AM General and Jeep unearthed long-buried ties to turn the Gladiator into a light tactical vehicle for the United States Army. The two companies unveiled a concept named Gladiator Extreme Military-Grade Truck (XMT) during the Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the U.S. Army.
The Wrangler-derived Gladiator pickup is an excellent starting point from which to build a lightweight truck for the military, according to AM General. The off-road capacity required to trek through some of the most inhospitable topographies on the planet is already there. AM General explained it upgraded the truck with an array of existing and custom-made accessories, including special seats, bigger tires and a winch. These parts fit a Wrangler, too, but the Gladiator's cargo box sealed the deal.
The bed allows the Gladiator XMT to perform a variety of duties; it's even more versatile than the original Willys MB designed for World War II. It can transport soldiers, move up to 1,600 pounds of gear, or be outfitted as a mobile command and control center, among other configurations. The 1967-1969 M715 truck born from the original Jeep Gladiator was equally flexible.
AM General hasn't released technical specifications. It merely pointed out the concept unveiled during the trade show runs on gasoline, but the military-spec model will also be available with a turbodiesel engine if it sees the light that awaits at the end of a production line. Jeep already announced it will add a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 to the palette of available engines in 2020.
What's next for the Gladiator XMT, and whether Jeep returns to the front lines, depends on if the U.S. Army places an order for the truck — which would be the first American military use of what we would regard as a Jeep in decades. The CJ-5-based M38A1 was in production until 1971. And if the project receives the green light, it would mark the first time the two companies have worked together in decades as well. Production could begin in the second half of 2020.
While AM General is best known for making the Humvee, which famously spawned the civilian Hummer H1 released in 1992, it owes its existence to former Jeep parent company American Motors Corporation (AMC). AMC purchased Jeep from Kaiser in 1970 and split it in two the following year. The namesake brand continued making off-roaders like the Wagoneer and the CJ for the general public, while its military-oriented General Products Division morphed into AM General Corp. The rear-wheel-drive DJ van widely used by the United States Postal Service (USPS) was closely related to the CJ, but it was manufactured by AM General between 1971 and 1983.
Federal regulations preventing foreign nations from purchasing a stake in a defense contractor forced AMC to sell AM General to LTV Corporation in 1983 in order to accept a lifesaving investment from Renault, which was — and still is — partially controlled by the French government. This obscure link explains why Hummer and Jeep contentiously shared a similar-looking seven-slot grille.