Hats off and pay your respects to the historic Jeep
It’s a machine which has lasted the distance, conquered all manner of territory and spawned 101 imitators.
First, an American military vehicle, the Willys Jeep, also created a civilian craze for getting out into the woods on wheels rather than horseback. It is an icon and trendsetter in the automotive world.
Along that 75-year trail, the business of Jeep expanded from being a single, rudimentary model to a line-up of what became known as Sports Utility Vehicles.
And just as the first Land Rover was inspired by the original Jeep, the first Range Rover was inspired by the Jeep Wagoneer.
Other manufacturers have followed and some have produced half-decent rivals to the point now where SUVs will mostly likely outsell passenger cars on the Australian market this year.
And so while a Jeep Wrangler, a direct descendant of the wartime Jeep, may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, it is right and proper that it be saluted at every opportunity.
To mark the 75th anniversary, Jeep tarted up some special editions for their model line-up, most of it cosmetic with badges and special body colours – but not a deal has changed with the basic concept over the years.
There’s still that long-nosed, bob-tailed Wrangler style, seven-slot grille and round headlights, traditional wheel arches and tailgate that are recognised around the world.
There are hard and soft tops, two doors and a high-riding, short wheelbase stance from about $41,000.
“A Wrangler, direct descendant of the wartime Jeep, may not be everyone’s cup of coffee.”
Inside is easy-care, flat surfaces and good driving position, except for a cramped driver’s footwell on right-hand drive Wranglers. The back seat can be hard to access for older folk, get warmish on a summer day, and have limited luggage space.
But this isn’t the vehicle for a family holiday, more for a couple of adventurers of any age. It’s a vehicle for weekend outings to the bush or beach, knowing the Jeep, slipped into four-wheel drive, will conquer most off-road obstacles with ease.
There’s plenty of V6 power – and shifted manually the optional auto transmission is a willing worker – for belting through traffic, down the highway or through the creeks.
Best to be judicious with that throttle out on the main road though.
That short wheelbase and suspension designed for off-road abilities can have the Jeep Wrangler’s rear end skittling a bit over bent and broken bitumen; the steering feel is pretty light too.
Yet the Jeep is still pretty matchless at slower speeds, climbing and crawling and splashing where many four-wheel drives would not dare tread.
So the Wrangler is perhaps best here for mature-age drivers as a second vehicle, ducking down to the shops, or as the weekender for taking grandkids camping (with a trailer maybe), or heading off for a spot of bird watching or photographic expedition into the wilds.
But drive one or not, understand it or not, the Jeep Wrangler will always deserve respect.