced all CJ engines with 304 cu V8s. AMC also equipped Jeeps with heavier axels and a wider axel track, making it a more heavy duty car, again to improve its off-roading capacity.
American Motors came out with the next version in the CJ series, called the CJ-7. It hit the market in 1976 and, like its predecessors it was excellent for off-roading. It remains a sought after version of the Jeep however once it was replaced by the Jeep Wrangler in 1987, there was no turning back…
Jeep Wrangler YJ
The Wrangler YJ was the first model in the new Jeep series. It was released in 1986 and forever changed the off-roading game. It was redesigned for superior performance and apparently, it came with a 4.0-liter I-6 engine that included direct fuel injection. However, it was met with many criticisms about the exterior redesign. Jeeps iconic headlights had been changed from round to square. Also, a year after the introduction of the Wrangler YJ, the Jeep series was sold to Chrysler.
Jeep Wrangler YJ’s Islander and Renegade
The YJ Islander came out in 1988 and then the Renegade, in 1990. These versions were relatively similar however they included some unique features. The Islander had sunset graphics on the hood and the lower body, likely to emphasize the island-look and then the Renegade included a spare tire, fitted right to the back of the car.
Jeep Wrangler TJ Series
The 1997 TJ series restored the classic circular Jeep headlights and included a few other noteworthy improvements. Parts, like the chassis, suspension, and axel were all redesigned for superior handling. Apparently, some areas of weakness were also addressed. The body and doors were touched up to become less noisy. They also included better wintertime insulation and comfier car seats.
Jeep Wrangler JK
The JK model of Jeep Wrangler was released in 2007. The Wrangler JK was the first model that didn’t include any AMC parts. It was also the first time Jeep to put out a 4-door model, which was a massive success. In terms of specs, it offered 3.6-liter V6 engine and a buyer’s choice of a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. Other upgrades included traction control and stability control, which were advantageous safety features for off-roading.
Today’s Jeep Wrangler JL
Jeep just came out with the Jeep Wrangler JL 2018. Many upgrades have been added to this newest model. The body is still made out of heavy duty steel however the hood, doors, and windshield frame is now made of aluminum. The aluminum is lightweight and makes for better gas mileage than other heavier alternatives. The powerful 3.6 Liter V6 engine is still available however there is now an alternative, turbocharged 4-cylinder option. This alternative option is also a likely attempt at better gas mileage, without compromising power. The automatic transmission comes in an impressive 8 speeds, yet the manual remains at 6.
The Jeep Wrangler is undeniably American. It has wartime roots and anyone driving around in one might be associated with ruggedness and adventure. Every year, the Jeep continues to improve and remain at the top of its class. Hold on to your seats and discover what Jeep has in store for 2019.