Jeep Wrangler: A look at the history of this iconic 4×4

The fourth generation of Jeep Wrangler is to come with the 2018 model, lighter, with improvements in suspension and cockpit technology. Probably the best news is the line of more powerful engines, which includes a four-cylinder turbocharged, a V6 gasoline and a diesel. A hybrid option with load capacity per connection is also planned in 2020. We had already salivated with the new Wrangler in his world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show and now we were very lucky to get behind the wheel of one. Consumers will be able to see and test it when it arrives at dealers in January, but before that happens, let’s take a look at the history of jeep wrangler of this legendary vehicle.

Willys MA / MB 1941-1945: 

No history of the Wrangler can be complete without mentioning the Willys MB. In 1940, the armed forces of the United States asked 135 vehicle manufacturers to submit proposals to design and build a new light reconnaissance vehicle. Willys-Overland was one of three companies that participated in the tender to develop a vehicle with the rectangular shape, four-wheel drive, powerful engine, folding windshield, three seats and a wheelbase of fewer than 75 inches. The Willys pilot model became known as the Quad. With improvements to meet the army’s length requirements, the Quad became the MA and then the MB. The MB would defeat the Bantam BRC and the Ford Model GP to become the standard vehicle for the armed forces. Interestingly, Ford was the manufacturer that placed the iconic vertical grid in front of the MB. The manufacturer of Dearborn, Michigan, received a contract to manufacture MB models and to meet the demand during World War II. Willys-Overland manufactured more than 368,000 units, while Ford made more than 277,000.

CJ series 1945-1985: The civil Jeep

After the war, Willys decided to offer the Jeep to the traditional market leaving the CJ-2A model, available to the public in 1945, with a base price of US $ 1,090. Compared to the MB, the CJ-2A had a different powertrain, larger lights and windshield wipers on the driver’s side. The comfort improvements came with a different suspension, softer seats and a stiffer chassis. The four-cylinder engine of the CJ-2A developed 60 horsepower and 105 foot-pounds of torque. Other CJ models followed, such as the CJ-5, of which more than 600,000 units were manufactured between 1955 and 1983. During all that time, the CJ-5 was offered with four-cylinder, six-cylinder in-line engines and a V8 of 5 liters with 150 horses and 245 foot-pounds of torque. The CJ-7 was manufactured between 1976 and 1986 and was the last CJ model before being replaced by the Wrangler. Compared to the CJ-5, the CJ-7 had a longer length to accommodate an optional automatic transmission. Engine options included a pair of 4 and 6 cylinder engines, and a 5.0-liter V8.

YJ Jeep Wrangler 1987-1995: More Civilized

The market demands made Jeep launch the Wrangler in the summer of 1986 as a model of 1987 to replace the CJ model. Compared to the CJ, the YJ Wrangler was more comfortable on the road, plus more amenities were included to make it a more civilized Jeep. This generation of the Wrangler is immediately recognizable by its rectangular headlights. Since its launch, the Wrangler was offered with two engine options, one 2.5-liter four-cylinder for the base model, with 117 horsepower and 135 foot-pounds of torque, which only came with a five-speed manual transmission. The 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine was optional, with only 112 horsepower, but 210 foot-pounds of torque. The six-cylinder engine came with a manual transmission or an optional automatic three-speed.

TJ Jeep Wrangler 1997-2006: The round front lights

The TJ Jeep Wrangler debuted with the 1997 model and came with the retro round headlights, which originally had the MB and the CJ. A four-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine, producing 120 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, standard, and another six-cylinder inline of 4 liters and 181 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque for users looking for more power. The Wrangler Rubicon, aimed at those who like to travel rough terrain, was presented in 2003 with differentials in both the front and rear wheels, disc brakes on all four wheels and off-road tires of 31 inches. The following year the Wrangler Unlimited was introduced, with a base 10 inches long and greater towing capacity, which went from 2,000 to 3,500 pounds. Unlimited models came standard with the 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine and a four-speed automatic transmission.

JK Jeep Wrangler 2007-1017: With four doors

The third generation of the Wrangler arrived in 2007, with a new chassis, larger size, and a new design. The JK Wrangler designation also meant the debut of a new Unlimited model, with capacity for five passengers. The only engine offered during the launch was a 3.8-liter V6 that generated 205 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque. In the matter of transmissions, a manual of six speeds and an automatic of four were offered. In the 2012 model, there was a mid-cycle upgrade in which the 3.8-liter V6 was replaced by the 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar, the Chrysler star. In the case of the Wrangler, the Pentastar generated 285 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque. The optional automatic gearbox was also improved from four to five speeds, while the six-speed manual was maintained.

The Jeep, a whole story …

In June 1940, the US military informed automakers that it was looking for a “light reconnaissance vehicle” to replace its modified motorcycles and Ford-Ts. The army invited 135 manufacturers to make a product offer and drew up a very long list of characteristics for the vehicle, including the following:

– 272 kg load capacity,

– Wheelbase less than 1905 mm,

– Height ( without windshield) of less than 914 mm,

– Engine running smoothly from 5 to 80 km / h,

– Rectangular body,

– Transfer case with two speeds and four-wheel drive,

– Folding windscreen,

– Three bucket seats,

– Masked headlights and long-range headlights,

Car manufacturers Willys Overland and American Bantam were the only two companies to answer the call. But the Ford Motor Company soon entered the scene and competition began between the three companies to determine who would benefit from the lucrative government contract.  Each company produced prototypes for testing in record time.  Bantam’s chief engineer drew up plans with a team of company executives who built his field vehicle in 49 days.  Willys-Overland, Vice President of Engineering Delmar G. Roos developed the Willys Quad. Ford developed its General Purpose (GP) model, known as the Pygmy, and powered by a suitable Ford / Ferguson tractor engine.  Each company delivered its prototype to the army during the summer of 1940 and received approval to build 70 copies.  The army took possession of these vehicles in November 1940, in Camp Holabird, Maryland, United States.  Each of the three designs exceeded the standard of 590 kg, but the army quickly realized that this limit was far too low and raised it for subsequent vehicle deliveries.  The army signed the second series of contracts in March 1941. Bantam was to manufacture 1,500 40 BRC model vehicles, Ford was to build 1,500 modified and improved Pygmy GPs, and Willys was to produce 1,500 Quads.  Further tests and evaluations prompted the military to choose Willys’ vehicle as a standard.  Subsequently, most of the Bantam and Ford GP produced were sent to Britain and Russia as part of a lend-lease program.

With modifications and improvements, Willys Quad became the MA, then the MB.  But in the army and in the world he achieved notoriety under the name of Jeep.  Some say the name comes from a mispronunciation of the letters ”  GP “, military abbreviation for ”  General Purpose  ” (Versatile).  Others say the vehicle was named after a popular character ”  Eugene the Jeep  ” by Popeye. Whatever the origin, the name entered the American vocabulary and even served a generic naming moment for all off-road vehicles, while the Jeep itself became an icon of the war.  Willys MA was equipped with a shift lever on the steering column, low cuts on the sidewalls of the body, two circular groups of instruments on the dashboard and a handbrake on the left.  Willys struggled to reduce weight to meet the army’s new 980 kg specification.  Items removed for MA to achieve this goal were reinstalled on the next generation of MBs, resulting in a final weight of approximately 181 kg above specification. Willys-Overland will build more than 368,000 vehicles, and Ford, licensed, will produce some 277,000 for the US military.  The solid and reliable stretched olive-green canvas vehicle will remain famous for its contribution to victory in the world war.  Willys filed the name ”  Jeep  ” after the war and planned to turn the vehicle into an off-road utility for agriculture, the Universal Jeep Civilian.  According to one of Willys’ slogans at the time, ”  The sun never sets on the formidable Jeep …” and the company made sure that the world recognized Willys as the creator of the vehicle.

Jeep CJ-2A and CJ-3A

Willys advertising advertised it as a work vehicle for farmers and construction workers.  It was equipped with a hatchback, a spare wheel attached to the sidewall, larger headlights, an external fuel cap and many other items that its military predecessors did not have.  The Jeep CJ-2A was manufactured for four years and 1948 saw the launch of the CJ-3A.  It was very similar to the previous model but had a one-piece windshield while retaining the original four-cylinder engine. The grille and hood were taller than the previous military version to house the new four-cylinder Hurricane engine.  The production of the CJ-3B continued until 1968 and it manufactured a total of 155,494 in the United States.  In 1953, Willys-Overland was sold to Henry J. Kaiser for $ 60 million.  Kaiser began a major research and development program that expanded the Jeep product line. Two years later, in 1955, Kaiser introduced the Jeep CJ-5, inspired by the M-38A1 model of the Korean War with its rounded front fenders.

Jeep CJ-5 and CJ-6

It was slightly larger than the CJ-3B because of an increased wheelbase and overall length.  Improvements to the engine, axles, transmission and seat comfort made the CJ-5 the ideal vehicle for the growing interest of the off-road crowd.  The Jeep CJ-5 had softer lines, including more rounded body contours.  A long wheelbase model was introduced and named CJ-6. It was almost identical to the CJ-5, if not a longer wheelbase. Jeep also introduced an advanced cab variant of the CJ range in 1956.  Of all Jeep vehicles, the Jeep CJ-5 had the longest production phase, from 1954 to 1984.  During the 16 years of which Kaiser owned, factories were established in 30 countries and the Jeep was marketed in more than 150 countries. In 1962, Jeep launched the first automatic transmission on a four-wheel drive vehicle, the Jeep Wagoneer, precursor of the Jeep Cherokee.  The 1962 Jeep Wagoneer was also the first four-wheel drive vehicle with independent front suspension.  In 1965, a new V-6 Dauntless engine was launched as an option on the 205.7 cm wheelbase CJ-5 and the 256.5 cm wheelbase CJ-6.

This 155 horsepower engine almost doubled the power of the standard four-cylinder engine.  It was the first time that a Jeep CJ could be equipped with a V-6.  In 1970, Jeep Kaiser was acquired by American Motors Corporation (AMC). Four-wheel drive vehicles were more popular than ever, and in 1978 total Jeep production reached 600 vehicles per day, more than three times the production at the beginning of the decade. All Jeep CJs were equipped with V8 engines, 4.982cc or 5.899cc, manufactured by AMC.  AMC equipped the CJ-5 and CJ-6 with heavier axles, bigger brakes, and a wider track.  Jeep was also a pioneer in 1973 with its Quadra-Trac, the first automatic four-wheel drive system ever.  Quadra-Trac was available in Jeep and Jeep wagons, as was the CJ-7. In 1976, AMC launched the Jeep CJ-7, the first major change in 20 years in the design of the Jeep. The CJ-7 had a slightly longer wheelbase than the CJ-5 (237.5 cm vs. 212.1 cm) to clear space for the automatic transmission version.  The CJ-7 and CJ-5 were manufactured until 1983 when the demand for the CJ-7 gave AMC no choice but to interrupt the CJ-5 after 30 years of production.  The Jeep Scrambler, launched in 1981, was similar to the CJ-7 but with a longer wheelbase, known worldwide as the CJ-8.

AMC-Jeep was bought in 1982 by Renault.

In 1983, the expanding four-wheel-drive compact market was still looking for the utilitarian virtues of the CJ-series Jeep, but consumers were also looking for the ”  material comfort  ” of passenger cars.

Jeep Wrangler Type YJ

AMC-Jeep-Renault responds to this demand by interrupting the CJ series and launching in 1987 the Jeep Wrangler Type YJ and Renegade, as well as the Cherokee.  Although the Jeep Wrangler shares a familiar open body profile with the CJ-7, it has few parts in common with its famous predecessor.  From a mechanical point of view, the Wrangler has more in common with the Cherokee than with the CJ-7. The Wrangler YJ has square headlights, which was a first for this type of Jeep.  The YJ model has been manufactured to more than 630,000 copies.  On August 5, 1987, about a year after the introduction of the Jeep Wrangler, Renault-American Motors Corporation was transferred to Chrysler Corporation, with the Jeep brand now part of the Chrysler Jeep  Eagle department.

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