A Brief History of Jeep CJ and Wrangler Vehicles
Civilian Jeep CJs
The first civilian Jeep vehicle was built to replace farm horses on working farms.
Fun fact: from 1949-1964, either a complete Jeep vehicle or chassis was used on all Zamboni® ice resurfacing machines.
This was the first CJ with a dramatic design departure from Jeep’s military forefather—the Willys MB. A new engine made 25 percent more horsepower than the previous generation.
Recreational off-roaders were growing, and the CJ-5 was the answer. This model featured a larger wheelbase, improved suspension, and enhanced seating comfort. In 1965, the CJ-5 was equipped with an all-new “Dauntless” V6 which basically doubled the power of the standard four-cylinder. The CJ-5 has the longest production run of any Jeep vehicle.
The CJ-6 was built in response to customers’ desire for more cargo and passenger room. They feature a 101-inch wheelbase—20 inches longer than the CJ-5. Heavier axles, bigger brakes, and in 1973—304- and 360-cubic-inch V8 options turned the CJ into an off-road powerhouse. Today, the CJ-6 is a popular collector vehicle.
The CJ-7 was the first Jeep vehicle to offer an automatic transmission as well as an optional molded plastic hard top and steel doors. This seventh-generation model was the first major redesign in 20 years.
CJ-8 Scrambler (1981-85)
The CJ-8 Scrambler was a small pickup geared for Jeep owners craving more room. They’re super-popular with car collectors and off-road enthusiasts. President Ronald Reagan famously drove a blue one on his California ranch.
Civilian Jeep Wranglers
The Jeep Wrangler replaced the 40-year CJ series and launched the Wrangler name. The YJ series is currently the only Wrangler/CJ style to feature square headlights.
The TJ featured a total suspension overhaul that replaced leaf springs with Jeep’s Quadra-Coil suspension. It was the biggest advancement yet for Wrangler’s on-road ride quality. (Note: The TJ was released in early 1996 as a 1997 model so, technically speaking, there was no “1996” model Wrangler.)
Enter the Wrangler Unlimited. Unofficially nicknamed the “LJ,” its longer wheelbase made driving on the road better than ever for a Jeep Wrangler.
This is what the JK Wrangler looks like. They are capable on-road vehicles and the most popular off-road vehicles in the world. They offer unrivaled versatility with removable tops and doors and fold-down windshields.
The Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited provides the luxury trim options and functional capabilities of large, family SUVs, while maintaining the off-road ruggedness that has made Jeep the standard bearer in off-roading.
[Update: Since this Ride Guide was initially designed, Jeep has introduced the next-generation Wrangler, the JL. You can learn about it here.]
M83 (MC) (1950-52)
This is a combat-ready version of the CJ-3A, and represents the first post-WWII military Jeep vehicle.
M-38A1 (MD) (1952-71)
Rounded body features, a longer wheelbase, and a more powerful engine became the foundation for what would later be the venerable CJ-5.