Jeep unveils new Wrangler concept for 75th anniversary

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is saluting Jeep’s 75 years of military and civilian service with an all-new concept Wrangler.

The SUV brand, which was founded on July 15, 1941, announced on Friday the Commemorative Wrangler 75th Salute concept, a throwback to the Jeeps used in World War II.

Jeep’s Wrangler 75th Salute concept is a “modern interpretation of the Willys MB.”

“We are creating this unique Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute concept vehicle in celebration of the brand’s legendary history, and to demonstrate that 75 years later, today’s iconic Jeep Wrangler is instantly recognizable and clearly connected to the original Willys MB,” said Mike Manley, head of Jeep Brand-FCA Global.

Fiat Chrysler has “no plans currently to build this vehicle” beyond the concept that was assembled Friday at the automaker’s Toledo Assembly Complex.

The first military and civilian Jeeps were produced by Willys-Overland in Toledo, where the vehicle’s Wrangler descendant continues to be produced. The company began manufacturing Jeeps for civilians after 1945.

The Wrangler 75th Salute concept is a “modern interpretation of the Willys MB,” according to the company. It is based on a two-door Wrangler Sport.

Sixteen-inch steel wheels wrapped in 32-inch military non-directional tires, hood latches, a rear-mounted spare tire, steel bumpers with tow hooks, and low back canvas seats all echo the original military Jeep vehicles.

“Since they were first produced in 1941, Jeep vehicles have been the authentic benchmark for off-road capability, having mastered more terrain, led more adventures and provided drivers more freedom than any other vehicle before or since,” Manley said.

The olive-drab color was first seen on military vehicles 75 years ago and is present throughout the Wrangler 75th Salute concept. It’s powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

The commemorative vehicle is in addition to 75th anniversary models across the Jeep lineup that went on sale earlier this year.

The Wrangler Salute concept comes a day after Jeep and its birthplace received an early 75th-anniversary present from Fiat Chrysler.

On Thursday the automaker announced it will invest about $700 million and add 700 workers at the Toledo Assembly Complex North plant for production of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler.

The investment was part of a more than $1 billion investment announcement that also included $350 million and about 300 new workers to Belvidere Assembly in Illinois to produce the Jeep Cherokee, which will move from its current production location in Toledo in 2017.

The additional capacity in Toledo, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said, will be used to increase Wrangler production, including a pickup variant for 2018. However on Thursday the company said an announcement regarding the future of the South plant, which currently produces the Wrangler, at the Toledo Assembly Complex “will be made at a later date.”

Manley last month told reporters the next-generation Wrangler will be unveiled in the first half of next year, with the development of the iconic SUV on schedule for 2017.

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Twitter: @MikeWayland