Buying Advice

Too tall, too small: Vintage Jeep model sizes do not fit all

Jeep Wrangler seat sizes vary by generation and some are not a good fit for the modern man.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

I'd always wanted a vintage Jeep. For decades I'd dreamed about it and just never got around to pulling the trigger. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing me to be stuck at home for the last few weeks, I found myself spending my spare time surfing Craigslist ads across the country looking for a new resident for my driveway.

I ran into a few obstacles along the way that no one had warned me about in my research.

The original Jeep

1941 Willy Jeep

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Most people know that the Jeep was invented as an all-purpose military vehicle on the eve of World War II. Automakers including American Bantam, Willys-Overland, and Ford all submitted designs for consideration, and the Willys design was approved (pictured above). There are very few of the prototypes and early production models still around, but the MB design was mass produced for the war by Willys, along with the closely related Ford GPW.

After the war, the Jeep MB was sold to the public as the Jeep CJ-2A (pictured below). The "CJ" designation stands for "Civilian Jeep." The MB was further developed into the CJ-3A and CJ-3B, with a similar military version known as the M38. Together, all of these models are known as the "flat-fendered" Jeeps because the front fenders are – you guessed it – flat. The CJ-3B continued in production until 1968, with over 155,000 made.

The average GI Joe

1946 Jeep MB

In 1946, the Jeep Willy Universal Jeep CJ-2A was sold to the public.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Here's the thing about early Jeeps: If you go back to the original U.S. military specification, the Jeep was a "one size fits all" vehicle. The average U.S. soldier in that era was 5 feet, 6 inches tall, so the Jeep was designed to accommodate that height. Early Jeep seats are literally bolted to the floor with no possibility of adjustment unless you're pretty good with a welding torch. There was also no power steering, so the steering wheels have a huge diameter to give the driver enough leverage to turn the front tires on rough ground.

The problem arises when a taller driver like me wants to drive an early Jeep. I'm six feet tall, a little above average these days, and it's just about impossible to get longer legs up on the clutch and brake pedals of a WWII-era Jeep because your knee hits the bottom of the steering wheel. It's worse if you're a bit on the chubby side because that wheel will be right up against your belly button. Ask me how I know.

A larger military Jeep

1955 Jeep CJ-5

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In 1952, Willys brought out a new Jeep design called the M38A1. It was bigger than the older models, with a better ride and a more powerful engine. You can tell the M38A1 at a glance because the front fenders curve down at the forward edge like all newer Jeep designs.

The M38A1 still has fixed seats and a big wheel, but it's enough larger than a 6-foot person can comfortably drive it. Production of the M38A1 went on until 1971, with 101,499 examples produced. The United States military bought 80,290 of those Jeeps, and many of those were sold to the public at the conclusion of their service. The Jeep I just bought is one of those ex-military models.

The parallel civilian model to the M38A1 is the legendary Jeep CJ-5. You can tell the difference between two by looking at the back end. The CJ-5 has a little tailgate like a truck, and the M38A1 does not. Also, there's an indentation in the passenger side cowl on the M38A1 for an electrical connection that is not included on the CJ-5.

Growing with the times

1955 Jeep CJ-5

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The first CJ-5 was sold in 1955, and the model continued in production until 1983 with a long list of developments over that time, such as sliding seats and improved comfort features. With a production history of almost 30 years, the CJ-5 saw dramatic changes over time and buyers can take their pick of various engines, automatic transmissions, different 4X4 components, and many special editions.

If you want or need more space than a CJ-5 (pictured above) provides, there is the comparatively rare extended-wheelbase CJ-6 model. The CJ-6 was also introduced in 1955 and was based on the military Jeep M170 ambulance or troop carrier. The CJ-7 was introduced in 1976, and these are also a little bigger than the CJ-5. Later Jeep Wranglers are even bigger.

Finding your Jeep

If you're looking for a vintage Jeep, there are many good places to look. You can browse Craigslist for bargains, or check auctions like Bringatrailer, Hemmings, and eBay. There are also specialty sites like Willysforsale.com that offer hard-to-find examples and restored military models.

Just be sure that you take a test drive in a similar model before buying an older Jeep, especially if you're bigger or taller. Finding the Jeep model that fits you is the first step in a grand adventure.

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New plug-in hybrid SUV

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe starts at $59,495

The Grand Cherokee 4xe is premium, inside and out.

Jeep/Stellantis

Last year, Jeep electrified the Wrangler, its most iconic model, with an innovative plug-in hybrid powertrain (PHEV). Not long after, the brand announced a similar version of the Grand Cherokee. The upscale electrified off-roader offers plenty of standard tech and features, solid safety equipment, and 25 miles of all-electric range. Today, Jeep announced pricing for the SUV, which will start arriving in dealers this spring.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The 4xe powertrain delivers up to 25 miles of all electric range. Jeep/Stellantis

Pricing for the 4xe lineup starts at:

  • Grand Cherokee 4xe: $59,495
  • Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe: $64,280
  • Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe: $67,555
  • Grand Cherokee Summit 4xe: $71,615
  • Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe: $76,095
The Grand Cherokee 4xe comes with a turbocharged 2.0-,item inline-four that combines with two electric motors for a total output of 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. The 4xe powertrain includes plug-in hybrid technology, which enables all-electric driving. In the Grand Cherokee, there's up to 25 miles of electric range, which could enable a completely gas-free ownership experience for people with short commutes. Once the electric range is exhausted the vehicle functions like a normal hybrid, and the batteries must be recharged to replenish range.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The Grand Cherokee joins the Wrangler 4xe in Jeep's electrified lineup.Jeep/Stellantis

Fortunately, the 4xe's premium starting price buys a premium SUV, even at the base level. Standard features include Capri leather upholstery, a 10.1-inch touchscreen and 10.25-inch passenger display. A dual-pane panoramic moonroof and heated power seats are also standard. A full suite of advanced safety systems come standard as well. All 4xe trims come with full-speed forward collision warnings, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts, LED headlights, and more.

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Ford just announced specs for the new hardcore off-roader.

Ford

After years of speculation over the Bronco's return, Ford finally pushed the revived SUV to market last year. The rumor mill immediately kicked back into action with speculation of a higher-powered Raptor version of the Bronco to match Ford's F-150 Raptor here in the U.S. We've seen teases and a short film on the SUV, but today, The Blue Oval announced specs for what will surely be a highly desirable new vehicle in 2022 and beyond.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor The Bronco Raptor gets upgraded cooling and engine tuning to handle high-temperature operation.Ford

The Bronco Raptor gets an exclusive twin-turbo 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 that makes 400 horsepower, which is a big improvement over the standard SUV's V6 that makes an already healthy 330 horsepower. Four-wheel drive and a ten-speed automatic gearbox are standard. Ford says the Raptor also comes with a new towing mode that allows a max tow rating of 4,500 pounds - a 1,000-pound improvement over the base Bronco. Trail Control, trail Turn Assist, and Trail One-Pedal driving are also present here.

The Raptor gets seven of the standard Bronco's G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) driving modes, including a new Baja Mode that works with the engine's turbo system to reduce lag and improve performance during high-speed runs in desert temperatures. An active exhaust allows four selectable sound modes, including normal, sport, quiet, and Baja, and the Raptor's intercooler helps keep operating temperatures at reasonable levels when running in hot weather.

Using the Bronco's modular design, Ford gave the Raptor unique front and rear quarter panels, fender flares, and door appliqués. The new body components add 9.8 inches to the Raptor's width, and removable running boards help improve rock crawling abilities. Model-exclusive amber LED running lights accent the Raptor's front end, and Raptor logos set the hardcore model apart from its "lesser" counterpart.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor Amber LEDs and special badging designate the much-upgraded Raptor model.Ford

Inside, the Bronco Raptor gets a 12-inch digital gauge cluster with configurable view for vehicle performance and other information. Black marine-grade vinyl seats and rubberized flooring are standard. Orange accents on the dash vents, door netting, and steering wheel help break up the all-black interior, and Ford offers a synthetic suede upholstery upgrade for buyers wanting a little more comfort with their capable off-roader. A 12-inch infotainment touchscreen and 360-degree camera system are also standard.

Bronco Raptor hopefuls can start placing orders in March, but be aware that there will be a wait involved for everyone. Ford says that the majority of 2022 Bronco Raptors will go to existing reservation holders based on their reservation timestamp. It's worth noting that many 2021 Bronco buyers are still waiting for the SUVs, which are being converted into 2022 orders, so the wait time for the Raptor could be severe for anyone without a standing reservation.

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