The Evolution of the Jeep Wrangler
The Evolution of the Jeep Wrangler
What started out as a vehicle made for the U.S. Army has now become a name associated with freedom, trailblazing, and adventure. Through the decades, the Jeep Wrangler has continued to revolutionize the market with its legendary capability and superior off-roading skills. At Big 4 Motors, we are proud to be one of Alberta's first Jeep stores. As the original Jeep-certified dealership in Calgary, Alberta, we are excited to showcase one of the most iconic Jeeps in the lineup: the Jeep Wrangler. Here is a glimpse of how the Jeep Wrangler developed throughout the years to become the outstanding SUV it is today!
In 1940, the Willys Quad was designed in just 75 days and presented to the U.S. Army. It featured the now infamous 4x4 system. While only two prototypes were developed, the Willys Quad made way for the Willys MA, a lighter version of the Willys Quad. The Willys MA triumphed, with a weight of just around 2,500 pounds. Today, only about thirty Willys MA models are known to exist, making it one of the rarest of all pre-production Willys models. The Willys MA was further improved to create the Willys MB. With this model, the company succeeded in securing a contract with the U.S. Army to produce 16,000 Willys MB models. From thereon, the first civilian Jeep, the CJ-2A, was developed in 1945. The CJ-2A featured enhanced shock absorbers and springs as well as more comfortable seats. It even had an automatic windshield wiper on the driver's side. In 1949, Jeep designed and improved the CJ-2A model and created the CJ-3A, which was distinguishable by its one-piece windshield. In the wake of its previous success, Jeep proceeded to develop a variety of versatile vehicles that catered to different needs. In 1946, it introduced America's first all-steel station wagon, the Willys Wagon, which could even be had in commercial configurations and was in production for 19 years. In 1947, the Willys-Overland Truck was created and revolutionized the pickup truck market until 1965. Finally, in 1948, the iconic Jeep Jeepster (VJ) emerged. This open-bodied sports car has since become a valuable collector's car.
As part of Jeep's continued innovation, in 1950, Jeep developed the M38, which could be driven completely submerged underwater with a waterproof ignition system and unique vent tube system. This model kickstarted Jeep's legendary water fording capability, as seen in the 1950 Jeep® CJV-35/U, the first production Jeep 4x4 with factory-included water fording capability. The 1950s was a busy decade for Jeep as it introduced more than nine incredible vehicles, all ahead of their time. The Jeep M-38A1 was developed and dubbed an automotive masterpiece. The M-38A1 was the most powerful Jeep ever to be built and was on the market for almost 20 years. Today, the Museum of Modern Art displays a 1952 M-38A1 as part of its collection of significant vehicles. A true chameleon, Jeep continued to provide the industry with an array of vehicles, including the 1953 Jeep M-170, an ambulance and light troop carrier! 1953 also brought the Jeep CJ-3B, an updated version of the Jeep CJ. The CJ-3B was more powerful than ever, with 25% more horsepower and 9% more torque. By 1968, over 155,000 CJ-3B models were sold! Jeep introduced two civilian vehicles for the masses in 1955, the Jeep CJ-5 and the Jeep CJ-6. Both were extremely successful and were in production until the 1980s! Jeep continued to invent new vehicles for the rest of the 1950s, including the Jeep FC-150, the Jeep FC-170, and the Jeep DJ-3A.
The '60s marked a time for unparalleled refinement and innovation for the Jeep brand. The lineup grew to 14 models, with diverse vehicles for all lifestyles. The first model introduced to excited civilians was the Fleetvan, a two-wheel drive delivery van released in 1961 until 1965. This van was designed with easily accessible sliding doors for light-duty, multi-stop uses such as postal delivery and ice-cream trucks. The 1960s was also a time for indulgence in modern elegance. Jeep provided the first 4x4 luxury SUV, the Wagoneer. This model replaced the Willys utility wagon lines and allowed drivers and their passengers to enjoy the style, comfort, convenience, and confidence of this four-wheel drive vehicle. The Wagoneer has innovative features and was praised for its first-in-the-industry features, including the first automatic transmission in a 4x4 vehicle, the first overhead-can six-cylinder truck engine, the first automatic full-time 4x4 system, and the first 4x4 vehicle with an independent front suspension. Other revolutionary models released in the 1960s include the Jeep Gladiator as part of the "J" line of trucks, the Tuxedo Park IV luxury special edition available on CJ-5A and CJ-6A vehicles, the Super Wagoneer which provided even more upscale amenities than the regular Wagoneer while adding rugged versatility and sedan-like comfort, the M-715 Vietnam-era military pickup truck, and the Jeepster Commando, a new 4x4 vehicle that promised fun and leisure.
Jeep continues to impress in the '70s with its legendary 4x4 leadership. Six impressively innovative models help the Jeep brand gain worldwide recognition for its 4x4 systems. The first model introduced in the new decade was a walk-in delivery van called the Dispatcher Jeep. This vehicle was a two-wheel version of the popular CJ series and resembled these cars a lot while enhancing it in almost every way. Next, Jeep introduced a new and improved version of the CJ-5. Beginning in 1973, all CJ models came equipped with AMC-built V8 engines. As the longest vehicle in production across Jeep's history, the CJ-5 has over thirty years under its belt and continued to improve as the years went by. The CJ-5/camper model was the industry-first vehicle with a detaching system to easily remove the attached camper. After this, Jeep introduced the CJ-5 Renegade, a special edition of the CJ-5 which featured unique striping on the hood and seats, a chrome front bumper, black rubber lip extensions on the fenders, and oversized Polyglas white-walled tires. In 1976, Jeep produced the first CJ-7, the seventh generation CJ model and the first major design change for the vehicle in 20 years. It had a slightly longer wheelbase than the CJ-5 to make room for an automatic transmission. The door openings can easily distinguish the two vehicles, with the CJ-7 sporting a squared-off look and the CJ-5 showcasing a rounded design. Demand for the CJ-7 became so popular that the CJ-5 was eventually discontinued in 1983 after its extensive 30-year production run.
The 1980s saw the introduction of the beloved Jeep Wrangler (YJ), first introduced in 1987, offering the basis that the current model was based on in terms of styling and vision. The Jeep Wrangler was made to replace the veteran open-body CJ, and it shared many components with the Cherokee and Wagoneer (YJ). Also, the Jeep lineup in the 1980s had different types of models as well, including SUVs, pickup trucks, and a station wagon. During this decade, the Jeep lineup consisted of the Jeep CJ-5 Laredo, Jeep CJ-7 Laredo, Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, Jeep J-10 Truck, Jeep Grand Wagoneer (SJ), Jeep Cherokee (XJ), Jeep Comanche (MJ), Jeep Wrangler (YJ), and Jeep Wagoneer Limited (XJ).
The 90's introduced new vehicles that would go on to be some of the most popular and awarded Jeep models of all time. In 1993, the Jeep Grand Cherokee set a new industry benchmark, delivering a unique balance of on- and off-road capability suitable for all lifestyles. That same year, the Grand Wagoneer ZJ, a rare version of the Grand Cherokee, was offered to consumers who valued top-of-the-line transportation. Until 1997, the Wrangler didn't change much from the 80's models. Nearing the turn of the century, the Wrangler was considered the Ultimate Escape Machine, with legendary off-road capability while still delivering on-road thrills. In 1997, the all-new Jeep Wrangler was awarded the "4x4 of the Year" distinction, the fifth Jeep Brand vehicle to do so. This model had 80% of its parts redesigned with new mechanical advancements, but it still sported a retro look similar to the CJ-7. The new Quadra-Coil suspension was the biggest change to the Wrangler in the '90s. This system greatly improved on-road driving dynamics, enhanced off-road articulation, provided a higher ground clearance, and gave the vehicle more aggressive approach and departure angles than the previously-used leaf-spring suspension. More aftermarket performance parts became available, giving the Wrangler even better capabilities as an extremely adaptable trail vehicle.
The 2000s brought a new life to the Wrangler name, introducing the most capable Wrangler ever - the Rubicon. This new model was named after the famed Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of the western United States. This impressively capable vehicle boasts innovative off-road features, including Dana 44 axles, a Rock-Trac 4x4 System, air-actuated Tru-Lock front and rear lockers, 31-inch Goodyear off-road tires, diamond-plate rock rails, and four-wheel disc brakes. In late 2004, Jeep introduced the Wrangler Unlimited, a Wrangler model with a longer wheelbase, increased interior occupant legroom, 13 inches of extended cargo room, and enhanced on-roading comfort. The year after, in 2005, the Rubicon Unlimited debuted, featuring the longer wheelbase of the Unlimited model and the impressive off-road capabilities the Rubicon is known for. In 2007, the Wrangler honoured Jeep's heritage by sporting signature round headlamps, the iconic seven-slot grille, solid axles, a fold-down windshield, exposed hinges, removable doors, and a removable top. This vehicle was built with an all-new frame, engine, design, and features that not only were built on the successful, original Jeep Brand formula but also paved the way for future Wrangler models.
Experience the Jeep Wrangler
The current Jeep Wrangler is the culmination of decades of research and innovation. Jeep has worked tirelessly to develop today's model, making it the best Jeep Wrangler ever to exist. At BIG4, we make it easy to get behind the wheel of this monumental SUV. From a wide inventory of Jeep vehicles and a variety of Jeep Wrangler trims to easy and competitive financing, our dealership in Calgary, Alberta, is a one-stop-shop for all things Jeep. Visit us today to experience the iconic Jeep Wrangler for yourself!