A one-off Jeep Wrangler built to honour the 75th birthday of the original Willys MB of World War II has just rolled off the assembly line in the US, equipped with the company’s Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 engine.
But its arrival doesn’t signal the beginning of a new WWII-themed Jeep model for the global market, much to the frustration of Jeep fans on social media.
It’s purely a salute by Jeep parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to one of the most influential vehicles ever, the go-anywhere workhorse that helped the Allies win WWII. And that’s what it’s called – the 75th Wrangler Salute.
Jeep took a Wrangler Sport as the base, hacked off the B-pillars and the roll bar, threw the doors away, added low-back seats, 16-inch steel wheels and 32-inch non-directional tyres, a rear-mounted spare, and painted the Jeep the same olive-drab colour found on the old Willys MB workhorse.
Stenciled on Salute’s bonnet and taking the place of the original’s military ID number is the build date, ‘20160715’ – July 15, 2016 – 75 years to the day since the US Government commissioned the Willys MB and roughly four months before Japan attacked the US naval fleet at Pearl Harbour.
There’s another 75th birthday of sorts, too, this one for a component maker. The four-wheel-drive transfer case in the original was built by Spicer Manufacturing, later to become the Dana Corporation. Dana is still building components for Jeep.
Mike Manley, the Englishman who heads the Jeep brand, said that over the years Jeeps have mastered more terrain, led more adventures and provided drivers more freedom than any other vehicle.
“We are creating this 75th Salute concept in celebration of the brand’s legendary history, and to demonstrate that 75 years later, today’s iconic Jeep Wrangler is instantly recognisable and clearly connected to the original Willys MB.”
Around US$700 million will be spent on next-generaton Wrangler production and US$350 million on upgrades to Belvidere for the Jeep Cherokee. It moves there from Toledo as part of a product shuffle.
The moves are part of FCA’s strategy to fortify the Jeep brand, which has posted healthy global sales month-on-month for the past three years.