Photo Credit: Jeep® brand via Newspress USA
Jeep® brand offers a strong lineup of 80th anniversary edition vehicles.
There’s a FEELING that you get when you slide behind the wheel of a Jeep® brand vehicle.
It’s difficult to describe. Fun. Tough. High-quality. Nostalgic. PROUD.
Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Rick Péwé may have said it best in What the heck is the Jeep Life? “It is everything related to the best four-letter word we can say in mixed company.”
For almost 80 years the Jeep brand has been making vehicles. Eighty years. And people all around the world understand what it means to live the “Jeep life,” because over the last 80 years, it has become so much more than just a brand, more than just another SUV.
Like when your area got a doozy of a blizzard and some of you headed out to help others who were stranded. Sure, it was cold. But everyone was bundled up in the right clothes, with the right equipment and the right vehicle – Jeep Wranglers and Wrangler Unlimiteds, of course. Plus, you had good people to back you up and, just as important, the knowledge to get the job done. No sense sittin’ around when there’s work to do. It’s a Jeep thing.
Or, because it’s Sunday afternoon and, after a long day of off-roading yesterday, it would probably be a good idea to give the Wrangler a good once-over before Monday rolls around.
It’s because your favorite jeans ARE your favorite jeans because every stain, rip, torn pocket, etc., has the story of a Jeep adventure behind it – some grand, some less so, but all worthy. And we won’t even go there with the worn-out Jeep logo t-shirt that your significant other (or mom) begs you to throw away (or simply burn) every time you pull it out to put it on. It is, after all, a classic.
Photo Credit: Jeep brand via Newspress USA
The 80th anniversary edition of the Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited is ready to rock and roll.
Then there’s the Jeep wave. If you’re not part of the family, you might not know what I’m talking about here, but Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited owners from every generation know exactly what I mean. It may appear to be nothing more than a simple lifting of two or three fingers, sometimes accompanied by a slight nod of the head, but it’s meaning is so much more. It’s a silent communication of camaraderie and kinship, occurring when one Jeep brand vehicle owner meets another, no matter the surroundings.
The exact origin of the Jeep wave is unknown. Some speculate, during WWII, soldiers on patrol would acknowledge one another with a wave and that, as soldiers returned home, those driving the civilian version, would likewise acknowledge one another as they passed on the road.1
Others think the trend spiked when off-roading became popular in the 1970s.1 In either case, these days, to be the recipient of the revered Jeep wave is an honor and not to be taken lightly.
Photo Credit: Jeep brand via Newspress USA
The Jeep Wrangler badge is not something owners take lightly.
The role of the Willys MB during WWII was said to be so significant that it was second in importance only to a soldier’s rifle.2 They were, however, also built to be somewhat disposable, as it was expected the war would not only take its toll on the vehicles themselves, but that they would also be left behind, with few returning to U.S. soil.3
Many of those left behind took on other roles of daily life, working on farms and as firetrucks in remote European areas. Eventually the series would catch the eye of collectors, taking on the challenge of finding enough salvageable parts for one complete vehicle.3
Meanwhile, the Willys brand in the U.S. developed the CJ, adding tailgates and improving the headlights and seats, for civilian use. It became popular among returning soldiers and production of the CJ series continue for decades, until the 1980s when the YJ, more commonly referred to as the Wrangler, replaced it.
Photo Credit: Linda Sherman, Santander Consumer USA
My ’89 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara – featuring square headlights – in its natural environment.
Many of you may recall, along with an update to the name came a new look – SQUARE headlights. Other changes were made as well, but the shape of the headlights seemed to garner the most attention. It was a controversial change that did not go over well with many hard-core fans.
I have to say, although I prefer the round headlights, I was the proud owner of a 1989 Wrangler Sahara and I loved it, square headlights and all. When it came time to “rehome” her, the gentleman who was buying her owned an identical one in high school, had been looking for quite some time and was ecstatic to have found another. That was how I knew we had found the right buyer.
The general sentiment among long-time Jeep owners, though, was the square headlights altered the traditional look and feel of the vehicle and by model year 1996, the round headlights had returned.
While the Jeep brand is popular worldwide, the United States and Canada make up the bulk of the brand’s sales. When it comes to brand recognition, the seven-slotted grille and those (sacred) round headlights are about as American as apple pie, baseball or a worn pair of jeans.
That, most likely, is due to the long and storied history of the brand. Imagine a lineage that includes being on the front lines of world wars, a well- and hard-earned hero status, carrying icons of American history that include actors and musical entertainers, not to mention the U.S. presidents, vice presidents, generals, brave soldiers and others. And then going on to earn supporting roles in epic television shows and blockbuster movies.
All that and it looks good too.
Today, most things that have been around for 80 years are considered past their prime. Old. Retired, or well past the age of retirement.
But somehow, I think the Jeep brand is just getting started. And THAT, my friends, is a Jeep thing.
1 Autoblog staff (June 15, 2017). The origins of the Jeep Wave, The Exposition; A video series about the history of cars [blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.autoblog.com/2017/06/15/the-origins-of-the-jeep-wave-the-exposition/
2 FCA US LLC ®2020. Jeep® History in the 1940s [webpage]. Retrieved from https://www.jeep.com/history/1940s.html
3 Gon, Ronan (June 6, 2019). Roll call: In Normandy, D-Day Jeeps left for dead brought France back to life [blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1123445_world-war-ii-d-day-jeeps-found-second-life-normandy