10 Trucks That Led to the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Pickup
Despite being one of the hottest-selling brands in America, and parent company Fiat Chrysler’s current meal ticket, Jeep is the last remaining pillar of this country’s rich history of independent automakers. Before it came under the ownership of Chrysler in 1987, Jeep was struggling to compete with the Big Three, and therefore, it offered pickup trucks. Damn good pickup trucks.
Today, Jeep isn’t known as a truck company, but that wasn’t always the case. From 1947 to 1992, or roughly 60% of its existence, Jeep has sold trucks. And while they’re not as well-known as the Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado, almost all of them earned their right to have a place in automotive history.
Now that a Wrangler-based pickup is returning to the Jeep lineup by 2019, a quick look into Jeep’s past reminded us just how much the new truck has to live up to. While we count down the days before Jeep takes the wraps off its new hauler (right now, we just have a few precious spy photos to work with), here are the 10 Jeeps that got us to this point.
1. Jeep Truck
Once World War II ended, Willys-Overland had a hit on its hands with the Jeep, and moved quickly to capitalize on it. But since the Jeep was unlike anything else on the market, the newly formed Jeep brand had one of the strangest lineups of the postwar era. There was the first mass-market “Civilian Jeep” the CJ-2A, an even more bare bones CJ-3A work Jeep, the strange Jeepster luxury convertible, the steel-bodied Station Wagon, and the all-wheel drive Truck (the company didn’t exactly have a knack for names back then). Despite the quantum leap the auto industry took the postwar years, the utilitarian Jeep Truck was built largely unchanged from 1947 to 1965.
2. Jeep FC-Series
In 1952, a struggling Willys-Overland sold the brand to Kaiser Motors, and by mid-decade, the new owner was anxious to update Jeep’s aging product line. The most radical result was the Forward-Control (or FC) lineup of 1957. Based on the CJ-5 platform, the FC trucks were designed by Brooks Stevens, who penned Jeep’s first postwar vehicles, and were inspired by the explosion of modern cab-over trucks on America’s growing highways. The FC trucks were phased out in 1966, and have since developed a cult following in the Jeep community. In 2013, Jeep excited the faithful with the perfectly modernized Mighty FC Concept at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Unfortunately, it was never intended to see production.
3. Jeep J-Series
Jeep’s J-Series was introduced in 1962 to replace the ancient Jeep Truck, and ended up sticking around even longer than its predecessor. Sharing its frame and front clip with the iconic Wagoneer, the J-Series was known as the Gladiator, J-200, J-2000, Honcho, J-10, and J-20, among other names, before Chrysler bought out then-parent company AMC, and ended production in 1988. While the Wagoneer soldiered on until 1991, Chrysler didn’t want the aging Jeep to compete with Dodge’s full-size truck lineup, and was one of the first vehicles it discontinued from the AMC era. In 2012, it showed a little remorse and unveiled the familiar-looking J-12 concept at Moab.
4. Jeep CJ-6
Even the most casual Jeep fans know about the iconic CJ-5 and CJ-7 models, but not nearly as many people know about the model in between, the CJ-6. Produced in relatively limited numbers (around 50,000 were built between 1955 and 1981), the CJ-6 was essentially a CJ-5 with a wheelbase extended 20 inches. Naturally, this led to a number of pickup variations, like the model seen here. The CJ-6 also proved to be surprisingly popular in places like Sweden, Brazil, and South Africa, where in a strange twist, the Jeeps were assembled by the local Volkswagen subsidiary.
5. Jeep M715
Built from 1967 to 1969, the M-715 was launched to replace the long-serving Dodge M37 at the height of the Vietnam War. And while it’s based closely on the Gladiator, the M-715 is arguably the hardcore Jeep fan’s ideal pickup. With its function-over-form design, mechanical simplicity, four wheel drive, and convertible top, these trucks have been sought after by the off-roading community for decades.
6. Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler
When most casual Jeep fans think “Jeep Pickup,” they’re picturing the CJ-8, better known as The Scrambler. The CJ-8 was the one time in the company’s history where lines blurred between the company’s iconic off-roaders, and its pickup truck lineup, and it was a brief time too — despite getting some serious press as Ronald Reagan’s off-duty ride of choice, AMC-Jeep sold fewer than 30,000 CJ-8s during its 1981-’86 production run. Today, its rarity and utility make it one of the most desirable Jeeps ever built. Don’t be surprised if the next-generation Jeep pickup borrows liberally from the Scrambler.
7. Jeep Comanche
Based on the groundbreaking XJ Cherokee SUV, the Comanche appeared in 1985 as a modern and competitive compact pickup designed to take on the Chevy S-10 and Ford Ranger. Unfortunately, it was doomed from the start. By the time the Comanche hit dealerships, AMC was too broke to compete with the big guns anymore, and once Chrysler took over, it was too similar to its new Dodge Dakota pickup to gain any real support. While the new parent company set about turning Jeep into an SUV-only brand, the Comanche’s sales dwindled. It was discontinued in 1992, and Jeep has been truck-less ever since.
8. Jeep Wrangler (YJ)
Launched in 1986, the Wrangler marked the end of CJ-model production, and was arguably the most high-stakes product launch in Jeep’s then 47 year history. While it took after the old model and kept body-on-frame construction and four wheel drive, mechanically the YJ model Wrangler had more in common with the XJ Cherokee than the iconic 4×4 that traced its roots back to World War II. Today, Jeep sells the Wrangler on its direct connection to the war, but in reality, that line was broken in 1986. If you want to find the true ancestor to today’s Wrangler, this is it.
9. 2004- 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Like a modern redux of the CJ-6, Jeep launched the Wrangler Unlimited in 2004 as a long wheelbase version of the Wrangler. Stretched by 10 inches, the Unlimited was available with a number of options not found on other Wrangler models, including this soft top that turned it into a pickup. In off-road focused Rubicon trim, the Unlimited had beefier axles and suspension components, and had nearly twice the towing capacity of the base Wrangler. Today their versatility, short production run (2004 to 2006), and relative rarity make them one of the most sought after Jeep models of the 21st century.
10. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
In 2007, Jeep launched the all-new Wrangler, the JK, and with it came a new Unlimited. No longer a long-wheelbase two-door, the Unlimited became a four-door SUV — and the first four-door convertible offered by any automaker in decades. While the idea of a four-door Wrangler seemed like sacrilege to some purists at first, the Unlimited has proven to be a major sales success for Jeep, and has opened the door for a number of new variants based on the platform. And that’s led to — you guessed it, the all-new Wrangler-based pickup truck.
In some ways, Jeep’s pickup history is even more interesting than The Big Three’s. Sources inside FCA have said that the company has long been resistant to the idea of a Jeep truck because it would syphon sales away from the Ram brand. But thanks to Jeep’s status as the company’s best-selling brand, that’s all going to change very soon. We just hope that this upcoming truck can live up to the rugged, unique standards of its predecessors.