Jeep Wrangler History: From WWII to Now


Of all the automakers in operation today, Jeep arguably has one of the most storied histories. The origins of the word “Jeep” are up for debate, but what is true is that it was brought into the automotive vernacular during World War II with the Original Willys MB platform. Jeeps were prized by Allied troops in all theatres for their ability to do just about anything asked of it. Thankfully, the war ended and former soldiers wanted to bring that same reliable capability home. Let’s take a look at some of the historical developments that culminated in the Jeep Wrangler – and beyond.


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The Post War Years


Immediately following the end of World War II, the Willys-Overland company began converting military surplus Jeeps into the original CJ variant. The idea was to take the capability of the Jeep and mechanize the agricultural industry, eliminating the need for literal workhorses. The first-generation CJ could, “…do the job of two heavy draft horses, operating at a speed of four miles per hour, 10 hours a day, without overheating the engine.” To say this effort was successful would be an epic understatement. The CJ-2A “Universal” would go to work on just about every continent and serve in countless ways.


It wasn’t until the 1950s when purpose-built recreational vehicles became popular. Willys-Overland officially trademarked the Jeep name in 1950, and after the introduction of the CJ-5 in 1955 the automaker cemented its position as a world leader in four-wheel-drive vehicles. Jeep continued to develop military versions of the CJ family well into the 1960s, with improvements quickly spilling over into the civilian world of Jeep vehicles.




When Was the First Jeep Wrangler Built?


Jeep put the CJ-5 platform out to pasture for good in 1983. However, Jeep was in no way done with the CJ family of vehicles. Between 1980 and 1987, Jeep released such venerable models as the CJ-5 and CJ-7 Laredo, J-10 Truck, Grand Wagoneer (1984) and the Cherokee XJ (1984). The Jeep Wrangler (YJ), as modern fans will recognize it, was introduced in 1987. First-generation Wrangler YJ models featured square headlights and were available in several trim grades: Base, Laredo, Islander, Sport, Sahara, Renegade, and Rio Grande.


The Wrangler Throughout the 1990s


The Wrangler (YJ) was the official end of the CJ lineage. It featured a wider wheel track, angled grille, rectangular headlights and modern (for the time) interior. While the YJ had an open top like its CJ predecessor and, maybe a little shared design language, the two models were hardly interchangeable. Wrangler innovation really took a huge leap forward with the TJ model, in production from 1997 until 2006. Wrangler TJ owners would see major gains in everyday on-road handling, without meaningful compromises to off-road capability.


Wranglers built for the 1997 model year were the first to be equipped with the Quadra-Coil™ suspension, which was responsible for softening the TJ’s on-road manners. Other changes included more axle articulation, more ground clearance, as well as better approach and departure angles. Round headlights and the fold-down windshield were also brought back to the Wrangler TJ in 1997.


A Wrangler Ready for the 21st Century


The Jeep Wrangler has been with us for eight decades and it has the potential to stick around for eight more. Jeep revealed the Wrangler 4xe for the 2021 model year. It was among the first hybrid Jeep platforms to be introduced. When the gasoline and electric systems are working together, the 2021 Wrangler 4xe will make up to 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Early fuel economy estimates say the PHEV Wrangler will record a combined 4.8 L/100 km and have a total range of 592 km. Additionally, it will be able to travel up to 35 km using only the electricity stored in its batteries.


Make an appointment with a Southside Dodge product expert today to learn more about the entire Jeep lineup and what it has to offer in the future.

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