It's been a long time coming, but it looks like Jeep's product planners are giving serious consideration to the addition of a pickup to the line. Based on the Wrangler body-on-frame platform, with solid axles front and rear, the Gladiator Concept draws on Jeep's legendary pickup heritage dating back to 1947, while giving us a look at some of the styling cues likely to be found on the next-generation Wrangler, due in 2006.
Since the demise of the midsize Comanche truck in 1993, the Jeep brand has been without a true pickup. Many Jeep dealers have long called for one; the Gladiator Concept shows that those requests haven't fallen on deaf ears.
"Jeep Gladiator is an authentic statement of Jeep brand heritage," says Trevor Creed, senior vice president, Chrysler Group Design. "It blends classic cues and modern-day functionality and innovation. The classic silhouette and the box-side-mounted spare like those on some classic Jeep models are merged with a turbodiesel powertrain and a flexible, expandable truck bed."
For those who aren't familiar with Jeep history, civilian Jeep production began at the end of World War II. Starting in 1947, Jeep offered a rugged pickup, which shared the majority of its components with the original Jeep station wagon built from 1946 to 1963. One of its most notable styling cues was a side-mounted spare.
When the full-size Jeep Wagoneer was launched in the fall of 1962 as an all-new 1963 model, it shared the underpinnings with its pickup-truck counterpart, then called the Gladiator, which remained in production until 1987 when Chrysler merged with American Motors and the full-size Jeep pickup line was eliminated. While not big sellers in their later years, the full-size SJ trucks (the internal Jeep designation) have attained cult status in the Jeep community. When it goes on the market, a good example typically sells for more than a Big Three counterpart in similar condition.