Larry Printz, Dealer.com Editor-in-Chief, Offers Perspective on the Ongoing Evolution of the Jeep Brand

Castilone Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram has a special feature this month for our loyal readers. Larry Printz, editor-in-chief for Dealer.com and an internationally-known auto journalist, has written a fascinating piece looking at the evolution of the Jeep SUV, from the original Jeep pickup model that debuted in 1947, to the iconic Grand Wagoneer that was a mainstay for the brand in the 1960s and 1970s. Jeep recently announced the Grand Wagoneer will return for 2019.

The Evolution of Jeep, from the Original Jeep Pickup to the Grand Wagoneer...and Beyond

Look for Jeep to expand their lineup as the brand plans to spend a $1 billion to build a new unnamed pickup truck and revive the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer nameplates as demand for large SUVs continues to grow.

“The expansion of our Jeep lineup has been and continues to be the key pillar of our strategy,” said Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “These all-new products will reach new consumers, as well as those that have been part of the Jeep tradition.”

Jeep's Pickup Heritage

Jeep has a long history of building pickups.

In 1947, Willys-Overland attempted to diversify the Jeep line-up with a pickup truck. Built on the CJ chassis, it was offered as a half-ton panel-van and a one-ton pickup on a 118-inch wheelbase. Power came from Willys 63-horsepower 2.2-liter L-head four-cylinder engine and three-speed Borg-Warner manual transmission, although a new Hurricane F-Head engine replaced it in 1952. It lasted until 1965 with few changes.

Ten years later, in 1957, Jeep introduced a pair of work trucks, the FC 150 and FC 170 pickups. The Forward-Control series placed the cab at the front of the vehicle atop and ahead of the front axle. The three-quarter-ton FC 150 had an 81-inch wheelbase and an L-head four-cylinder engine, while the one-ton FC 170 had 103.5 inch wheelbase and a 115-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine. They received few changes during their lifecycle, although some 1959 models were built with dual rear wheels and a four-speed manual transmission. The FC Series was built through 1965.

It wasn't until 1963, with the debut of the Gladiator, that Jeep fielded a true light-duty pickup. Resembling the Wagoneer that debuted the same year, and sharing its platform, the Gladiator was offered as the J-200 with a 120-inch wheelbase, and J-300 with a 126-inch wheelbase. It used a Dana 20 transfer case and Dana 44s front and rear. Power came from a 140-horsepower 3.8-liter inline-six. The Gladiator name was dropped in 1972. Until the end of its run in 1987, it would be known as the J-10 and J-20.

Come 1967, the Jeepster returned to battle the Ford Bronco and the International Scout. Having last been seen in 1951, this time it was known as the Jeepster Commando. Despite the new name, the Commando was powered by Jeep's ancient L-head four and lasted through 1973.

Eleven years later, a new pickup was stepping into the Gladiator's spotlight: the Comanche. Based on the Cherokee SUV platform that was introduced in 1984, it was similarly equipped and offered with Selec-Trac or Command-Trac four-wheel drive. The model was inexplicably dropped in 1992.

Perhaps the coolest pickup Jeep built in the 1980s was the 1981 CJ-8 Scrambler. This ingenious pickup featured a five-foot bed atop a CJ-8 chassis.

Buyers could choose a 82-horsepower four-cylinder or a 110-hp inline six-cylinder to power their Scrambler. Available in either hard- or soft-top versions, fewer than 30,000 Scramblers were built through 1985.

The Legendary Wagoneer

Introduced for 1963, the Jeep Wagoneer earned its stripes as the longest running production car in U.S. history without major changes. The vehicle was the creation of industrial designer Brooks Stevens, who also designed the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, the 1946 Willys Station Wagon, and the 1962 Studebaker Hawk.

Built on the SJ platform used for the Gladiator pickup, the Wagoneer was the first four-wheel-drive vehicle with an automatic transmission, independent front suspension, overhead-cam six-cylinder engine, and the first automatic full-time four-wheel-drive system, Quadra-Trac, which arrived in 1973 and was offered in other Jeeps.

With the introduction of the downsized Cherokee and Wagoneer XJ models in 1984, also designed by Stevens, the larger Wagoneer was renamed the Grand Wagoneer and recast as a luxury SUV. AMC stuffed it full of equipment, including leather upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CB audio system, added sound insulation, and wood-grain exterior trim.

The Grand Wagoneer also featured a 5.9-liter V-8 with increased horsepower and torque and the segment’s highest towing rating.

New Jeeps Available Now at Castilone Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

We're very excited about the return of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer in 2019. In the meantime, we carry the full lineup of current 2017 Jeep models at Castilone Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, including the Cherokee, Compass, Grand Cherokee, Patriot, Renegade, Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. Our dealership is located in Batavia, NY, and we're convenient Albion, Brockport and Buffalo. Stop by today, or call us at (888) 751-8629 to schedule some time to test drive our Jeeps.

This post was written by Larry Printz: Larry Printz is the Editor-In-Chief, Automotive at Dealer.com based in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to serving as an automotive journalist, Larry is continuously sought by some of the most prestigious automotive concours in the country and serves as a judge at several car shows including Greenwich and Hilton Head. A native of Philadelphia, Larry resides in Burlington, VT and Virginia Beach, VA.

This post was edited by Joe Miller: Joe Miller is a Copywriter at Dealer.com based in Burlington, Vermont. Prior to joining Dealer.com, Joe worked as a public relations consultant and business writer for corporate clients around the country.

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