The Jeep Wrangler Phenomenon
There’s something to be said about having a single overriding goal. Top athletes have the kind of narrow focus that makes them legendary in their sport, and in the automotive world, the Jeep Wrangler has remained the ultimate off roader for decades. Originally conceived as a replacement to the calvary horse in World War II, the iconic Jeep has come a long way.
If you’ve spent time among enthusiasts, you’ll know that a lot of drivers appreciate their vehicles and enjoy showing them off, but no one is prouder than a Jeep owner. When someone buys a Jeep, they become part of a passionate community with unspoken bonds of friendship. They also enter a unique culture with Hierarchies, The Jeep Wave and Rubber Ducks.
How This Iconic Vehicle Shaped Off-Road Culture
Jeep culture is a vibrant and welcoming community of people passionate about off-roading and adventure. The jeep community is known for their sense of adventure, willingness to help others, and creativity in customizing their vehicles.
The Jeep Wrangler is a compact SUV that was first introduced in 1986 by Chrysler. It combines an agile and rugged design with a powerful engine that allows it to conquer even the toughest of trails, making it an ideal option for off-roaders looking for maximum performance.
In addition to its impressive powertrain options, the Jeep Wrangler has been lauded for its reliable construction and intuitive design. It features a robust frame that can withstand even the most extreme conditions, high ground clearance, and all-terrain tires that give it plenty of traction in various types of terrain.
The Wrangler has a passionate and active off-roading community, with enthusiasts participating in off-road events, clubs, and forums to share experiences and knowledge about modifying and using their vehicles. Jeep owners are a close-knit community. They are always willing to help each other out, from giving advice on modifying a Jeep to lending a helping hand on a trail. This unwavering support and a genuine sense of community help set Jeep’s culture apart from the rest.
Jeep Wrangler History
The Jeep Wrangler’s off-road lineage can be traced back to the Original Willys MB, which was used extensively by the U.S. military during World War II. After the war, Willys-Overland began producing civilian versions of the military Jeeps, including the CJ series. These early models laid the foundation for the modern Wrangler. Over the years, Jeep has released numerous special editions and variants of the Wrangler, such as the Rubicon, Sahara and Moab, each tailored to specific off-road needs and preferences.
No Jeep Wrangler history recap is complete without a mention of the Willys MB. In 1940, the US military asked 135 car manufacturers to submit proposals to design and build a new light reconnaissance vehicle. Willys-Overland was one of three companies to bid on the contract to develop a rectangular-shaped vehicle with four-wheel drive, a smooth engine, fold-down windshield, three bucket seats and wheelbase less than 75 inches. The Willys pilot model was known as the Quad. With improvements to better meet the military’s lengthy requirements list, the Quad morphed into the MA and then the MB. The MB would go on to beat out the Bantam BRC and Ford Model GP to become the military’s standardized vehicle.
Following the war, Willys took the Jeep to the people offering the CJ-2A to the public first in 1945 with a base price of $1,090. Compared to the MB, the CJ-2A featured drivetrain revisions, larger headlights and driver’s windshield wiper. The CJ-2A’s four-cylinder engine produced 60 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque.
Additional CJ models would follow including the CJ-5 that was produced from 1955-1983 with more than 600,000 units built. The CJ-7 was built from 1976-1986 and was the final CJ model in production before being replaced by the Wrangler. Compared to the CJ-5, the CJ-7 featured a longer wheelbase to accommodate an optional automatic transmission. Engine choices included a pair of inline four- and six-cylinder engines and a 5.0-liter V8.
YJ Jeep Wrangler
Demands saw Jeep launch the Wrangler in the summer of 1986 as a 1987 model to replace the CJ. Compared to the CJ, the YJ Wrangler was more comfortable on road and packed additional creature comforts to be a more civilized Jeep. This generation of Wrangler is instantly recognizable with its rectangular headlights.
From launch, the Wrangler was available with two engine options. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder served as the base powerplant with 117 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque. This was only available with a five-speed manual transmission. A 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder served as the optional engine with only 112 horsepower, but 210 pound-feet of torque. The six-cylinder could be had with the manual or an optional three-speed automatic.
TJ Jeep Wrangler
The TJ Jeep Wrangler debuted for the 1997 model year. With it came the retro-inspired round headlights from the MB and CJ. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 120 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque was the standard engine. While a 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder with 181 horses and 222 pound-feet of torque was offered for customers looking for more punch.
The hardcore off-road-focused Wrangler Rubicon was introduced in 2003. Offering locking front and rear differentials, four-wheel disc brakes and beefy 31-inch all-terrain tires.
JK Jeep Wrangler
The third-generation Wrangler landed for 2007 with a new frame, larger dimensions and fresh design compared to its predecessor. The JK Wrangler generation also saw the debut of a new four-door model. Which has the Unlimited designation with seating for five passengers. The sole engine offered at launch was a 3.8-liter V6 that churned out 205 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. Transmission options included a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic.