Jeep Gladiator Concept
With the news that Jeep is likely to use the Gladiator name for its upcoming production Wrangler-based pickup truck, it's definitely time to take a look back at Jeep's history in the pickup truck segment.
It's also an opportunity to remember the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck concept from 2005, seen above. As you'll see later in this slideshow, the Gladiator name has a lot of history for Jeep.
Not only is this concept proof that Jeep has been thinking about a pickup revival for years, it also boasted cool features like an externally mounted spare tire and a canvas top. And the concept's torquey diesel engine also hinted at Jeep's future direction.
But Jeep has a lot more history with pickups. Click on the image above for more.
Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler (1981-1985)
The Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler is the one model that seems likely to most directly influence the company's upcoming Wrangler-based pickup truck. The Scrambler had a five-foot truck bed added to the back of Jeep's much-loved CJ, which was replaced by the Wrangler in 1986.
Jeep's truck reincarnation ought to boast a lot more everyday practicality than the CJ-8. For starters, it will have four doors and seating for five. Plus, like the Wrangler upon which it will be based, Jeep's new truck will offer all the modern amenities buyers expect these days, from heated seats to GPS navigation.
Jeep Forward Control (1956-1965)
Unlike the Commando, the Forward Control was all about utility. Designed specifically for commercial use, it derived its name from the placement of its engine below the cabin, placing the driver and passenger at the forward-most portion of the vehicle. This allowed for fantastic visibility... and probably not the best crash test scores.
Underneath, the Forward Control was mostly identical to the Jeep CJ-5, the brand's mainstay for more than 40 years and the inspiration for the current Wrangler.
Jeep Gladiator/J-Series (1962-1988)
Based on the Jeep Wagoneer, the original Gladiator is the longest-lived Jeep pickup. From the front seat forward, it was essentially identical to the more family-oriented Wagoneer, which lived on until 1991 as the decidedly plush Grand Wagoneer. The Gladiator nameplate was dropped in 1971, when the trucks received a more conventional J-Series alphanumeric badge denoting their payload capacity.
While Grand Wagoneers were (and, well, still are) the thing to have in Aspen and Greenwich, the Gladiator was Jeep's answer to trucks from General Motors, Ford, International Harvester, and, ironically, Dodge. Today, Dodge is one of Jeep's sister brands, and a Jeep pickup wouldn't make sense as a direct competitor.
Jeepster Commando (1966-1973)
With its clean lines and removable top, the Jeepster Commando was more of a statement than it was a genuine workhorse. Its nameplate revived a similarly town-and-country-oriented model that was half stylish convertible and half truck.
The Jeepster Commando that arrived in 1966 came in a variety of styles, including a unique Hurst Jeepster that featured rally stripes, a Hurst shifter, a Continental tire kit, and an 8,000-rpm tachometer. Later on in its life cycle, the pickup became simply known as the Jeep Commando and its styling became more conventional.
Jeep Comanche (1985-1992)
Styled like the iconic Jeep Cherokee built from 1984 through 2001, the Jeep Comanche was actually quite different underneath. That's because the Cherokee utilized sophisticated unibody construction, which meant the more work-oriented Comanche had to have a separate frame engineered to support its truck bed.
The last Jeep pickup available from the factory, the Comanche retains a small but loyal following of owners drawn to its Cherokee styling, its available 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, and its "just right" proportions. Stretching 194 inches from head-to-toe, the Comanche has presence but is more compact and nimble than a modern pickup.
Jeep JK-8 Kit
For several years, shoppers could buy a brand new Jeep pickup today direct from their local dealership. Well, sort of. Jeep's in-house answer to the American Expedition Vehicles Brute, the JK-8 conversion kit was offered by FCA's Mopar division and transformed the JK-series Jeep Wrangler into a pickup.
The only problem? You had to do it yourself. The kit included all the parts necessary for about $6,000, but didn't include paint or, of course, the cost of the base Wrangler.
Jeep sold enough examples of the kit to prove that there is demand for a pickup. A Wrangler-based pickup that could be bought directly from a showroom floor, minus all the hassle of putting it together, sounds like it will be a huge ticket for the brand.