Newest Jeep Wrangler goes retro 75th year marked with single salute to WWII model
Most companies wouldn’t make a point of highlighting how slowly they’ve innovated over the last 75 years, but Jeep isn’t like most companies.
To mark the 75th anniversary of Willys-Overland signing the military contract to build Jeeps for World War II, current Jeep parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles built in Toledo a special, single version of the Jeep Wrangler that looks strikingly similar to an original Willys MB.
The vehicle was met with cheers Friday after rolling off the assembly line at Fiat Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly Complex and being promptly parked next to an original WWII Willys.
“I’m so glad that we did this because it shows how slow we’ve evolved. With a couple quick modifications, we took the doors and the roof off, retrimmed the seats, cut off the roll bar, put on some military ties, and the right color, it’s just a nice connection to the past,” said Mark Allen, the top designer for Jeep. “No one else could do this.”
To be fair, there are major differences between the 60-horsepower 1941 Willys MB and the 285-horsepower 2016 Jeep Wrangler. The WWII-era Jeep was doing good to hit 60 mph, didn’t have any kind of seat belts, sounded like a tractor, and lacked certain creature comforts, such as doors.
Still, put them side by side and there’s no question that Jeep has stayed true to its roots, even as the years and owners passed.
In a statement, Mike Manley, the head of the Jeep brand for Fiat Chrysler, said that the company created the Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute “to demonstrate that 75 years later, today’s iconic Jeep Wrangler is instantly recognizable and clearly connected to the original Willys MB.”
The build took about five hours to complete. The Wrangler 75th Salute, the only such vehicle the company will make, started life as a regular Sport model that got a special coat of olive drab paint. Workers at the plant threw out the doors, chopped off the roll cage, installed special seat coverings, bumpers from the Jeep J-8 export model, and 32-inch military nondirectional tires on steel rims. There also were other smaller touches, such as 419 stenciled on the bumper and Friday’s date stenciled on the hood in place of an Army vehicle identification number.
Plant Manager Chuck Padden said the company’s design office came up with the idea after plant officials had begun thinking about ways to celebrate the 75th anniversary. It took a few weeks of planning to prepare the line to build a one-of-one vehicle, but it all came together flawlessly.
“The team did a really good job of coordinating this,” he said. “We didn’t stop the line with this special build at all. In fact, the workforce is probably on track for about a record build today.”
Toledo-based Willys-Overland built 370,000 Jeeps for the military during World War II. The firm quickly shifted to civilian production as the war drew down. In the decades since, millions of Jeeps have been sold across the world. The Toledo Assembly Complex built about 530,000 Jeeps last year.
Fiat Chrysler intends to keep the one-of-one Wrangler for special events, likely to include the Toledo Jeep Fest on Aug. 13, a public celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Jeep brand set in downtown Toledo.
For Mr. Allen, a longtime Jeep employee, the project was one of special indulgence — especially the fact that it was built in Toledo.
“It was fun. We could have built it almost anywhere, any shop. But to build it on the line?” he said. “I think it’s good for the soul.”
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at email@example.com or 419-724-6134.
July 15, 2016 at 3:16 pm by Greg Fink
75-Year Salute: Jeep’s Anniversary Gift to Itself Is This Willys MB–Inspired Concept
On July 15, 1941, Willys-Overland Motor Co. was awarded a contract by the U.S. government to build its versatile, go-anywhere Willys MB—soon to be known as the jeep—for military use. Seventy-five years later, the basic spirit of the Willys MB lives on in the modern Jeep Wrangler.
To celebrate the occasion, Jeep crafted the Wrangler 75th Salute concept. Based on the base Wrangler Sport with a six-speed manual transmission, the Wrangler 75th Salute concept is dipped in olive green military paint and features body-color fenders as well as 16-inch steel wheels mounted on 32-inch military tires. The look is classic Jeep and is somewhat reminiscent of the Shortcut concept from this year’s Easter Jeep Safari.
To fully channel the look of the original Willys MB, though, Jeep also fitted the 75th Salute with exposed steel front and rear bumpers, canvas-covered seats sans headrests, and commemorative badging (it also ditched the modern vehicle’s integrated rollover bar). Jeep also notes that it added custom wood hood blocks and mirrors to the concept.
Sadly, the Wrangler 75th Salute is merely a concept, and given its low-back front seats, cut bumpers, and apparent lack of rollover bar, it doesn’t meet the modern safety requirements needed to reach production. The closest thing (sort of) that you can get from a dealer today is the Willys edition. So, consider the 75th Salute concept to be Jeep’s gift to itself—a really, really fantastic one.
BY: Dan Carney Dec 10, 2015
Jeep has built its brand on the authenticity of its off-roaders. The rugged vehicles started as real-life Army equipment and in civilian life became peerless beasts that perform heroics on Nevada’s tortuous Rubicon Trail and the boulders of Moab, Utah.
But the coolest part of a Jeep is its egalitarianism. Nearly anyone who can afford a new car can afford a Wrangler. The popular four-door Wrangler Unlimited starts at $27,295, which is well below the average $33,560 purchase price of a new car, according to Kelley Blue Book. And the Wrangler is having a moment: Jeep sales are up 23 percent compared with 2014, and the Wrangler breaks sales records every month.
What’s the attraction? The Wrangler is the green plastic Army man writ large. Jeep’s Mopar parts division has a catalog of add-ons to make the Wrangler even cooler, tougher, and more personalized, and there’s an entire industry of other companies dedicated to the same cause. “The Wrangler may be the most customized vehicle in the world,” crows Jeep’s director of product marketing, Jim Morrison.
And what about drivers who don’t have more money to spend after they buy their Wrangler? That’s easy, too: Owners can customize by taking parts away from the Jeep. Buy a throwback-style Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition in tank-green paint or an Army-inspired Freedom Edition to start, then take off anything that wouldn’t have been there when Jeeps landed in Normandy, Busan, or Saigon.
The roof comes right off. So do the doors. If you promise not to drive it on the street, you can fold down the windshield. The end caps even come off the bumpers, letting the meaty tires attack the terrain without any interference from the vehicle’s bodywork.
Now you’ve got a serious off-road machine that truly looks the part. Jeep knows people love the Wrangler’s heritage, which is why it builds its own fantasies, like the Staff Car concept the company introduced at the 2015 Moab Easter Jeep Safari. The Staff Car is a four-door Wrangler Unlimited that has the middle door B pillar cut out, a retro canvas roof installed, and old-school 16-inch steel wheels, 35-inch Firestone NDT military tires, and a mounted vintage exterior gas can.
The Staff Car even has a standard Wrangler 290-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed manual transmission that lets you shift gears just like Granddad did, though Wranglers in the showroom also offer a five-speed automatic transmission. “It is a nice reflection of the people on the Jeep staff and our support for the brand’s military connection,” says Morrison.
That may be—but Morrison admits there’s a deeper truth to the iconic brand’s concept vehicles: “We do those because they are fun.”