The Jeep Wrangler wasn’t just plucked from the sky one day, set atop a mountain, and named 2019 Motortrend SUV of the Year—heavens no. Like a great many adventure that the Wrangler has facilitated, it’s been a long and arduous climb. The Wrangler has fought for every mile, on both literal and metaphorical odometers, and the team at Great West Chrysler is going to tell you all about its history. So strap in, this one might be a bumpy ride!
The Origins of the Jeep Wrangler
While it wasn’t officially named the Wrangler until 1987, this rough-and-tumble SUV originated in 1941, when Willys-Overland won a U.S. military contract to provide vehicles during the war. Apparently, when you’re dodging enemy fire and ambushes you didn’t have time to say Willys-Overland MB—thus was nicknamed “jeep”.
The “jeep” was so popular that post-WWII Willys brought a version to the market called the CJ-2A. It was reliable, easy to fix, and tough as hell. This made it extremely popular for people working in agriculture, or those who wanted something that could take them off the beaten path. The CJ-2A was followed by the CJ-3A, and CJ-3B (as well as a CJ-4 that never saw production).
What’s in a Name?
In 1953, Willys-Overland was bought by Kaiser Motors (an unfortunate name, considering the large population of WWII vets who were responsible for the popularity of the vehicle). Shortly after purchasing the company, the CJ-5 was released. While the CJ-5 saw many different iterations over the course of the next 30 years, the biggest change the company made was switching the vehicle’s name to the Jeep CJ-5. American Motors Corporation purchased the brand in 1970, but the legendary vehicle lived on.
The final version of the Jeep CJ appeared in 1976, and stayed in production until 1986, when AMC decided to dramatically overhaul the 45 year old vehicle.
Let’s Get Wranglin’
It wasn’t until 1987 that a vehicle under the Wrangler name was first produced. And while it’s known for its off-road prowess, the original Wrangler was quite the on-road performer as well. Wider and lower than any ‘jeep’ before it, the Jeep Wrangler YJ was remarkably civilized for an off-road vehicle. The company changed hands once again, as Chrysler bought AMC, and design changes were made to the Wrangler YJ.
In 1997, a new Wrangler named the TJ, found its way to the market. Round headlights brought a certain level of retro charm, while major changes—like swapping leaf springs for coil-spring suspension—brought a level of sophistication to the table, the likes of which the Wrangler had never experienced before.
Another ten years later, and Jeep completely redesigned the Wrangler for the 2007 model year. The Jeep Wrangler JK was a complete overhaul from the 1987 version; wider, taller, longer, and offering more comfort than ever (in both the interior, and ride quality), the 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK was a well received addition to the Jeep lineup. Offered as a four-door for the first time, the Wrangler JK had great success merging the rough and tumble, militaristic heritage of the Jeep, with the class and comfort of a modern urban vehicle.
The Jeep Wrangler is still going strong, and in 2018 Jeep released the Wrangler JL—the most modern and sophisticated Wrangler yet! A combination of high-strength steel and aluminum make up the frame of the JL, an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system offers incredible connectivity, and a variety of engine options and safety features make the Wrangler JL one of the most well rounded Jeeps to ever roll off the lot—and that’s really saying something for the original sport utility vehicle! It could also be why the 2019 Jeep Wrangler was named Motortrend’s SUV of the Year. So if you want to own a piece of history, then get down to Great West Chrysler today and get behind the wheel of a Wrangler!