Few vehicles have had as much of an impact on popular culture as the Jeep Wrangler. Like the Ford Model T and the Volkswagen Type 1/Beetle, the boxy open-topped runabout is instantly recognizable on sight. Its military ancestor helped the Allies win the Second World War, and in peacetime planted the seeds from which sprang the sport-utility class of vehicles that dominates American roads in the 21st Century.
Along the way, the Wrangler has become the “halo” vehicle for Jeep, in the way that the Corvette is the “halo” car for Chevrolet. It is visual shorthand for rugged go-anywhere capability and American individuality, even as it’s become larger and more (relatively) comfortable. While the fraternity of Wrangler owners has become larger, there’s still a lot people don’t know about this iconic vehicle.
10 The First Wrangler Had A (Slight) French Accent
Wrangler’s origin story is familiar. On the eve of American entry into WWII, the U.S. government commissioned Willys-Overland and Ford to build a quarter-ton utility vehicle based on plans from the old American Bantam Motor Company. The versatile buggy — known as a “jeep” for reasons that are still a topic of debate — proved indispensable, and when the war ended Willys began selling the first CJ (“Civilian Jeep”).
When it came time to replace the CJ, Jeep’s then-owner, American Motors, designed a successor with a more stable suspension. That first Wrangler (known as the YJ) was introduced in 1986 when 49% of AMC was owned by the French carmaker Renault. You won’t find any Gallic design cues in that first Wrangler, but the French deserve thanks for helping make the boxy ute ubiquitous.