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Jeep Gladiator History

23 Nov 2020

Jeep Gladiator History

After an outstanding global event in Queenstown in December 2019, the Jeep Gladiator received favourable reviews from both national and international media. The Jeep Gladiator officially launched in August 2020 to the New Zealand market and it's been hot property ever since, however this isn't the first time Jeep has launched a pick up truck using the 'Gladiator' name.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is the latest iteration in a long line of Jeep trucks as part of the rich heritage of the Jeep brand.

The Jeep Truck launched in 1947 with over 200,000 units produced until 1965. This was Willys-Overland's first attempt to diversify the brand,  with two and four wheel drive models available. It featured the same 'Go Devil' engine that was made famous in the Willys MB produced during WWII.

During the period 1957-1965 Jeep released the Jeep Forward Control,  a truck primarily used as a flatbed, tow truck, dump truck and fire truck.  It was available in two wheelbases - the FC150 (2058mm) and the FC170 (2629mm), with the FC150 being built on the iconic CJ-5 chassis. Only 30,000 units were ever produced.

Next came the original Jeep Gladiator which was in production from 1963-1971.  This truck resembled the popular Wagoneer and was also offered in two wheelbases J-200 (3048mm) and J-300) (3200mm).  The name 'Gladiator' was only used for marketing purposes and never actually made an appearance on the vehicle itself.  In 1971 the Gladiator name was dropped in favour of the J-Series name. Little did the brand know when it stopped production in 1971, that 49 years later it would make a come back and be the talk of the town!

The Jeepster Commando, 1967-1973, was produced in four different models including, a pickup truck, convertible, roadster and a 2565mm wheelbase wagon.  The original C-101 model resembled the CJ-5 and was powered by the legendary Hurricane straight-4 engine.  In 1972 the C-104 model was shortened to just 'Commando'.

The Jeep J-Series pickup was in production from 1974-1987. The J-10 (wheelbase 3023mm) and J-20 (wheelbase 3023mm or 3327mm) replaced the Gladiator name in 1974  and a Quadra-Trac full-time four-wheel drive system became available.

Based on the Jeep CJ-7, the Jeep CJ-8 was produced from 1981-1985 where fewer than 30,000 units were built.  Today these are and are extremely popular among collectors. This vehicle was available with a removable hard or soft top and wasn't a true pickup due to it lacking a separate cab and bed. A popular trim package of this model was also known as the Scrambler.

The Jeep Comanche (MJ) was produced from 1986-1992 . This vehicle was based on the Jeep Cherokee platform and was the first production pickup with a unibody and removable bed - available in either a 1829mm or 2134mm.  An outstanding feature of the Commanche, unusual at the time, was the availability of Command-Trac four-wheel-drive system meaning it could shift from two- to four-wheel drive at any speed.

And finally in 2019, the Jeep Gladiator was released. Engineered from the ground up to be a true pickup truck, housing a 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine and with a wheelbase of 3,488mm. The Gladiator is currently available in two variants in New Zealand - the Overland and Rubicon - with Sport to soon join the line up. With the ability to remove it's doors, roof and windscreen, it is the only open-air pickup truck on the market, it does more than just stand out, it defies convention. The real question is, have you driven one yet?