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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The Bronco will get two new colors for 2022.

Ford

The new Ford Bronco was in such high demand that buyers were in for a long wait, even before the pandemic and microchip shortages wreaked havoc on automotive supply chains and production. Even now, with little hope of a speedy vehicle delivery, buyers are still lining up to get the new SUV, and to reward those whose dreams will have to wait until 2022, Ford is debuting two new colors: Eruption Green and Hot Pepper Metallic.


2022 Ford Bronco Eruption Green and Hot Pepper Metallic will be available. Ford


Ford revealed the colors at this year's Woodward Dream Cruise. The first-generation Bronco, which ran from 1966 through 1977, was the featured vehicle at the cruise, which presented the opportunity to introduce new colors for the upcoming model year. The two new colors won't join the Bronco's existing color catalog until order banks open for the new model year later in 2021. Ford says that the current color catalog which includes Antimatter Blue, Lightning Blue Metallic, and Rapid Red Metallic will be available through the end of the 2021 model year.


2022 Ford Bronco Many Bronco buyers will have to wait until 2022 to get their new SUV.Ford


The new colors may end up being the shades of choice for many current hopeful Bronco buyers. Along with pandemic-related delays, Ford's rollout of the new Bronco has been plagued by hardtop-related cosmetic issues. The problem is big enough for the automaker to replace the top of every hardtop Bronco built so far. This includes vehicles already purchased, the rare few sitting on dealers' lots, and even recently produced vehicles still hanging around the factory. Buyers still waiting for their Broncos to be built will be waiting a while, to the point that Ford says many orders will be pushed into the new model year. Ford is offering Bronco-related merchandise and promises a price lock for all buyers whose orders have been pushed, and now it appears they'll have two new colors to choose from as well.

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Three two-women teams will compete in a new Bronco or Bronco Sport.

Ford

As the pandemic ramped up last summer, auto event organizers were canceling left and right to avoid gathering groups of people to spread the virus. A few events went on, especially outdoor racing events such as the Rebelle Rally. The all-woman off-road event covers desert terrain in Nevada and California, and this year Ford Motor Company is sending three teams to compete in different versions of the Bronco and Bronco Sport SUVs.

All three teams will compete in some sort of Bronco SUV. Shelby Hall and Penny Dale, who drive a Bronco Sport in last year's Rebelle Rally, return to the competition in 2021, this time with a Bronco two-door. Pro off-roaders Melissa Fischer and Cora Jokinen will pilot a Bronco Sport in the X-cross class and novice racers Kathryn Reinhardt and Victoria Bundrant from accessory supplier 4Wheel Parts will drive a four-door Bronco in the 4x4 class.


2021 Rebelle Rally Two Broncos and a Bronco Sport will compete. Ford


The Bronco Sport and Bronco four-door are both Badlands models. The two-door Bronco is a Wildtrak model. All of the SUVs have been decked out in special Bronco 4600-inspired race livery. The two-door Bronco will enter the competition equipped with the Sasquatch package, but will otherwise retain is factory stock configuration. The Bronco Sport will also remain stock, other than having its back seat removed. Ford says the 4Wheel Parts team will accessorize the four-door Bronco.

The Rebelle Rally is the first women's off-road navigation rally in the United States. Teams are not allowed to use electronic maps, such as in-dash navigation or mapping tools built into smartphones. Ford says its teams will disable the features in the Broncos they'll be driving in the event.


2021 Rebelle Rally The Bronco Sport will remain stock, but will have its back seats removed.Ford

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