has produced many successful and popular vehicles,
when most people hear the word Jeep they most often think of the off-road conquering, removable topped Jeep CJ and
models. There is no denying that these vehicles have been the backbone of the company, incorporating
innovative new features with the reliability of years of experience. Even though these vehicles share some of the
same benefits and core elements, each model has its own unique characteristics.
The first Jeep CJ
or Civilian Jeep was introduced
in 1944 as a public version of the famous military Jeep from World War II. Although the CJ-2 bore the CJ name, it
was never really available for civilian use. The CJ-2 was mainly a prototype used for testing purposes with a
limited amount being produced. In 1945 the CJ-2A replaced the CJ-2. The CJ-2A was intended to be used as an agricultural
vehicle with various implements. In 1949 the CJ-3A was introduced and replaced the CJ-2A the following year. The
CJ-3A featured a 1-pc windshield with wipers at the bottom and heavier suspension for the various agricultural
implements. The CJ-3B was introduced in 1953 with a taller grille and hood to accommodate the new Willys Hurricane
engine. The CJ-3B was produced until 1968 although the design was licensed to various international manufacturers.
The CJ-5, produced from 1954-1986, introduced an all new curved body style. Available with 2.2L L4, 2.5L L4, 3.1L L4
diesel, 3.7L V6, 3.8L L6, 4.2L L6, or 5.0L V8 engines, the CJ-5 featured body on frame construction with removable
and doors as well as fold down windshield. Front and rear leaf springs were attached to solid front and rear
axle. From 1954-1971, the CJ-5 featured an 81” wheel base. In 1972, an additional 5” was added to the fenders and
hood to accommodate new engines as well as the wheel base stretched to 83.5”. The tub, frame, and windshield frame
were modified slightly in 1976 causing older model soft tops not to fit new models. Although the hood, grille, and
fenders were shared with the CJ-7 and CJ-8, the CJ-5’s most noticeable difference is the curvature of the door openings.
Introduced in 1955 as a 1956 model, the CJ-6 was a basically a CJ-5 with a 20” longer wheel base. Never very popular
in the US, most CJ-6 models were sold to Sweden and South America until production ceased in 1975.
Introduced in 1976, the CJ-7 featured a longer wheel base (93.4”) than the CJ-5 and lacked the noticeable curvature of
the door openings. The CJ-7 was the first model available with an optional Quadra-Trac all-wheel drive system as well
as a part-time two speed transfer case. An automatic transmission, steel doors, and molded hardtop were also new
options not previously offered. Available with 2.3L L4 diesel (export only), 2.5L L4, 3.8L L6, 4.2L L6, or 5.0L V8
engines, the CJ-7 featured body on frame construction with removable top and doors as well as fold down windshield.
Front and rear leaf springs were attached to solid front and rear axles. Production of the CJ-7 ended in 1986 with
the introduction of the YJ Wrangler.
Introduced in 1981, the CJ-8 Scrambler was a pickup version of the CJ-7 and featured a 103” wheel base and pickup bed.
Produced until 1986, few Scramblers were manufactured. Sharing many of the same body and drive train parts, the CJ-8
was available with many of the options of the CJ-7 excluding the Quadra-Trac system.
Built to replace the much-loved, but slower-selling Jeep CJ, the Jeep YJ
Wrangler was introduced in 1987. Using the same body on frame construction and leaf spring suspension with solid axle, the
YJ Wrangler featured a wider wheel base with wider leaf springs, track bars, and sway bars for added comfort and handling.
Although the YJ sported a new grille, hood, fenders, and larger windshield, the body was very similar to the replaced
CJ models. YJ Wranglers came equipped with a 2.5L L4 or 4.2L L6 engine until 1991 when a fuel injected 4.0L L6 engine was
introduced. In 1992 the roll cage was lengthened to allow for rear shoulder belts and optional anti-lock brakes were
available the following year. In 1994 a center high mount stop lamp was added as well as an optional automatic transmission
for 4-cylinder models. The YJ was manufactured until early 1996, but sold as a 1995 model. YJ Wrangler models can be easily
identified due to their unique rectangular head lamps.
Released in the spring of 1996 as a 1997 model, the TJ Wrangler replaced the YJ. The TJ Wrangler featured a multi-link
coil spring suspension, based off of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, for improved ride and handling as well as the return of
the classic styling of the CJ head lamps. The TJ Wrangler can be easily identified due to the rectangular front turn
signals mounted in the front fenders. The same 4.0L L6 and 2.5L L4 engines were available until 2003 when a 2.4L
L4 replaced the 2.5L. A right hand drive TJ Wrangler was also available for export as well as US rural postal carriers.
Minor changes occurred throughout the years such as a 19 gallon fuel tank being added in 1999 as well as new mirrors,
seats, interior trim, and sound bars arriving in 2003. Also in 2003, a new skid plate was installed to take make way
for the new 4-speed automatic transmission and larger NV241OR transfer case available on the Rubicon models. A 5-speed
manual transmission was available on all models until a 6-speed replacement was introduced in 2005.
Named after the Rubicon trail
in the Sierra
Nevada Mountains, the TJ Wrangler Rubicon was introduced in 2003. The Rubicon featured front and rear Dana 44 axles
with air-actuated locking differentials as well as 4.10 gear ratios. A new heavy-duty NV241OR transfer case with a
4.1 low range rounded out the drive train upgrades. Providing a unique look for the Rubicon models, diamond plate
rocker panels and 16” alloy wheels with Goodyear MT/R tires came as standard equipment.
In 2004, Jeep introduced the Wrangler Unlimited which was a TJ Wrangler with a 10” longer wheel base. Also
known as the LJ, the Unlimited came standard with a Dana 44 rear axle and was also available with the Rubicon package.
With additional rear passenger leg room and larger cargo capacity, the LJ is rated with nearly double the
towing capacity of the shorter wheel base models due to the increased wheel base.
The 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK
introduced a completely redesigned platform as well as the first
4-door model. Significantly larger than the model it replaced, the 2-door JK Wrangler has a 2” longer wheel base
and 3.4” wider track. Although designed with a longer wheel base and wider track, the JK is 2.5” shorter overall
than the TJ to improve approach and departure angles. Continuing the use of body on frame construction with multi-link
coil spring suspension, the JK Wrangler is offered as a 95.4” wheel base 2-door or 116” wheel base 4-door model.
Still available in a right hand drive configuration, the 2-door JK Wrangler comes standard with four wheel
drive while the 4-door Unlimited JK Wrangler is available in two or four wheel drive.
Powered by a 3.8L V6 or 2.8L turbo diesel (export only) engine, the JK is available with a 6-speed manual or 4-speed
automatic transmission. Four wheel drive models come standard with the Command-Trac NV241 transfer case while the
Rubicon upgrades to the Rock-Trac version of the NV241. For added safety, stability control, off-road tuned anti-lock
braking system, and traction control are now available and in 2009 Hill Start Assist was added.
The JK Wrangler is the first Wrangler available with some the standard features many vehicle have had for years
such as power windows and door locks as well as seat-mounted side air bags and navigation system. New to the JK,
a Sunrider convertible soft top comes standard while an optional 3-piece modular hard top is also available.
Holding true to the Jeep tradition, all JK Wrangler models feature a removable top and doors as well as fold
down windshield as well as a great selection of Jeep accessories and parts
Available in 2- and 4-door configurations, the Rubicon package still provides the Wrangler with the ultimate
off-road equipment. Front and rear Dana 44 axles with a 4.10 gear ratio are still choice running gear while
the air-actuated locking differentials have been replaced with electronic versions. A heavy-duty
transfer case with 4.1 low range drives the wheels while an all new electronic sway bar disconnect
provides improved off-road performance. The TJ diamond plate rocker panels were replaced with body
mounted rock rails while 32” BF Goodrich mud tires give the Rubicon a unique look with superior performance.
Although both hold the Wrangler title, the Wrangler refers to the 2-door versions while the Wrangler Unlimited
refers to the 4-door variant. Due to their larger size and unique features, the JK
Wranglers can easily be identified. The JK Wranglers feature a curved windshield and
slanted grille while earlier CJ and Wrangler models have a straight windshield and upright
grille. Also, previous models utilized steel front fenders with composite flare extensions
while the JK simply has a one-piece composite fender design.