Iconic Car of the Month: Jeep Wrangler
It’s that time once more for Bristol Street Motors to welcome another exemplary vehicle to the hallowed halls of the Iconic Car of the Month. This time around, we have an all-terrain 4×4 that’s been in continuous production since 1986 (thats thirty years by the way, just to make everyone feel old). Used across the globe on landscapes ranging from windswept tundra to searing desert, this vehicle has helped humanity accomplish astonishing feats thanks to its boundless energy and Herculean endurance. This General Purpose vehicle is loved the world over, and common usage of its name brought about the acronym GP, which was shortened by lazy GI’s to you guessed it Jeep. Wrangler, to be precise.
In 1940, as the Second World War gripped the world, the US military issued a notice to all automakers, asking for designs for a new lightweight reconnaissance vehicle. The army’s modified Ford Model T’s weren’t cutting it, and a new, contemporary design was crucial. Three carmakers rose to the challenge: Willys Overland, Ford (duh), and The American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company. The three rival manufacturers put forward their designs, and all three were commissioned for use in the field. It was the Willys Quad, however, which was favoured by military personnel.
Eventually becoming known as the Jeep by the GIs, the 4×4 gained popularity across the board with allied forces, eventually becoming the most-used vehicle in the War. Doug Stewart commented on the car’s popularity:
“The spartan, cramped, and unstintingly functional jeep became the ubiquitous World War II four-wheeled personification of Yankee ingenuity and cocky, can-do determination.”
The first civilian Jeeps were produced in 1945. Roughly 640,000 Jeeps were produced during the war, accounting for almost a fifth of all cars built in the US over the six year period. In the years since, multiple manufacturers have drawn inspiration from the Jeep to create their own light utility vehicles, including giants such as Land Rover. The early Jeep produced for civvy use was the CJ, a two door/no door 4×4 with a single piece windshield, a Willys ‘Go Devil’ 2.2 litre engine, and a name that sounds like the nickname that weird kid in school kept trying to make everyone call him.
After 42 years of careening all over mountains and sand dunes like ants on a dropped lollipop, the CJ was discontinued in 1986. The king dead. Long live the Wrangler. The Wrangler rumbled onto the scene in ’86, the same year we admired Tom Cruise‘s oiled torso as he pranced around in Top Gun, and the year Daniel-San once more punched his way into our hearts in Karate Kid Part II. The Wrangler YJ was released with a choice of three impressive powertrains: a 2.5 L AMC 150 I4, a 4.0 L AMC 242 I6, or a 4.2 litre AMC 258 I6. The Wrangler represented several changes to the CJ formula. While physical design cues were taken from its father and grandfather, the Wrangler’s suspension, drivetrain, and interiors were borrowed from the Jeep Cherokee.
The Wrangler has amassed an army of trims over the years, including the American-pleasing 4.0L ‘Freedom‘ edition and the nerd-saliva-inducing ‘Tomb Raider Edition‘ which has since become one of the most collectible Jeeps of all time, thanks to its unique accessories and classic stylings. The Lara Croft inspired SUV features a light bar, riveted fender flares, a diamond plated bumper guard, and Tomb Raider badging. It’s unclear whether there’s a feature that allows you to tear around ancient Nepalese monasteries dangling out of the window and shooting people.
In 2015, the Wrangler gained an array of new colours so varied and bold it’d make Van Gogh cut his other ear off with envy. Additionally, the SUV gained a new standard eight-speaker audio system and Torx tool set as standard for all models, which allows users to park up, whip out the old tool box, and unhinge the doors and windshield whenever they fancy getting closer to nature, or just have an urge to dangle their legs in the breeze as they hurtle down the motorway.
The Wrangler has consistently garnered rave reviews from critics and drivers alike over its lifespan. In 2007, a Wrangler set the Guinness World Record for highest altitude achieved by a four-wheeled vehicle when it bounded its way up the world’s highest volcano. Magazine Four Wheeler has awarded the Wrangler with multiple awards, including Four Wheeler of the Year, and the impressive 4×4 of the Decade. Multiple other institutions have adorned the Wranglers metaphorical chest piece with silverware, including Forbes and Business Week, who dubbed the Wrangler “One of the Most Iconic Cars of the Last 20 Years“. We’re in agreement there, Business Week.
As the Wrangler effortlessly powers its way up the vertical sides of the Bristol Street Iconic Car podium, it looks as though the plucky SUV has a long, adventurous future ahead of it.