America was gearing up for war, and our young nation’s military leaders needed a versatile all-terrain vehicle to effectively navigate theaters of war.
Four-wheel drive technology first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1913, 4×4 trucks designed for military use showed up on battlefields. They were slow, bulky, and easy targets. Later, engineers converted Ford light trucks to four-wheel-drive vehicles, but those improvements still weren’t enough for U.S. Army officials on the hunt for the ultimate scout vehicle.
The American Bantam Car Company sketched up a prototype known as the Bantam Reconnaissance Car, which would ultimately serve as the framework for America’s first Jeep, and the basic design Willys-Overland used to build the original MB.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Why try to rank the best Jeeps of all time, you ask? Because Jeep is 75 years old and we like ranking things. We didn’t need another reason.
Some of you will probably disagree with our list. Tell us why and maybe we’ll change our minds.
The Top 10 Jeeps
10. 1987-95 Wrangler YJ
It sometimes gets criticized for the square headlights, but the YJ is the first-ever Jeep to sport the Wrangler badge, and that’s enough to earn a spot in the top 10.
9. 1993-98 Grand Cherokee
Not unlike the YJ, the 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee was the first “Grand” Cherokee, and since it’s Jeep’s second-most-versatile model ever (but at the time, WAS the most-versatile), we celebrate it here.
8. 2005-10 Commander
We like that it’s big and imposing. And it didn’t mess around with any frou-frou lines either. It was just a big box of awesome. We prefer the 2009-’10 Limited or Overland versions for their 357-horsepower, 5.7L HEMI V8s, but frankly, every Commander from its sadly short run looks good. Say different, and it will just drive over you.
7. 1971-88 J-Series Truck
Before the new Gladiator came out, Jeep didn’t dance with too many truck designs, and that makes the somewhat rare Jeep pickups, like the Jeep J Series, fun to see.
Jeep purists celebrate this model as the last (ending with the ’75 model) to not be offered with automatic transmissions and smog equipment. But for us, it’s really more about this model being the Jeep that turned off-roading into a way of life. The evolution of Jeep performance over this long production run set the table for everything we love about modern Jeep performance.
5. 1997-2006 Wrangler TJ
This might be the first Jeep to do what modern Jeeps do best: Serve as a capable and civilized daily driver that can also moonlight as a ready-for-action off-road machine on tough trails. Because of their enormous popularity, it’s fairly easy to find TJ replacement parts. Name a recently discontinued vehicle model that has aged better than this one. Okay. Now, try to do it in this price range. Exactly.
4. 1981-85 CJ-8 Scrambler
One of the coolest collector Jeeps, ever. That’s not our Scrambler in the picture. Which is sad because we want to drive that CJ-8 Scrambler up those mountains back there. Okay, fine.
3. 2011-20 Grand Cherokee
As a percentage, there are a lot of Jeep owners at OnAllCylinders and the team we work with at Summit Racing. A few of us have new Grand Cherokees. They drive over stuff. They are fuel efficient. Even the base models have 290 horsepower and all-wheel-drive, Northeast Ohio snow-conquering skills that shame most other daily drivers on the road. But with the right equipment, they can also capably drive over mountains.
2. 1945-49 CJ-2A
This is the first-ever civilian “Jeep.” The 1945 Willys. And we pay homage to its originality and all of the wonderful vehicles for which this classic paved the way.
1. 2007-18 Wrangler JK
It will drive over anything you want. It’s comfortable driving in ice and snow. It’s comfortable driving without tops and doors on gorgeous spring, summer, or fall days. It can be the best-looking AND best-performing vehicle at your next mud and rock-crawling adventure. And it can be the best-looking AND best-performing vehicle during your daily commute to work.
The Wrangler JK is a gift to… everyone. We love it like family, and don’t hesitate to call it our favorite Jeep ever.