While Jeep enthusiasts have, by and large, embraced the new Gladiator, there is a faction within their ranks decrying the model as being a bit too far away from the original concept. However, others say the Jeep Wrangler has also strayed quite a ways from its original concept as well — becoming more comfortable, quieter and easier to drive. With all of this in mind, it perhaps makes sense to ask; is the Gladiator a genuine Jeep?
Jeep Pickups Have a Long History
What a lot of people might not realize is the original Gladiator was based upon the first generation of the Jeep Wagoneer, which was inspired by — but not based upon — the Wrangler. In fact, it even looked more like a Wagoneer than a Wrangler. And yes, we do see how this can be a bit confusing, as today’s Gladiator definitely looks more like a Wrangler than thenew Wagoneer.
Anyway, the original Gladiator bowed in 1962 as the third Jeep pickup truck. The original was the 1947 Willys-Overland Jeep 4×2 Truck, which ran until 1965. This model’s run overlapped the Jeep FC series trucks that ran from 1956 to 1965. Jeep introduced the Jeepster Commando in 1966, which ran until 1973. This effort was followed by the 1981 CJ-8 Scrambler, which was solidly based upon the Wrangler platform and remained in production until 1986. Scrambler was followed by Comanche, which had more in common with the Cherokee than the Wrangler and ran from 1986 to 1992.
Gladiator: Jeep’s Longest-Running Pickup
With a 26-year production run, from 1962 to 1988, Jeep Gladiator is the brand’s longest-lived pickup nameplate. What’s more, the model barely changed over those two and half decades of production. However, its designation diddo sowhen AMC bought Jeep from Kaiser in the middle of that run.
While still the same vehicle, its nomenclature was changed to the J –Series. The original Gladiator’s death knell was sounded when Chrysler purchased the brand from AMC in 1987. In addition to being very old tech, the J-Series was deemed too much of a competitive threat to the Dodge line of small pickups that were doing quite well for Chrysler, so no new model was produced.
Evolution of The Jeep Brand
Over the years, as Jeep gained ever-increasing popularity with consumers, refinements were made to the Wrangler to enhance its appeal. The scrappy little Jeep kind of grew up. Yes, it was still — and remains— outstandingly capable off-road. That quality is baked into the DNA of the brand.
However, noise, vibration and harshness levels were diminished. Interior treatments became plusher. High tech gear such as touchscreens, radar-based blind spot monitoring, terrain sensing algorithms and traction control were added. In fact, (technologically speaking) today’s Jeep Wrangler has more in common with the Space Shuttle than the Jeep that helped the Allies win World War II.
A Genuine Jeep?
In other words, times change and the vehicles we drive change with them. Purists will decry the fact that Wranglers now have so many creature comforts, however buyers who purchase the vehicles for what they represent — as opposed to what they’ll do — demand those refinements. Chrysler, in business to make a profit, must bridge the gulf between those two different mindsets.
Ironically, Gladiator’s harshest critics decry the fact that it drives more like the Wranglers of old, than the newer, kinder, gentler versions on offer today, even while offering the creature comforts routinely found in today’s iteration of the venerable model.
Thus, one can reasonably surmise the Gladiator is indeed a genuine Jeep.
However, this raises the question; is that what people really want?
Only time and sales figures will tell.