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.
6. 1955-83 CJ-5/CJ-6
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.
Have had a number of Jeeps, ’67 Commando, ’62 CJ-6, ’78 Levi CJ-7, ’73 J4000, ’79 Golden Eagle CJ-7, ’96 Grand Cherokee Laredo. All of them served a need, they were not without a flaw, but I did have good times and enjoyed them. Thanks for the memories!
Awesome review. Thank you very much.
Can’t believe that the XJ Cherokee didn’t make it. Better do some research!
Yeah this list is not correct without the check in the top 10. I mean commander top 10 and no xj? Me thinks not…
Here is a rare one. A 2005 Liberty CRD 4 banger diesel….. Lots of torque
Commander and 93-98 Grand Cherokee? What about 63-91 Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer which was the first real SUV, or Cherokee XJ which pretty much started the small SUV craze. Glad to see J10 made the list, but if I was ranking “best” I’d have to go with J20 since it was 3/4 ton. From 74-78 you could get one from the factory with a 401 v8, t18 4 speed, Dana 20 transfer case, HD Dana 44 up front and a Dana 60 in the back.
TJ is by far better than the current model. Grand Cherokee should not be on the list. 84 to final Cherokee deserve a spot.
The XJ definately deserves a spot without a doubt, its given from the get go. Like duh how did they not have this on the list but the commander makes it. But To say the Grand Cherokee shouldn’t be on the list I agree 100 percent if your talking about every model after the ZJ 93-98. With all due respet if you think the ZJ shouldn’t be on the list. Well you obviously have to have some learning and a intellectual disability and I feel bad for you.
[…] Jeep has come a long way in its 75 years. There have been some incredible Jeep models, which you can see here. And there have been some amazing aftermarket parts and accessories that have helped cement […]
2004-2006 TJ Unlimited Rubicon. ’nuff said. The best Jeep ever… although it could have used the Commander’s HEMI.
[…] After World War II, the Willys-Overland company secured the rights to produce the vehicle that we all recognize as the “Jeep.” […]
05 Commanders never existed…06-10…
And no Cherokee XJ is a joke, side from the TJ, JK, and JL Rubicons, it was the best Jeep ever….
Obviously this is an old list since I don’t see the new JL Rubicon Unlimited in here… Kills the JK.
I have a 1972 CJ5 with a 304 cid. Waren winch pretty much all original and I’m thinking about selling it and I need to find out what it’s worth.
You need to fit the Jeepster Commando and the Willys Jeep Station Wagon in there somewhere. While the Jeep Forward Control FC-150 probably should not make the list it should get an honorable mention.
Looking for jeep good condition 7 -8
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Shocked that the YJ Wrangler made this list and not the CJ-7. The CJ-7 was the best Jeep ever built and the most popular.
Like you I am surprised the CJ7 didn’t make it before the YJ..
The fact that you put the YJ on just because it was actually called a “Wrangler,” but then DIDN’T put the XJ on because it was the first “Cherokee” and the first compact SUV EVER (you’re welcome, soccer moms everywhere); or that you put the Commander on because of its boxy style, which is a direct rip-off of the XJ . . . is absolutely mind-boggling.
And this is supposedly put together by Jeep people?
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Do scrambelers still exist on the road? Looking at jeeps still a good deal and drive well….sorry for the spell error
My Uncle had served in Germany during WWII; he purchased the Jeep he had used while in the War and kept it until he died in 1999. I bought a CJ 5 in 1982, after returning from serving in the Air Force in Japan, a week after buying it the clutch pedal broke off completely, a week later the gear shift broke came out completely when I put it in reverse, when I pocked it up a week later at the dealership the bottom of the radiator fell off when I started it. It was at that point that It was given back to Jeep. I have never bought one since. I loved my Uncle’s jeep and was truly heart broken when the one I had bought turned out to be a Real Lemon. I still Love jeeps; but now that I am retired and living in the Country in AZ I could really use one; I could never afford one at todays prices.
Must be getting sponsored to put that garbage at #1. If anything deserves #1 (overall) I believe it should be any style of TJ.
God’s favorite vehicle is a TJ Rubicon
Well I’m undecided I am looking for a new car and not quite sure which one I should get what Jeep I’m still very undecided I wish I had a little bit more help on this one!
You should go with the Jeep Wagoneer III Series.