The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic off-road vehicles ever made. Its rich history dates back to World War II. The United States military urgently needed a lightweight, compact, and versatile reconnaissance vehicle for the battlefield. This need led to the rapid development of the original Willys MB, which later became affectionately known as the Jeep.
This tough but nimble 4×4 proved essential during the war, providing maneuverability on rough terrain while transporting troops and equipment through all kinds of combat conditions. After the war ended, Willys sensed the civilian market potential of their wartime Jeep and began producing a modified version for the masses called the CJ (Civilian Jeep) series. Little did they know this boxy off-roader would go on to become an American icon, one that can still be found at a salt lake city ram dealership.
The First Civilian Jeep
The CJ-2A was introduced in 1945 as the first civilian Jeep. It was very similar to the military MB, with a few minor changes to make it more suitable for daily driving. However, it still retained the defining features of the original like the solid axles, open top, fold-down windshield, and boxy shape. The CJ series evolved with design tweaks and engine upgrades. This included the CJ-3B, CJ-5, and CJ-7 models. One major change came in 1972 when AMC introduced the CJ-5 Renegade, which featured a 304-cubic inch V8 engine, alloy wheels, and a sporty exterior. One reason people were drawn to this vehicle was its reliability. They also knew they could easily fix the vehicle if something went wrong.
The Introduction of the YJ Generation
In 1986, Chrysler Corporation bought AMC and Jeep. This led to the release of the Wrangler YJ generation in 1987. The YJ had a more modern, comfortable interior yet was still focused on off-road performance. It featured a wider track width and larger brakes. There was also a new 4.2 liter AMC Straight-6 engine that proved to be very reliable.
A New Era with the Wrangler TJ
The Jeep Wrangler TJ launched in 1997 and included a return to the round headlights reminiscent of early CJs. It also came standard with front and rear coil springs for a smoother ride. However, the TJ’s sturdy front and rear solid axles gave it great articulation and performance off-road. Throughout the TJ’s lifespan from 1997 to 2006, Jeep offered special models like the Freedom Edition and the popular Rubicon with Dana 44 axles, 4:1 low-range gearing, and large tires.
In 2007, Jeep released the four-door Wrangler Unlimited along with the next-generation JK Wrangler. The Unlimited’s longer wheelbase provided more cargo room and rear legroom while still delivering traditional open-air Wrangler fun. The JK generation represented the most significant redesign in the Wrangler’s history. It had a more aerodynamic exterior, upgraded interior, and a variety of convenience features. The JK was the last generation to offer the rugged AMC Straight-6, as it was replaced by Chrysler’s new 3.6L Pentastar V6 in 2012. This brings us to the current JL generation that launched for the 2018 model year. It retains the iconic Wrangler profile but with several refinements. These include LED headlights and tail lights, an upgraded suspension, and new turbocharged engine options. The JL proudly continues the Wrangler’s legacy with best-in-class off-road capability and open-air freedom. For diehard off-road enthusiasts, the Wrangler dutifully carries the original Jeep’s adventurous spirit.