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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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Jeep has debuted a lineup of models that celebrate the company's 80th anniversary.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 2021 Jeep 80th Anniversary Editions are a special lineup of models that celebrate a birthday few nameplates reach. The 80th Anniversary Edition grade adds a host of equipment with commemorative enhancements to each model in the Jeep lineup.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 80th Anniversary Edition

2021 Jeep Wrangler 80th Anniversary Edition

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Jeep is making the Wrangler 80th Anniversary Edition available in Granite Crystal, Bright White, Hella Yella, Black, Firecracker Red, Sting Gray, Sarge, and Snazzberry paint colors.

The exterior enhancements to the model include Neutral Grey Metallic grille bezels, headlamp rings, and fog lamp bezels as well as body-color fender flares, and 80th Anniversary commemorative badging. Each 80th Anniversary model rides on 18-inch Granite Crystal-painted wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Dueler 255/70R18 all-terrain tires.

Inside, the model has black diamond embossed cloth seats with an 80th anniversary tag. Light Tungsten interior accent stitching, Anodized Gunmetal dash mid-bolsters, and Light Tungsten accent stitching on the Berber floor mats add color to the model.

The Wrangler has remote start, an 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio.

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 80th Anniversary Edition has a starting price of $35,990 for two-door models and $39,490 for four-door SUVs. Each comes with an additional $1,495 destination charge.

​2021 Jeep Gladiator 80th Anniversary Edition

2021 Jeep Gladiator 80th Anniversary Edition

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Buyers can get their special edition Gladiator with a Granite Crystal, Bright White, Black, Firecracker Red, Hydro Blue, Sarge, or Snazzberry paint job.

It has a similar features list to the Wrangler, which includes 18-inch wheels painted in Granite Crystal and Bridgestone Dueler 255/70R18 all-terrain tires. Neutral Grey Metallic grille bezels, headlamp rings, and fog lamp bezels sit at the front while body-color fender flares grace the sides of the truck. Each model comes with 80th Anniversary commemorative badging.

The interior features list is the same too. It has black diamond embossed cloth seats with an 80th anniversary tag, light Tungsten interior accent stitching, Anodized Gunmetal dash mid-bolsters, and Light Tungsten accent stitching on the berber floor mats.

The Gladiator has remote start, an 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio.

The starting MSRP of the Jeep Gladiator 80th Anniversary edition is $41,740. Each model also comes with a $1,495 destination fee.

​2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition

The Jeep Grand Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition will only be sold as a 4x4. It is priced at $44,335 plus a $1,495 destination fee.

The model is available in Granite Crystal, Walnut Brown, Bright White, Diamond Black, Slate Blue, Sangria, and Velvet Red paint jobs. it rides on 20-inch wheels that have a Granite Crystal finish. The exterior also features 80th Anniversary commemorative badge.

Each Grand Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition model features leather seats and Light Tungsten interior accents. The SUV has an 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio.

It also gets Jeep's ProTech II Package, which includes full-speed forward collision warning with active braking, ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and advanced brake assist.

2021 Jeep Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition

Like the Jeep Grand Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition, the Jeep Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition will be sold just in a 4x4 drivetrain. It will be priced at $33,805 plus a $1,495 destination charge.

Jeep will sell the model in the buyer's choice of Granite Crystal, Slate Blue, Hydro Blue, Olive Green, Spitfire Orange, Sangria, Velvet Red, Light Brownstone, Bright White, and Diamond Black paint colors. 80th Anniversary commemorative badging is on the SUV.

Each special edition Cherokee rides on 19-inch wheels with a Granite Crystal finish.

The cabin features premium leather seats with Light Tungsten accent stitching, power front seats with lumbar, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and a dual-pane sunroof. Anodized Gun Metal interior accents, a black headliner, and berber floor mats complete the look.

2021 Jeep 80th Anniversary Edition model full lineup

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

2021 Jeep Compass 80th Anniversary Edition

The Jeep Compass 80th Anniversary Edition is also available just as a 4x4. Its $29,695 price tag is lower than that of the same edition of the Cherokee. It too has a $1,495 destination charge.

Jeep is selling the SUV in Granite Crystal, Laser Blue, Jazz Blue, Olive Green, Redline, White, Diamond Black, and Velvet Red paint colors. It has 19-inch Granite Crystal-colored wheels and 80th Anniversary commemorative badging.

The interior of the Compass has leather seats with Light Tungsten accent stitching, a power driver's seat with lumbar, automatically dimming rearview mirror, remote start, 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and navigation. It also includes Piano Black and Anodized Gun Metal interior accents, black headliner, and berber floor mats.

​2021 Jeep Renegade 80th Anniversary Edition

2021 Jeep Renegade 80th Anniversary Edition

The smallest Jeep, the Renegade, also comes in an 80th Anniversary Edition variant. It has a starting MSRP of $27,595 and only comes in a 4x4 configuration. A $1,495 destination charge is also applicable.

Jeep is offering the model in Granite Crystal, Alpine White, Bikini, Black, Colorado Red, Jetset Blue, Omaha Orange, and Slate Blue paint colors. It rides on 19-inch wheels with a Granite Crystal finish and has 80th Anniversary commemorative badging.

Dual-zone automatic climate control, Anodized Gun Metal interior accents, black headliner, and berber floor mats come standard on the model. It also has an 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and navigation.

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The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is made to be trail-ready

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

If you want to go off-roading but you’re apprehensive behind the wheel? Jeep is introducing the Jeep Adventure Academy, a program that provides hands-on, off-road driving instruction to Jeep 4x4 owners.

"Off-roading is a rite of passage for Jeep 4x4 owners and the new Jeep Adventure Academy will provide key knowledge every off-roader can use for hitting the trails," said Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand, FCA - North America. "The new Jeep Adventure Academy underscores the Jeep brand's commitment to delivering Jeep 4x4 vehicles that provide owners with a sense of capability, safety and security to handle any condition or adventure with confidence."

2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Jeep Trailhawk models are trail-tested ahead of their retail salePhoto courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Academy kicks off this October and will take place at select locations nationwide. Instructors from Jeep Jamboree USA will lead the program alongside off-roading experts.

Each Academy session will focus on several essential areas of off-roading instruction, including 4x4 system basics, driving techniques, trail etiquette, vehicle preparation and equipment, how to properly read terrain and challenging obstacles, safety tips and more.

The Jeep Adventure Academy will take place during the first three weeks in October at the following locations:

  • Holly Oaks Off-road Vehicle Park, Holly, Michigan: October 2-4
  • Southern Missouri Off-Road Ranch, Seymour, Missouri: October 9-11
  • Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, Hollister, California: October 16-18

Registration is available at jeepadventureacademy.com. A one-day session starts at $99 and requires Jeep 4x4 vehicle ownership. The academy sessions will be led by professional staff from Jeep Jamboree USA, an organization that has been conducting off-road adventures since 1953.

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